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Mark B
Mark B's picture
Bunkai for the real world

Hi all,

When I study my kata looking for application (I like to work through the whole form) I am looking for the simplest, most effective way to deal with potential self defence situations.  By working through the kata finding solutions to the most common and likely scenarios I may face.

One aspect I always give careful consideration to is my opponents energy, his motivation.  Real violence is so quick, frantic and direct. I was guilty as anyone when it came to coming up with applications that were just too cute and clever for their own good.  I'll give an example: Wanshu sequence -Gedan Barai, Age-zuki, Maegeri, etc. 

I thought this is great against a single lapel grab , especially when I add the 90 degree turn. I tried it with compliance and it worked exactly like I imagined.  I tried it with my opponent throwing light right hand punches. It worked Ok but not as well as the fist attempt. I asked my partner to put on a 16oz boxing glove on his right hand and go 100%. Guess what- the application failed, and it failed all subsequent tests.  The punches were coming too hard and fast to enable my initial Gedan Barai and if I did get the technique going I couldn't break the lapel grab which was too close and too tight. 

This made me wise up pretty quick. Now all my Bunkai is based on simplicity. Yes I clear limbs and practice deflect and trapping etc. but always to get back to the simplest option available. Studying the form as a whole gives me the different options available.

This simple Bunkai is not as pleasing on the eye or impressive to anyone watching but for the real stuff !! In my view it's the only way

Kris Wilder says it best:

"Simplicity , speed and power are favoured over complexity"

All the best


Black Tiger
Black Tiger's picture

I looked at this too and found that my choice of Kata was amended

I don't practice Goshin (Traditional Kata) based Kata apart from Bassai & Niseishi. Every other Kata I practice is Ashihara Karate kata which is Jissen based

Niseishi is a good kata uses loads of Sabaki and Irimi waza whereas Bassai is more stand-up grappling.

Maybe don't look at it as strikes look at it as stand-up Grappling, remember a closed Fist is not always a punch it can be a grab too and a step forward in Kata can also be a step back etc.

Mark B
Mark B's picture

Hi Black Tiger,

My view is that in this scenario as soon as the grab is on we're pretty much in a  stand up grappling situation.

To be honest the above sequence is merely an example of me trying to be too cute with kata application and how it helped me realise how I must keep things as simple as possible.  You're absolutely right when you say the punch could be a grab, the following technique of a knee strike or front kick certainly supports that. 

I never got to find out how well the grab worked at high intensity though  as I was getting battered by big right hooks  Lol.

Niseishi and Passai are great kata.  They are two of only six we practice



shoshinkanuk's picture

Strictly speaking often kata Bunkai (analysis, to break apart) taken from the classical forms can be more abstract, it is this way to confm to standardisation and ensure delivery of certain principles of the Ryu, via the kata of the Ryu.

It is Oyo (personal application) where, IMO your reality drills should be born from.

Granted much Bunkai is so far removed from reality (in terms of the manner it is trained and the type, intensity of the attacks it is worked against etc) it is counter productive to lead to decent, simple, direct Oyo for each student.

Kata as I understand it translates as 'form or mold', it is there to conform to, shape to and then once those forms are engrained to break free from. (the Shu Ha Ri stages if you like, in simplistic terms).

Boxing etc has the same but in very 'mini' kata's if you like, your taught to hit hard with a hook, you are technically taught the form, principles, you train it in all sorts of ways- but when you need it as long as it works for you it's a great hook.

Mark B
Mark B's picture

Hi Jim,

As you will know all my applications fall into the Oyho category.  I simply don't have access to the applications that were considered to be the intended Omote or Ura Bunkai Jutsu so I try and come up with workable  Bunkai Oyho. 

Patrick McCarthy Hanshi covers the classical Omote Bunkai Jutsu of Aragaki Seisan on dvd. It is a fanatastic dvd which I enjoy watching. In fact we have Ben Ryder (koryu Uchinadi) doing a seminar on that form in November.  However for myself the Oyho approach is working well.  The main thing for me is simple and I think the old masters would likely have had a similar approach.