Trying to understand Bunkai

Discussion in 'Karate' started by GaryWado, Apr 20, 2011.

  1. Llamageddon

    Llamageddon MAP's weird cousin Supporter

    Get real! A type of orange could never conquer a country.

    I'll get me coat...
  2. Mike Flanagan

    Mike Flanagan Valued Member

    Hi Kodama

    I only make a point about it because this big movement is the exact opposite of what you find in authentic shorin ryu, in my experience. Here are some videos of authentic shorin ryu kata, though none of them are matsumura shorin ryu. However they do all share some common features in terms of stance size. None are expansive in the way that Shotokan is.




    Agreed, I don't think we can rule out the suggestion that Matsumura had some experience in Jigen Ryu, possibly in Satsuma or possibly (as Fish suggests) in Okinawa.

  3. ojisan

    ojisan Valued Member

    I think it is far more likely that any big movements handed down from Funakoshi Gichen came from Azato, his primary teacher.

    However, in the photographs of Funakoshi in his books, the movements appear Shorinesque. Granted that the 1924 video footage of Funakoshi shows rather large movements in naihanchi, but not significantly large in the others.
    If his movements are large in naihanchi, one could argue that they came from Itosu, who gave him instruction in that form in particular.

    The big movements that define Shotokan came, as far as I can tell, from Giko and his students. The early video footage of Giko shows the exaggeration of stance and large arm movement.

  4. Kodama

    Kodama Valued Member

    Well its' an hard nut to crack! I understand and agree with you both Mike and ojisan.

    My theory was that since Matsumura trained with weapons the influence would come from that direction. It doesn't mean that he incorperated these techniques into the Te.

    It might be one of his students that learnt the Jigen-ryu techniques from him and then incorperated them into Te. Maybe as stated by ojisan: Azato or possible Itosu. This was then more enhanced by Gigo and the group around him that experimented to create the new art on the mainland. We all know Gigo was highly influenced by Kendo.

    I would love to know more history about Azato since i haven't found a good source for that. On Itosu there is more information.

    Intressting vids Mike i didn't know it was the opposite since i'm so locked into the big movements principle. But also Taiji Kase stated that there is no difference in big or small movements, the goal is to achive same amount of power regardless of distance.

    Big movements on distance and small movements close up. ;)

  5. lorenzodamarith

    lorenzodamarith Project: Chaos!


    fish of doom, you are half right!

    no matter your medium (striking, clinching, grappling, fencing), the principles are always first applied to your own body. remember, combative contact is nothing more or less than transmitting energy from your own skeleton to the skeleton of another. will get deeper into bunkai in a moment, but wanted to touch on the relationship between striking and grappling first.

    if you examine the movements of both situations from a physiological (medical) point of view, they really aren't any different.

    there are always the same key components, because humans (barring defects or injury) possess the same number of joints, all arranged in the same order (neck under head, shoulders to either side of neck, etc). this creates an environment in which there are only so many movements a human can possibly undertake at any given moment.

    each engagement, or part of an engagement will contain:

    key components
    kinesiological steps taken to accomplish some type of locomotion

    hyperfunction vs disfunction
    causing the opposing defense mechanisms to function too well, or to not function properly.

    force vectors
    fancy way of saying "lines", in the case of combatives, these lines are your skeleton. whether throwing, grappling, striking or fencing, both/all players will be attempting to control the other's lines vectors.

    balance point (fall down point, third point, triangle point)
    control of lines and key components means nothing without an awareness of balance point. being bipedal creatures, humans are never balanced. we are always fighting gravity to remain upright. balance point dictates our footwork, how we load and unload strikes, how we load and unload force vectors for throwing and grappling.

    joint center mass (the middle, the center)
    when you and your opponent stand apart, you are two separate masses, but the instant you make contact, you are a "joined" or "joint" mass. that mass has a center. when clinched or grappling, both players are reliant upon the other to remain in position. when striking, both players are "joined" at the point of contact. our recognition of striking ranges stems from our instinctive awareness of the "middle". strikes are more or less effective depending on our timing and delivering strikes at the prime moment when "joint mass" is "densest" (momentum and counter momentum).

    ok, obviously there is a LOT more to those brief descriptions. but what does this all have to do with bunkai?


    to really understand bunkai, one must probably be taught first about what bunkai is NOT. it is not a treasure trove of secrets, or some quasi mystical "zone of enlightenment". there is nothing secret, mystical or esoteric about it. those areas of bunkai thought to be "secrets" are only secrets because they are TOO obvious. they are in front of our faces all the time (something like: not seeing the forest through all the trees in the way).

    what bunkai IS, is a way to train. a way to explore. surely, karate contains kata, and even sparring. kata provide a frame of reference and sparring provides pressure testing (usually against those adopting similar skill set and rules of engagment). bunkai is the opportunity to explore the kata and movements.

    you know this. many of you have already mentioned this. what has not been mentioned is WHAT is being explored. application? application of WHAT? application TO what? couldn't be kata, kata are only a framework, or collection of reference points. going back to the beginning of this long winded post, we mentioned we mentioned the relationship between striking and grappling. ok fine, we know there IS a relationship. but, what is that relationship, REALLY?

    as alluded to before, there is (physiologically speaking) more than one way to skin a cat. you may have had discussions with fellow students along the way about when a strike is a block or when a block is a strike. this examinations is the foundation of bunkai. bunkai is/was intended to explore movement itself within the CONTEXT of a kata.

    putting it a little differently: the kata is a guideline. within that kata it is then up to the student to examine every movement, every component of those movements and test those movements against different objectives... while staying WITHIN the confines of that kata.

    the old masters knew (implicitly it seems) that no one instructor would have all the answers, because they knew that within a conflict, everyone asks different questions. they seek different objectives, so bunkai was utilized to allow any and all students to step outside the formalized class (the kata, the framework) and to really explore and put their own stamp on the system/art.

    fish of doom, if we (fish of doom, lorenzodamarith) engage an identical opponent under identical circumstances, we (both of us) will have different objectives (desired outcomes) even if we are taught the same skill sets. bunkai allows us to pursue those objectives and outcomes within the confines of the same class, so that our individual development is not limited.

    so, going back to the striking/grappling continuum, yes, bunkai allowed karateka to realize that throws lurked within those striking kata. whether or not that karateka would act upon those throws is up to that individual. it was often said, and is likely very true, that whether starting from karate, or from jujutsu, that if the player spends enough time in one, they will eventually be proficient in the other, if they concentrate on the movements of the body, via bunkai.

    granted, this explanation only scratches the surface of bunkai, but does the explanation make enough sense to investigate further? would really love to hear more!!!!

  6. JSKdan

    JSKdan Valued Member

    I do train in Shotokan and for us, bunkai is important and is very much part of all black belt gradings now and does bring a very important side back to our training.

    I have not been on the site for a while and missed this thread when it started but from what I have been learning over the years I have been training, that there is far more too it than most people could see and when you start to see and also shows you that one move can have more than one meaning depending on what comes before it.

    If looked at properly, you can see that it is not as ridged as some of us use to be thought but a lot more open and with w lot more in it than some of us had seen but I would guess that this has been covered but not having read all of it.

    Hope to be involved in more of this in the future.

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