Bunkai

Gyakuto

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It seems my use of the word creative 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 creativity 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.
Thank you for the clarification.

The practicality of bunkai probably exist on a normal (gaussian) distribution curve. Turning ones head in a kata to foveate ones imaginary enemy is at the peak of the curve, the same turn being a glancing deflection of an incoming spear thrust with ones forehead is probably on the more distal, lower areas of the curve.
 

drop bear

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Thank you for the clarification.

The practicality of bunkai probably exist on a normal (gaussian) distribution curve. Turning ones head in a kata to foveate ones imaginary enemy is at the peak of the curve, the same turn being a glancing deflection of an incoming spear thrust with ones forehead is probably on the more distal, lower areas of the curve.

The term jumping the shark comes to mind.
 

drop bear

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Why does this term come to mind - can you enlighten us?

It is a popular reference to what Gukatuo was describing.

So happy days was a good show. But after a while they just kind of ran out of new ideas. And so got crazier and crazier. Untill one day the Fonz jumped a shark.

And that became a phrase.

And back to kata. There are sensible things you can gain from it. But the deeper you look in to kata the crazier your conclusions get. You don't gain a greater understanding you actually gain a lesser understanding. Because you fill the gaps of reason with a whole bunch of crazy.

Application from kata is the fastest way to get to that point. Because you are not doing Application from application.

 
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Application from kata is the fastest way to get to that point. Because you are not doing Application from application.
Yes, this is 100% true. It is also important to understand in what circumstances you are making the application.
 
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Simple doesn't always equate to easy :D

Thank you to everybody for sharing your perspectives on this thread. There is nowhere else to go with this one now. All that needs to have been said, has been shared. Many thanks once again to all who responded
 
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Gyakuto

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Many years ago I was giving and narrating a demonstration with a few of my dojo mates at a Japan Day. An Aikido group was on before us and explaining what they were doing in great detail. Your attacker grabs here so you spin around and place your fingers precisely here and press with only three of them, not all four and break their balance at 37degrees to the front before flipping them over their heads into the distance色 etc you get the idea. When it came to our turn, the first thing I told the audience, somewhat in response to the previous demonstration, was that Iaido techniques are kept deliberately simple because in the heat of combat, with adrenaline pumping and ones mind racing regardless of the amount of training one does and, of course, ones enemy not necessarily behaving as one expects, it is easier to modify simple techniques.

Complex explanations of technique are probably hyperbole.
 

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Many years ago I was giving and narrating a demonstration with a few of my dojo mates at a Japan Day. An Aikido group was on before us and explaining what they were doing in great detail. Your attacker grabs here so you spin around and place your fingers precisely here and press with only three of them, not all four and break their balance at 37degrees to the front before flipping them over their heads into the distance色 etc you get the idea. When it came to our turn, the first thing I told the audience, somewhat in response to the previous demonstration, was that Iaido techniques are kept deliberately simple because in the heat of combat, with adrenaline pumping and ones mind racing regardless of the amount of training one does and, of course, ones enemy not necessarily behaving as one expects, it is easier to modify simple techniques.

Complex explanations of technique are probably hyperbole.
Well to be fair, I recall reading about Japanese swordsmanship (Im sorry but I cannot remember the source, this was quite a few years ago) and got the strong impression that great attention is paid to the little details that go into correctly gripping the sword. And drawing the sword. And cutting with the sword. And re-sheathing the sword. I remember discussion of close examination of the severed tatami mat for evidence that the blade might have been turned a micro-degree from perfection when the cut was done. That really stuck out in my mind as later I would receive training in Chinese sword methods within my larger kung fu practice, and we never discussed it in such detail. Grab the sword. Cut the bad guy. Done.

I suspect the aikido group was trying to convey the details as a point of interest for the audience. It shows the kind of thoughtfulness that goes into the development of these methods and how the little details that optimize performance can be lined up. Perhaps that wasnt the best way to present the art to an un-educated lay audience, but I get what the motivation was.

I suppose within the parameters of all of our arts, we are all hyper-alert to the fine details of every technique and every method that comprises our practice. This is how you sharpen your technique and become skilled. We dont need to spell it out on every execution, but those details are there and we are thinking about them and working to apply them.

The approach that we take in Tibetan crane seems very straightforward and simple to me: how do we defend against a punch? Hit that guy, really hard. How do we defend against a grab? Hit that guy, really hard. How do we defend against a 安hatever? Hit that guy, really hard. But there are a lot of fine details that go into how we develop that really strong punch. In a demonstration to an uneducated lay audience I might mention the details just to get the message across that there is a method that we use in the training, that the development of that punch is done thoughtfully and carefully and isnt just throw your fist out but I wouldnt go deeper than that because it isnt appropriate under the circumstances.

For what its worth.
 

skribs

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But that should be really simple.

If something works it has more validity than if it resembles the kata.
My experience in Taekwondo is that form, sparring, and application are three distinct styles unto themselves.

On the one hand, it's a bit frustrating that they don't align better. I joke that I could do a forms class and call it "Karate", a self-defense class and call it "Krav Maga", and a sparring class and call it "Taekwondo", and my students would believe that I'm teaching 3 separate arts, even though all of the curriculae come from TKD.

But having them separate allows each element to have it's own identity and really excel at what it is. Forms are a great exercise in improvement. TKD sparring is relatively safe compared to other striking arts. And the practical application broadens what is taught beyond what is allowed in sparring.
 

Gyakuto

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Well to be fair, I recall reading about Japanese swordsmanship (Im sorry but I cannot remember the source, this was quite a few years ago) and got the strong impression that great attention is paid to the little details that go into correctly gripping the sword. And drawing the sword. And cutting with the sword. And re-sheathing the sword.
Naturally there are intricacies to the art otherwise anyone could pick up a sword, slash it around a bit and call it Iai and this is probably a later development from the crude but lethal slashings of conscripted farmer-soldiers (ashigaru) to the Yagyu clan teaching swordsmanship to the shogun.

I remember discussion of close examination of the severed tatami mat for evidence that the blade might have been turned a micro-degree from perfection when the cut was done. That really stuck out in my mind as later I would receive training in Chinese sword methods within my larger kung fu practice, and we never discussed it in such detail. Grab the sword. Cut the bad guy. Done.
Chinese swordsmanship is well known for its skilfulnes.

I suspect the aikido group was trying to convey the details as a point of interest for the audience. It shows the kind of thoughtfulness that goes into the development of these methods and how the little details that optimize performance can be lined up. Perhaps that wasnt the best way to present the art to an un-educated lay audience, but I get what the motivation was.
Yes Im sure they were. But when I hear He does this, so you do that and then they twist, so you press with that until they bend that and you push with your foot on here色 Its a bit Master Ken and his Ameridote. Perhaps its a characteristic of unarmed martial arts.
The approach that we take in Tibetan crane seems very straightforward and simple to me: how do we defend against a punch? Hit that guy, really hard. How do we defend against a grab? Hit that guy, really hard. How do we defend against a 安hatever? Hit that guy, really hard.
Yes, the basis of MMA and it works (bitches)!
But there are a lot of fine details that go into how we develop that really strong punch. In a demonstration to an uneducated lay audience I might mention the details just to get the message across that there is a method that we use in the training, that the development of that punch is done thoughtfully and carefully and isnt just throw your fist out but I wouldnt go deeper than that because it isnt appropriate under the circumstances.

For what its worth.
With punches and kicks being so weak, and human physiology beautifully evolved to survive impacts and other physical assaults, combat arts have to eek out every joule of power to make strikes more effective. But a razor sharp sword capable of cutting through boulders, pig iron, bronze, tank armour plating and plastic bottles filled with tepid water as though theyre room-temperature butter () one only needs to swing it, with little skill, to kill.
 

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Many years ago I was giving and narrating a demonstration with a few of my dojo mates at a Japan Day. An Aikido group was on before us and explaining what they were doing in great detail. Your attacker grabs here so you spin around and place your fingers precisely here and press with only three of them, not all four and break their balance at 37degrees to the front before flipping them over their heads into the distance色 etc you get the idea. When it came to our turn, the first thing I told the audience, somewhat in response to the previous demonstration, was that Iaido techniques are kept deliberately simple because in the heat of combat, with adrenaline pumping and ones mind racing regardless of the amount of training one does and, of course, ones enemy not necessarily behaving as one expects, it is easier to modify simple techniques.

Complex explanations of technique are probably hyperbole.
Yeah it's often mental somersaults (or cartwheel wristlocks, right @drop bear ?), and it's born from the lack of live application. Aikido's founder would never show the same technique twice in a row and a key concept of his was "takemusu aiki" (spontaneous martial [technique] born from union of opposite forces within the body). In short, go in with proper body structure and strike, then stuff will happen. Which is in line with the simple approach you recommend.

Well to be fair, I recall reading about Japanese swordsmanship (Im sorry but I cannot remember the source, this was quite a few years ago) and got the strong impression that great attention is paid to the little details that go into correctly gripping the sword. And drawing the sword. And cutting with the sword. And re-sheathing the sword. I remember discussion of close examination of the severed tatami mat for evidence that the blade might have been turned a micro-degree from perfection when the cut was done. That really stuck out in my mind as later I would receive training in Chinese sword methods within my larger kung fu practice, and we never discussed it in such detail. Grab the sword. Cut the bad guy. Done.
If you want to become a swordsman (as opposed to "I'm gonna learn some sword as part of a more general martial education"), it makes sense that you devote more time to study the proper way to hold your tool (why does this sound weird?). Correct gripping allows you to use the sword in an optimal way, just like correct positioning allows you to punch better. If you hold the sword with your pinky and ring fingers, you align your body structure so that you can put your weight into your swings. This transfers into empty hand: if you hold a wrist/forearm/whatever like you hold a sword, you can "swing" with your bodyweight. That's why we train with the sword in aikido (otherwise it would be totally pointless as not even the founder was a swordsman).

Yet some aikido teachers can lecture you about how the art all comes from the sword, hold their hand straight "because it must be a sword" but grab your wrist with their fookin thumb and index.

Naturally there are intricacies to the art otherwise anyone could pick up a sword, slash it around a bit and call it Iai and this is probably a later development from the crude but lethal slashings of conscripted farmer-soldiers (ashigaru) to the Yagyu clan teaching swordsmanship to the shogun.
This reminds me of something interesting that you may know and that is right on point here. In pre-modern Japan, some swordsmanship schools emerged during periods of peace and used elaborate movements. Those schools were criticized by members of more grounded styles as being "flowery swordsmanship" (kaho kenpo), i.e. made up stuff that's too removed from the reality of the battlefield. It's the pre-Fonzie version of the expression "jumping the shark". This is an old debate.

Interestingly, during the same period, there were also criticisms of the commercialisation of martial arts schools (= McDojos). Moreover, there are records of prominent swordsmen such as Yamaoka Tesshu (1836-1888) criticising schools that didn't spar because you couldn't learn how to fight from drills alone. We haven't invented much.
 

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By the way. Sword training and application?

Is there a lot of good sword fighters out there?
 

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By the way. Sword training and application?

Is there a lot of good sword fighters out there?
Lots of koryu guys spar or compete under various rulesets, although they are unlikely to ever end up in a duel to death in Japanese armor.
 

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@Gyakuto and @OMalley, I dont argue with any of what you are saying here. I only point out that all of us could go on at great length about the intricate and minor details of the various arts that we practice. To an outsider it may seem excessive. To us, it is just part and parcel of what goes into the training and we have extensive justification for it. That isnt unique to aikido. The only mistake that aikido demonstration made perhaps, was in opening up that detail to an uneducated audience, who probably couldnt relate to to it. That level of explanation isnt necessary in such a demonstration.
 

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Yes, of course I think we agree. My point was that, on one hand, there are details that might only have a marginal impact on the result (e.g. the exact angle to which you throw the guy) and details that are fundamental (e.g. the gripping). That's why application/testing is important, so you can see which details fall into which category.
 

Flying Crane

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Yes, of course I think we agree. My point was that, on one hand, there are details that might only have a marginal impact on the result (e.g. the exact angle to which you throw the guy) and details that are fundamental (e.g. the gripping). That's why application/testing is important, so you can see which details fall into which category.
I dont disagree with you but am going to take the devils advocate position for a moment.

Does the grip really matter so much? With the katana in particular, we are talking about an extremely sharp blade. If the wrong fingers are carrying the bulk of the grip or the hands are not spaced quite right on the hilt or the angle of the blade is a micro-degree off from perfect, is it really going to matter when that blade severs an arm or cuts a torso in half? I would say at that point its purely academic and doesnt matter.

This isnt to suggest that lazy or sloppy practice is to be accepted. In fact, it actually justifies high standards because in the chaos of combat, technique will deteriorate. We practice to the highest level of perfection that we can so that when our technique deteriorates in the chaos of combat, we still have enough integrity for it to be effective. We still sever that arm. Or in aikido, we still make that throw.

So in aikido, which puts a premium on taking the enemys balance and breaking down their structure with a minimum of effort, those angles become important. And in the chaos of combat, perhaps those angles cannot be perfect, but if we practice with that perfection as a goal then our technique still has the integrity it needs to succeed.
 

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I dont disagree with you but am going to take the devils advocate position for a moment.

Does the grip really matter so much? With the katana in particular, we are talking about an extremely sharp blade. If the wrong fingers are carrying the bulk of the grip or the hands are not spaced quite right on the hilt or the angle of the blade is a micro-degree off from perfect, is it really going to matter when that blade severs an arm or cuts a torso in half? I would say at that point its purely academic and doesnt matter.
I'm no swordsman but from what I know (shown to me by a koryu guy) if you don't have the grip you won't have the necessary support to keep the blade in front of you against another swordsman. You risk deviating, so you'll be cutting air and he'll be cutting you. Pretty big deal.

In aikido terms, it aligns your bones with the contact point, so you can use your bodyweight to move around it, which is the point of the techniques:


If you don't grip that way, there will be slack at the contact point and you will need an exponentially higher degree of force and/or movement to produce any effect. And your grip will generally be weaker and easier to escape.
So in aikido, which puts a premium on taking the enemys balance and breaking down their structure with a minimum of effort, those angles become important. And in the chaos of combat, perhaps those angles cannot be perfect, but if we practice with that perfection as a goal then our technique still has the integrity it needs to succeed.
Of course one shouldn't disregard angles completely, it would be stupid to try to throw the guy forward if he's unbalanced backwards. And yes there are optimal angles so it's a bonus when you hit them, just like pressure points (another not so important detail IMO). That said, the fingers with which you grip depend entirely on you, while the optimal angle of the throw (within a certain margin) depends on both your position and the opponent's and can vary a lot, and quickly. I think that you have more margin for error, as well as less control, but yeah it's important to a degree.
 
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