What is Kata Bunkai?
Bunkai is normally taken to mean the applications to movements in our katas (forms/patterns). However, a more literal translation would be “analysis”. When our katas were created, every movement would have had an effective fighting application. This applications would have been tested under the pressure of real combat.
If a fighting method was not practical, then very often its creator would not have survived to pass the techniques on to the next generation. So our katas were forged from the heat of real combat, not for scoring points.
However, much of the original knowledge has been lost as our arts have been spread to the masses and dumbed down to make them safer. After all, would you want to teach dangerous techniques that could maim or even kill to just anybody who walked in of the street? Of course not, neither did the masters who first decided to take their arts public to the masses.
There are a whole host of other reasons too why our arts got dumbed down, but suffice to say that much of what is taught today as kata bunkai simply would not work under pressure.
Effective Kata Bunkai
Most people take up martial arts because they want to learn to defend themselves. It is wrong then that they are taught stylised applications that would not work should they have to really defend themselves if they are unfortunate enough to be attacked.
Because competition focuses only on punches, kicks and blocks; many people interpret kata bunkai that way. However, the creators of our martial arts would have had to consider all scenarios, including grappling, multiple opponents and dealing with an armed assailant.
Any holistic method of self defence would need to consider grappling as well as strikes. As such many of our kata bunkai are actually grappling moves including throws, locks, restraints and escapes from all kinds of holds and grabs.
We perform many of the movements in our katas (patterns/forms) in almost exactly the same way a Judo or Aikido practitioner moves when executing a throw or hold.
It is also commonly agreed that each move has more than one application, so it can be used in different scenarios.
Many kata techniques look a bit strange and obscure. However, when you have a knowledge of the body’s pressure points, suddenly you can see that these “obscure” techniques are coming in at just the right location and angle of attack to make use of these weaknesses in an opponent. It is known that many of the old masters had knowledge of these points so it is only logical that they would have used them and recorded them in their katas.
How To Become Good At Bunkai
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- how and why the bunkai got so badly dumbed down
- why this can free up your thinking
- what you can do about it
- how you can learn to work out bunkai for yourself
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