Bunkai

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There are many different forms/katas used throughout martial arts systems. To an outsider they make little sense. Even those within the martial arts can sometimes fail to recognize the martial applications. This video and the previous one by Iain Abernethy show how one can learn to analyze and understand the applications within the basic forms. Once you understand the concepts and principles it makes applying the techniques, more creatively, an easier task. To the untrained eye, the katas and forms of martial arts look ineffective and unusable in reality - teachers, books and videos such as these are most enlightening.
 
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Flying Crane

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I agree with this, except your last point in this quote. If the student is supposed to know a form he is by definition, IMO, obligated to learn the application since the bunkai is the kata.
I did not say that learning what the application is, is not necessary. What I was trying to say and may not have been clear, is that I do not believe there is a realistic expectation or obligation to be able to use and apply every piece of the form in a real combat situation. Particularly with the Chinese forms which can be very long, there are movement sequences that may be clear in their intended application, but may not be realistic for every student to expect to use functionally. That does not mean the movement is dysfunctional or worthless, because another student may find that it suits him well.
 

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This might work as an explanation. Here is a tutorial on how to do a 540 kick.

To pull this kick off you need to drill a bunch of mechanical movements so you don't fall on your head.

That would be forms.

Now if we took those individual drills and tried to visualise how heath movements is somehow a secret fighting move and then bend reality to make every knee raise or hip turn a combat move.

That would be bunkai at its most silly.
That dude is a kick (no pun intended) to watch. I never intend to do a 540 kick, but I thoroughly enjoyed watching the video.

I also agree with your points.
 

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This is a tutorial on how to perform a 540 kick. This is not a kata and does nothing to answer the question of how somebody learns the applications in the first place.
There are all kinds of threads on this forum about what a kata is and isn't, and it's crazy how diverse the opinions are even among people who train in styles with kata. Throw CMA forms, TKD forms, and drills into the mix, and it's all over the place.

But if you're talking about the basic function of kata, which is generally described as a lexicon of movement in karate, or a drill of some kind, then that 540 tutorial starts to make a lot of sense.
 

Kung Fu Wang

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to be able to use and apply every piece of the form in a real combat situation.
Some moves in the form may not have combat meaning but to maintain your flexibility.

One day when you are 80 years old and still be able to touch your hand on the ground like this, you should be proud of yourself.

 

drop bear

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A lot of people on this forum get upset with me for saying this, but this was my eventual conclusion. There are a lot of benefits to kata, and those benefits tend to be understated by kata deniers. But there's things kata just doesn't do, which tend to be overstated.


It depends on how you define "kata". Again, because you're asking in General and not in the Karate forum, I'm going to treat this as general. So I'm treating the word "kata" as "form". In my personal experience, "forms" are long, choreographed pieces that are usually at least 16 steps from start to finish, often more steps and with multiple techniques per step. What my school called "techniques" were individual techniques or combinations of techniques that were a small handful of movements, which would be called as set plays. For example, "Kicking #4" would be a roundhouse kick, back kick combo.

Some people would call those "short forms" or just "forms", because it's a piece of rote material for the curriculum. By my definition above, that is included in kata.

I could be mistaken, but I do not believe @drop bear has done forms. I think he's a BJJ/MMA guy, and I don't know what else he's done (although now would be a great opportunity to enlighten me on that). His example may not be the best example, because he doesn't have one from his personal experience. I'll use another one from mine. However, I do believe his example does a very good job of getting the point across.

The 540 kick is a difficult kick, which looks impressive to the audience. It serves a purpose in demonstration. I believe that the process of learning the 540 kick makes you better at the tornado kick and roundhouse kick, which are much more practical kicks. I also believe that the athleticism required to pull off a 540 kick means folks who practice are encouraged to work on their leg strength, core strength, and weight loss to make this work (also, because it's such an explosive technique, it helps work on those things as well).

But I never once taught the 540 kick by saying, "This is to get more power for knockouts in street fights." I told them this instead, "This kick is to look cool."

Oh, on second thought:

It is in a form. These are the competition forms that World Taekwondo is going to might be using at some point.

The combination starts at 1:07, the kick is around 1:11.

I think it was a good example of how a technique can be what it is and serve a purpose, even if it doesn't have a practical application. And, now you know it is in a form!

However, I would have picked more common techniques from forms. Those include the double knife-hand block and the scissor block.

Double Knife-Hand Block
View attachment 29806
images


The double knife-hand block (pictured left) is a big staple of not only TKD, but also Karate and any other similar-styles forms. It differs from the single knife-hand block (right) in that the off-hand is placed near the solar plexus instead of chambered on the hip.

When I originally asked for the application of the technique, 95% of the answers focused on either:
  • The main hand, which was not the question, because I had no problem with the single knife-hand block
  • How stupid I was for not knowing the plain and obvious answer
The really funny thing is, I think I actually do have an idea why you would place the hand where it is; because it's then faster to strike with that hand on the next move. It doesn't make sense as a guard position (I would want the palm pointed down or in), and the motions in both Palgwe Style and Taegeuk style don't make sense for a grappling move (for different reasons. So, it's for a faster strike. But wait!

Look at the first set from the first form below, and the second video starting at 0:35. There are two instances of the double knife-hand in the first video, and three in the second.


What you'll notice in both of these videos (which are consistent with the official Kukkiwon videos, just these are 1:00 videos instead of 15:00 ones), is that between the knife-hand block and the next technique, their hand moves from that "speed chamber" that I said must be the application, back to the full chamber position. So this actually makes the technique take longer than in the basic knife-hand block.

Scissor Block
images

The scissor block is a down block with one hand, and an outside block with the other. Typically this done in a front stance, with the down block protecting the forward leg. The description of the scissor block when teaching is that it is "protecting a kick from one side and a punch from the other side."

I reject this, because I would rather simply not be in between both of those attacks. I would defend one or both of those strikes with my feet, attempt to isolate one assailant, and then I only need a down block or outside block; not both. There are several ways in which this movement can be used, but not in the exact way as done in the forms, and not for the exact purpose.

Although I have developed my own forms, mostly with aesthetics in mind, but this is one technique I feel I actually do better than either the Palgwe forms I learned or the official Taegeuk forms. One of my forms uses the down block in the scissor block as a chamber for a backfist, which I feel makes more sense than chambering at the hip. I also do make use of the hand position in the double-knife-hand block in my combos, including using combos similar to those in Taegeuk 4 and Taegeuk 8, but not adding extra movement to waste the positional advantage.
What are the ways I could see the scissor block being used?
  • Set up a figure-4 lock (usually done around shoulder level instead of midsection)
  • Set up an elbow lock ("up" hand pushes up on the elbow, "down" hand pushes down on the wrist)
  • Breaking out of someone's grip ("up" hand wants to escape, "down" hand pushes their arm down to make it easier)
  • Pull down a punch or a guard with the left hand, backfist with the right hand (similar motion but slightly different)
  • Block a kick and backfist with the other hand
  • Block a punch, and hammerfist to the groin with the other hand
  • A similar ending position, but with both blocks on the same side, to protect against a roundhouse kick that might go to the body or the head. Kind of like the concept behind the Muay Thai check position. Was very useful in our school for grabbing roundhouse kicks in self-defense training or on the rare chance that we did "freestyle" sparring
None of those examples perform the technique in the way done in the forms. The way done in the forms doesn't match to any application. The way it's described in the forms isn't the strategy I would choose in a real 2-on-1 situation.

What I will do is if someone is struggling with a kick defense or a figure-4 lock, I may try saying "Like a scissor block", and sometimes that helps. But I use it as a teaching aide, not a teaching method.

There are more techniques than this, but these two are the main ones that I have focused on. I have three levels of technique from forms at the moment:
  • Basic techniques, in which the application is obvious (i.e. a high block, or a kick, or a punch, or a simple block-and-punch combo)
  • Intermediate techniques, which are very common, but I'm not satisfied with the answers we have
  • Advanced techniques, which I haven't even dug into, because if I can't be satisfied by the answers for intermediate techniques, then why bother?

The thing is with enough imagination people can rationalize anything.

They did it for crossfit.

But it isn't a smart way to train application because you constantly insert this fantasy premis.

Instead of doing the best possible movement. You do the movement that most resembles the kata.
 

Gyakuto

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No.

And I think it is a terrible way to look at application.
In some peoples hands, bunkai really can be a tautological argument by which i mean a circular argument, that is, one that begins by assuming the very thing that is meant to be proven by the argument itself!
 
OP
T

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The thing is with enough imagination people can rationalize anything.

They did it for crossfit.

But it isn't a smart way to train application because you constantly insert this fantasy premis.

Instead of doing the best possible movement. You do the movement that most resembles the kata.
Not sure what you mean by this Drop Bear.

Does your martial use formal katas?
 
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In some peoples hands, bunkai really can be a tautological argument by which i mean a circular argument, that is, one that begins by assuming the very thing that is meant to be proven by the argument itself!
Studying a martial art is a personal journey. Each of us will find our own approach. Problems arise when people begin to preach to prove their perspective as the truth. History repeats itself over and over. Will humans ever learn to live in peace and harmony with one another
 

Kung Fu Wang

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Do you believe the various applications of kata come down to how creative you are?
There are 2 different ways to train MA.

1. Learn traditional form and figure out application.
2. Understand application and then create your own drill/form.

IMO, 1 < 2.

For example, when both you and your opponent have right sides forward.

- You use right hook punch to knock down your opponent's leading right arm.
- You use left hook punch to hit the right side of his head.
- You then use right hook punch to hit the left side of his head.

This right hook, left hook, right hook combo may not exist in your form. But it has great combat value. So why don't you create a drill/form for it?

After you have created many drills like this, will you still spend your time to train the traditional form that you have learned from your teacher, or will you spend your time to train those drill/form that you have created?

If you don't have time to train both. which one will you treat as higher priority?
 
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isshinryuronin

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I will practice the kata that Isshinryu teaches. It has served me well and I have no reason to change.
There is little for one of us non-grand masters to add - most important things we could think of are likely already somewhere in the forms the style teaches. I think that the kata series in most traditional Okinawan styles will contain a full spectrum of techniques and fundamentals and are very similar to those of other styles. Afterall, Okinawan karate is Okinawan karate for the most part, and while some details of execution may look a little different, at their core they are much the same. It may be informative and fun to learn another style's kata (or to make up one's own - there are a couple of Goju kata I'd enjoy learning) but by no means necessary. There is plenty to master in one's own style.
 
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drop bear

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Not sure what you mean by this Drop Bear.

Does your martial use formal katas?

That's cool. If you don't get it. You don't get it.

And not my current one. But I am ranked in things like Zen do kai which had them.
 

drop bear

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A lot of people on this forum get upset with me for saying this, but this was my eventual conclusion. There are a lot of benefits to kata, and those benefits tend to be understated by kata deniers. But there's things kata just doesn't do, which tend to be overstated.


It depends on how you define "kata". Again, because you're asking in General and not in the Karate forum, I'm going to treat this as general. So I'm treating the word "kata" as "form". In my personal experience, "forms" are long, choreographed pieces that are usually at least 16 steps from start to finish, often more steps and with multiple techniques per step. What my school called "techniques" were individual techniques or combinations of techniques that were a small handful of movements, which would be called as set plays. For example, "Kicking #4" would be a roundhouse kick, back kick combo.

Some people would call those "short forms" or just "forms", because it's a piece of rote material for the curriculum. By my definition above, that is included in kata.

I could be mistaken, but I do not believe @drop bear has done forms. I think he's a BJJ/MMA guy, and I don't know what else he's done (although now would be a great opportunity to enlighten me on that). His example may not be the best example, because he doesn't have one from his personal experience. I'll use another one from mine. However, I do believe his example does a very good job of getting the point across.

The 540 kick is a difficult kick, which looks impressive to the audience. It serves a purpose in demonstration. I believe that the process of learning the 540 kick makes you better at the tornado kick and roundhouse kick, which are much more practical kicks. I also believe that the athleticism required to pull off a 540 kick means folks who practice are encouraged to work on their leg strength, core strength, and weight loss to make this work (also, because it's such an explosive technique, it helps work on those things as well).

But I never once taught the 540 kick by saying, "This is to get more power for knockouts in street fights." I told them this instead, "This kick is to look cool."

Oh, on second thought:

It is in a form. These are the competition forms that World Taekwondo is going to might be using at some point.

The combination starts at 1:07, the kick is around 1:11.

I think it was a good example of how a technique can be what it is and serve a purpose, even if it doesn't have a practical application. And, now you know it is in a form!

However, I would have picked more common techniques from forms. Those include the double knife-hand block and the scissor block.

Double Knife-Hand Block
View attachment 29806
images


The double knife-hand block (pictured left) is a big staple of not only TKD, but also Karate and any other similar-styles forms. It differs from the single knife-hand block (right) in that the off-hand is placed near the solar plexus instead of chambered on the hip.

When I originally asked for the application of the technique, 95% of the answers focused on either:
  • The main hand, which was not the question, because I had no problem with the single knife-hand block
  • How stupid I was for not knowing the plain and obvious answer
The really funny thing is, I think I actually do have an idea why you would place the hand where it is; because it's then faster to strike with that hand on the next move. It doesn't make sense as a guard position (I would want the palm pointed down or in), and the motions in both Palgwe Style and Taegeuk style don't make sense for a grappling move (for different reasons. So, it's for a faster strike. But wait!

Look at the first set from the first form below, and the second video starting at 0:35. There are two instances of the double knife-hand in the first video, and three in the second.


What you'll notice in both of these videos (which are consistent with the official Kukkiwon videos, just these are 1:00 videos instead of 15:00 ones), is that between the knife-hand block and the next technique, their hand moves from that "speed chamber" that I said must be the application, back to the full chamber position. So this actually makes the technique take longer than in the basic knife-hand block.

Scissor Block
images

The scissor block is a down block with one hand, and an outside block with the other. Typically this done in a front stance, with the down block protecting the forward leg. The description of the scissor block when teaching is that it is "protecting a kick from one side and a punch from the other side."

I reject this, because I would rather simply not be in between both of those attacks. I would defend one or both of those strikes with my feet, attempt to isolate one assailant, and then I only need a down block or outside block; not both. There are several ways in which this movement can be used, but not in the exact way as done in the forms, and not for the exact purpose.

Although I have developed my own forms, mostly with aesthetics in mind, but this is one technique I feel I actually do better than either the Palgwe forms I learned or the official Taegeuk forms. One of my forms uses the down block in the scissor block as a chamber for a backfist, which I feel makes more sense than chambering at the hip. I also do make use of the hand position in the double-knife-hand block in my combos, including using combos similar to those in Taegeuk 4 and Taegeuk 8, but not adding extra movement to waste the positional advantage.
What are the ways I could see the scissor block being used?
  • Set up a figure-4 lock (usually done around shoulder level instead of midsection)
  • Set up an elbow lock ("up" hand pushes up on the elbow, "down" hand pushes down on the wrist)
  • Breaking out of someone's grip ("up" hand wants to escape, "down" hand pushes their arm down to make it easier)
  • Pull down a punch or a guard with the left hand, backfist with the right hand (similar motion but slightly different)
  • Block a kick and backfist with the other hand
  • Block a punch, and hammerfist to the groin with the other hand
  • A similar ending position, but with both blocks on the same side, to protect against a roundhouse kick that might go to the body or the head. Kind of like the concept behind the Muay Thai check position. Was very useful in our school for grabbing roundhouse kicks in self-defense training or on the rare chance that we did "freestyle" sparring
None of those examples perform the technique in the way done in the forms. The way done in the forms doesn't match to any application. The way it's described in the forms isn't the strategy I would choose in a real 2-on-1 situation.

What I will do is if someone is struggling with a kick defense or a figure-4 lock, I may try saying "Like a scissor block", and sometimes that helps. But I use it as a teaching aide, not a teaching method.

There are more techniques than this, but these two are the main ones that I have focused on. I have three levels of technique from forms at the moment:
  • Basic techniques, in which the application is obvious (i.e. a high block, or a kick, or a punch, or a simple block-and-punch combo)
  • Intermediate techniques, which are very common, but I'm not satisfied with the answers we have
  • Advanced techniques, which I haven't even dug into, because if I can't be satisfied by the answers for intermediate techniques, then why bother?
I think this video Is a bit better than my last one.
 

drop bear

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In some peoples hands, bunkai really can be a tautological argument by which i mean a circular argument, that is, one that begins by assuming the very thing that is meant to be proven by the argument itself!

Correct. And the red flags for me were application and imagination.
 
OP
T

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I think this video Is a bit better than my last one.
Crossfit is not a martial art. In an earlier post you mentioned confirmation bias. It appears as though you are seeking out videos to confirm your own bias. It's still difficult to understand the point you are trying to make. My initial post was an enquiry about learning a kata and understanding the applications. The question was really about using your own creativity to apply these learnings.
 

drop bear

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Crossfit is not a martial art. In an earlier post you mentioned confirmation bias. It appears as though you are seeking out videos to confirm your own bias. It's still difficult to understand the point you are trying to make. My initial post was an enquiry about learning a kata and understanding the applications. The question was really about using your own creativity to apply these learnings.

Correct.
 

Gyakuto

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Studying a martial art is a personal journey. Each of us will find our own approach. Problems arise when people begin to preach to prove their perspective as the truth. History repeats itself over and over. Will humans ever learn to live in peace and harmony with one another
Im not quite sure what youre getting at here, but if its the idea you can interpret a technique in any way you choose, then I think it becomes meaningless. For example, simply turning your head/eyes toward your next kasso teki (imaginary enemy) before engaging them becomes a throw performed on someone who has grabbed your head!
 
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T

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Im not quite sure what youre getting at here, but if its the idea you can interpret a technique in any way you choose, then I think it becomes meaningless. For example, simply turning your head/eyes toward your next kasso teki (imaginary enemy) before engaging them becomes a throw performed on someone who has grabbed your head!
It seems my use of the word creative in the opening post was an error. I assumed everyone understood the word kata equally. This is not the case.

Over time we deepen our knowledge and uncover further details and subtleties in the techniques. Not once have I claimed we can interpret techniques in any way we choose. The use of the word creative was in how we learn, use and combine the applications. Each kata contains a series of moves and techniques which can be used in a multitude of ways. A beginner doesn't see the same amount of applications as one who is more experienced. The more experienced we become, the more our creativity comes into play. You could think of Muhammed Ali and his creative use of basic techniques and footwork as one example.
 
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