After my first "warm-up" comment, here comes my first post :)
While going through previous forum posts, I stumbled upon this interesting one: http://www.iainabernethy.co.uk/content/historical-kata-application.
In it was a link referring to a section of Kenwa Mabuni's book, Goshin Karate Kempo, which explores the bunkai of Seienchin kata: http://isshin-concentration.blogspot.co.il/2013/07/a-look-at-kata-applic...
Coming from a Shitoryu background, I immediately recognized the illustrated bunkai as the infamous 3K "kihon" bunkai, which I have been taught as the "primary" (and only) bunkai for Seiencin. For those not familiar with the kata as practiced by Shitoryu, here it is (0:50-3:00). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9j9epxemFc
Also for reference, in the same video are also the infamous 'kihon" bunkai (8:06-15:50), which is almost exactly the way I have been taught them (with only slight insignificant variations, e.g. a closed fist at the end of the first bunkai instead of a nukite, deviating from the kata motion, but more in line with Mabuni's #3 illustration).
I was surprised to see that Mabuni's illustrated bunkai closley resembles the "kihon" bunkai I have been taught, which I find flawed almost in every way possible. In Mabuni's "defense", his illustrations does not present the unrealistic distance, the lunging attacks or the overly compliant and static uke (being static drawings). So these flaws can be assigned to his later students. However, the illustrations do present many flaws, which seem to contradict almost every bukai principle: e.g. first bunkai (#1 - #3) shows a pre-arranged attack sequence; almost none of the techniques seem to end the confrontation; Tori always stays in the line of fire instead of going out while keeping uke on his line of fire; some of the applications are totally unrealistic (like #9 - #10 catching the kick with this weird hand position while waiting to grab the punch to the face, before kicking the groin); some of them does not resemble the kata motions (#11 - #12) etc. Even worse, some of Mabuni's own principles are not being followed (where are the angles relative to the opponent in his illustrations?)
So, what is going on here?
I know that Karate teaching approach changed during the 1930's while bringing Karate from Okinawa to the Universities in Japan and incorporating the Do concept instead of the "savage" Jutsu approach. I also get that this is what the people wanted to learn back then, and that the teachers supplied the demand of the time. Still, I would expect better professional integrity from someone who was proclaimed as an expert karate technician and bunkai genius, and at least not to betray his core principles or to sell them short.
"The karate that has been introduced to Tokyo is actually just a part of the whole. The fact that those who have learnt karate there feel it only consists of kicks and punches, and that throws and locks are only to be found in judo or jujutsu, can only be put down to a lack of understanding… Those who are thinking of the future of karate should have an open mind and strive to study the complete art.” – Kenwa Mabuni, 1938
How can he say that, with implied pointing at Funakoshi's teaching in Tokyo (which, by the way, did include throws and locks, at least as shown in Karatedo Kyohan), while presenting really flawed bunkai in his book, without any throws or locks? Looks like the karate that has been introduced to Osaka was actually a smaller part of the whole (Mabuni taught in Osaka).
And how come there are no good bunkai books from the previous "golden age" in Okinawa? Didn't they have print during the 1910's?
So, again, what is going on here? I came up with a few possible ideas:
1. Making a living: Mabuni wanted to make a living and sell his book. The people wanted that kind of "crap", so he delivered, while privately being disgusted by himself and the Karate that he promoted (or mlidly content).
2. Distorted historical image: Our modern perception of Mabuni is distorted. This is the actual bunkai he practiced. Perhaps compared to his contemporaries he was considered a bunkai genius, but compared with today's standards he was a very mediocre bunkai analyst. He would certainly not be considered a master today.
3. Secret karate society: Mabuni was a secret karate guardian, keeping the "real" dangerous stuff hidden and only teaching it to his most loyal disciples, while teaching the useless "crap" to the general public and low level, untrustworthy students. He and his posse sure had a good laugh the day the book was published. (This is a very unlikely scenario, especially in light of Mabuni's own son, Kenei, keeping the "crap teaching" going on, until finally I was taught it. If this was somehow possible, he should have come out clean years ago, when applied karate woke up and "raised the curtain".)
So, which one is it? Perhaps a different idea? maybe a mixture of several ideas?
Please share your thoughts.