Bunkai : The Marriage of Kata and Kumite – Kyokushin-kan Instructor’s Seminars – Concept #3 Part 2

(This author thought it would be beneficial to the Kyokushin-kan community to summarize, to the best of my ability, some content of Kancho Royama’s Internatinoal Instructors’ Seminars, held every year in Japan. Although I do have the dual advantage of having attended more of Kancho’s seminars than any other American, and of having acted as Japanese-English interpreter for those seminars in many cases, the reader should understand that, still, I can only do the best I can to explain concepts presented by Kancho and other high-level instructors in Japan. I do have the advantage of having been there, but my level of understanding in karate is only just what it is, and I can only explain what Kancho and others explain, through the lens of my own limited understanding. Yet to assist the development of Kyokushin-kan in the West, I will do the best I can.)

In part 1 of my discussion on Bunkai (see Instructors’ Seminars in Japan tab above), I suggested that Bunkai, “application,” is a formal class of karate exercise in which the practitioner studies, with an simulated attacker, the meaning of the individual (and sometimes combined) movements that go together to make up Kata. In that sense, we can think of Bunkai as the marriage of Kata and Kumite, as shown in the picture below. Separate this diagram to where there are two separate circles, one for Kata and one for Kumite, thus eliminating Bunkai where the two meet, and you have the model for karate training that has lost its way, training in which Kumite is merely fighting, and Kata is nothing but a dance.

Capture

This discussion takes us straight to the heart of an earlier discussion posted here (see Our Moment in History on the Kyokushin Beginners’ Guide tab), in which I discussed the evolution and devolution of Kyokushin. Here I mentioned how Kyokushin was always evolving during Mas Oyama’s lifetime, and that to take Kyokushin as a snapshot of exactly what it was at the time you learned it many years ago from Mas Oyama (for example) is destructive to the art because Kyokushin’s greatness derived from its evolution. AND , likewise, the times that Kyokushin fell short (sending Kyokushin fighters prematurely into K-1 kickboxing rings, for example), those shortcomings derived, in some cases, from Kyokushin’s “devolution,” or situations in which Kyokushin lost some of what it once had (albeit sometimes in the name of gaining something else). Continue reading

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Kyokushin-kan Instructor’s Seminars – Concept #3 Part 1 – Bunkai : Kyokushin’s Missing Link

Kyokushin-kan's Kaneko Shihan and Ishizawa Shihan performing the Bunkai for the final motion of Pinan sono 5.

Kyokushin-kan’s Kaneko Shihan and Ishizawa Shihan performing the Bunkai for the final motion of Pinan sono 5.

Bunkai – Kyokushin’s Missing Link

(This author thought it would be beneficial to the Kyokushin-kan community to summarize, to the best of my ability, some content of Kancho Royama’s Internatinoal Instructors’ Seminars, held every year in Japan. Although I do have the dual advantage of having attended more of Kancho’s seminars than any other American, and of having acted as Japanese-English interpreter for those seminars in many cases, the reader should understand that, still, I can only do the best I can to explain concepts presented by Kancho and other high-level instructors in Japan. I do have the advantage of having been there, but my level of understanding in karate is only just what it is, and I can only explain what Kancho and others explain, through the lens of my own limited understanding. Yet to assist the development of Kyokushin-kan in the West, I will do the best I can.)

Bunkai means “application” in Japanese. It refers to a type of training, usually performed as formal one-step kumite, in which the practitioner studies the application of the individual movements performed duruing kata by applying them as defenses against the simulated attacks of a training partner . The practice of bunkai is a long-missing-from-Kyokushin, but vital, link between kata and kumite. For most the first 20 years of this author’s Kyokushin experience, I never practiced bunkai. Even in two years of training every day at Mas Oyama’s world headquarters dojo in Japan, we didn’t practice bunkai, certainly not in any way that compares to what is not being stressed at the cutting-edge of training within Kyokushin-kan. Yet knowing what I know now, I sure wish that we had. Continue reading