Kata bunkai for self defense

ShotoNoob

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Don't let anyone kid you. Kata are evolving, and they should.
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IMO, kata does not evolve. We evolve (personally) by kata. That's how I take Kanawaza.
Back to the Taikyoku kata: they are something of a Frakenstein creation, not quite basics, and not quite real kata in that they do not contain subtle and sequential Bunkai. If they help you, then very good.
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Who said kata is defined by bunkai?
But you should concentrate on more advanced kata as soon as you feel comfortable, because the Heian kata each teach you something different, progressions, weight shifts, etc. They are far better in teaching you karate. Just my opinion, and not everyone agrees with me.
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This isn't Gichin Funakoshi, nor the OKinawan Masters to my knowledge. We have instructors at my school who know all the kata in the curriculum; yet who won't spar with me out of frustration. It's not technique that makes you a good karate fighter, it's the karate foundation, the "DO" that makes you a great karate fighter. This is the Gichin Funakoshi message, nor the Kanawaza message.
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In any case, to each his own. How you approach the curriculum with the testing qualifications is up to the individual....
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And good luck to any grappler who thinks he can "close the distance" and tackle me while I stand idly....
 

clautz

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There are seven aspects of kata: pattern, breathng, combination/timing, bunkai, tight/no-tight, kiai, and eyes (spirit) - the end state if put all together is you are in a real fight and a state of "no-mind" but experiencing the fight. There has been a trend lately with folks making a living off of focusing on only one of the seven aspects - bunkai. It is important, but to practice kata from that technical viewpoint alone like an archealogist (digging though kata trying to find new interpretation) - ignores the whole point of kata to reach a mental and physical state where actions are thoughtless and instinctive. Too many people are just making up crap when it comes to bunkai - "I can block, then chop, then turn the arm over, then kick to the groin, then throw him down to the ground" - Yeah so what, anyone can do that. Better to do your kata as hard as you can - over and over again, visualize your opponent (simple bunkai); and have spirit!
 

Kung Fu Wang

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Kata are evolving, and they should.
Agree! If you can't evolve your forms/kata, you are just a good copy machine, no more and not less. You will have no contribution to your MA system.

IMO, kata does not evolve. We evolve (personally) by kata. ....
In the

- beginner stage training, forms/kata will change you.
- advance stage training, you should change forms/kata.

When you are in

- high school, you will read books that somebody wrote.
- PhD level, you start to write papers that others will read.
 
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drop bear

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combination/timing, bunkai, tight/no-tight, kiai, and eyes (spirit) - the end state if put all together is you are in a real fight and a state of "no-mind" but experiencing the fight

Ok I have been in fights. I understand how it puts you in the present and creates a state of no mind.

In part that is the appeal of fighting.

I would say that is what you experience in a competition. In that you become so focused on the moment you cant hear the crowd.

I would say that hard sparring or challenging sparring does the same thing.

For those who do both are you really getting the same thing out of kata?
 

K-man

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There are seven aspects of kata: pattern, breathng, combination/timing, bunkai, tight/no-tight, kiai, and eyes (spirit) - the end state if put all together is you are in a real fight and a state of "no-mind" but experiencing the fight. There has been a trend lately with folks making a living off of focusing on only one of the seven aspects - bunkai. It is important, but to practice kata from that technical viewpoint alone like an archealogist (digging though kata trying to find new interpretation) - ignores the whole point of kata to reach a mental and physical state where actions are thoughtless and instinctive. Too many people are just making up crap when it comes to bunkai - "I can block, then chop, then turn the arm over, then kick to the groin, then throw him down to the ground" - Yeah so what, anyone can do that. Better to do your kata as hard as you can - over and over again, visualize your opponent (simple bunkai); and have spirit!
clautz, welcome to MT. Perhaps you could introduce yourself and tell us a bit of your background or even put up some of your background and interests in your profile.

I would challenge what you are claiming in that kata and bunkai are quite separate and you wouldn't use kata to fight.

So let's look at what you have claimed:

Pattern or embusen. Well there might be several reasons for that but as Chojun Miyagi is alleged to have said, "don't be fooled by the rule of embusen". The turns and angles of kata are important but not in terms of the kata. They are important in the bunkai.

Breathing. Sure you can practise your breathing while performing a kata. You can just as easily practise your breathing while not doing a kata.

Combination/timing. Sure the kata is a combination of techniques and if you are performing the kata correctly the timing is important, but will you always use that same timing in a real fight? I would suggest that the timing in kata is adding to the realism of the kata, not the effectiveness of it.

Tight/non-tight. What exactly does this mean. I am going to pull on my understanding here and suggest you are talking of beginning from a relaxed state, contracting the muscles at the moment of impact then returning to the relaxed state. This is fundamentally the teaching of Okinawan Goju so yes, that is definitely a part of kata. Mind you, it is part of all the training, not just kata.

Kiai. ??? Hmm. Ok, it is certainly a big part of Japanese karate but not so much the Okinawan. What relevance it has to kata specifically, you might like to expand on.

Eyes (spirit). Um, no! Certainly looking in the right direction and creating intent might be part of kata but again, nothing that is specifically part of kata. I prefer to think of 'spirit' as Ki and there is hard Ki and soft Ki. Hard Ki involves the eyes, soft Ki doesn't.

Bunkai. Well here you have demonstrated convincingly you have no comprehension of Bunkai, which is, I would think, why Tez disagreed with your post. But you will be among friends as there are several others here who share some of your views. They think kata is a total waste of time, both the kata and the Bunkai.

If too many people are making up crap Bunkai, it has nothing to do with the Bunkai or the kata. It is merely that stage of their understanding and development. They will get a better understanding with time. Those who remain thinking the way you do, will not.

You said, "Better to do your kata as hard as you can - over and over again, visualize your opponent (simple bunkai); and have spirit!" I would suggest that this advice will ensure you never get past basic level karate, even though you will be exceptionally good at it.
 

K-man

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Agree! If you can't evolve your forms/kata, you are just a good copy machine, no more and not less. You will have no contribution to your MA system.


In the

- beginner stage training, forms/kata will change you.
- advance stage training, you should change forms/kata.

When you are in

- high school, you will read books that somebody wrote.
- PhD level, you start to write papers that others will read.
I disagree totally. If you have to change the kata you haven't understood the kata. To change the kata you need far more understanding than most people will ever achieve. I have neither the time nor the understanding to either create a new kata or even modify the ones I have.
 

drop bear

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I disagree totally. If you have to change the kata you haven't understood the kata. To change the kata you need far more understanding than most people will ever achieve. I have neither the time nor the understanding to either create a new kata or even modify the ones I have.

Ok. But then do you feel you can modify techniques at all?
And where would the understanding come from to do that.
 

Kung Fu Wang

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I disagree totally. If you have to change the kata you haven't understood the kata. To change the kata you need far more understanding than most people will ever achieve. I have neither the time nor the understanding to either create a new kata or even modify the ones I have.
Even if you can't today, will you say that you still can't 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, or even 40 years from today?

I have 2 copies of my teacher's forms. One was done when he was 55 year old. The other was done when he was 74 years old. If I put both forms side by side, I can clearly see the change that he made. I can also clearly see the reason why he made such change.

When you get older, you will have better understanding in MA than when you were young. You should add your understanding into your training so people in the future will be benefited from it (unless you just want to keep it for yourself).
 
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Drose427

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Ok I have been in fights. I understand how it puts you in the present and creates a state of no mind.

In part that is the appeal of fighting.

I would say that is what you experience in a competition. In that you become so focused on the moment you cant hear the crowd.

I would say that hard sparring or challenging sparring does the same thing.

For those who do both are you really getting the same thing out of kata?

Essentially, yes

While we arent getting the "Learn how to stay focused after a gut punch"

We are still getting "Focus on your opponent, theres nothing but you and him"

Drowning out everything and everybody while one does a form, and staying focused on his "opponent" is the same as drowning out a crowd and focusing on the guy in front of you

That said, dont forget we arent doing forms alone. While we do get that strong focus from it, we also get it and the "how to focus after being hit" elsewhere in our training as well.
 

K-man

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Ok. But then do you feel you can modify techniques at all?
And where would the understanding come from to do that.
I don't have any problem with modifying the techniques in the application or Bunkai. I have an enormous difficulty accepting a fundamental change in kata. I have seen kata changed by people who didn't understand kata. I have never seen anyone who understands kata change kata. Eiichi Miyazato, elected successor to Miyagi in Goju, made one small change of hand position in Sepai kata to better resemble the application. That is a slight change of one technique in perhaps five hundred odd techniques in the Goju kata, and he was the head of the style and taught by the founder of the style. I believe my obligation is to pass on the kata as I was taught it, not to change a thing.

When it comes to application it is completely flexible. There is no Bunkai passed down because it is always going to be different for different practitioners. If you consider gedan barai, or lower 'block', there are multiple applications. When developing your Bunkai it is up to you what application you assign to the technique.

The understanding comes from experience and that experience is enhanced by learning from guys like Iain Abernethy and Masaji Taira.
 

K-man

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Essentially, yes

While we arent getting the "Learn how to stay focused after a gut punch"

We are still getting "Focus on your opponent, theres nothing but you and him"

Drowning out everything and everybody while one does a form, and staying focused on his "opponent" is the same as drowning out a crowd and focusing on the guy in front of you

That said, dont forget we arent doing forms alone. While we do get that strong focus from it, we also get it and the "how to focus after being hit" elsewhere in our training as well.
It depends on context. In a sporting context you can focus on your opponent and drown out the crowd. In a street context, that could get you badly beaten or even killed. Adrenalin gives you tunnel vision. The training is to help you overcome tunnel vision.
 

TimoS

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When it comes to application it is completely flexible. There is no Bunkai passed down because it is always going to be different for different practitioners.
On this my experience is a bit different. For us, there is always an "official" bunkai that is passed down, but that in itself is most likely not a very good for self defense, but it shows the idea about what the move might be for. An example to try to show what I mean
Here's the Seibukan version of kata Seisan. I'm talking now only the technique that starts at :46. The official bunkai for that is blocking an oitsuki. Now, in a self defense situation you're quite unlikely to ever be attacked by anybody using oitsuki. However, the same technique we practiced against oitsuki can be used against e.g. a gyakutsuki-type attack or a shove or even against wild swing. So, we use the principles of the bunkai to "create" the applications.
 

K-man

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On this my experience is a bit different. For us, there is always an "official" bunkai that is passed down, but that in itself is most likely not a very good for self defense, but it shows the idea about what the move might be for. An example to try to show what I mean
Here's the Seibukan version of kata Seisan. I'm talking now only the technique that starts at :46. The official bunkai for that is blocking an oitsuki. Now, in a self defense situation you're quite unlikely to ever be attacked by anybody using oitsuki. However, the same technique we practiced against oitsuki can be used against e.g. a gyakutsuki-type attack or a shove or even against wild swing. So, we use the principles of the bunkai to "create" the applications.
We had an 'official' bunkai with Goju Kai back in the 80s. It was simplistic to describe in in the best light and totally impractical at its worst. Again, it was put together by people who did not understand what they were doing. I have that first hand.

As to using a technique from kata in isolation. Sure it can be used against different attacks but if you are using it from kata, as Bunkai, it really needs to be taken in the context of the kata. You need to take into account the techniques before and after the one selected.
 

TimoS

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Our "official" bunkai for Seisan looks a bit like this:
. There are some differences, but they are quite minor. From these we can then extract some more realistic applications, but they should still use the same principles as in the official version.
 

Tez3

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Bunkai. Well here you have demonstrated convincingly you have no comprehension of Bunkai, which is, I would think, why Tez disagreed with your post. But you will be among friends as there are several others here who share some of your views. They think kata is a total waste of time, both the kata and the Bunkai.

I did indeed disagree but it was late at night for me, so didn't feel I could put together a proper argument at that point. However K-man has put together one that I totally agree with.

Our katas, in Wado Ryu aren't usually changed because we still have videos of the Founder doing them, I believe very minor changes have been made by one organisation but they are very minor.
 

TimoS

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If you have to change the kata you haven't understood the kata.
I guess that depends. As we know, kata have changed. People like Zenryo Shimabukuro, Tatsuo Shimabukuro and Joen Nakazato all changed the kata they learned from Kyan and I am quite sure they understood the kata. There are others, of course, but those are the ones I'm most familiar with. The changes aren't radical, mostly, but the fact remains that they changed the kata. Even Zenpo Shimabukuro, the current head of Seibukan, changed for a while the way a certain kata is done. This is evidenced by looking at old videos and comparing those to the way they are performed today.
 

K-man

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I guess that depends. As we know, kata have changed. People like Zenryo Shimabukuro, Tatsuo Shimabukuro and Joen Nakazato all changed the kata they learned from Kyan and I am quite sure they understood the kata. There are others, of course, but those are the ones I'm most familiar with. The changes aren't radical, mostly, but the fact remains that they changed the kata. Even Zenpo Shimabukuro, the current head of Seibukan, changed for a while the way a certain kata is done. This is evidenced by looking at old videos and comparing those to the way they are performed today.
I think this reinforces my point. These are the top guys of their styles and as you said, the changes are minimal. Kung Fu Wang was suggesting that we should be changing the kata ourselves. Now, I reckon that I know a little more about kata than most guys but I am a minnow compared to the guys you have named. In my circle of training Masaji Taira is a giant in the field of Bunkai, yet even he maintains the kata that he was taught.
 

K-man

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Ok. But then do you feel you can modify techniques at all?
And where would the understanding come from to do that.
So, what did you dislike about my answer? I tried to answer your question as best I could.
 

drop bear

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I don't have any problem with modifying the techniques in the application or Bunkai. I have an enormous difficulty accepting a fundamental change in kata. I have seen kata changed by people who didn't understand kata. I have never seen anyone who understands kata change kata. Eiichi Miyazato, elected successor to Miyagi in Goju, made one small change of hand position in Sepai kata to better resemble the application. That is a slight change of one technique in perhaps five hundred odd techniques in the Goju kata, and he was the head of the style and taught by the founder of the style. I believe my obligation is to pass on the kata as I was taught it, not to change a thing.

When it comes to application it is completely flexible. There is no Bunkai passed down because it is always going to be different for different practitioners. If you consider gedan barai, or lower 'block', there are multiple applications. When developing your Bunkai it is up to you what application you assign to the technique.

The understanding comes from experience and that experience is enhanced by learning from guys like Iain Abernethy and Masaji Taira.

And you are not concerned that the kata becomes irrelevant due to the lack of change?

It doesn't change but has become almost a man out of time eventually.
 
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