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bowlie
bowlie's picture
The problem with kata or bunkai

Coming from a more 'pragmatic' than 'traditional' background, I am incredibly skeptical about patterns / kata. The explanations I have been given did nothing to change my mind. If I asked a teacher why we do a pattern, I get answers like 'its for balance, developing technique, power, mental fortitude e.c.t.' and clearly that is wrong. Its not an efficient way to train for those qualities. I like Iains explanation of patterns because it makes sense. Its something I can accept as true. If we take patterns as what they are, a way of recording techniques, this gives them value.

Or does it? because the patterns are an abstraction of those techniques, and therefore the meaning is lost. Its like recording a dvd for people in the future, but no dvd player. The old masters recorded these techniques for us, but we have no way of determining the origional techniques. Any bunkai we do is our interpritation of those kata. And if we are imposing our own techniques onto them, then we are not doing what the origional masters wanted, even if we try really hard to.

In light of that, bunkai becomes a framework that we (maybe even subconciously) insert our favorite techniques into. my question then, is that seeing as we ultimatly choose what techniques we think that kata records, all it is recording is us. It no longer fullfils the role of a method of recording. If kata is a starting point for bunkai, why not skip it and go straight to a bunkai based system, i.e. drilling a technique?

Kokoro
Kokoro's picture

As I was told and understand it, patters are the manual to your style, they contain every thing inside the style. As you said like a DVD recording.

the old masters didn't have video or photographs, if any thing they would have to make hand drawings. Images making a book of you style and only being able to make hand drawings of each and every technique. How long would that take you. Or you could simply make a kata,  Which would you choose.

its simpler to put together a kata then to hand write a manual. At least back then. Yes know a days we have modern technology, but still king to kata. And in some ways you don't need kata. But if your alone and want to practice won't you be falling back into a pattern. 

It makes it easer every thing is catolaged inside a kata that in most case is less then 60 seconds. Can you read a manual of a style in 6pm seconds or watch a DVD in that time frame. 

It is said karate begins and ends with kata, without kata you no longer have karate.

bowlie
bowlie's picture

Kokoro wrote:

As I was told and understand it, patters are the manual to your style, they contain every thing inside the style. As you said like a DVD recording.

the old masters didn't have video or photographs, if any thing they would have to make hand drawings. Images making a book of you style and only being able to make hand drawings of each and every technique. How long would that take you. Or you could simply make a kata,  Which would you choose.

its simpler to put together a kata then to hand write a manual. At least back then. Yes know a days we have modern technology, but still king to kata. And in some ways you don't need kata. But if your alone and want to practice won't you be falling back into a pattern. 

It makes it easer every thing is catolaged inside a kata that in most case is less then 60 seconds. Can you read a manual of a style in 6pm seconds or watch a DVD in that time frame. 

It is said karate begins and ends with kata, without kata you no longer have karate.

I have heard the same, and agree with that. But it was also my impression (but I may be wrong) that the patterns are incredibly open to interpritation. They are a record of the style, but an abstracted version, and its hard for us to know for certain what some movements represent. This means we have to decide what we think they are showing, and this means we are not teaching the origional masters art, we are teaching what we think it could be.

If kata is unable to reliably tell us what a technique is, then surely its use as a record is limited? I like Iains approach to kata, with the 4 stages. Kata, bunkai, semi-free sparring, kata based sparring. I think this is a great system for any martial art, but, if the kata cannot tell us what the origional techniques really were, then the bunkai ceases to be drilling of the origional techniques and becomes drilling of what we think is the most effective technique it could represent. There is nothing wrong with this, as we should always use the most effective techniques, but if we are doing that why bother calling it kata and bunkai? why not just say 'here is a technique that works, drill it'. Because if we dont know what a kata records exactly and have to make assumptions, that is essentially what we are already doing.

Kokoro
Kokoro's picture

My friend once described it as this.

"we are given the kata, but there are keys to the kata and how to interpret them. Without those keys you won't be able to understand the kata."

and then he proceeded to explain to us those keys to interpreting the kata.

To me kata is the manual but with out proper bunkai it is useless, so yes you are right in that sense. But understanding and working with kata to pull out applications helps with your creative though process and not limiting your self to preset moves.

and in some ways we can know what the original masters meant for specific movements. An example comes to mind with the kata empi, the creator of that kata was known for taking his opponents throwing them and landing on top of them. Hence the last part of the kata, where you do a throw and a jump, as your finishing movement.

We know from history that the old masters had very good knowledge of grappling, striking, kyusho jujutsu and so forth, and can extrapolate from there what the meanings were.

take for example oyato Sensei he recreated a lot of the kyusho jutsu from kata and the okinawan bubishi, so throughout what notes they did leave and with the kata we can to some extent at least figure out what the bunkai is. Maybe we will never figure out every thing a 100%, but then again styles are also suppose to evolve and not stay stagnant. Styles need to adapt to the changing time. And perhaps that is also part of kata. Evolving the existing techniquess inside of the kata.

If you ever notice all the karate styles and even tae kwon do. The have 5 common techniques, age uke, uchi ude uke, soto ude uke, shuto uke, gedan bari, the names vary slightly but the techqiues are the same. Uke doesn't mean block it means to receive. And these are all your lead ins to your grappling moves as well.

The old masters would only learn one or two kata. That was all they needed and would spend years even decades studying that kata. Unraveling the bunkai. Bunkai is not something you will get over night. You can memorize a kata in a matter of hours. You can spend a life time understanding the application and never finish. Why else would the old masters only use a few kata. We spend too much time learning new kata instead of understanding the ones we know.

i have to look at Ivan's methods more, but it seems in line with mine as well. 

Funakoshi Sensei once said "When you can use kata in sparing then you will understand kata"

kata is not meant to be use as a whole in a fight it is meant to be use in pieces, and can be taken apart to create drills as well. Which I think was its intended purpose.

Dod
Dod's picture

I can empathize with Bowlie’s  main point.  The importance of Kata in Karate has been highlighted,  but  only if we understand the applications.   The secretary has taken notes in short hand,  but didn't leave behind the short hand code.

Coming across Iain and others enlightening us that it wasn’t just blocks and strikes was a revelation and I lapped up great bunkai books and videos.   But,  because I expected to quickly find out THE application for all moves I was deflated to find different experts who spoke a lot of sense nevertheless taught different applications.

I think we need some faith that we can eventually determine the applications that the creators had in mind (and the extent of multiple applications?)  otherwise just using our own applications means one of the main points of kata is gone? Or is it OK to just insert applications that seem to fit?   I now see that this is a bit of a journey rather than a quick fix.

Stevenson
Stevenson's picture

The point of kata is to record a system of fighting.

Quote:
And if we are imposing our own techniques onto them, then we are not doing what the origional masters wanted, even if we try really hard to.

This is to misunderstand how kata and kata bunkau works. Kata records certain principles and offers solutions to certain problems. In the case of Go Ju kata, it also represents a style or overall strategic plan that is extremely relevant to self-defense and developing greater skill at controlling an opponent. For example, the 2 Gekisai katas are the most basic level of fighting, which is reisst force with even greater force. Saifa focusses on tearing free and then countering; "Sai" meaning "tear free" or "extract" and "fa" meaning "to smash". The techniques recorded in the kata are consistent that strategy.

Whether or not a technique is exactly as the author originally intended it is beside the point and not the way kata was intended to work. It was an examinantion of the principles and not a recipe of techniques. That's why there can be several perfectly valid interpretations for the same move. The way I think of an individual move or sequence in kata is to think of them as "Chapter Headings". Examine the reason that  move or technique was put into the kata by people who really knew a thing or two about fighing, and explore it's importance. Then you test that against a set of principles "keys" Kokoros friend alluded to. Iain's method of going from bunkai, to oyo and finally live testing is ideal IMO.

I would recommend "The Way of Kata" by Kris Wilder asa great that looks at how you are "supposed" to view kata, and includes the "Kasai no genri" which is the set of principles that unlocks kata. It is a typically modern western viewpoint that we think in absolute terms - that something should be for something and be logically related - that might be why kata can seem pointless at first. But the old masters who gave us the kata came from a different time and a completely different way of thinking.

bowlie
bowlie's picture

Thanks for the explanation, that is great. I guess not knowing the patterns anyway doesnt help, but when I see so many conflicting versions of bunkai, it makes me wonder what the point is if everyone draws different conclusions. What you said about the principals though, that is good. That means that bunkai still has value, even if we cant deceipher every move completely. Thankyou

ky0han
ky0han's picture

Hi everyone,

the main goal of practicing Kata is to transform a normal person into a person who is able to defend itself. That means it teaches you how to move, how to use specific muscles or muscle groups to perform certain movements effectivly. It also teaches you how to change directions and how to place yourself in a certain angle in relation to a potential opponent.

Kata is a training tool nothing less and nothing more. Once you know how to move, how to keep the ballance when quickly change directions or when turning and so on you have to test those skills on or with a partner. That is called kumite (not to be mixed up with the modern competition style of kumite). 

Here a teacher explains how to use all the Kata movements in an altercation. He also explains certain concepts and principles that are behind those movements. You also learn important things like distance and timing and so on. If you don't have a teacher you have to guess what those movements could have meant. There is nothing wrong with that as long as it works for you.

I really like Iains four-step-approach. His explanations are really simple and easy to apply and most of them make perfect sense to me. Not all work for me of course, but hey since I am not Iain I was totally aware of this. So for those things that don't work for me I have to find my own interpretation.

Is it important that it is historical correct? No. It just has to work FOR YOU. It is nice though so see Funakoshi showing and explaining the Gedan Barai as a shoulder/arm lock and that there are other some such hints in the writings of the old masters.

Could you learn how to fight without using the Kata as a training tool. Absolutely. But where do you start then? You don't have to reinvent the wheel evertime. The use of Kata is in my eyes a very structured way of learning. So I stick to it cool.

Regards Holger

AllyWhytock
AllyWhytock's picture

Hello,

Concerning conflicting versions of bunkai, perhaps different interpretations of bunkai aren't in conflict with each other. Perhaps they are different variations of a theme, like similar tools in a toolbox but they are slightly adapted for a specific purpose.

Some interpretations, understandings or takes on bunkai are applicable to the body type of the defender and/or the assailant. Where some prefer a lock/grapple interpretation others may prefer a strike, all based on the dynamics, size & stength of both the defender and the assailant.

When drilling/exploring bunaki with a partner it is fun to discover what works for you and what doesn't when changing partners, increasing resistance and also when a counter, evasion, body movement creates an openning that then sparks a bunkai from a completely different kata. When you get that spark then it is a buzz (for me anyway). So knowledge of the kata themselves is critical.

Whoever came up with the concept of kata was imho a genius.  The Egyptians did something similar by recording their MA on a wall as pictures but perhaps the essence was lost. By creating the kata then the essence,  feeling or theme is still integrated.

Have fun and enjoy the exploration. :)

Bye,

Ally

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi All,

Great thread this one! Loads of good stuff coming out.

bowlie wrote:
If kata is unable to reliably tell us what a technique is, then surely its use as a record is limited?

It can tell us precisely and exactly though. It all depends on the approach we adopt. I like kata and always found it fascinating. I therefore underwent a process of “reverse engineering” the applications drawing on what I know about civilian violence, the nature of the kata itself, and what the information the past masters left us. I can’t know for certain if what I have came up with was the original intent, but I can say it works, is consistent with the kata, and is consistent with the firm information we do have.

Having undergone that process, I have found the end result to be very useful. I therefore teach that to my students. They know EXACTLY what the kata motion represents because I tell them exactly what it represents. They do not need to undergo the “reverse engineering” process that I undertook. They are not historians searching for the “original application”. They are modern day practitioners who want to practise something that works in the here and now. We KNOW with 100% certainty what the application is for every kata we practise. We know it with full certainty, because it is what we say it is. We therefore end up using the kata in exactly the same way as the masters of the past; on a macro level if not a micro one.

One thing I hope I’ve always been clear on in my approach to karate is that I’m a “pragmatist” not an “historian”. If something works then it will be utilised. There is no confirmable answer to whether something is historically accurate or not; which is fine with me because, as a pragmatist, I really don’t care.

The process of kata and bunkai that we utilise works for us. And because it works we teach it as concrete fact i.e. “this motion means this, and here is the drill”. It’s not a case of open ended interpretation in my dojo. I did the interpreting, I reached what I feel is a sound conclusion, and my students are told exactly what the kata motion records. When they are higher grades they may decide to reinterpret things (which is as it should be) but when gaining the experience that would allow them to do that effectively there is no “it could be this?”; it is a categoric, “this motions is this”.

In my view instructors should not be telling students to “work it out for yourself”. You go to an instructor to be instructed! The instructor should be telling the student what the kata records. Now that may not be the original, and it may not be the same as the dojo down the road, but so long as it is workable should we care about that? I don’t think we should. The intention and wider methodology is historically consistent and workable in the modern day. We therefore should not get hung up on historical details. As I joke at seminars; If you knock an assailant out with this when he awakes the first thing out of his mouth is unlikely to be, “Well that wasn’t historically accurate!”  :-)

bowlie wrote:
Why not just say 'here is a technique that works, drill it'

There is no reason at all why you could not do that. However, in my case I have found that the kata provide a structured and ordered way to approach combative training. Additionally, the kata provide an effective way to train on our own. They can increase coordination, muscular control and precision. And, and this is a big one, they allow us to practise with full intent.

Every time we practise with a partner we do so in such a way that our partner is unharmed. Safety dictates that we practise not harming people all the time in training; which is the exact opposite of what we want in application.

Solo-rehearsal (kata) gives us the opportunity to practise with full intent and commitment. When we do kata we should be, to paraphrase Itosu, like a warrior in battle. We need to visualise applying the methods full force as we physically replicate them; which is a scientifically proven highly effective form of training (a sporting example that jumps to mind is bobsledder’s sitting in a stationary sled visualising the track and they lean from side to side).

Kata is a very poor alternative to training with a partner. However, as part of the whole, it can give structure to training, provide a superb way of supplementary solo training, and give us a method whereby we can practise with full mental commitment and an intense intent. . The only reason I have kept kata is that I find it works fantastically well. It may not be the way for everyone, and it would be a boring world if it was, but it is something me and mine find great value (and enjoyment ) in.

All the best,

Iain

bowlie
bowlie's picture

Thanks for the great reply Iain. This has definatly helped me clarify my possition on this in my own head.

Personally, I dont think kata is needed for bunkai style drills. We could just decide on a core syllabus of the most effective techniques and drill them, and it would essentially be the same thing. It would probably even end up using alot of the same techniques. The only problem is, as you said, that kata give us that syllabus nicely already in a 'structured and ordered way'. So in my mind kata is not needed for drills. 

HOWEVER, drills are needed for kata. If you are going to do kata, to make it a worthwhile exercise it then needs to lead on to the syllabus that you cover. Otherwise, if the two are sepperate, the kata loses the things that make it effecive (the fact you are drilling the tehnique or visualizing it or recording it). 

In my view, Drills (bunkai) dont lose their value in the absense of kata, but kata DOES lose its value in the absense of bunkai. In my mind this is why Taekwondo patterns are so ineffective. The drills we do in Taekwondo are still effective, but unrelated to the patterns. It is therefore the patterns that are the problem, not the drill, because the drill works. drills should be higher up the training hierarchy in my view (and I think you agree, beacuse you say kata are a solo training tool, but not a substitute to two man training) so therefore the kata should suport the drill, the drill should not support the kata. I hope that makes sense.

Gavin J Poffley
Gavin J Poffley's picture

I think it is very important to differentiate between viewing the kata as a historical record and as an immediately useable training method (It is, ofcourse, both). Iain has covered why they can be the latter above but I think that even from the perspective of  history they still have much value. 

Nobody can really deny that purely as a method of recording the original intent of the masters, much of the information has been lost along the way for various historical and cultural reasons (changes in the societal attitude towards martial arts in late 19th and 20th century Japan and the rise in the popularity of a sporting approach to martial arts being the main ones in my view). With all the primary and secondary historical sources and supplementary information we have to hand it is still impossible to prove beyond any doubt what the original bunkai for all the moves in all of the many kata were. It is even up for debate exactly what the original forms looked like due to the organic way they have evolved. However, there is enough information to do exactly what Iain describes and reverse engineer the kata and posit theories as to the original intent. What I think needs stressing here is that these can be much closer to "theories" in the scientific sense as opposed to the commonly understood meaning (better described as guesses). 

To use a comparison, nobody would say that all our knowledge of the big bang and how the universe started is worthless because we don't have any first hand accounts from people who were there or a letter of intent from a creator god! Scientists have spent a great amount of effort researching it and coming up with a satisfying theory. Further testing has proven this theory robust and able to explain pretty much all of the associated expected phenomena. What many of the good modern karate experts have done with kata is very much the same thing!

Of course a badly thought out or flawed approach to reverse engineering kata (as has been the norm for the last few decades) is not going to be of much help. Also, from a pragmatic view there is still the very real possibility of useful ideas, approaches and techniques coming from historically "incorrect" or "dead end research".  Ignoring these too would be foolish (The discovery of Penicilin springs to mind here!) but I think we are now at a stage where there is a solid and useful body of work to refer to.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

And the award for the greatest analogy of 2013 goes to …

Gavin J Poffley wrote:
What I think needs stressing here is that these can be much closer to "theories" in the scientific sense as opposed to the commonly understood meaning (better described as guesses). 

To use a comparison, nobody would say that all our knowledge of the big bang and how the universe started is worthless because we don't have any first hand accounts from people who were there or a letter of intent from a creator god! Scientists have spent a great amount of effort researching it and coming up with a satisfying theory. Further testing has proven this theory robust and able to explain pretty much all of the associated expected phenomena. What many of the good modern karate experts have done with kata is very much the same thing!

Love that Gavin! A great way of expressing it.

All the best,

Iain

Mr P
Mr P's picture

.

bowlie
bowlie's picture

Iain, when you teach kata as it is meant to look, or how it is meant to work?

What I mean is in taekwondo everything is aesthiticised, so our punches have a sine wave, we have to keep our body square on (despite the fact that means you cant really rotate into the punch and lose alot of power) e.c.t. We would have to preform them that way for gradings and competitions, but they are not really representative of the moves they are supposed to be. I hope that makes sense,

I dont know if its the same in karate, but would you teach the moves of the pattern in line with what the examining body says and just make sure students are aware of the difference, or would you teach the moves as a more accurate representation of what you would do for the bunkai? Otherwise, you would be drilling a technique differently to how you preform it, and engraning bad habbits in yourself.

Also, going back to the discussion earlier, would you say that a principal is more important than a technique? I know you use both in your 4 step kata training, but would you say 'this move represents this throw' or it represnents 'a throw like this'? I mean if there are two similar throws that would both fit into a movement, it would be pointless to say, its this one, not the other surely?

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

bowlie wrote:
Thanks for the great reply Iain. This has defiantly helped me clarify my position on this in my own head.

You’re welcome. I’m pleased that helped.

bowlie wrote:
In my view, Drills (bunkai) don’t lose their value in the absence of kata, but kata DOES lose its value in the absence of bunkai.

That’s true. But from a karate perspective, losing the kata also means you are losing the “spine” of the whole system. It’s the central organising structure and if you lose that you have problems. You could replace it with list on a piece of paper, but that list can’t be used for solo training, it cannot be used for visualisation / rehearsal training, it won’t increase muscle control, etc. In my view, we lose a massive amount if we lose kata. Sure, other systems do fine without it, but if I were to lose kata from my karate then it would lose the central column that holds the whole thing up. I’d need to rebuild and restructure to such an extent that it would no longer be karate. I like karate and seeing as what I do is working just fine that seems like a pointelss endevour.

bowlie wrote:
Iain, when you teach kata as it is meant to look, or how it is meant to work? … or would you teach the moves as a more accurate representation of what you would do for the bunkai? Otherwise, you would be drilling a technique differently to how you perform it, and engraining bad habits in yourself.

They are largely one and the same I find. The kata motion and the bunkai motion are one and the same. However, one thing to be constantly aware of is that combat is VERY variable. So all the kata can do is show one example of how the motion would be performed. It will be performed differently if the enemy is taller, shorter, moving forward, moving back, etc, etc. So the kata can only record an “accurate representation” of one specific scenario … and it would be foolish to then state that single example is the only valid way the motion can be performed. If the opponent is taller then the striking hand will be higher than it is in the kata, and so on.

Nakasone expressed it well when he was commenting on Funakoshi’s 20 precepts: “Never be shackled by the rituals of kata, but instead move freely according to the opponent’s strength and weaknesses.”

It is the partner work and live practise that ultimately ensure a realistic drilling of the bunkai. The kata is there to tell us what to drill and to provide a supplementary form of solo practise. It can never be a substitute for partner work though.

bowlie wrote:
Also, going back to the discussion earlier, would you say that a principal is more important than a technique? I know you use both in your 4 step kata training, but would you say 'this move represents this throw' or it represnents 'a throw like this'? I mean if there are two similar throws that would both fit into a movement, it would be pointless to say, its this one, not the other surely?

The four stage model covers this. They learn a technique in order to have a concrete representation of principle; and then they should explore the other ways in which the principle can applied. So in the first instance the kata shows them a specific method (i.e. “this throw”). The principles are then explored and given free reign so that the method can be applied in various circumstances (i.e. “throws like this”). So we start with the specific to identify the principle which will have many manifestations. So it’s not one or the other, nor is it both at the same time. It is both as part of a structured progression.

This article explains the process in more detail: http://www.iainabernethy.co.uk/article/four-stages-kata-practise

All the best,

Iain

bowlie
bowlie's picture

Cheers Iain, thats alot to think about!

Dale Parker
Dale Parker's picture

I think the analogy of a Kata being a recording to preserve and pass on a style of Karate is a good one, but there is slightly more to it.  The medium, if the recording is stored on a Blu-Ray DVD, it won't play on an old fashioned DVD or CD player, and definately can't be jammed into your old 8 track.

So consider the playback medium as the correct or proper instructor.  I honestly believe without that you are left to determining what everything is on your own. Some people can do that, many cannot.

Another thing to consider, Soke Kenzo Mabuni once told me kata is the original sudoku.  It was ment to keep the mind sharp as well as pass on the style.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Dale Parker wrote:

I think the analogy of a Kata being a recording to preserve and pass on a style of Karate is a good one, but there is slightly more to it.  The medium, if the recording is stored on a Blu-Ray DVD, it won't play on an old fashioned DVD or CD player, and definately can't be jammed into your old 8 track.

So consider the playback medium as the correct or proper instructor.  I honestly believe without that you are left to determining what everything is on your own. Some people can do that, many cannot.

Oh, I like that analogy! :-)

Daniel
Daniel's picture

It seems to me that perhaps it was not entirely by accident that most of the original kata bunkai were never passed on. I think that the early sensei noticed that most of the techniques in kata actually had more than one possible application, if they didn’t plan them that way in the first place. The opening moves of Hanaku where you step 45 degrees and execute a “block” with one hand in front and held vertically, with the other hand in front of the solar plexus is one move where Sensei Iain has showed several possible convincing bunkai for the same move.

Perhaps the old sensei did not want to lock their students into just one possible bunkai, but wanted them to grow by exploring a variety of possible uses for these moves. Different personalities and different body styles call for different tactics. I am six feet tall and two hundred and a few too many pounds, so I have a heck of a hard time with any maneuver that involves a lot of footwork. Shorter people that I practice with have much better luck with these techniques. On the other hand shorter people have a harder time grabbing a hold of someone and pulling them off balance by shifting into back stance. They typically just do not have the lard and the leverage required for this.

I think that different people can, and probably should use the same basic body motions in different ways for different ends. That means that perhaps there never was any one best meaning for each movement. Perhaps the old masters wanted to pass down some basic body movements that had a wide variety of applications to teach their students to learn to experiment and begin to think critically for themselves.  If you think about spending an hour just practicing kata for form, and the same hour trying to figure out what in the blazes old master so and so was getting at when he wanted you to move your arms and legs like this, then it seems to me that the latter is much more instructive.

 For example, while I have been trying to decode my kata’s I noticed that most of the meanings that made sense to me focused on controlling the dominant arm. For a while I thought that I was just projecting a favorite solution on the situation, but then I realized that in a sudden close range encounter I might not be aware of whether or not the assailant had a weapon or not. In that situation controlling the assailant’s dominant hand is probably a matter of life or death. This made me stop and think about the possibility of sudden weapons appearance and the need to have techniques that were equally tolerant of armed and unarmed attacks much more than some set meaning ever would. Am I projecting a favorite solution on the bunkai and forcing it to fit? I’m still thinking about that, and that is a benefit all by itself. Perhaps that is what they planned all along.

Dod
Dod's picture

Daniel,  I don't know whether it was planned that we should not be sure of the applications in kata,  but definitely the journey of trying and discussing the different possibilities is quality learning time. 

shoshinkanuk
shoshinkanuk's picture

Whilst this is not 'proof' I have been taught Bunkai/Oyo, that my Sensei was taught by his Sensei, whom was taught by Hohan Soken Sensei, who said he was taught by Nabi Matsumura, who said he was taught by Sokon Matsumura.

It's not text book quality in terms of explanation or detail, but original Bunkai does exsist- this is one of the benefits of belonging to a classical Ryu.

JWT
JWT's picture

shoshinkanuk wrote:

Whilst this is not 'proof' I have been taught Bunkai/Oyo, that my Sensei was taught by his Sensei, whom was taught by Hohan Soken Sensei, who said he was taught by Nabi Matsumura, who said he was taught by Sokon Matsumura.

It's not text book quality in terms of explanation or detail, but original Bunkai does exsist- this is one of the benefits of belonging to a classical Ryu.

I'd be interested in your opinion Jim on the differences (if there are any) between this traditionally passed down bunkai and the bunkai taught by modern karateka with traditional aims such as Iain, me and Rakesh.  Is our bunkai similar or very different?  Is it more effective/realistic or less effective?  Are the differences so great as to be comparing apples and oranges?

thanks

John Titchen

JWT
JWT's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:
 That’s true. But from a karate perspective, losing the kata also means you are losing the “spine” of the whole system. It’s the central organising structure and if you lose that you have problems. You could replace it with list on a piece of paper, but that list can’t be used for solo training, it cannot be used for visualisation / rehearsal training, it won’t increase muscle control, etc. In my view, we lose a massive amount if we lose kata. Sure, other systems do fine without it, but if I were to lose kata from my karate then it would lose the central column that holds the whole thing up. I’d need to rebuild and restructure to such an extent that it would no longer be karate. I like karate and seeing as what I do is working just fine that seems like a pointelss endevour. 

Hi Iain,

I struggle with this.  

To me that's akin to saying that replacing a book of Kata techniques with a DVD of techniques where each technique can be accessed in any order you choose from a menu is losing the central organising structure or spine, or the ability to remember techniques.  To me it is the techniques of Karate (and not necessarily all of them), not the order, that is the central column.

I don't teach Kata to my regulart students in DART though I do teach Kata and bunkai to Shotokan students and to a wide range of people in seminars.  Seven years ago I  made a decision to move from a Kata centric syllabus, where students studied bunkai drills and did appropriate padwork  in parallel to the classically taught order of Kata, to an HAOV centric syllabus, where students study bunkai based drills and do appropriate padwork according to / ordered to what I believe are the most important defences they need to learn.  Once I had made that decision the old method of information transmission (ie the solo Kata) became irrelevant unless I ordered my drills into new Kata.  I could have done this - but to do so would simply mean them solo drilling existing drills in sequence according to the syllabus when they could have been working paired.  If they want to train solo, they can simply do the drills in the order they've learned them, or any order they wish according to their peceived weaknesses, on their own.

I would be the first to admit that in doing this I had to rebuild and restructure a great amount, and hard choices had to be made,  but personally I don't feel that we've really lost anything important.  I still regard what I teach my students as Karate.  I believe that Kata are at the heart of Karate, but I've always senn this as the intent of the movements and the skills, not the method of transmission.  

A number of Karate systems isolated their Kata, created kumite drills for the modern sporting competitions, and focused on these with kihon reflecting the new kumite rather than the Kata.  They are still called Karate.  A number of Karate systems ditched their Kata, created new Kata based on their new kumite drills for the modern sporting competitions, and focused on these.  They are still called Karate.  DART ditched the solo performance of Kata, but created paired kumite and padwork drills based on the different bunkai from the Kata.  Personally, I still call that Karate.  If I had been ditching Chinese forms to do the same I would call it Kung Fu. smiley

I don't take any issue with you not going down the same route as me.  There are many viable ways to study Karate.  What I do raise my eyebrows at is the suggestion I think you've made that solo Kata needs to be present for something to be Karate. smiley

Regards

John

shoshinkanuk
shoshinkanuk's picture

JWT wrote:

shoshinkanuk wrote:

Whilst this is not 'proof' I have been taught Bunkai/Oyo, that my Sensei was taught by his Sensei, whom was taught by Hohan Soken Sensei, who said he was taught by Nabi Matsumura, who said he was taught by Sokon Matsumura.

It's not text book quality in terms of explanation or detail, but original Bunkai does exsist- this is one of the benefits of belonging to a classical Ryu.

I'd be interested in your opinion Jim on the differences (if there are any) between this traditionally passed down bunkai and the bunkai taught by modern karateka with traditional aims such as Iain, me and Rakesh.  Is our bunkai similar or very different?  Is it more effective/realistic or less effective?  Are the differences so great as to be comparing apples and oranges?

thanks

John Titchen

Hi John,

First off I am not an expert in our Ryu, and secondly I have only met you once and never met Iain. However I do follow the majority of the material you guys put out there- and highley respect it.

I guess a stock awnser is in my experience the Bunkai we practice, and it's associated Oyo is more historical in focus, i.e from another time. So, cultural, dress, social backdrop, different weaponry, karate dueling, symbolism feature far more than a 'traditional' form of karate. But it is effective and takes into account the timeless reality of defending oneself and fighting.

Most of us have been exposed to 'traditional' karate, i.e Shotokan, Wado, Shukokai or perhaps Goju- these Ryu IMO are perfectly able to produce effective Bunkai, but often in a re-engineered form, as the knowledge IMO was generally not passed on, and the intent of the Ryu changed with the times, lots been written about this before.

We of course have 'gaps', but I hold dearly the classical teachings of our Ryu, in fact it is my obligation to do so as a baby teacher of the Ryu.

The Bunkai I have seen from Iain and yourself do share similarities with what we do and how we do it, but there are core differences in strategies, tactics and technical execution- our Ryu has a significant element of Japanese swordsmanship built in, which is nothing to do with using a sword. Our Kyusho and Tuite elements are more refined IMO. (and refined doesn't mean more effective in this sense).

More effective, less effective- no awnser to that really, it's the karateka and situation that fundamentaly drive that awnser I would say. But I refer students to both yours and Iains work at every oppertunity as what you both do is fab.

To 'get' what we do takes more time I would say, than yours and Iain's approaches and it contains elements that perhaps would not interest many karateka, we are both very narrow minded but have our eyes wide open. The 'core' of the Ryu is fixed, but it evolves for each student as they grow through it, and teachers are obliged to do a good job of passing it on, or it will be lost.

Very few would actually get to the deeper teachings of our art, it's meant to be that way.

I hope that goes some way to explain my view on this, by the way I would train with you and Iain in the blink of an eye, but I found home and focus on that- only so much time and resource for martial arts.

JWT
JWT's picture

shoshinkanuk wrote:

Hi John,

First off I am not an expert in our Ryu, and secondly I have only met you once and never met Iain. However I do follow the majority of the material you guys put out there- and highley respect it.

I guess a stock awnser is in my experience the Bunkai we practice, and it's associated Oyo is more historical in focus, i.e from another time. So, cultural, dress, social backdrop, different weaponry, karate dueling, symbolism feature far more than a 'traditional' form of karate. But it is effective and takes into account the timeless reality of defending oneself and fighting.

Most of us have been exposed to 'traditional' karate, i.e Shotokan, Wado, Shukokai or perhaps Goju- these Ryu IMO are perfectly able to produce effective Bunkai, but often in a re-engineered form, as the knowledge IMO was generally not passed on, and the intent of the Ryu changed with the times, lots been written about this before.

We of course have 'gaps', but I hold dearly the classical teachings of our Ryu, in fact it is my obligation to do so as a baby teacher of the Ryu.

The Bunkai I have seen from Iain and yourself do share similarities with what we do and how we do it, but there are core differences in strategies, tactics and technical execution- our Ryu has a significant element of Japanese swordsmanship built in, which is nothing to do with using a sword. Our Kyusho and Tuite elements are more refined IMO. (and refined doesn't mean more effective in this sense).

More effective, less effective- no awnser to that really, it's the karateka and situation that fundamentaly drive that awnser I would say. But I refer students to both yours and Iains work at every oppertunity as what you both do is fab.

To 'get' what we do takes more time I would say, than yours and Iain's approaches and it contains elements that perhaps would not interest many karateka, we are both very narrow minded but have our eyes wide open. The 'core' of the Ryu is fixed, but it evolves for each student as they grow through it, and teachers are obliged to do a good job of passing it on, or it will be lost.

Very few would actually get to the deeper teachings of our art, it's meant to be that way.

I hope that goes some way to explain my view on this, by the way I would train with you and Iain in the blink of an eye, but I found home and focus on that- only so much time and resource for martial arts.

Thanks for giving such a detailed reply.

shoshinkanuk
shoshinkanuk's picture

I hope it was 'mystical' enough for this forum, I can be weirder.......LOL

JWT
JWT's picture

shoshinkanuk wrote:

I hope it was 'mystical' enough for this forum, I can be weirder.......LOL

I think the one time we met I had a right hand in plaster following surgery to pin my boxers break so I couldn't do your seminar, plus I was teaching a taster of  BTS stuff so you didn't get my take on things when you came to me.

Hope to see you at one of my, Iain's or your seminars soon. smiley

shoshinkanuk
shoshinkanuk's picture

I got your number John wink

That was a MAP meet a few years ago, i think i was doing a simple Pinan Shodan and Bunkai intro myself- did a short session with you guys at the end and got to hit some of your guys in suits, which was very nice!

I met and trained with the most excellent Terry Brown that day as well.

Yes your hand was in plaster.

Black Tiger
Black Tiger's picture

One thing I feel obliged to add is that lineage doesn't make or break what is deemed as correct and incorrect.

My lineage is Ashihara (directly to Ashihara kancho) then Kyokushin (directly to Oyama Sosai) from there. We are considered as the "ruff" Rugbyplayer brother of Gentleman's "Japanese" karate. 

Us, As Modern Karateka have disregarded Tradition kata for Jissen based kata. 

I practice some traditional kata (namely because the following rekindled my belief in Traditional Kata), but I found that it was only the likes of Iain Sensei, John Burke Sensei and Vince Morris Sensei who were actually providing Bunkai and Ohyo that actually works. I found some traditionalists claiming this lineage and that lineage who just believed their own $%&#%. Now I've seen some Senior Dan grades on YouTube (one guy sporting a gold looking belt and edging oh and a bandana), who look as amature as a Green/Purple bet when to comes to Bunkai.

shoshinkanuk
shoshinkanuk's picture

BlackTiger that very much depends on what lineage, whom you train with and how you train.

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