Bunkai sparring?

Posted by: BrianS

Bunkai sparring? - 02/21/06 06:04 AM

I was asked a question this weekend that I would like to pose to you now.
How much of your bunkai is incorporated into your sparring?
Posted by: Joss

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/21/06 08:27 AM

The more we practice the bunkai, the more we see it in sparring. Our sensei breaks the bunkai up into packets of line drill kumite and works the line drills over and over. We do a LOT more kumite drill than free sparring. As a result we see our bunkai popping up in free sparring. But it's hard to say "how much", as I don't know any way to measure it.
Posted by: Ed_Morris

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/21/06 09:15 AM

I guess it depends what type of sparring. in point sparring there wouldn't be much 1:1 comparison to kata application since the range and objectives are so different. full-contact spar has the close range, but again, the 'rules' limit the techniques found in kata.
The kind of drills where you react to an unknown and resisting incomming attack is not exactly sparring...maybe in a stretch it could be called 'situational sparring'.

so I guess the answer is 'not much' as far as techniques. however, some kata principals (like angling, shifting, power generation, etc) have a bit of carryover appliable relationship to sparring I suppose. but kata certainly isn't the best thing to improve sparring. more sparring is the best thing to improve sparring. kata is for something else...or so I'm hoping
Posted by: shoshinkan

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/21/06 10:18 AM

yep, im with Ed on this.

I train for self defense (ie street attacks and situation), and sparring doesnt have alot to do with that IMO.

Perhaps some lessons from kata will help sparring, but as stated specific sparring drills and core sparring skills/conditioning would be much better for that.
Posted by: medulanet

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/21/06 06:48 PM

I disagree. Bunkai of kata technique can be effectively applied to sparring. I think the key difference between a sparring scenario and a self defense senario is in self defense one person is full out attacking and the other is dealing with this attack rather than a duel or game which all competitive sparring is, but that does not mean that bunkai does not apply. Does your bunkai have application to blast through an opponent who is blocking your way? Does your bunkai have application to attack and restrain an opponent? Does your bunkai have application to attack at the slightest aggressive movement or intention by your opponent. All of these scenarios can occur in kumite and bunkai of kata can be applied. Even point fighting can be used to train kata bunkai, just ask Vince Morris of Kissaki Kai. The key to developing karate through kumite is losing the ego and not concern yourself with win or lose but only training. As long as the rules allow me to punch, kick, grab, throw to the ground, and finish bunkai of kata can be explored. Of course without knee and elbow strikes some techniques cannot be used, but include those and now you have something.
Posted by: shoshinkan

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/21/06 07:29 PM


I see that principles learned from kata can of course be used within a sparring enviorment to a point, but set bunkai combinations, i havent seen it yet im afraid and whilst I havent seen it all, I have seen a bit.

This post doesnt devalue kata bunkai in any way, however it does show the distinct difference between 'sparring' and simple civil self defense which is what i beleive karate is all about, and of course others see it different, which is fine by me.
Posted by: Borrek

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/21/06 09:12 PM

I find that the more advanced I get, the more simple my sparring must become. Otherwise I get my ass handed to me.

When sparring underbelts, I get the chance to try out kata bunkai and such but when its against people my rank or higher I wouldn't dare try anything I'm uncertain of.
Posted by: Ed_Morris

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/21/06 09:51 PM

as soon as bodies clash in sparring it's broken up....because you can't see the points being scored. and if you can only use a subset of techniques, then what is that? it's sparring that may or may not happen to have overlap to principals found in kata...but the mindset is sparring.

I'd never heel palm someone under the chin during sparring...thats just being rude and they might get hurt by biting their tounge, shatter some teeth or give whiplash ouchies...thats not very nice or sportsman like. (imagine that sentence as the voice of 'churchlady' from SNL)

just a different frame of mind, range, and 'game' (keyword).

not only that, but for all of the applications you find/practice in kata, do you also practice counters for? like a defense against tora guchi and ridge hand strikes? those counters...are they found in the same kata?
why not? and how likely is it that one kata would have defenses from another kata's attacks?

Maybe kata was originally designed with both attack and counters and was used for training many people a skillset(pretty useful in T'ang dynasty H2H armies)... but gradually was changed and customized to civillian self-defense with the assumption the attacker is the less skilled bad-guy? which also fits why Okinawans were very careful who they taught stuff to. fight against someone with the same set of techniques and it just comes down to physical endurance and speed...not good odds for a SD system.

kata techniques in it's present form isn't for using against itself. sure you can make stuff up and say it's based on it's principals of movement...you could even pick out parts of another kata where the defense against a defense looks similar and convincing. what I'm saying is, a single kata does not have all the defenses, and counters to its own defenses. thats why kata is not for combat (unless you've studied with someone with THE lost kata up on a mountain somewhere), it's an uneven SD system. the assumption is an aggressor not an equally matched opponent. in my opinion anyway.
Posted by: medulanet

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/21/06 10:14 PM

Ed, you have got to be kidding me. True okinawan karate has it all. It is useful for fighting the skilled an unskilled alike. You need to give the okinawans more credit. I believe they were smarter than you think. To make a fighting art that does not work against fighters is stupid. Especially if it is supposed to be used to defend the king and his regents it better work against skilled fighters. Yes this was the purpose of true karate.
Posted by: Ed_Morris

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/21/06 10:36 PM

lol..nope I'm not kidding. I'm talking about individual kata in and of themselves are designed (or were redesigned) for self-defense. are you saying the same 1 kata has counters to it's own self-defense? If you are, then tell me where the counter is in saifa to its final sequence.

[addition] Kata doesn't have it all. IMO. Kata is a tool that is just as important as 2-person drills. Different kata address different principles...if they didn't, then we'd have one kata containing all principles for any profession for any scenario. rediculous. Wouldn't you agree that a body guard needs a similar but different set of fighting skills than someone on a H2H battlefield or someone in danger of being mugged? isn't the difference in probable skill level of the attack? wouldn't systems be devised and be optimized for the current and real threat?

If it's agreed that kata is always changing, then what has driven the change? need and utility perhaps? where are we in history in which we inherit kata? was it unchanged from a Chinese temple? or unchanged from a castle guard? how can you be sure it's in the same form? last time I looked at the history, the effective occupation of people changing kata and making curriculums were okinawan policeman for civil defense. changes after that were for sport.

unless you are suggesting you didn't inherit kata from the civil police generations but rather from the ones before them...in which case I have no comment.
Posted by: medulanet

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/21/06 11:39 PM

I don't know any Goju(Naha) kata, but I do know shorin and more specifically Matsubayashi. Describe any technique and I can show you a "response" from shorin kata. The kata of Matsubayashi were intended for the purpose of passing on the okinawan tradition of uchinandi intact. This is not only a self defense art, but the art of the royal bodyguards of the okinawan king and his court. They deal with all methods of attack and defense. Why would someone perpetuate a fighting art not meant to beat a skilled fighter? Obviously Motobu was able to use it so some effect when he fought that foreign boxer. I have even heard that Funakoshi was able to throw Kodokan fifth dans with his karate. Why else would the Kodokan rank an outsider as fifth dan if he had no skills? And Funakoshi was not in the top in terms of skill of the okinawan karate men of his time.
Posted by: BrianS

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/21/06 11:46 PM

This is interesting.

Of course, most dojos include "kumite" on their curriculum, but the most commonly practised form of kumite is based upon the rules of modern-day competition, not the principles of the kata. You must understand that the sparring of today is not the same sparring that was practised in the past. In his 1926 book, "Ryukyu Karate Kempo" Choki Motobu (who was one of Okinawa's most feared fighters) wrote, "Kumite is an actual fight using many basic styles of kata to grapple with the opponent" (Masters Publications 1995).


Your thoughts?
Posted by: Ed_Morris

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/22/06 12:25 AM

sorry, I didn't see page 2 and added to my last post.

was Nagamine a royal bodyguard? thought he was a policeman. did the royal guard practice the 18 kata curriculum of Matsubayashi? why not? why was that changed? what else was changed by Nagamine, Funakoshi, et al? what experience in Nagamine's policeman career did he learn on the job and adapt however so slightly or major, the kata to? and Naha-Te doesn't exactly come from a royal background. Naha-te pretty much survives mainly thru Higashionna influence. Without full access to the inherited fighting systems of royalty, he when back to the source...China. when he came back what did he make? a better way to protect a castle door or a civilian defence system?
Posted by: Ed_Morris

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/22/06 12:56 AM

so what kata is this from I wonder?

just being a wise-guy.

I don't really see the distinction in that article between non-prearrainged bunkai and Kata Based Sparring.

and grappling in kata? yes, standup grappling. but I've never seen nor have I been shown a correlation between ground fighting and kata principles. I'm waiting for someone to write an article or book on that. seems to be still a secret.

kumite has a definite beginning and end. an initiator and finisher. If it's not doing that when you are doing kumite to develop application, then it's not really kumite practice, its just a free for all at all ranges and the best thing for that would be to just take an MMA.
Posted by: Ed_Morris

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/22/06 01:19 AM

ok, I've got an easy one to start. in Matsubayashi, there is a basic yakusoku kumite that is taught from white-belt level. (take your pick from which kata this technique is from, doesn't matter) ...it's a simultaneous deflection and strike with the same arm. how would the opponent defend against this? or was it designed for someone who isn't expecting it?

It's a nice technique, the timing has to be good...but even when I'm expecting it, it's hard to counter-deflect.

then tell me which kata principle this counter-deflect comes from.

and then I won't press the issue further.
Posted by: BrianS

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/22/06 01:24 AM


but I've never seen nor have I been shown a correlation between ground fighting and kata principles. I'm waiting for someone to write an article or book on that. seems to be still a secret.

Here you go,wise guy. http://www.ianabernethy.com/articles/article_1.asp
Posted by: CVV

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/22/06 01:46 AM

Regarding Goju-ryu.
I have a problem with the entire pre-arranged bunkai thing.
As far as I know, Miyagi sensei did not teach pre-arranged bunkai sets. He did have yakusoku kumite in where techniques from kata were explained and encouriged his students to research themselves and come up with own interpretations.
In regard to sparring, I do use specific techniques from kata. But the give and take is very relaxed and you kind of let your opponent execute his enchainment of technique (randori). When you go at it tougher (jyu kumite) there is no slack and you try to anticipate upon your opponents tactics. This makes it very hard to set up certain techniques unless he is unaware untill the last moment of your tactic.
A sweep at the correct timing will effortless throw an opponent, at the wrong timing it will only hurt the foot.
So when the going gets tougher, we revert more on striking and fighting from a distance and occasionally going in for a combination but never stay in close range zone without comfort of superiority. It's hard to set up close range tactics from a distance. I consider this one of the major problems in fighting.
When fighting for real, I 've been able to setup combinations derived from kata like e.g. the elbow lock and throw from shishoshin. They did not anticipate me stepping out of their line of engagement giving me the opportunity to close in from the side and using pushing and pulling motions in aticipation of their direction of moving. A more trained opponent will anticipate on that and will not give you this change. Kakie training learns your body to recognise the timing to unbalance your opponent on the right timing giving you the edge to setup your technique.
From that perspective, the untrained opponent will give you more instant oppertunities but karate was never about fighting untrained opponents. Karate was about ending conflict, trained or untrained and evolved from a brutal killing art over an art to protect yourselve in fist fights to a sport art. The killing art no longer exists in my opinion, I 've not yet encountered a sylabus where this was teached and named karate.
Most teaching today is sport art(full contact to point fighting), especially to youth. Older and more experienced practitioners research in the field of ending conflict and sometimes touch the area of killing art but usually just stick to fist fight protection.
The tendencie to add SD perspective with things like knives and sticks is something I've not yet experienced and is fairly new to me. I can not relate to that and the kata techniques I know.
Posted by: medulanet

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/22/06 01:52 AM

Actually pressing the issue is good because it lets us look critically at our styles and develop them further. But in the case of the deflection and simultaneous punch any form of tai sabaki will work to avoid/slip the punch. Actually Frank Grant once taught to strike to the body due to the ease at which our style enabled us to slip head punches. You can use a technique from Ananku where almost the same punch is thrown by the aggressor and fade back to avoid the counter attack while deflecting the punch only to trap the arm or grab the body/clothing and kick/knee your opponent and then throw him off to the side. There are many step out slips in kata that you can use such as that in Wankan. Or maybe in Fukyugata ni the circular block used at the end illustrates how the hand that punches can be used to deflect an incoming strike as you step out to evade an incoming strike and follow up with an attack or entry into a throwing/strangulation/takedown technique.

As far as karate on the ground use naihanchi. The leg positions mimic an open guard and you can find everything from armbars to triangle locks/chokes to how to strike from the ground. The kata contains both ways to defend and reverse your position when being mounted. It also has how to strike from the mounted position and contains everything from open hand strikes to elbows to hammer fists when striking the head so you won't break your hand on your opponent's head to body shots to open these strikes up. Now mind you all of this is secondary to the stand up clinch range fighting of naihanchi which is like fighting in a phone booth.

Oh, and by the way, Nagamine learned Naihanchi kata from the line of Uko Giko whose lineage is independent from Itosu. Nagamine leared these kata as well as wankan, wanshu, passai, and rohai from Iha Kodatsu who was a top student of Kosaku Matsumora who was a royal bodyguard. Nagamine dedicated his later life to preserving the kata of uchinandi and passing on the principles of okinawan karate through the classical kata unchanged. I was known that before Nagamine's book was published kata were sometimes performed in different ways from its current curriculum, however, this I believe was simply experimentation and development of principles from kata which constantly develop, but the principles of the lessons taught by his main teachers perpetuated by both Kosaku Matsumora and Sokon Matsumura were preserved the best Nagamine could. No he was not a bodyguard, but he has perserved the essence of their techinque. Especially the Gojushiho of Matsubayashi which is said to be an entire system of udundi or palace hand.
Posted by: Ed_Morris

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/22/06 07:57 AM

Brian, sorry still don't see it, nor have I ever been taught groundfighting via kata. There are alot of things I agree with Iain Abernethy's articles about, but that isn't one of them. could be my narrow view, or it could be seeing what isn't there. I bet I could pick out movements in kata that look like I'm baking a cake...doesn't mean kata is good for cooking.
It's been debated on every forum. If kata has groundfighting (and not just down on one knee striking as in finishing or following strikes), then why don't groundfighting systems practice it? also, it's true many Okinawan karate guys were skilled groundfighters...was that from kata or from their rough-n-tumble culture growing up? It's like an American guy saying he can pitch a baseball well because of his Shorin ryu whiplike movement learned in kata. but yet, there are other guys throwing just as well that learned on the field without kata. It would kindof make you wonder what the kata pitcher was really pitching... his throwing technique, or the practice.

I agree with what CVV wrote. except I think Miyagi did teach prearrainged sets for beginners. this isn't a bad thing...its a stepping stone for learning, not as a final method. if you do an image search you'll see lots of pictures with this apparent.

medulanet - yes, of course some locks and chokes are transferrable to someone on the ground or in a wheelchair....doesn't mean kata is necessarily the best way for someone in those positions to learn how to fight at those ranges.

Okinawan karate is great guys, but once we start seeing things that aren't there, we become blind to the weaknesses.

Is it naihanchi practice or sheer strength that would make someone like Motobu virtually 'untappable' on the ground? don't mistake the practice for the Men.
Posted by: BrianS

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/22/06 08:13 AM

Remember Sanchin? With his sanchin wrestling bunkai? lol

The answer I gave was not much,I'm realistic. There are times when I can pull off certain moves ,but I'm not going to smash someone's larnyx because it is in the kata. In sparring we square off,everyone knows what is coming and the guard is up and so is resistance. In bunkai you are defending against an unsuspecting attacker making a certain grab/strike/gesture etc...two different things in my opinion.
Anyone see any bunkai within the sparring in the pictures posted in the rolling stone thread?
Posted by: shoshinkan

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/22/06 08:28 AM

I have to agree that i dont see much ground fighting technique, principle or tactics within karate, re naihanchi...........

well i thought it had alot to do with lateral movement and rooting, solid base, flexible upper body, combination of atemi and tuite - stand up.

Ok we can draw movement comparisons between stand up and groundwork but thats grasping at straws to defend karates significantly weak ground game, which is as it should - its a stand up art.

Now if you look at the Tegumi practise of young okinawans you might find a 'base' ground game that is important to support karate practise as an all round art, but that aint taught in kata primarily.
Posted by: Ed_Morris

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/22/06 09:33 AM

thats what I meant by a definite starting and ending point. sparring really doesn't have an 'end' unless you do some sort of submission technique (throwing, locking, etc) something that won't send the sparring partner to the hospital. If your goal is submission only training, then sure, a subset of kata principals could work fine.
How many people when sparring, reset after a knife hand to the throat simulated strike? It might have ended a real confrontation or gave enough time to followup, but in sparring people just keep going as if the throat strike was nothing, since they (luckily) didn't feel a thing.

Most 'non-sport' sparring I've seen only ends and is reset when someone is brought to the ground with a trip or throw. fun, but is that realistic? or just another type of sport?
re: sparring bunkai
this looks like it could be a principle from naihanchi (but it can't be because you are a Goju guy and not a royal guard. lol sorry).

first sequence to saifa. (at closer range you can use an elbow instead of a RH...the kata is an elbow but the principle is the same)

nice work, watch that shoulder.

good discussion...makes me think if I'm missing yet another aspect of kata. one thing at a time though...I'm still trying to get a half-decent reverse punch.
Posted by: medulanet

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/22/06 11:31 AM

What made Motobu strong? Lifting weights and practicing Naihanchi kata. This is an important principle for developing your body in the beginning and intermediate phase of shorin ryu. In shorin if you want to get strong you lift weights and practice naihanchi which is a tanrenho exercise. Naihanchi contains all of the principles of shorin ryu karate. It is all about inside fighting which contains locks and strikes. These strikes can be done standing and from the ground. Naihanchi also has multiple let techniques which can be applied standing and from the ground. I could probably find a move from BJJ or boxing that looks like baking a cake when done solo as well, but that does not mean its not used for fighting. Much of the old training ways are lost and too many people don't understand karate. Just because most people don't do it does not mean it does not exist. Once again I think most people don't understand the genius of the okinawan people's fighting methods. Are you actually telling me that you have never seen a person whip their leg up to trap someone in a shoulder lock just like you do in Naihanchi? It may look like baking a cake to you, but I see it differently. Again, only modern arts created/modified in the 1900's are as specific as being only one thing and not the other. Boxing was once a complete art with throwing techniques etc and now it is only striking. Karate was a complete art with striking as its primary tool, but to supplement the striking it contained many grappling aspects. Why else would motobu speak of using karate techniques to grapple with your opponent? Ultimately your limitations on karate won't effect my research, study, and practice. There was a time when many westerners, japanese, and modernized okinawans thought karate was only a long range kicking and punching art with zero grappling. I am just wondering how long until more of the truth will come out.
Posted by: Ed_Morris

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/22/06 11:48 AM


It may look like baking a cake to you, but I see it differently.

ouch. ...guess I deserved that one though.

your points are well taken... my Karate must be sub-standard when compared to people with access to Royalty and full-time study. I used to think similarly about Harvard U. too...after I was accepted to Grad school I dropped out after one semester. wasn't my thing, didn't fit in and I just couldn't hang. not everyone is cut out to be a H grad....not everyone is cut out to be a Royal guard either.

If everyone knew and were willing to pay the price to get there, then it would no longer be special.
Posted by: hedkikr

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/22/06 09:51 PM

Good stuff...but Naihanchi is groundfighting?

The Abernathy article reflects many of my own beliefs except one. The citiz4ens were disarmed by the King before the Japanese ever invaded. I think it's accepted that the guards were well-trained in "Ti" so to call it a civilian art is not entirely true.

The skills learned in kata that I teach are essentially, Tai Sabaki, Sen-no-sen, Iri-kumi & proper body mechanics.

Posted by: chickenchaser

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/22/06 11:11 PM


so what kata is this from I wonder?
<img src="http://www.ianabernethy.com/images/Iain_Abernethy_3.jpg" />
just being a wise-guy.

looks alot like pinan godan to me!!(kobayashi shorin-ryu)

Posted by: shoshinkan

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/23/06 06:21 AM

Nice post Medulanet,

ok, just my thoughts -

what made motobu strong - a natural body strength as a starting point developed by long term hojo undo, and of course naihanchi practise.

I agree that physical development is an important begining to shorin ryu, very Tiger/Crane stylee!!!

Naihanchi contains all of the principles of shorin ryu karate - this im going to have to disagree on, however it is certainly an important foundation kata.

Much of the old training ways are lost and too many people dont understand karate - now you know im in total agreeance with this, and make it my business to work back to find awnsers that simply arnt easily avalaible.

Why else would motobu speak of using karate techniques to grapple with your opponent Im convinced that this reference is to stand up, show me some reference material of older masters doing groundwork then I will of course open up on this one, but EVERY significant karateka I have discussed this with does not think karate has a significant application to groundwork, the awnser is always the same - stay on your feet, if you go down get up quick.....

I am just wondering how long until more of the truth willcome out - again I totally agree and luckily im happy to change my views as I see, train and understand solid evidence fromt he past, but until then I only have what i have!

Posted by: Alejandro

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/23/06 01:49 PM

Great discussion, it is very healthy to evaluate one's own training, and I've enjoyed reading this thread.

A couple more cents:

Several posts ago a subtopic was kata tachniques and principles as applied, and countering them. I feel that what is extracted during bunkai and applied in oyo are principles, not memorized sets of technique. Yes, techniques are applied in two-man drills in a somewhat arranged fashion, but it is the principles that transcend. Many self-preservation techniques are learned, applied and memorized, but learning dozens of applications from all the ryu-ha's kata to all sorts of attacks will not do one any good. I think that it is the fundamental body principles and physical skills that come from kata and other aspects of training are what really "win a fight," so to say.
So, kaeshu (countering) "techniques" are in the kata, but you don't "bunkai them up," as to say: "Here, when your left arm is doing this and your legs this, you are countering this kata technique." Additionally, it is (usually) commonly accepted knowledge today that the self-preservation paradigm that civil defense systems such as toudi and chuan fa have are/were based around responding to natural physical attacks (HAPV as McCarthy, Hanshi coined), not trained attacks.

It never fails to amaze me how many unkowns there are in Okinawan Karate history and development; a long way to go yet in making more discoveries. I know that karate has changed since it's early development, in nature, goals, etc. Change has naturally ocurred even in the most authentic of ryu. I don't see this as a bad thing; cultural preservation is of the utmost importance in karate, but this is the 21st century, and it is only natural that aspects of karate have and will change. Beyond self defense, I have a firm belief in the holistic and non-physical aims of karate, and feel that the "old masters" did too. If you disagree, then what do you make of Sokon Matsumura's "Busho Ikko", circa 1882, in which he explains martial virtues and philosophy; he was a true koryu bushi.

I hope I didn't beat this thread in to the ground or stray too much; just some thoughts from your friendly neighborhood budoka.
Posted by: Ed_Morris

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/23/06 03:07 PM

excellent post.

I agree with all of it, but in particular this (and since it's more on topic):


Additionally, it is (usually) commonly accepted knowledge today that the self-preservation paradigm that civil defense systems such as toudi and chuan fa have are/were based around responding to natural physical attacks (HAPV as McCarthy, Hanshi coined), not trained attacks.

which would mean the kata (at least in Goju) contains principals best suited for dealing with such civil attacks.

and if thats true, then kata principals aren't really geered for sparring-like training (since it's not applied against an equally skilled attack).
More like one or two exchanges and then reset. of course there is overlap in 'sparring', but the intent is different. Thats what I'm striving for anyway...if someone wants to preserve how they used to protect castles, all power to them....both emphasis' are 'true' Karate. both are functional for their respective tasks.
Posted by: Alejandro

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/23/06 03:21 PM

You nailed it, ed. Great post!

The type of sparring drills done today were likely never even thought of in the "old days." Whether one likes it or not, the competitive revolution of karate in post WWII karate has had a lasting impact. This isn't to say that various types of kumite have no value, it is simply important to understand the difference and respective goals. Old style "kumite" were reinactments of self-preservation techniques: two-man drills. Demostrating bunkai that responds to skilled attacks should be a long dead practice, it totally defies the original intent.
Posted by: Joss

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/23/06 04:00 PM

Alejandro, wonderful insight.

The possibility that old style training and old kata were developed to prevail against attacks by other trained warriors is so basic I am ashamed that I have never considered the concept.

I train, here and now, to deal primarily with an untrained attack. That's probably 99% of the general population and I just don't really see the odds of my being attacked by another martial artist. Maybe I'm just a romantic, but that's how I see it.

Back "then" though, warrior was a social class and warriors fought other warriors. Warriors probably didn't train hard for being attacked by a peasant or merchant or artisan.
Posted by: shoshinkan

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/23/06 04:28 PM

This is exactly why kata bunkai will not work in modern freestyle, it isnt meant to.

It is common knowledge that 'sparring' wasnt popular until around mid 1900, forgive my dates, however i seem to remember that the Goju Kai school developed this aspect in relation to the development of judo and kendo, which is all fine.

The older traditions stuck with kata and fixed kumite, to teach principles. those principles were then drilled against likely assaults, this is how I train these days and it puts a whole new outlook on kata bunkai, im sure recently we discussed this stuff in another thread.

Nicely put Alejandro.

Now im not going to be so bold and say that people who soley train for tournament (any format free sparring) cant defend themselves, because of course they can, however the rules can cause alot of problems - however if they are in good condition then they have good skills to cope with the reality of attacks. personally I favour the older methods, sparring is just full of ego............mainly mine
Posted by: Joss

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/23/06 04:41 PM

I tend to agree that, at least, sport folks have an uphill battle against the thrust of their training.

We are a purely self defense - jutsu school. It is really taking some reprogramming for some of us to leave behind the older sense of "scoring points", and adopting the sense of first breaking up uke's attack, then beating him down and dropping him without losing the momentum we have just gained.

This in simple terms is ending the old way of "IPPON" - touchdown on a single stroke, and stopping, and finding the new way of as many strokes as it takes.
Posted by: medulanet

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/23/06 05:05 PM

A few things. First there were kumite in the old days, however, they would be more like wrestling matches with less atemi so not to cause as many injuries as they would have incured if they had used atemi. These matches did not stop when you hit the ground, they did use submissions and immobilizations so strikes could be applied after the opponent was pinned to the ground.

Second what principles of shorin ryu are not present in Naihanchi. Naihanchi contains all principles of shorin ryu only hidden or not fully expanded. Kusanku is the expansion of the princples of shorin ryu, thus the ultimate kata of shorin ryu. Why do you think Motobu meant when he said that Naihanchi is the only kata you need?

And as far as karate's groundfighting it is definitely different from say bjj/gjj, but it is based upon okinwan karate's principles. It was said if you get put on the ground then get up. Well that is the basis, but it goes into how to get up using strikes, leg locks, and leg positioning. How to reverse your position. And finally how to finish your opponent quickly on the ground so they don't get up with you. Think about it bjj came from old school judo, which came from jjj, which was originally an art of the samurai based on sword handling techniques. The satsuma jigen-ryu greatly influenced the indigenous okinawan fighting methods to create the udundi or palace hand which is contained on some styles of karate. These groundfighting techniques are contained in karate, but the question is of intent and the level to which the practioner focuses on them and develops them. However, the techniques and strategies are present.
Posted by: shoshinkan

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/23/06 07:58 PM

Regarding the old style matches that were grappling based, my understanding is that this is tegumi and whilst it is supportive of karate, its not karate as passed on in kata.

Shorin Ryu principles not held within Naihanchi, ok mobility would be the obvious one for me, and one could argue that Motobu Sensei may have been talking about fundamentals, a bit like many goju people talk about sanchin,containing everything - it doesnt but its VERY important.

Regarding the getting up statement, hey it was said and has been said to me by several people, some trained or currently training in Okinawa, and the masters they train with also said this.

Regarding finishing your opponent on the ground this has always been demonstrated to me by remaining on your feet using Tuite technique or atemi to finish. However im sure some 'arrest' based systems would be happy to brace with ones weight but thats hardly grappling is it.

Yep the Satsuma Jigen-Ryu did of course influence the Okinawan Karate tradition (But the Chinese systems seem more significant), however my belief is that it did this primarily in the weapons arts, of course elements of old school jujutsu were also shared and blended into what karate become, however I just dont see, havent been shown, havent expierienced significant dedicated ground fighting srategy or technique with the authentic karate kata or drills that are practised by any style, yet! And certainly not by a couple of high grade Matsubayashi Sensei I talk to!

Medulanet, its ok for us to have different opinions and expierience on this stuff, but really ask yourself where is the evidence, if it can be found then i am happy to hold my hands up and say im wrong along with a significant number of very, very expierienced karate friends i know and have discussed this with.
Posted by: Alejandro

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/23/06 08:29 PM

Awesome posts all.

I think that it is only natural that the overall strategy of civil arts would include ground fighting and that old style karate included them (thus chuan fa must have as well). The bottom line is that we don't know EXACTLY what training was like in 19th century and before, and we don't know EXACTLY what changed during the turn of the 20th. Maybe ground tactics were more obvious in kata back then, maybe not. However, if one looks at okinawan karate as an overall self-preservation paradigm based on effectively responding to physical assault, then it MUST contain ground fighting, right? My take is that there must be a base knowledge of ground tactics, then specific techniques can be learned. In the kata context, I think there are principles that can be applied on the ground, but also techniques in which a ground technique or submission could follow. For example, I teach a defense against a tackle in my Ryu's version of Wansu. This technique could easily flow in to a full front guillotine submission on the ground. Another example is in an application of gedan uke or a similar techniqu, in which an arm bar can flow in to a ground submission in which you rest your weight (side/back) on your opponents shoulder and bridge up (wish I knew a name for it).

So, some ground tactics must be inherantly understood; perhaps this is where oral tradition comes in (principles of tegumi perhaps), or in other cases reverse engineering and cross training revealed such apps. In my Ryu, ground tactics are taught individually, then potential application situations are shown from kata. As an aside, I do feel that Naihanchi contains wonderful principles of body mechanics that can be applied to submission techniques; just think outside the "Naihanchi dachi", which is for physical development, and realize potential shifts in stance in relation to your opponent, and you may see submissions. Its all about thinking outside the box, IMO. Again I reiterate, it is the principles learned from kata that transcend.
Posted by: medulanet

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/24/06 02:06 AM

Naihanchi not mobile? Performed at combat speed it is. Think of the step over as a knee strike to the legs and the next step used for tai sabaki to get the angle. Or it can be a leg lock on the ground or standing trip to disrupt your opponent's balance. Naihanchi has great mobility. Once you learn the sequence and some basic bunkai you must get "inside" the kata and really start exploring its potential. Naihanchi's speed and mobility is not from pure physical attributes, but from the timing gained when learning to apply its techniques, although the movements can be applied with great physical mobility. It follows basic shorin ryu principles. When you move you hit'em, when you hit'em you hurt'em. In naihanchi each movement contains atemi or atemi combined with tuite, and there are leg techniques galore. If you use the naihanchi foot work without applying the leg techniques it can appear slower than the other kata, but when you understand it it is not at all slow.

As far as high ranking Matsubayashi guys not knowing this that is not surprising. I personally have seen very few high ranking Matsubayashi guys who know advanced execution and application of the techniques and principles of this style. There are a few old school guys like James Wax or Frank Grant and a few of their students who stayed in Okinawa and trained long enough to develop a firm advanced understanding of Matsubayashi. Or Okinawans who are still alive like Taba, Tamaki, Maeda, Makishi, and Ota who are the real deal. Nagamine's son used to be, but that is another story I will not discuss here. My teacher in Matsubayashi has an unique and extremely advanced understanding of Matsubayashi that most do not. Just out of curiosity, what Matsubayashi guys do you know? I personally have seen too many 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th Dans that just make you wonder, aren't promotions based on skill anymore?

Ultimately the proof is can you make it work, can you teach others to make it work, and does it follow the principles of your style. Obviously words on the net don't prove any of these things. But if I can show you how it works would you believe me? Or would my students have to show you? Or would you have to hear it from an old Okinawan guy?

Some people see a hook punch in western boxing as only a punch, and some see the elbow. Those who don't see the elbow won't mind because they will be K.O.ed with it before they even know they know they were hit. Some will see the elbow too late and will see it as it K.O.'s them. And a few will see it, avoid it, and prevail against it.
Posted by: shoshinkan

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/24/06 05:13 AM

LOL, this is getting interesting Medulanet!

Ok, Naihanchi not being mobile was a little harsh, of course it has mobility, I practise principle application from the kata basically as you describe (the cross step is nearly always used to 'pass' an attack, or 'lead' an opponent across the centre line)

However it teaches us to fight side on to our attacker, but to me its base message is once we have evaded/grabed/struck to then use the mechanics of the stance to apply our atemi/tuite as a standing submission (although I dont use naihanchi dachi, but feet natural in application), often with the naihanchi kick to take down - now of course all of those techniques/principles could be transfered to some ground grappling, but was this the intent, I dont see it.

As for Naihanchi containing everything Shorin Ryu has to offer, no I just dont buy it, look at the other kata and you will see plenty of techniques/strategys that dont appear in the Naihanchi and each of these is teaching us a basic principle of combat, prime example being the double front kick in chinto/kushanku - different way of moving for a different reason, not in Naihanchi? Forward Step Punch in any kata, again totally different mechanics to those taught in Naihanchi. Motobu Sensei was rather keen on Passai as well, proberly for the ground covering strategy held within it and DIFFERENT principles/technique learnt in Naiahnchi.

Im not entering Sensei name dropping, however i do take your point regarding certain high level instructors, fortunatly im confident that I have acess to some extremly authentic karateka.

Now we all reengineer, its part of a martial artist development, but im very much into looking at the core elements of each kata as significant lessons, and whilst i see Naihanchi as a work of genius, delivering many, many important lessons to Shorin Ryu it isnt the whole Shorin Ryu system, the other kata have significant value from a lessons learnt perspective. And of course im only where im at, it all could change tommorow!

The story goes that Naihanchi should have ended up in the Naha Camp of kata anyhow........................

Posted by: shoshinkan

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/24/06 05:54 AM

apologies to Brian, we seem to have strayed a little.........
Posted by: BrianS

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/24/06 06:14 AM

That's what threads do and as long as it is realtive to the forum I certainly don't mind. I'm enjoying the conversation. Just don't start swapping casserole recipe's.
Posted by: Ed_Morris

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/24/06 07:41 AM

so guys, about casserole, do you mix the mayonaise in when the pasta is still hot? or do you wait till it cools down? lol


The story goes that Naihanchi should have ended up in the Naha Camp of kata anyhow.......

thats a story I'd like to read. can you point me to it or open a new thread? thanks.

back to the topic...
Posted by: shoshinkan

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/24/06 09:13 AM


Re casserole - it doesnt have pasta, and it doesnt have mayonaise, ever............

Re my Naihanchi comment and Naha Te I have been told/read this a numbe rof times and will try and locate the details and let you have them.
Posted by: Ed_Morris

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/24/06 09:53 AM

actually, I'll just quote google:
"Results 1 - 10 of about 27,600 for casserole+mayonaise+pasta."

see? thats the problem with saying 'never' and 'never ever'.

Posted by: BrianS

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/24/06 10:04 AM

How about we just cook Ed's noodle, smartasses.
Posted by: Ed_Morris

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/24/06 10:19 AM

Ed's noodle does 'maccarena':

Dale a tu cuerpo alegria Macarena

Ehhhh, Macarena!

{should we role credits for the thread? is this how a thread ends?} lol
Posted by: Neko456

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/24/06 11:31 AM

Some systems have trad flow drills/bunkia kumite 2 man sets, that explains each forms and gives a version of its application. In free flowing self defense scenarios in class you learn to apply these moves in a more informal setting against any attack thats you feel would be a natural/reflex countered to these attacks.

Makes for a starting point from dojo to real world appications. I hate to sound anicent usually theses applications are too potent to apply while free sparing, even in self defense mode. Maybe after a high level of control has been established.
Posted by: BrianS

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/24/06 11:52 AM


I hate to sound anicent usually theses applications are too potent to apply while free sparing, even in self defense mode. Maybe after a high level of control has been established.

I agree. That's why I stated I'd hate to crush someone's larnyx,lol. The bunkai are supposed to end a fight before it starts,therefore most of it is theoretically lethal or maiming. How can we incorporate too much of that into freefighting?

Example: Pull inward and strike the throat with the forearm.
Shuto to the neck,even both sides,muey dangerous!
Groin kick followed by elbow under chin,etc..
Posted by: roniwankan

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/24/06 12:27 PM

I think that I cannot tell you the percentage, because everything depends on the situation, but what I can tell is that most of bunkai is a very good effective way of self-defense against opponents.
Posted by: medulanet

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/24/06 01:43 PM

Well, according to Nagamine Naihanchi the three naihanchi kata of Matsubayashi are of a line independent of Itosu and the original Naihanchi practiced by karate men of Tomari. But lets look at Naihanchi shodan the oldest and probably the most unchanged Naihanchi across styles. Forward step punch principles are contained in Naihanchi. In a forward step punch you use either sinking or rising power to augment the strikes power. Naihanchi develops both. You learn to step and move using your hara. The front punch and the "hook" punch from naihanchi are more similar than you may think. The punch in Naihanchi teaches a more advanced way to apply principles of inside fighting to the previously mid range techniques learned in the fukyugatas and pinans. These principles are then expanded in the classic okinawan kata. In regard to the flying front kick or double front kick you have to look at the principles of the technique. Two simultaneous leg techniques designed to clear space, control distance, damage 2x with power hits to an opponent to over power them and create space in a crowd. These are just a few things but they are accomplished in naihanchi. In fact the first move is a step over followed with the naihanchi kick/stomp contains this principle. The step over is a leg technique such as a knee or shin strike. The following naihanchi stomp/kick is the second technique that can have various application, but the double leg technique priciple is there and can be applied in the same way. The chinto/kusanku manifestation is a more advance method of execution and application and are these principles unfolded. In naihanchi they are hidden. Although I personally don't believe Passai's main purpose is to cover ground closing the gap to engage in a clinch range and use inside fighting techniques are contained in Naihanchi.
Posted by: shoshinkan

Re: Bunkai sparring? - 02/24/06 04:40 PM


Lets just agree to disagree on this, its obvious that you are either much further along the karate road than me or have a much more active imagination.

I respectfully disagree with some of your interpretations of the Naiahnchi key lessons.

lets let the thread develop along other areas of discussion, or we are just going to play ping pong!