“Helpful Partners,” by Krista de Castella

“In the past when learning ‘bunkai’ applications (self-defense techniques from kata), I’ve often caught myself thinking ‘that’s a little convoluted isn’t it… surely it wouldn’t work in a real life scenario…’. However, in training at the Honbu dojo I’ve since learnt not to be too hasty in tossing aside bunkai. Every technique from the kata really does have an effective application (or many as the case may be). It’s often just a matter of executing a technique correctly with appropriate timing, power and speed.”

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  1. bruce baker says:

    The problem with Bunkai is that … you can’t plan to use it .. the opening must be part of an instinctual use during an unplanned attack or defense. The openings during a fight determine what will work.

    Fact is .. if you plan to use a particular technique/ set of techniques .. you are probably vulnerable if the other person has had any kind of training in your fighting style.

    Your training must make strike, or disabling blow, part of your natural movements. Maybe that is why you the student must figure out how to make your movements of training part of your everyday life movements? Could be .. could be…

  2. …my take is that most forms are comprised of many small techniques. often the first small techniques are all that come out in a situation. if they embody aiki timing and spirit they may be decisive. done consciously they just become elements of the fight. in that case people who train at fighting will gain an advantage from their spontaneity in attack & defense.

    assuming the first technique-element is not decisive, but executed within aikido’s narrow constraints of space and time, there will be a narrowing of options in the moves that follow. the beginning has any number of outcomes. pretty soon, however, those become much more constrained, usually to variations of resistance, ukemi or kaeshi-waza. consider all the variations from, let’s say, mune tsuki. each of those will be appropriate in a particular constrained set of circumstances. think of each as the answer to one of those pesky “what if” questions.

    some techniques are more universally applicable than others. i recall Bill Witt suggesting that all of the techniques available and attacks be listed, attacks on one axis of a grid and techniques on the other. you can see from the various videos of masters that some techniques just DO come out more often than others. another aspect of “ikkyo issho”?

  3. Thanks for posting. I would like to contribute some of my thoughts. Kata is strategic setup not just sequence of movements as promoted. It is a chess game in that the current movement is designed to close almost all of escape routes (or gates) but leave some opening gates for the next movement. Therefore we should perform the current movement such that our partner will have to take the open gate we offer. That takes body alignment, angle of entry, correct execution of the basic techniques to achieve that set up. That is the reason that it takes a long time to understand one kata. How we perform kata will make kata practical or dance. Once we understand and master kata bunkai is what you see what you get from kata.

    Have a good weekend!

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