At times it’s very frustrating to me that the past is not documented. As much as we know of the components of earlier Karate training how the more advanced abilities were developed remains undocumented.
The central question is ‘What was Karate?’, for what use was it intended as the instructor developed the student.
Without a clear record I find there is much definition that reflects the various author’s desires but with no substantial historical proof. On the whole Okinawa was a quiet place so how far did the practice go beyond hard work? What were the studies instructors used to move beyond kata practice, makiwara and application study? Were there other practices?
Instructors such as Kyan Chotoku were known to just teach kata and not applications. Was that the case? Was is because deeper study wasn’t needed, though in Kyan’s case he wrote “When practicing a kata, it is necessary to know its meanings….” (from Nisaburo Miki’s “Kempo Gaisetsu” (outline of Kempo) 1930). Was it that the applications were only taught to those who became advanced enough to actually perform them correctly?
I see no clear answer to those questions. It is as logical as any other answer that karate was just karate.
We do know that there was a significant body of opinion that karate wasn’t meant to be used except for protection, and in my opinion that did not mean to fight. Karate contains the tools for any type of attack but there must be an understanding of what level of attack is possible to build for it’s usage.
If there was a clear picture of the attacker’s to be faced what was the training program to move beyond kata technique potential to become kata technique potential realized?
There is part of me that questions that karate had a specified role beyond it’s own study. There wasn’t a situation of daily violence that required karate. Karate wasn’t used for developing the king’s bodyguards because the Japanese had removed the king to Japan in the 1870’s. Karate was not used for military training. While some karate-ka became police, karte was not specifically a police training program.
That karate or older arts may have been used for such purposes in the past, from the 1850’s onward when ‘karate’ developed, without a clear cut defined need, it is likely that the instructor developed the student according to their own abilities and the personal effort they placed on the student’s own studies.
In any case I don’t see Karate as taught was designed for quick skill development.
Personally I find skill of technique delivery the most important requirement for application study. Where the kyu is developing technique potential only after they have developed technique skill is it appropriate to begin to study how those techniques disrupt an attack.
While there are a lot of ‘bunaki’ video’s out there, especially on YouTube, many of them do not evidence high level of skill in the performer. That could be by design, keeping knowledge in reserve, but when you come across those who show otherwise it makes you think about what the others are showing.
Likewise many with skill are not sharing their techniques, or if you see them teaching a clinic, where the level of what is being shared is appropriate to the audience you won’t see their skill either.
Let me share several examples.
First I choose Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming and his Tai Chi Chinna video.
Dr. Yang in the early 80’s was among the first suggesting there were multiple applications to technique usage. His book “Advanced Yang Style Tai Chi Chaun Volume 2 Martial Applications” showed how each movement could be used for 1) Chin Na Control (or locking the opponent) 2) Cavity Strike or Striking Vital Points and 3) Downing the Opponent. In the book he most often demonstrated multiple versions of each application potential for each movement.
Dr. Yang further expounded on these concepts with his book Taiji Chin Na and if you view the following YouTube video you’ll see what I mean about skill behind the applications demonstrated.
Dr Yang Jwing-Ming – author of Tai Chi ChinNa http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eI-kJ14dtTY
It’s obvious the same applies to karate movement. A solid example is that of Higaonna Morio and his demonstration of Goju Ryu applications.
Sesan kata bunkai – Hiagonna Morio http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zx-ox6TmJW4
There are certainly many other good examples to find.
There is not one correct answer but in each case solid application potential realization requires good technique and belief in the application to make it work. The latter is the more difficult to develop.