Kata bunkai for self defense

Discussion in 'Karate' started by Kong Soo Do, Mar 11, 2015.

  1. Never_A_Reflection

    Never_A_Reflection Blue Belt

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    Kata oyo bunkai must be a key component of karate training, otherwise your kata are nothing more than dances--not that dances are bad, or have no cross-over benefits with martial arts, but they aren't the ideal way to develop self defense capabilities. Unfortunately, the bunkai process can be very hazy, and difficult to navigate and understand. I give anyone putting in legitimate effort to find practical applications for their kata credit, even if I don't necessarily like their results. Iain has a lot of great stuff, and a lot of stuff that I don't like. Either way, the work he is doing is good.

    There are some general guidelines that you can follow when analyzing kata, about how to figure out what you are doing and what your opponent is doing, but they don't apply to every sequence in every kata in every style. You have to be open-minded about it, in that regard. Still, there are certain principles that are universal in fighting, and there are principles that have been written or passed down by masters of old that we can look to for guidance. Sometimes, these principles are disguised as unrelated bits of wisdom, or as seemingly useless drills, but you can find them if you look for them.

    Something to keep in mind, too, is that drills related to kata are not always direct self defense applications--sometimes they are simply developing skills that improve your ability to use certain applications. The concepts that are found in the kata, the skills needed to apply them, and the adaptability to change what you are doing if necessary, all have to be developed. Otherwise, you can drill all kinds of techniques from the kata, but if your opponent does something strange or you make a mistake, you could be in trouble.
     
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  2. K-man

    K-man Grandmaster

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    The Okinawan masters didn't have, and still don't have to my knowledge, Taikyoku kata. They were developed by Funakoshi in Japan and then adopted by Yamaguchi for Goju Kai. I no longer teach taikyoko kata. They are not part of traditional karate.
     
  3. K-man

    K-man Grandmaster

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    Perhaps you could elaborate on what you mean in the bolded type. Now I'm not sure about kata other than the ones I study but there is no such training in our kata. Our kata (Goju) are fighting systems. If you want to use them some other way, cool. I would say that the skills are developed outside of kata although there is no reason you can't take bits of kata and play with them.

    Now your last sentence is critical. If you are training your bunkai as a fighting system, you are working on predicted response. If your opponent does something strange he gets hit. If you do something wrong, well that's your problem, not the fault of the bunkai.
     
  4. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    Oh, I am well aware of the Chinese connection with Okinawan and Japanese martial arts. I do believe, however, that the particular method that I study was not one that influenced the development of the karate methods. And I simply recognize that my own lack of familiarity with the specific kata found in karate will limit my ability to contribute to this discussion in a meaningful way.

    I also understand that karate has an identity closely linked to its kata and I would never suggest anyone toss that away. It is part and parcel of the karate methodology. That's just the way it is. My comment about kata not being necessary is simply a recognition that solid skills may be built without kata,and that OTHER martial methods do so on a regular basis. That's fine, and anyone for whom kata doesn't well mesh would be well advised to pursue one of those other methods. That statement in no way diminishes either approach to training. It simply acknowleges different strokes for different folks.

    As far as the sparring goes, there are many definitions of the term and I was using it loosely to indicate some level of use and application trainig. I'm not a fan of the tournament sparring that is common, I think it can lead to bad habits and undermine technique tho I won't say it's ALL junk. I just say, if you do it, be careful of how you do it and be realistic about how much importance you give it.

    As far as forms go, I see them as a tool. You practice them as a way to improve. I bristle when I see people talk about "performing" kata, because it implies it's done for the pleasure of a viewing audience. In my opinion that is utterly inappropriate. They were never meant for an audience. They are a training tool. If you pound a nail to build a house, you do not get an audience to watch. You just pound the nail and get the job done. Likewise, when you do kata, it's not for an audience; it's for yourself, to build your skills.

    I also do not see a form as something you "master". That implies the kata is a product. It's not a product. You don't master it, you just do it to improve your skills. It's your tool. You pound the nail to build the house, not to master the hammer. That's just a mindset that I keep. Tho how well you do the kata may be indicative of your skill level and your understanding. But that is a discussion to have between teacher and student, and isn't so meaningful outside of that context.

    As such, in my mind kata is not sacred and was not handed down by the gods, and can be altered. As I say, it's just a tool. Sometimes you need to get a different hammer to do a better job. Sometimes kata needs to be changed. However, it should not be changed without very good reason, and most people lack the understanding and have no business making changes to it. I point this out as I sometimes think some folks become overly attached to kata as a sacred object, and I don't feel that's the correct attitude towards it

    Hope this clarifies my position a bit.
     
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  5. K-man

    K-man Grandmaster

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    Kata are not sacred but they are fighting systems that have been proven over, maybe, centuries. The less effective ones didn't survive. Now I have no doubt my knowledge of kata is way below that of the masters but even so, they say to teach the kata as it was handed down. What you do within the kata is purely your own and that understanding may influence the way you practise the kata.
     
  6. Never_A_Reflection

    Never_A_Reflection Blue Belt

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    What I was talking about in the part you bolded was skill-building drills that people relate to a kata, but are not technically combative applications. I'm not saying that the kata are doing something other than fighting, just that you can use movements from kata to focus on developing specific skills. Tactile sensitivity and limb control are major ones that come to mind--you use them all the time in your applications, but it's good to sometimes focus on just developing those skills so you can apply them more effectively. Since you already have muscle memory for doing certain movements in a certain order, it can be a handy teaching tool to use those same movements to develop skills. Here is an example, from Goju-Ryu, of the kind of thing I'm talking about:

    My final comment was kind of along the same lines, in that I'm not faulting the kata, or saying that it isn't meant to be a fighting system--I am actually in complete agreement with you that, if an application fails, it is the fault of the person doing it. The thing I'm pointing out is that the way you train your applications can improve your ability to recover from failure. We can never predict with 100% certainty what an attacker is going to do, and how they are going to do it. We can restrict what they can do, of course, but until they are unconscious there are always going to be X factors. If a person develops a "feel" for applying the concepts of the techniques in kata in a practical way, it is easier to adapt and transition when those X factors come up.

    Hopefully that makes sense? It's kind of hard to get these ideas across through text.
     
  7. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    Sure, and my Sifu does make changes here and there. He does so with good reason, and anyone learning it that way would take it as he taught it. I know changing kata is something that makes a lot of people uneasy. It should.
     
  8. K-man

    K-man Grandmaster

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    Ok these a guys I have trained with. They are Jundokan now training with Masaji Taira. The drills they are doing in this video are drills of individual techniques, nothing to do with kata. At a later stage they can be incorporated into bunkai. If you ever get the chance to train with Taira he will blow your mind. His understanding of Goju bunkai is second to none.
     
  9. Never_A_Reflection

    Never_A_Reflection Blue Belt

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    I feel like we're talking about the same thing in two different ways, haha. We probably can't straighten that out very well in this format, though, so I won't worry about it. Suffice it to say that I think we are actually in agreement. :)

    I don't practice Goju-Ryu, although I do practice Sanchin, Tensho, and Seiyunchin--mostly Seiyunchin, though, if I'm being honest. Enfield Sensei and I have participated in quite a few discussions on kata bunkai, and karate, in general. He's actually helped me a bit with my Goju kata, and my understanding of Taira Sensei's methods. I've also attended a Seiyunchin seminar with him over Skype, which was a nice way to get around the inability to travel to him. I certainly have found Taira Sensei's approach (through Enfield Sensei's assistance) to be very thorough and effective. Many of the things he does are very similar to things that we do, and others are very interestingly different.
     
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  10. ShotoNoob

    ShotoNoob Master Black Belt

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    Academically, I believe you are correct.
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    My interest is not in what exactly Shotokan is & isn't compared to the Okinawans. My interest in Shotokan is the Okinawan principles that Gichin Funakoshi distilled or adopted and adapted to create the Japanese styles of traditional karate. In that light, the taikyoku kata are illustrative of those Okinawan, traditional karate principles.
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    Completely & utterly disagree with your final statement re traditional karate & the taikyoku kata. So we have a definitional difference.
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    The fact that you no longer teach the taikyoku kata is of course an instructor's prerogative. The taikyoku kata are panned by many karateka and applied fighters such the MMA conventional coaches--across the board. Yet some other's here @ MT are not so dismissive.
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    In the proper perspective, the taikyoku kata are extremely powerful karate training.
     
  11. drop bear

    drop bear Sr. Grandmaster

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    I don't think you will understand kata until you loose the idea that kata has been proven over centuries.

    There is a difference between proven and what has always been done.

    You cant properly test something if you already have the conclusion.
     
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  12. K-man

    K-man Grandmaster

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    Don't get too stressed. I no longer teach Taikyoku kata because I no longer teach Japanese Goju. In fact I think that the Taikyoku kata as introduced by Funakoshi are really good. I have never liked the Goju ones except as a means of training kihon. But Taikyoku is the name given to those kata by Funakoshi in Japan. Yes, Taikyoku kata contain Okinawan principles but they are not Okinawan kata. On the whole we are in agreement. As to being dismissive of kata, I think you will find I am one of its most passionate supporters.
     
  13. K-man

    K-man Grandmaster

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    Kata in China were the families' systems of fighting that were handed down from generation to generation. I think it is fair to say that they were totally tested.

    I have spent more time deeply studying kata than you have been training in the martial arts. I have travelled overseas numerous times to study purely kata, or at least the application of kata. Coming from someone who had never studied kata your assertion that I will not understand kata until I deny its history is a bit rich!
     
  14. ShotoNoob

    ShotoNoob Master Black Belt

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    Right, every body has an adaptation and this is another reason why I only study Shotokan. I'm interested in what Gichin Funakoshi found was important to everyday practitioners like me. You won't see me in the endless technical discussions about style vs. style for this reason. That's stress I don't need!

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    So they are Gichin Funakoshi's brainchild. I'm now clear on that. But the process, the concept he embodied in the simplified kata came from Okinawa, later on of course. Again, what compelled the Okinawan's to move this way and why, as a rhetorical question.
     
  15. drop bear

    drop bear Sr. Grandmaster

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    Have you ever talked to a young earther?
     
  16. tshadowchaser

    tshadowchaser Sr. Grandmaster

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    for those that do not study kata or bunkai let me explain the bunkai this way:
    If you box or wrestle or do BJJ you go over a situation of you opponent being in certian posistions and you work on drills to counter that position. Now if the counters you are practiceing today are all based on a certain movement being first and then what comes after you are in a way practice the same way a person taking a move from a kata is practiceing bunkai. That first movement in your routine is the same as the first move in a kata, the next is but a variation of what the second move may be. Thus you may move you left hand to block, grab, strike useing the same basic motion from there with that hand in the same position you also have multiple uses for that hand if you explore the possibilities.
     
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  17. drop bear

    drop bear Sr. Grandmaster

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    ok. Kata is like a text or guide book.

    Now i can copy that text without ever understanding how to read.

    I can read and follow the text without ever understanding the the purpose of that text.

    I can understand the purpose of the text and not understand that it could be wrong.

    I can fully understand the text accepting its strengths as well as its faults
     
  18. tshadowchaser

    tshadowchaser Sr. Grandmaster

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    Kata are slow and fast, beautiful and ugly, invigorating and painful, and some have all these elements. Some are flashy and have no meaning or bunkai in them but are simply for show. The ones that have meaning to most people that study them have many movements of the hands and feet that instruct a practitioner how to move correctly and if a good instructor is teaching the he will explain the WHY of the moves to the practitioner.
    If you study an art that dose not have kata and bunkai you are told do this do that and you do it if you want more instruction. you are then told your next move is this or that and you practice those moves over and over and over until you learn them and get them correct.
    It is the same damn thing

    Those of us that like learning bunkai and forms no matter what area of the world they come from can find many reasons for doing them (each to their own on why). I think many of us have studied a certain aspect of a form and taken that movement and thought long and hard on how and when we would like to use it. Some of us have then one day without thinking used the technique before we have even realized we have done so. AND damn but that feeling we get after knowing that it worked and that all of our practice and thought had been put to good use is special. It may not have been exactly like the form but the variation we worked on worked and that is what it is all aout.
     
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  19. RTKDCMB

    RTKDCMB Senior Master

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    It's a bit like talking to you.:)
     
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  20. K-man

    K-man Grandmaster

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    No.
    Yes
    Yes. That is performing the kata which is as far as most people get.

    Yes and that is just doing kihon. Again, as far as most people get.

    Yes, you may understand the purpose but not understand how what you are reading applies, and that's why you have a teacher who hopefully has more knowledge than you.

    False. You can read the print but you don't understand the meaning. Pick up any pure maths book. You can read it, you can copy it, you won't have a clue if what's there is right or wrong and you can accept it for what it is. The book itself has absolutely zero value if you don't understand pure maths. If you do understand pure maths it could be a treasure trove of information just as kata is to those who study it.

    Another example. You have a book in Japanese that is titled 'Understanding Kata'. If you can't read Japanese you can copy it, you know what is meant to be saying but you haven't got the first idea of what it's really about even if it has pictures. That applies to the Bubishi as translated by Patrick McCarthy. There are pictures and captions but to even trained people the meaning is a mystery. The masters lent their book for their senior students to faithfully copy. They had all the information but without the masters knowledge it was just another book.123
     
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