19 posts / 0 new
Last post
tubbydrawers
tubbydrawers's picture
Wrong Bunkai

Hi,

I was approached the other day by one of my Students who is a Black Belt and whom I have teaching Heian Godan Bunkai. He has been training at another club in our association which they can do. One of their Black Belts went over Heian Godan and my student proceeded to do the version I had shown him. He was told that my version would not work and is wrong.

The version I showed him was the Block, punch and neck crank that Iain has shown on his app, videos etc. This is the first section of Godan.

It then got me thinking on how do others approach this subject with people who claim that Bunkai that Iain has shown to work is wrong. My opinion is that I need to speak to this Black Belt and ask him why he thinks the stuff I show is incorrect. But how do others on this website approach this within their own association?

This is not the first time I have had this issue. I have seen many 'applications' that would not stand up to a proper attack and violence within my own association and I tend not to say anything but when someone has told my own students that I am wrong, it kind of grates on me!

What do you all do? Think?

Tubbydrawers.

Mark B
Mark B's picture

I think the first thing to clear up is, and I'm sure Iain would tell you, that Iains Bunkai is not THE Bunkai. It is Iains personal interpretation and it works for him. Bunkai is a very subjective thing. It most often comes down to the personal preferences and opinions of the individual. It is, in my opinion perfectly ok for someone to say "I don't believe it to be sound" in just the same way it's perfectly fine for someone to reply with "I don't agree". I wouldn't worry too much about it. My approach is very different to Iains, so does that make it wrong? I don't believe so. There are people who really like my stuff and maybe are not so keen on Iains. Does that make Iains stuff wrong/ ineffective? No, of course not. The things that make Bunkai unworkable are unrealistic distancing, highly unlikely types of attacks, overly complex application sequences, application that is entirely reliant on partner compliance & unrealistic expectations of our abilities under pressure which manifest themselves in sequences that could only my work in the movies. As long as an application would appear to sensibly adhere to simple common sense criteria then it can be considered sound in principle. Even then unless your prepared to potentially injure/KO/ hospitalise your partner it is still only in principle, which by definition leaves it open to criticism from other parties. Regards

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

tubbydrawers wrote:
But how do others on this website approach this within their own association?

Debates about the most efficient ways to do things are healthy and important. As is accepting that everyone will have their own take on things.

It’s fine to have variations in opinion, and it’s good to exchange views on those differences of option. That way all participants can double check that they are practising in the manner they feel is most efficient for them (this forum is largely built on that idea).

The problem arises when we don’t have discussion but unqualified assertions. Asking focused questions and suggesting ways in which methods can be improved is vital. We should always engage in that because it’s a learning opportunity for all involved. Unqualified assertions should be ignored as they serve no purpose other than to waste time. If someone wants to discuss the ins and outs of a give method then a respectful dialogue is very useful. If someone is making unqualified assertions, then just ignore them and get on doing what you do.

tubbydrawers wrote:
He was told that my version would not work and is wrong.

They are unqualified assertions. Why is it wrong? Why would it not work? What is a better way to view it and why is that way better? That’s a good discussion to have. If those qualifiers are not immediately offered following the assertion, then it’s a waste of everyone’s time.

I’m sure your student is smart enough to compare detailed instruction with vague assertions and decide from themselves. Just shrug it off and show them the next bit of bunkai for Godan :-)

All the best,

Iain

Les Bubka
Les Bubka's picture

Hi Tubbydrawers

Iain and Mark B pretty much covered the subject, from my personal experience I always ask for the better way to be shown, as I like to learn. Usually there are two responses “well I can’t show better way but I know yours is wrong” other is showing some 3K bunkai with unrealistic attacks and distancing. On very rare occasions there is a good bunkai which I can adopt and think about (this is from the criticizing people).

The great way of dealing with that would be sensible conversation and for example I had that with Iain on one of his seminars (I doubt he remembers) about the throw. For me wrestling version worked better than Judo. We did try both on each other and conclusion was that due to our build both ways are perfectly valid.

So in a short I like to test manually what works and what’s not, I can understand that our students might be afraid to challenge superior grades in other club.

Everyone have right to their opinion, just say thank you and carry one doing what works for you and your students.

Kind regards

Les 

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Les Bubka wrote:
The great way of dealing with that would be sensible conversation and for example I had that with Iain on one of his seminars (I doubt he remembers) about the throw. For me wrestling version worked better than Judo. We did try both on each other and conclusion was that due to our build, both ways are perfectly valid.

You are right, I have zero recollection of that! My memory sucks. Totally agree with that though :-)

As Anko Itosu wrote, “Learn the explanations of every technique well, and decide when and in what manner to apply them when needed.”

We should personally decide that. We draw from a common source (karate), but we personally decide how we, as individuals, will apply the methods.

All the best,

Iain

Les Bubka
Les Bubka's picture

Iain

I don't balme you, for you it's thousands of people, there is no way you can remeber all. Or you have memory like my wrestling teacher, his words " I have very good memory but very short"

My karate teacher always told us " You need to find your way in karate not be a copy of me or other teachers" 

Kind regards

Les

Chris R
Chris R's picture

Everyone else has pretty much said all I can think of, however I will add: I think that a common problem with this "right or wrong" argument is that it is done out of context. The black belt from the other school claimed your technique was wrong and ineffective, yet (I assume) he/she only experienced it in a demonstration format. The problem is that this is not the right context to decide what works and what does not work. Until it actually is tested, neither student will really know whether the technique is useful for them or not.

Personally, I would not ask the black belt why they don't believe in the technique. To be honest he/she might have just said the technique was "wrong" because they were taught something different. If other students keep saying you are "wrong," it might be because the other instructors are teaching their students something different. This is just an idea (I don't know the full story/context) but that might be the main issue.

tubbydrawers
tubbydrawers's picture

Mark B wrote:
I think the first thing to clear up is, and I'm sure Iain would tell you, that Iains Bunkai is not THE Bunkai. It is Iains personal interpretation and it works for him.

Maybe I wrote my sentence wrong. I wasnt saying Iain's is THE Bunkai, what I was referring to was that I had taken his work and shown it to a student. This then student was told that it would not work. Now I personaly believe, that if I had taken your work and show the same student, it would have had the same result as well as if I had taken Les's work as well. If you get my drift, it might be down to a personality issue with myself and other belts.

Maybe what I am trying to say is what do you do / offer when someone just totally dismisses your work. I have my own Bunkai for certain Kata. They work for me and my students, but when someone totally dismisses your work without any comeback, how do you feel?

Chris R wrote:
Personally, I would not ask the black belt why they don't believe in the technique​.

That is one way of dealing with it, but I am really interested in knowing the why. I will let you know how it goes :)

I know we are open to criticism due to putting our work out there and I do that with my students and other avenues. Maybe I need a thicker skin to deal with the Taylor Swift song - ' Haters gonna Hate' ! :)  I think the song is called Shake it off.

Les Bubka
Les Bubka's picture

Tubbydrawers

Quote:
I know we are open to criticism due to putting our work out there and I do that with my students and other avenues. Maybe I need a thicker skin to deal with the Taylor Swift song - ' Haters gonna Hate' ! :)  I think the song is called Shake it off.

Yes thicker skin :) I try to develope one too, it still gets me when I get hate comments. Kind regards Les

Paul_L
Paul_L's picture

Apologies to bring out an old, well worn chestnut but I wonder if in part the no bunkai in Wado thing is relevant here. I have been looking into this a bit lately which has included reading an old thread on this forum and admittedly I am still confused by it all. I wonder if what is meant by no bunkai in this particular instance is that a kata is not a scripted choreographed fight with a fixed set of attacks and defences and should not be anaylsed as such, not that there are no practical applications in the kata to explore. Looking at kata this way could maybe lead to someone believing that one bunkai is wrong and another is right.

Sorry if I have wondered off topic with a bit of a half-cocked thought.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

tubbydrawers wrote:
I know we are open to criticism due to putting our work out there and I do that with my students and other avenues. Maybe I need a thicker skin to deal with the Taylor Swift song - ' Haters gonna Hate' ! :)  I think the song is called Shake it off.

The only way to avoid critique – constructive or otherwise – is to deliberately do nothing of any consequence. As one of my teachers once told me, “masterful inactivity” is the best way to deal with any unobjective critique. It serves no purpose other than to try to build up the inept and to try to tear down the competent. Constructive debate is not feared or avoided by those who know what they are talking about and who have confidence in their own position. Those who sling unobective critique are not worth bothering with. It’s pointless. I can’t bring myself to quote Taylor Swift, but in the words of punk elder statesman Henry Rollins, “If it took the time to bleed from all the tiny arrows shot my way, I would not be here” … so shake it off ;-)

The metaphorical “think skin” is like a muscle; the more you use it the stronger it gets.

All the best,

Iain

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Paul_L wrote:
Apologies to bring out an old, well worn chestnut but I wonder if in part the no bunkai in Wado thing is relevant here. I have been looking into this a bit lately which has included reading an old thread on this forum …

I think the old thread covered that in great depth.

https://www.iainabernethy.co.uk/content/no-bunkai-wado-ryu-karate

The inescapable truth is that the statement does not hold up to any scrutiny. The head of a given group can say “we don’t practice bunkai” but they can’t say the kata have no bunkai (as if they own the kata and their word is final). It’s a ridiculous statement because the kata practised in Wado were created to have direct combative applications (bunkai). That's an firm and inescapable historical fact. Also, there are no “Wado kata”, just “kata as practised in Wado”. Just because some Wado groups don't practise bunkai does not mean they can retractively alter the nature of the kata to fit with their practise. They can ignore the bunkai, but it is there regardless.

This can all be traced back to a statement by the head of a certian group (and then repeated by others who belong to that same group). It’s not a valid statement though. They can say, “We don’t do bunkai in our training” but that’s as far as it can legitimately go. Just as I can say, “I have no orange trees in my garden”, but I can’t extrapolate that to say, “oranges don’t exist”.

Probably best to keep this aside to the other tread. I don’t think there is any more to be said on it though.

All the best,

Iain

Quick2Kick
Quick2Kick's picture

tubbydrawers wrote:

My opinion is that I need to speak to this Black Belt and ask him why he thinks the stuff I show is incorrect.

I dont think you need to confront the other instructor, you should scold yourself for your students inablity to criticaly think. Its seams to me if a student is taught HOW to analyze applications instead of just what the application is this type of problem can be avoided. Understanding the principles at play can help the student avoid the pitfalls of subpar bunkai.

Paul_L
Paul_L's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:
....The inescapable truth is that the statement does not hold up to any scrutiny ...

Point noted. 

The no bunkai philosphy is something I don't agree with and has been on the top of my mind recently. I fired off an unfiltered thought at the wrong time and place as I tend to do at times. 

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Quick2Kick wrote:
I dont think you need to confront the other instructor, you should scold yourself for your students inablity to criticaly think. Its seems to me if a student is taught HOW to analyze applications instead of just what the application is this type of problem can be avoided. Understanding the principles at play can help the student avoid the pitfalls of subpar bunkai.

That’s dependent upon the other instructor showing some alternative bunkai. If they do that, then the student can compare and contrast the two. I’m a great believer in letting the material do the talking. If people are truly being objective (not tribal or dogmatic) then the better material will be self-evident and accepted as such. However, in this case it seems it was labelled “wrong” with no explanation as to why and with no alternative being presented. The student therefore has little to think critically about. Although the principles of bunkai don’t really come into it, the fact no alternative was presented is telling in another way.

To play devil’s advocate for one moment, we don’t know how well the student demonstrated or explained the motion. There is no motion that works well no matter how badly it is performed. I can show you punches that will not work, and a clean version of the exact same punch that will shatter skulls. I recall being told by a well-known martial figure that a certain technique would not work so he does not teach it. That surprised me as it works great for me and mine … and then I saw him do it and it all made sense. He was awful at it and did not understand it; so “it” did not work. In truth, he was the problem.

As an aside, that is one of the downsides of modern martial arts is that people don’t spend enough time refining the basics anymore. Some build upward on crappy foundations, and then the whole thing reaches a limit that they assume is THE limit (many “realists” are to be found here). Others spend forever on the foundation and never build the usable bit ontop of those foundations (many “traditionalists” are to be found here). It’s an issue Peter Consterdine and I vent about almost every time we talk. There is a world of difference between a cross and A CROSS, but most don’t see it. Anyhow, back on point …

It does sound like student’s demo triggered something else in the instructor. Annoyance that is was different to what they taught? A threat to the ego that it was something they did not know and that threatened their status? It does not seem like a legitimate critique seeing as no alternative was put forth … but, it could also be the student didn’t explain it or demonstrate it well. It could also be that the atmosphere the instructor created contributed to that (i.e. “show me your BS so I can tell you it’s BS”). Either way, to each their own.

All the best,

Iain

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Paul_L wrote:
The no bunkai philosphy is something I don't agree with and has been on the top of my mind recently. I fired off an unfiltered thought at the wrong time and place as I tend to do at times.

I think this is the right time and place. The thread is about valid critique and healthy dissent verses unqualified statements and enforced unity. So, it’s a totally valid example of that … I just didn’t want to go do far down that specific rabbit hole and derail the tread :-)

All the best,

Iain

Marc
Marc's picture

It boils down to the question: Is there a way to compare different applications for a given kata sequence to one another?

Iain has often proposed that we should measure by effectiveness. Bill Burgar in his excellent book "Five Years One Kata" lists 14 criteria by which to measure effectiveness. Among them are: Keeps initiative, workable under influence of adrenaline, low maintainance, transferrable skills, overall balance of the kata, and more.

To the ones listed in the book I would add: Can have mighty impact with low effort, uses as many details of the kata movements as possible, and fits the nature of the practitioner.

Take care,

Marc

Wastelander
Wastelander's picture

An application can only be "wrong" subjectively, because the criteria for "right" are subjective. We, as a group of practically-minded karateka, all likely have very similar criteria for right, but a 3K-based school has a completely different set of criteria for "right," so each is going to think the other is wrong. If someone wholeheartedly believes that what they do is correct, then they will believe that anything else is wrong. I once visited an old instructor of mine who said "I just don't believe there are joint locks and takedowns in kata." Now, I like him as a person, and respect his skill, knowledge, and the effort he puts into both teaching and training--he is very good at what he does--but I wholeheartedly disagree on this point. I mean, in the same school, they teach kata-guruma as an application for Wansu, and I was once told by his instructor that they used to do a sequence in Anaku differently, because they were supposedly originally elbow dislocations but HIS instructor changed it because he thought breaking three arms in a row was silly.

If it is someone's belief that the kata does certain things and nothing else, then they will assert that anything that runs counter to that is wrong, and you won't be able to change their minds. I could show someone a gedan-barai armbar a thousand times, and back it up with photos of Funakoshi, and writings from various other Okinawan masters, and still be wrong to them if they believe that kata do not contain armbars. I know of a group who teaches Naihanchi as a purely joint locking kata, with no strikes in it at all, and they insist that this is the original and intended application of the kata, and will accept nothing else. These examples can go on and on, but the point is that sometimes you have to agree to disagree, and walk away. 

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Good post Noah!

Wastelander wrote:
If it is someone's belief that the kata does certain things and nothing else, then they will assert that anything that runs counter to that is wrong, and you won't be able to change their minds.

Totally agree. If there only interested in stating their belief without presenting evidence, and are not prepared to entertain evidence counter to their position, then it’s a waste of everyone’s time.

When it doubt, asking “In theory, what kind of evidence would need before you’d consider my position?” can use useful. If they answer meaningfully, then you can discuss further. If they answer dogmatically then we know there is no meaningful discussion to be had.

Wastelander wrote:
These examples can go on and on, but the point is that sometimes you have to agree to disagree, and walk away.

And other times you don’t even get that. They can’t agree to disagree and will only be satisfied when you agree with their point on their terms. Still time to walk away though :-) Go talk to people who are prepared to have beliefs challenged, and who are genuinely prepared to challenge yours (not just offer “I’m right cos I’m right” statements).

The good thing is that such ardent dogmatists end up with no one to speak to but themselves. They weed themselves out of the big conversation and ensure they have no real influence over time.

Wastelander wrote:
I could show someone a gedan-barai armbar a thousand times, and back it up with photos of Funakoshi, and writings from various other Okinawan masters, and still be wrong to them if they believe that kata do not contain armbars.

Oh, how very true! I’m having a little of that with the new Karate Throwing DVD (see Facebook) with both karateka and non-karateka denying throws are part of karate. It seems written evidence and even photographs are not enough for some :-)

All the best,

Iain