It’s been a while since I’ve been able to do any videos on kata bunkai, which was a very prominent element of this website when I first started it. Unfortunately I still haven’t been able to, yet recently I’ve been asked if I will be doing any more.
The video below recently came to me via my Youtube subscription. It is the old Okinawan kata of Chikin Sunakake No Eiku by Akamine Hiroshi. This is a weapon that originated from a humble oar.
There is a story of an old Okinawan master who was famed for being good with this weapon, who was repeatedly challenged by a Samurai. He declined the challenges several times until eventually the Samurai confronted him and told him this it is, basically you fight or die. As the Okinawan Master reluctantly picked up his oar, he used it flick sand into the Samurai’s eyes. He then took advantage of the Samurai’s temporary blindness, to strike him in the throat with the oar, crushing his windpipe and killing him. Very crude, simple, yet highly effective bunkai from such a basic weapon.
Not many of us are likely to carry around a oar these days just in case. It’s not common to be confronted by a sword wielding Samurai either for that matter. However, it does make a good point of using everyday implements as a makeshift weapon. That is a principle that we can use today, even if we don’t practice traditional weapons.
Imagine if your home was broken into and you were attacked (or you had to defend your loved ones), what could you use around you as a weapon. How about a photo frame on the mantlepiece? Or a pen/pencil on your desk? Could you use a fruit bowl to fend of blows or even hit with it. Do you have chairs that are small enough pick up swing around. Of course if you’re in the kitchen then there are many more potential weapons.
But have you ever stopped to look around your house (in every room) and see what you could pick up and use in an emergency? Then of course, have you ever practiced a few strikes with it, or even made up your own little kata?
Then of course what about when you’re out? There’s the obvious ones like bottles and glasses. How about an ash tray or a pool que.
When Shotokan Karate was still quite young in Europe, women did not have to free fight for their black belt. Instead they had to perform self defence techniques. One scenario commonly used was that they would carry a handbag that the “mugger” would have to try to take from her. He would do this by grabbing her wrist with one hand trying to take the bag with the other hand. The defence was the twist the wrist and pull back the hand, then continue the movement in, up over the top and come down striking the top of the head with the handbag (third movement in Heian Shodan/Pinan Nidan, normally ending in a hammer-fist . . . . without the handbag).
At an early grading I took, my class was told the following story by the late Ray Fuller (our grading examiner). When his then wife, Pauline, who at that time was the highest ranking woman Karateka in Europe took her 1st Dan black belt, they demonstrated that particular defence. When she struck him over the head with the handbag, she knocked him out cold. He later asked her what the **** she had in the handbag? She apparently said “half a brick”. He asked why, to which she allegedly said, “to make it look good”.
Well women carry many things in their handbags, maybe some will start carrying half a brick now!!
Although I’ve always found that an amusing story, it does show how an effective weapon can be made out quite ordinary things. It does make sense to look around your home, your workplace, places you socialise to see what can used as a weapon in case of emergencies. In the home at least, it is also a good idea to pick them up now and then and make up your own little katas with them. It does not have to as sophisticated as the oar kata below, but just being used to handling any object that could become an unsuspected weapon could be the deciding factor.
I haven’t done any video’s for a little while and it seemed about time that I did. Unfortunately, my “partner in crime”, Keith, has gone his own way now so I enlisted the help of another friend, Artchi (yes, that is how he spells it).
So with Artchi’s help, we had a look at hikite (pull back hand).
My Sensei, Paul Mitchell, 4th Dan will be hosting a special Karate bunkai course looking at the principles & techniques of Shotokan Karate and applying them to realistic self defence. Along with the more obvious punches and kicks, this will include locks throws and takedowns utilising moves from both basics and kata.
The course is open to all Karateka regardless of grade – Beginner to Black belt. However, there is a minimum age of 12 for anybody under 4th Kyu
Basic details are:
When – Sunday 3rd April 2011, 11:00 – 2:30pm.
Where – Wells Blue Sports Centre, Kennion Road, Wells, Somerset, BA5 2NR
A little while ago I posted about a recent kata course hosted by my own Sensei, Paul Mitchell, 4th Dan. Well they’ve had a re-organisation of their Youtube channel and the Youtube link in that posting is now showing as “this video has been removed by user”. However, they’ve put some more up which are well worth watching, so here they are below.
They are all bunkai taken from the kata Gojushiho Sho.
If anybody is interested in attending a future kata course with Sensei Paul Mitchell (highly recommended), then you can either visit his website from time to time and check the “courses” page on that website.
I will also promote these courses, so you can either join my newsletter to be notified or go to the BunkaiJutsu Facebook page and “like” it to receive updates via Facebook.
For anybody interested in realistic and effective kata bunkai (and close enough as I know that many readers are in other countries), Sensei Paul Mitchell (my former instructor) will be holding a kata and bunkai course on Sunday 6th February. This is open to practitioners of any style of Karate or TKD as long as they are above 4th Kyu/Kup.
The first section will break down the kata Gojushiho Sho and its form (from a Shotokan perspective). The second half will look at the kata bunkai (practical applications). Sensei Mitchell is an expert at karate bunkai and an acknowledged authority within the Traditional Shotokan Karate Association.
Most of our video applications on this blog are primarily from a Karate and Kung Fu perspective (as they are the styles that Keith and I do). However, we thought we would do something a bit more geared to Tae Kwon Do as we did not want TKD practitioners to feel left out 🙂
But first a little background. The applications to many Karate moves were “dumbed down” when Karate went public. Firstly Karate was introduced into Okinawan schools to help physically prepare students for national service (and you don’t want school kids damaging each other). Then when Karate went from Okinawa to Japan at a time when Japan was modernising very fast, traditional martial arts were seen as obsolete, except as a method for physical and character training (more dumbing down). Then during the American occupation of Japan after WWII, martial arts were banned; so to be allowed to practice the Japanese had to claim it was more for self development and sport than for self defence and then had to practice accordingly (even more dumbing down).
Tae Kwon Do’s General Choi would no doubt have learnt this dumbed down version (as did the vast majority of Japanese masters). However, the more it is investigated the more it is apparent that Karate’s basic “blocks” do not work well as blocks. Yet these same “blocking” movements can be quite efficiently applied as close quarters strikes, arm locks and releases from grabs. Although we don’t know for sure what the original intentions of the creators would have been, it is far more likely they would have been used as close quarter strikes/grappling then for actually blocking. If they were used for blocking, then it is more likely that the block occurred at the chambered position and the completed position would have been a some kind of counter (strike/lock/etc).
To add to the confusion for Tae Kwon Do practitioners, in some versions of Tae Kwon Do these blocks were adapted to make them “more efficient blocks”. In other words, to make them better at what they were not really meant to be used for. In particular, the chambering position has been changed in some versions of Tae Kwon Do (other versions of Tae Kwon Do still chamber the Karate way).
However, I’m a believer that if you change a movement, you usually gain something and lose something. Throughout the centuries, Okinawan and Chinese martial arts masters have changed their arts to suit their physiques, their environments and their own mental make up. They gained an advantage for their personal circumstances but maybe lost something that could have favoured their masters circumstances. So change is not necessarily a good or bad thing, as long as it can be used by the practitioner for their own personal circumstances.
Whilst the adapted chamberbing position used by some versions of Tae Kwon Do will have lost some of the original applications from its Karate roots, they will have gained some new applications. Not better, now worse, just different.
In the video below, Keith and I look at how some the amended Tae Kwon Do chambering positions can be used for close quarters strikes and grappling applications. We don’t claim that these would have been what the originators had in mind, we simply don’t know. Nobody dose. We simply believe that these are additional applications in your arsenal, for moves that you are already doing. For any Tae Kwon Do practitioners who have not seen these types of applications before, Keith and I are far from unique in our way of thinking. There are some very good books on the subjects, most notable are show below.
This video was supplied by Chuck Philips of International Martial Arts Management Systems. In the video is Sensei John Kerker performing an interesting application for Shuto Uke (knife hand block). I haven’t seen this particular application before, but I like it. It is slightly Wing Chun like, deflecting, sticking, trapping and countering. But as Karate was largely derived from Kung Fu, then this should not surprise us.
You can find out more about Chuck Philips at www.IMAMS.com and I would like to thank him for submitting this video.
In the last video Keith I posted on this blog, we looked at the rather odd sequence near the end of kata Nujishiho (Niseishi), where the movements do not fit the usual way of generating power in Karate (or at least, not the Shotokan way of doing this kata) and the chambering position of the reaction hand is unusual too. If you haven’t seen that post, then it might make more sense to read that one first, then come back to this one.
I had planed to show 2 applications to that sequence in the last post, but my SD card on my camera maxed out and I could only get the one application. So here is the second one that I had wanted to show you.
I know that some other styles do this kata differently, so please tell us about it and let us know if you think this would work for your version.