This post doesn't have any specific aim, rather it is just a few thoughts I had after reading something that Mabuni wrote regarding Kata and Bunkai. Really I just wanted to see if anyone else wanted to share and maybe add some clarity to what is a disporadic collection thoughts.
I imagine that this is not the first time that anyone has seen this quote, so I am not putting out as a great find or anything like that.
For a very short lived publication called Karate Research Mabuni wrote a few articles, one of which contained the following:
In karate, the most important thing is kata. Into the kata of karate are woven every manner of attack and defense technique. Therefore, kata must be practiced properly, with a good understanding of their bunkai meaning. There may be those who neglect the practice of kata, thinking that it is sufficient to just practice [pre-arranged] kumite that has been created based on their understanding of the kata, but that will never lead to true advancement. The reason why is that the ways of thrusting and blocking - that is to say, the techniques of attack and defense - have innumerable variations. To create kumite containing all of the techniques in each and every one of their variations is impossible. If one sufficiently and regularly practices kata correctly, it will serve as a foundation for performing - when a crucial time comes - any of the innumerable variations. However, even if you practice the kata of karate, if that is all that you do, if your [other] training is lacking, then you will not develop sufficient ability.
My thoughts are:
That my understanding of this is that what is meant by understanding bunkai is that you understand the concepts and priciples behind each movement in the kata with that aim of applying them adaptively to a real situation, rather than seeing kata as a fixed set of responses to a fixed set of stimuli.
The publication Karate Research was a journal / forum style platform with the intent of sharing information and ideas in order to enable Karate to evolve and develop. So back then in the 30s Karate was progressive and never something that was intended to be set in stone.
The intended readership of the publication were other senior figures in Karate who had the appropriate standing to actively participate in Karate's ongoing develpment. This may suggest that Mabuni felt that other senior Karateka did not understand the purpose of Kata and what bunkai was.
Today cameras that can take several exposures per second are readily available and we have video too. Camera film speeds were slow back then in the 30s and film and processing was expensive too. which meat that rather than recording a dynamic flow of movements the Karateka would have to remain in contrived static poses and there would be a relatively low limit to how many photographs could be published in a book.
The intention of showing photographs of applications of kata movements was to say "this is how this move could be used" rather than "This is what this move is for". The technical issues of photography mentioned above may have caused or added to already existing misconceptions.
I am not really sure where I am going with this, but who better to share it with, rather than keeping it in my head.