Endorsment By Shihan Kousaku Yokota, 8th Dan Shotokan Karate

Shihan Kousaku Yokota is an 8th Dan at Shotokan Karate with a special interest in uncovering myths and getting to the truth (hence releasing his own book, Shotokan Myths on the subject).

I am therefore very honoured to have received the following endorsement by from him on his Facebook page, about my DVD, Inside Bassai Dai.

“Over the holidays I had a very pleasant experience watching one Shotokan bunkai DVD. It is called Inside Bassai Dai created by Sensei Charlie Wildish, UK. I found the bunkai in it to be realistic and easy to learn. He demonstrates how some of the techniques are applied. I was particularly pleased to see the application for double uchi uke (inside forearm blocks). He interprets them as a uke followed by a uraken”.

I have trained under a number of senior Japanese and British instructors in my time.  But none of them have been as dedicated to exposing the political, social and sporting influences on Karate which have altered the way we train and consequently watered down Shotokan as a martial art as is Shihan Yokota.  This is why his personal endorsement is very special to me.  If he approves then it not only means that I can be satisfied with my DVD, but my whole understanding of Karate as a real martial art (rather than just a sport) must be moving in the right direction.

It will be very difficult to get closer to the true source and understanding of real traditional Karate today than the teachings of Shihan Yokota.  This is why I am very excited to have this endorsement and why I thank him very much for it.

Bunkai For Shuto Uke (Knife Hand Block)

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.

[Shuto Uke bunkai]

Kata Bunkai for Nujishiho (Niseishi) Part 3

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.

[Nujishiho bunkai]

Kata Bunkai For Nijushiho/Niseishi Part 2

Nijushiho is one of my favorite katas.  I passed my 2nd Dan with it more years ago than I care to remember.  I posted about it’s opening sequence in September.   This time we look at one of the sequences towards the end.

The version of the kata that I describe is the Shotokan version which of course may be performed differently in other styles.  In the Shotokan version, this is an unusual sequence as we step into horse stance and perform an upper rising elbow strike at approximately a 45 degree angle, shuffle sideways and perform a punch (in direction of shuffle) at the same time as our reaction hand comes back to our ear (instead of the hip), then we shuffle back and perform a lower block.

The elbow strike is obvious enough, but why the shuffle/punch.  If we wanted to deliver a finishing punch, why not rotate the hips and put more power into it?  This punch is unique in Karate.  We have similar punches in the Tekki (Naihanchi) katas where perform and hook punch and later a double punch, both parallel to our horse stance.  But these punches in Tekki still have some hip movement (often referred to a hip “vibration”).  There is no hip vibration in this punch in Nijushiho.  The only thing that powers it is the speed of the arm and the shuffle, which although still fairly powerful, it is still weaker than most other Karate punches.

Why do we chamber our reaction hand by our ear instead of our hip?

The chambering by the ear could be for the down block to follow, but even that leads to more questions.  If you’ve just elbowed somebody to the head then punched them, they should not be in a fit state to attack you back, so you shouldn’t need to block.  And if you are blocking them, why does the kata then turn you in a different direction rather than finishing off the guy who has just attacked you?

Most of you will realise that blocks can also be strikes, so maybe this is a strike.  However, it is done as you shuffle away from your target.  Usually you move your body weight in the direction of the strike, not away from it.  So this lower block (arguably) is not likely to be either a block or strike in the conventional sense.

This would leave me to conclude that the unusual chambering position (by the ear instead of hip) may be doing something in conjunction with the unusual punch.  Have a look at our video to see what we think.

PS:  I did have another application lined up, but my SD card was full.  I’ll put that bunkai on another time.
PPS:  If your style performs this kata but does this sequence differently, then please tell us about it.

Nijushiho

 

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 Nijushiho (Niseishi)

Here we look at the opening sequence of the kata Nijushiho (also known as Niseishi).  In Shotokan in particular the usual interprutation of the slow forward moving “elbow strike” is that it applies an armlock under the opponents elbow by applying upward pressure.  However, it seems to work much better if you apply the armlock across your chest.  Have a look at the video and see what we mean.

Nijushiho/Niseishi Bunkai

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

 

New DVD: Inside Bassai Dai (Kata Bunkai)

Keith and I are very pleased to release our new kata bunkai DVD, “Inside Bassai Dai”.  For those not familiar with Bassai Dai, it is a very central kata in many Karate systems and is often used for black belt gradings to 1st Dan.  This is fitting considering it’s author is the Okinawan master, Soken Matsumura who is a very pivotal character in the development of Karate.

Matsumura was one of the prime movers in developing linear technique (previously, Okinawans practiced primarily Chinese based circular techniques).  He also taught Azato and Ituso, who went on to teach Funikoshi (who introduced Karate to Japan and hence the World).  So Matsumura’s impact on Karate is enormous.

Matsumura’s master was taught by a Chinaman and Matsumura is known to have gone to Shaolin to do some training.  It is therefore appropriate that I am working with Keith (a Kung Fu exponent) as it takes us back closer to Matsumura’s original influences.  It also makes this DVD a bit unique.  There is also a free DVD on Kicking Tips being given away with it.  Anyway, it’s been getting some great endorsements and is available at our store with full details if you want to check it out.

“This DVD delivers a down to earth and realistic look at the often misunderstood Kata of Karate.  Simple to follow and easy to understand.  It is great to see Charlie Wildish incorporating my ABC system of manstoppers in to his karate, it is must have principle for any serious combat martial artist.  Good work Charlie”.

Kevin O’Hagan:  7th Dan Combat JuJutsu, 6th Dan British Combat Association.

“This DVD is a must for any true Karateka who is interested in uncovering the essence of Bunkai, and understanding the true meaning of Kata.”

Mark Winkler:  6th Dan Wado Ryu Karate, Qualified Systema Instructor

 

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

Tekki/Naihanchi (Chul Gi) Kata Bunkai With Reference To Similar Wing Chun Movements (Part 2)

A couple of months ago, we did a cross reference of applications from Wing Chun Kung Fu and Karate’s Tekki/Naihanchi kata bunkai, as both are noted for close quarters fighting.  This proved to be quite popular so we have done another one.  We do actually use part of the same section of the kata, but in a different way (every move has more than one bunkai).

Tekki / Naihanchi Kata Bunkai