7 Questions to Enhance Your Bunkai

This is an intersting article from www.ikigaiway.com which is very relevant to the aims of this blog as well.  I hope you enjoy it:-

“Without bunkai (applications), kata is little more than pre-arranged dancing. The hands can be flowing in exciting and vibrant ways but if we never discover the meaning of the motion then our time would be much better spent hitting a heavy bag or sparring.

Bunkai is the key to developing useful and effective techniques preserved for us by those individuals who developed and tested them in fierce, life protection situations. Over the course of time much of the true meaning of these movements has either been lost or purposefully disguised. If your desire is to unlock some of the skills of our predecessors, you’ll need to know the right questions in order to find the best answers.

The following are seven things to ask yourself that might illuminate your kata in a different (and hopefully productive) way. These are in no particular order and are not prescriptive. Use some when you can and invent others.

eizo shimabukuro bunkai

1. Can I change the angle in which I address my opponent?

Many times during bunkai we assume that an opponent is coming straight from the front or from the sides, and that we must stay directly in front of them and try to defend. What happens if you cut a 45 degree angle during your technique? What if turning from left to right allowed you to arc around the same opponent instead of addressing a new one?

2. What came just before and what is coming right after?

When we learn kata, it generally occurs in a set cadence. Step1 – block up. Step2 – block down. Step3 – punch kiai! That being the case, our mind generally sections itself off in those little boxes. It is our job to look at what is occurring right before our current technique and right after and how the body moves from one to the next. Stringing techniques together makes for a more devastating outcome to your opponent.

3. Am I utilizing all of the technique or just the end piece?

Techniques are often more dynamic than we give them credit for. Take for example the knife hand block. When we perform a knife hand block we generally step somewhere, prep the block, and then shoot the block out. The block itself is what we use to defend against an attack, but what about all the stuff that came before it? Can’t we use that too? Can’t the body shift be used to off-balance or attack our opponent, and can’t the prep be used to either defend or attack?

4. Can I condense the number of opponents I have to face to get through my applications?

If you find yourself going through a dozen bad guys for your bunkai you may be too segmented. In order to mentally escape from a tricky technique we often dismiss the current bad guy and invite a new one in from a different direction. Worse yet, if we are using two hands at once and don’t really know what’s going on we might invite two bad guys to attack us at once from different directions. Multiple opponent training is valuable, but kata is not suggesting that GuyA is likely to kick low while GuyB punches from behind. Those scenarios are too unlikely and miss the real intent of what’s happening. Condense the number of opponents as much as possible.

5. Are my opponents behaving naturally and with likely techniques, or am I forcing them into increasingly unlikely scenarios?

Patrick McCarthy Sensei developed the acronym HAPV, or habitual acts of physical violence. The point of HAPV is to keep focused on the techniques you are most likely to encounter. Furthermore, the longer you make the string of actions done by your uke the more unlikely an actual attacker will follow that pattern. Therefore, when performing bunkai, we want our opponents acting as naturally as possible. If the opponent has to punch, step back punch, step back punch, step back block up and receive your strike, you’ve asked your uke to behave in a way they never would in real life.

6. Have I affected my opponent in a way that makes more technique work?

Let’s say you manage to block your opponent (so far so good). You then put them in a wrist lock or arm bar in order to control them. That progression seems very effective, especially after years of training, and generally works in the dojo. However, if you’ve ever come across a live opponent who is experiencing adrenaline dump you’ll know that manipulating that arm is extremely difficult. Your attempts to bar or lock it will be met with iron resistance and counter punches to your face. Always be sure to negatively affect your opponent as soon as possible, then go into more technique.

7. What is the emotional content of my encounter?

What kind of scenario is your kata taking place in? Is it a school yard pushing match? Is it a life or death home invasion? The emotional environment you place yourself in is going to alter your bunkai dramatically. Your technique may need to restrain or it may need to kill.

Mental Gymnastics

With all of these questions/problems/complications we have to address the concept of simplicity. In a real life altercation, your simplest and most effective techniques will be the ones that help you. Thinking about responses in the heat of the moment will keep you one step behind your opponent.

Why then bother with all of this business about bunkai? Shouldn’t we simply practice a series of basic, effective techniques and avoid the mental gymnastics?

The short term answer is yes. For the first 5-6 years of your training you need to become “brilliant at the basics”, as Bill Hayes Sensei would say. Without a rock solid foundation and instinctual integration of your style’s stances, punches, and basic techniques nothing else can be built firmly. However, once you do achieve that level of proficiency, you acquire the privilege of exploring your art even deeper and improving the way you go about your business.

Simple techniques practiced a certain way seem like the best option until you learn how to improve them. That doesn’t necessarily mean complicate them. Instead the goal is to find ways to improve your angle, distance, timing, striking locations, and technique progression in order to enhance what’s already been built. This style of study leads to an understanding of tichiki, or “what the hand is doing”, which can be used extemporaneously with great percentage of success”.

By Matthew Apsokardu

Bunkai For Pinan Shodan/Heian Nidan (TKD: Won Hyo)

Here is a very interesting kata bunkai video from www.ikigaiway.com.  They look at the opening sequence of Pinan Shodan (Heian Nidan in Shotokan Karate and Won Hyo in Teakwondo).  They start of with simple explanations which beginers can easily get to grips with, then condencing the timing and movement to give a more effective application.

Ikigaiway appear to be Okinawan based Kenpo Karate and look like they’ve got a lot to teach.  Be sure to check them out at: www.ikigaiway.com.

Heian Nidan Kata Bunkai

 

Bunkai For Karate/TKD’s Shuto Uke and Wing Chun’s Fun Sau

Today we look at Karate bunkai for Shuto Uke (knife hand block).  However, if you raise the elbow to the side and perform the strike/block with the forearm parallel to the floor, it looks very much like Wing Chun’s Fun Sau strike.

Shuto Uke can obviously be used for blocking or striking, but here we look at other possible applications, in particular escaping from a double handed throat grab.

Shuto Uke bunkai

Karate Kata Bunkai For Heian/Pinan Godan (TSD: Pyung Ahn Oh Dan)

Karate bunkai for the kata, Heian/Pinan Godan (or Pyung Ahn Oh Dan for Tang Soo Do).  Here we take a look at the sequence near the end of the kata, with of course a look at similar Kung Fu moves which gives us some more possible kata bunkai.  We hope you enjoy our video.

Heian/Pinan Godan Bunkai

Bunkai For Kihon Kata (Il Jang, Chon Ji, Ki Cho Hyung Il Bu)

Here we take a look at the opening sequence of the most basic kata of all, Kihon Kata (TKD/TSD: Il Jang, Chon Ji, Ki Cho Hyung Il Bu).  Normally explained as turn to your left and block a front kick followed by stepping and punching; then turn to your rear to block another front kick followed by a step and punch.   However, this only works if the kicker aims the kick to stop short.   If they actually try to kick you, then the only way you can block their kick with a lower block is to step back (not forward), otherwise the distance is all wrong.

So here we look at some different bunkai (applications) for this sequence.

Note: What I did forget to say in the video is that having taken the opponent off-balance with the first move, you should have the back of their head facing you, which means that you can take advantage of the prime target at the base of the skull on the back of the head. This is one of the prime points for knocking the opponent unconscious.  Use this point with caution as it is potentially dangerous.

Bunkai From Tekki/Naihanchi (Chul Gi) With Cross Reference To Wing Chun

Most Karate systems that evolved from the Okinawan style of Shuri Te tend to use big steps to capitalise on forward body momentum and inertia to transfer impact into the opponent.  As a broad generalisation, this tends to distinguish them from the styles derived from Naha Te and most styles of Kung Fu which prefer the use of circular (or centrifugal) force for generating power.

However, the Tekki kata’s (or Naihanchi in some styles and Chul Gi in Korean) which are still present in many Shuri Te derived styles contradict this forward momentum method in that they are not very mobile and are far more “static”.  Another characteristic of the Tekki kata’s is that they punch with the palm facing up as opposed to the usual “cork-screw” punch where the fist ends up facing downwards and the arm is not fully extended.

Tekki is obviously a close quarters fighting kata.  As such a number of its movements are quite close to Wing Chun Kung Fu which specialises in close quarters fighting.  On the surface, Wing Chun and Tekki look quite different, but as usual Keith and I look below the surface and find some similarities which can be used by practitioners of either system.

Tekki / Naihanchi Kata Bunkai

Bunkai From Shotokan Karate Kata: Jitte (TSD: Sip Soo)

I am very pleased to be able to include 2 short video clips of my own Sensei, Paul Mitchell 4th Dan.

Sensei Mitchell is a recognised authority on Bunkai within the Traditional Shotokan Karate Association and usually teaches bunkai on TSKA residential courses.  Having originally started my Karate training in Kent, then continued it when I moved up to Scotland and again when I moved to the South West of England; I can say I’ve been about a bit and seen a few different clubs.  I consider myself very lucky to have found Sensei Mitchell’s club as firstly I like the emphasis on good technique and secondly I like the practically of his teachings and bunkai.

Thirdly, I like his quirkly sense of humour, but that’s another story . . . . sorry Sensei 😉

The clips below were taken on a recent Kata course hosted by Sensei Mitchell focusing on kata Jitte. The course started of with structure and form, followed by Bunkai.  After a light lunch (thanks Chris) it was back to work and being Jitte, we did it with Bo’s.  Jitte is unique in that it can be performed empty handed or with Bo, with very little adjustment at all.

Sensei Mitchell hosts these courses every couple of months and they are open to Karateka of any style (including TaeKwonDo) from 4th Kyu/Kup and above.  These are taught in an open and friendly environment and if you would like to attend, then check out the “Calender Of Events” tab on his website every now and then.  If you enjoy Bunkai and practical Karate, then I would highly recommend these courses.

Bunkai And Comparison Of Karate/TKD’s Age Uke (Rising Block) & Wing Chun’s Bong Sau (Wing Arm Block)

Here we take a look at 2 blocks which are very similar.  Wing Chun’s Bong Sau (Wing Arm Block) and the Age Uke (Rising Block) used in Karate, Teakwondo and Tang Soo Do.  The advantage of comparing techniques between different styles is that sometimes you get clues as to how they originated.  Wing Chun is based on Snake Kung Fu and Crane Kung Fu.  One of the main influences on Okinawan Karate was White Crane Kung Fu, so there would appear to be some common roots.

Furthermore, by looking at how another style uses its techniques can often give clues as to extra applications for which you can use your own techniques.  This is particularly advantageous to Karate, TaeKwonDo and Tang Soo Do practitioners as a lot of our original applications have been lost along the way.

I hope you enjoy this video.

Age Uke & Bong Sau Bunkai

Russell Stutely On Pressure Point Fighting

Following on from my last article on pressure point fighting, I would like to quote from Russell Stutely who is widely regarded as Europe’s number one pressure point expert.  He is also highly regarded by Geoff Thompson and Peter Consterdine of the British Combat Association, who are very much into reality martial arts.

The reason that I wanted to quote from Russell Stutely is that although he highly advocates pressure points and obviously makes a lot of money teaching them and selling DVDs etc; he still very much advocates that you must develop good basic technique first.  If he was to promote pressure points in a such a way as to suggest that it is a magic bullet so that you don’t have to bother learning anything else and beginners could use them to defeat experienced black belts, I would be very suspicious.  But he doesn’t.  He is very methodical in his Continue reading “Russell Stutely On Pressure Point Fighting”

Does Pressure Point Fighting Really Work?

This is an area that you will see debated from time to time with people for and against it.  Some claim that pressure points make your techniques ultra effective, whilst others claim that in the heat of the moment you will not have the accuracy to find the point whilst somebody is trying to hit you at the same time.

So who’s right?  Well in my humble opinion, the truth lies somewhere in the middle and it depends on the circumstances.

If you start a fight 6ft apart, close in, then exchanging blows with a capable opponent; I believe that it would be difficult (but not impossible) to find pressure point targets.  Just think when you are sparring against somebody of equal skill, it can be difficult landing a blow on their torso (which is a large target), never mind finding a very small pressure point to hit.  Furthermore, when you have just had an adrenalin dump, your fine motor skills do not work as efficiently.  For this reason, many people advocate concentrating on developing your techniques (regardless of style) so that you are fast and powerful and you will Continue reading “Does Pressure Point Fighting Really Work?”