We have moved from no discussion of ‘bunkai’ in the 70’s to continual examples of ‘bunkai’ today. Countless YouTube video’s, endless tournament kata bunkai divisions. Varying video series explaining how kata works. Unfortunately no matter how compelling the video or conversely how non-compelling it is impossible to do more than review what is presented. The content of programs remains hidden and making assumptions is not a good way to spend one’s time.
Discussion on ‘bunkai’ across the internet seems to suggest that there is the ‘bunkai’ for a movement of a form and there is an additional ‘oyo bunkai’ for that movement. This seems to indicate that ‘bunkai’ is a structured way to use kata technique and build a specified set of skills.
I can understand the logic behind this, presenting a scope of defensive techniques tied to kata studies, and by limiting the techniques this way the karate-ka ends with enough technique studies to respond to a wide range of attacks. Yet almost all of those studies shared are using only the basic training attacks, leaving one to speculate whether other layers of training are involved.
Somehow this seems to me that those karate-ka if facing an attack must use movement 3 from kata A but against a different attack must use movement 2 from kata B, and so forth. With skill and correct practice certainly reasonable but my own studies and experiences lead to a different paradigm.
Essentially most techniques can deal with any attack if you train up to it, making it less necessary to switch answers to respond to specific attacks. As I see it being used ‘bunkai’ is far to restrictive a way to understand what karate technique potential encompases. Because of that reason I prefer to use kata technique ‘application potential’ to describe the study of what a technique can do, then the method to develop a technique application potential into a way to destroy any attack results in kata technique ‘application realized’.
The first thing to realize is knowing that a movement can enter a space is not the same thing as using the movement with skill to enter and control the space. This involves a lot of time in study and the use of many force multipliers to increase that movement until ‘application realized’ results.
Among the force multipliers are:
1 1. The alignment of your body during technique execution.
2 2. Full utilization of your entire body movement.
3 3. The manner of breathing is either hard or soft.
4 4. Full utilization of makiwara for +10 years increases the effectiveness of the technique by a factor of 10. Partial utilization of makiwara for at least 2 years increase the effectiveness of a technique by a factor or 3
5 5. The more you understand the underlying principles of karate application the greater your choices become.
6 6. The definition of a technique resides in the mind of the karate-ka.
a. A technique may be a fractal of a kata technique.
b. A technique may be a standard kata technique.
c. A technique may be a series of kata techniques.
7 7. Stepping is a form of kicking. Appropriate to disrupt the attacker’s lower body.
8 8. Turning itself is a technique.
9 9. There are no rules restricting your application to the techniques found in a kata.
1 10. The spirit of karate is the most important factor in application. You must believe in the technique for the spirit to come alive.
1 11. The more force multipliers you can effect in a technique application the greater the result. As a group they are cumulative<, the more which add-in the greater the effect.
In a sense the goal is the complete utilization of one technique.
There is a great difference between teaching a program for a group and spending a lifetime exploring karate potential and your own developing ability.
What do you need to understand, that is up to the individual for they have to believe in it to make their training work, you can’t do that for anyone else.
What I do is demonstrate some of the application potential for any technique during the kyu studies, but only have the kyu work on a small defined series of application techniques. After sho-dan I teach a short course of 50-75 possible applications for the first movement section of Seisan kata, to suggest some of the ways a movement may be used, but I do not teach that way from that point on. What I then do is continually take a section of a form we’re working on and explore some of it’s application potential, moving around with no set structure. The long tem goal is to help the dan realize they can trust each technique and then let the decades roll.
I believe the ultimate goal is not to have 100, or 1000 or 10000 techniques. Instead it’s to reach the understanding that you can make any movement work against any attack and to in turn become totally unreadable. No fixed position no fixed mind, just a feather floating on the wind (and 10 cents if you know where I got that one from).
But words are cheap, instead I’m going to do something my students will regret, for the next section I’m going to go head to head with Mabuni Kenwa and see what I can do with a section he shared.