I was introduced to bunkai at one of Iain's seminars last year and have been studying it quite intensely since that time. I have also been trying to read some historical karate books for reference and recently finished Funakoshi's Karate-Do Kyohan. While reading the explanation of the forms I was struck by the very elementary explanations of bunkai for the katas. As an example, here are some explanations for heian nidan:
- Opening sequence - one hand blocks an attack to the face, the other hand is held ready for attack
- Turn to rear after opening sequence - simultaneously attack opponent's face with back fist and his groin or chest with the right sword foot "In this movement, simultaneous fist and foot atacks are being made as one turns to face an opponent sensed ... to be attacking from behind"
- Kicks - "the point here is to grasp an opponent's left wrist and to kick his elbow with the right foot. One should practice kicking as high as possible"
Based on even my moderate knowledge of bunkai, these explanations are along the lines of "children's karate" explanations or "what you see is what you get" and would the kind of explanation given by someone that didn't know anything about bunkai.
Can anyone shed some light on why explanations such as this are given throughout the kata portion of the book? I understand and can clearly see that Funakoshi had an agenda in his writings to promote the emerging "-do" side of karate, but I don't necessarily think that these simplistic and unrealistic explanations assist in fulfilling that purpose. I considered that the translator (who replaced original pictures of Funakoshi demonstrating techniques with pictures of himself demonstrating) might have subsituted his own explanations are added to Funakoshi's originals, but there is no attribution that I can see in the book to indicate that was the case. And I find it very hard to believe that Funakoshi either didn't learn the true bunkai to such movements or believe these explanations to be the true bunkai.
I bought this book for for the history than the kata applications, but I can't help but feeling quite a bit ripped off nonetheless. Reading the excellent ratings and reviews for this book, one would be led to believe that Funakoshi's explanations of the katas are very enlightening. Needless to say, they are not!