Hi guys, there’s been a few videos posted up recently showing bunkai ideas. I thought I’d contribute by sharing my ideas for the kata Enpi. The following videos go through the whole kata - hopefully you’ll have the patience to sit through them all! ;]
So why Enpi?
Truth be told, I had an idea for age zuki and I ran with it. For those who are unfamiliar with the technique, you swing your outstretched arm in a circular motion upwards with a closed fist, palm side down much like a regular seiken. The target is supposedly the bottom of the jaw, like an uppercut. I’ve never been satisfied with this explanation for age zuki, so I started to think about other possibilities for what it could be. The idea I stumbled upon was the key to unlocking the entire kata.
Kata history and variations
While I am most familiar with the Shotokan version, hence I refer to it here as Enpi, the Wado Ryu version, known as Wanshu is so similar that the two forms clearly have the same origin. Basically I’m saying that the bunkai should be valid for both ‘versions’. I’m not, however, familiar with the version found in Shito Ryu and other styles. There seem to be some similarities in the movements (and so shared bunkai), but I did not look into this area in any detail.
Although there is no rule saying modern bunkai must conform to the historical applications (and they may be lost forever anyway), studying the history of a kata is a great place to begin research. I'll not waste space here by reposting historical information which can be found via a quick google search, but this extract from Wikipedia is particularly tantalising:
"One translation of the word "Wanshu" is "dumping form," "dragon boy dumping form" (in Shuri-ry?), and "Strong Arm Form" for the dramatic grab-and-throw technique seen in most versions."
If this is indeed true, then we should expect to see techniques like this emerge from the kata.
The cornerstone technique
I think I was quite lucky in that I stumbled upon (what I believe to be) a cornerstone technique and from here this grew and grew until the whole kata was mapped out. By cornerstone technique I mean a position or hold you apply to an opponent that you keep returning to and launching other techniques from, based on what the opponent does and how they react. This position should not allow the opponent an opportunity to launch an attack or even respond intelligently. Anyone who has seen Iain’s Beyond Bunkai DVD will understand what I mean by this. I was already a huge fan of Iain’s work, but that DVD truly revolutionised the way I train karate and assess bunkai.
We all know that preemptively striking the opponent in the head is the way to go. If you have been unsuccessful in incapacitating the opponent (and cannot escape) then the techniques found in Enpi can be applied as a follow up. To me Enpi is a collection of support techniques, not primary ones. The second line of defence, as it were. The cornerstone technique, in this case, is simply seizing the opponent’s wrist and jerking their arm straight with a gedan barai. Again, those familiar with Iain’s work will recognise this from the first move of Pinan Nidan/Heian Shodan. It is assumed that after the preemptive strike, the opponent has thrown their arms up to protect their head, a response that is deeply ingrained in humans and so predictable. From this position, the wrist can easily be seized and the techniques applied. For ease of training and viewing, we have represented this in the videos via a clash of forearms (which could theoretically also be the start point), but there are of course many other ways of arriving at this position.
Assessment of the bunkai
As mentioned, Enpi is a selection of what I feel are support techniques. At least, thats what I ended up with. I had no agenda or box that I wanted the bunkai to fit in, and so they grew organically according to what the movements were, not what I wanted them to be. Despite this ‘led by the kata’ approach, I still arrived at what I feel is a system not a collection of separate techniques, which, in my opinion, lends weight to their plausibility.
The solo form
Here is the kata as I know it. There is nothing special about this performance, it merely matches the way it is performed in Shotokan. If you are familiar with the kata, feel free to skip these videos.
Once again, this time at a slower speed.
- Bunkai 1 Oyo - Yoi
Seize wrist and use elbow to apply inverted arm bar (koshi uke).
And a closeup video of this bunkai.
- Bunkai 2 Oyo - Otoshi gedan barai
Seize wrist and use dropping gedan barai to attack the inverted elbow joint, pull opponent in using koshi uke, pull hair or crank neck and arm using gedan barai, punch jaw and/or forearm choke using kagi zuki.
- Bunkai 2 Henka - Otoshi gedan barai
Inside arm drag takedown using dropping gedan barai, arm bar of choice
[I did not film a video of this bunkai sorry!]
- Bunkai 3 Oyo - Age zuki
Seize wrist and gedan barai to destabilize opponent and straighten arm, age zuki to attack the elbow joint, seize the neck, hiza geri to the ribs, groin or thigh of opponent, gyaku zuki gedan to begin turn (with foot ideally on the outside), ushiro gedan barai to flip opponent onto the ground, pass seized wrist to other hand and gedan barai to strike the opponent's head if they try to stand.
- Bunkai 3 Henka - Age zuki
Seize wrist and gedan barai to destabilize opponent and straighten arm, age zuki to attack the elbow joint, claw to the face, hiza geri to the ribs, groin or thigh of opponent, gyaku zuki gedan to begin turn (with the option to stamp the opponent's foot and pin it), ushiro gedan barai to attack the elbow joint and groin, pass seized wrist to other hand and gedan barai to strike the opponent's head if they stumble forward.
- Bunkai 4 Oyo - Haishu uchi
Seize wrist, mawashi empi to opponent's head and seize hand, slide, mawashi empi and otoshi uke, haishu uchi to head and/or fumikomi to knee to drop opponent, grind head into opponent's head, kote gaeshi, empi to head and/or hiza geri to ribs, drive head downwards, double choku zuki to the back of the head.
- Bunkai 4 Henka - Otoshi empi
Seize wrist and use elbow to apply inverted arm bar (koshi uke), otoshi empi to elbow and/or fumikomi to knee to drop opponent, empi to head and/or hiza geri to ribs, drive head downwards, double choku zuki to the head.
- Bunkai 5 Oyo - Shuto uchi sequence
Seize wrist and gedan barai to destabilize opponent and straighten arm, age zuki to attack the elbow joint, step shuto uchi to attempt takedown, switch step and pass seized wrist to other hand, shuto uchi to neck, seize elbow and gyaku zuki to head, shuto uchi to takedown.
- Bunkai 6 Oyo - Gyaku age teisho
Seize wrist and gedan barai to destabilize opponent and straighten arm, age teisho to attack the elbow.
- Bunkai 7 Oyo - Age teisho
Seize wrist and gedan barai to destabilize opponent and straighten arm, entangle leg using step and age teisho to attack the elbow.
- Bunkai 8 Oyo - Yama uke
Seize wrist and gedan barai to destabilize opponent and straighten arm, age teisho to attack the elbow, slide in and gedan barai to the groin (arm below seized opponent’s), yama uke between opponent's legs and over far shoulder, lift opponent and drop onto head.
- Bunkai 8 Henka - Yama uke
Seize wrist and gedan barai to destabilize opponent and straighten arm, age teisho to attack the elbow, slide in and gedan barai to the groin (arm below seized opponent’s), yama uke to duck under seized arm and grip through opponent's legs, kata guruma to throw the opponent.
- Bunkai 9 Oyo - Shuto uke
Seize wrist and gedan barai to destabilize opponent and straighten arm, age teisho to attack the elbow, slide in and gedan barai to the groin, seize opponent’s arm with two hands, spin into shuto uke to apply shoulder and wrist attack, step back shuto uke (swapping hands) to apply shoulder and wrist attack.
The full collection of bunkai can be found in this playlist: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEFECCC5D755942C2&feature=plcp
I am hugely interested in thoughts and feedback for this bunkai. Please be as honest as possible, as thats the only way I’ll learn! ;]
Side note; you may have noticed there are a significant number of attacks to the opponent's elbow to be found within this kata. Perhaps Funakoshi had a sense of humour when he renamed it 'Enpi/Empi'... (I'm joking of course! ;])
Special thanks to Rick Kay-Bowden for letting me throw him about in the videos and Stewart Squire for all his advice and assistance in testing and refining the ideas.
Iain: I hope it was ok to put up this pretty massive post and video collection. I wanted to email first but am aware you get more than enough emails already! Perhaps you could embed the videos so that they’re easier to view?