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#318214 - 01/29/07 06:49 PM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: ButterflyPalm]
Ed_Morris Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 11/04/05
Posts: 6772
Quote:

...by watching different animals fighting and imitating the moves



if that were universally true, then kata IS dance...or animal expressionism. (and yes, I believe that exists - but it's not universal). for kata having actual principles of fighting - at best, things were inspired by natural survival strategies.

but I have a different theory. suppose people who knew how to fight well FIRST, from experience, THEN devised a method of teaching what they knew by synthesising the important and core principles into sets. In order to name the sets, they named them after what they symbolically 'looked like' in nature: eg. various animals fighting.

interesting when you spin ideas around.

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#318215 - 01/29/07 08:00 PM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: harlan]
Eternal_Student Offline
Member

Registered: 06/26/06
Posts: 59
BOTH!!!!!!!!!!

Most would agree that when a specific kata was first created, the motions were representative of specific techniques the creator wantred to preserve.

Whether the kata's movements were meant to represent only one, or rather multiple, different techniques can be only known by the creator himself (when created, did each movement, or series of movements represent only a single interpretation, OR did the creator of the kata intend multiple, different interpretations).

Regardless, the techniques the kata's creator had in mind obviously came before the kata itself.

HOWEVER, hundreds of years later, the movements within kata have been interpreted & re-interpreted by literally thousands of martial arts practitioners. The result is tens, or hundreds or even thousands of different bunkai (or actual techniques) for the same kata movement (or series of movements).

ONLY the movements the kata's creator had in mind at creation came before the kata, all the rest was developed from others, using the kata's movements (& therefore come AFTER the kata).

Hundreds of years after the kata's creation, no one can say for sure which is which.

I've seen some good bunkai (which works), and lotsa bad bunkai (thinking this might work could get someone hurt badly in a real fight). Wether it is "original" is anyone's guess.

Also, In my martial arts school, we are encouraged to "think out of the box", and are challenged to try to come up with our own techniques (bunkai) whenever we work on a new kata.

Sometimes we come up with techniques that are similar to the ones our instructors later teach us.

Sometimes we see techniques we learned separate from the kata (studying self-defense techniques) in the kata.- Is this bunkai from before the kata or after??

Sometimes we come up with techniques that our instructors had never seen before. (sometimes these even work)- THIS definitely came after the kata, although I doubt that anything is REALLY original after so many martial artists have already analyzed the kata material.

SO what if a technique I created from seeing the movements of the kata (WHICH came AFTER the kata for me), was also a technique the kata's creator had in mind when he created the kata (came BEFORE the kata for him)?????

OW... my head hurts!

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#318216 - 01/30/07 12:36 PM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: Ed_Morris]
butterfly Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 08/25/04
Posts: 3012
Loc: Torrance, CA
Ed,

My assumption has always been how you proposed it. OK, I'll preface this with my Limited Liability assertion: I am not a kata or form guy, but I don't "not" think that kata has usable techniques within them as they have been shown to me with some derived bunkai. My concern has always been in the utilitarian aspect of training them for use, in which kata may not be the most practical format to train now. Often times it seems the aesthetic surpassed the practical, and that has limited merit from my perspective. OK, qualifying statement over.

If you want to think of fighting or SD as the original intent of these arts, then practicality had to be important. How would an ignorant, illiterate streetfighter today prepare a younger brother for his battles but not having him go through the same, perhaps nearly disasterous, fights that he almost lost?

What would prove most important? What commonalities of practice would he incorporate to speed up use and understanding? What would be the benefits vs the detriments of doing something one way and not the other?

Furhter, if a thousand years ago, regardless of nationality or kingdom, it was the knife or sword that reigned supreme as the hand held weopon of choice, how would you first teach someone handling characteristics without a new trainee accidentaly slicing off a hand? Wouldn't there be stances and unarmed counters and parries first and then the use of a mock-up weapon incorporating the same movements for training? Then after confidence was gained, a live weapon implemented into the practice.

Now if weapon's training went this way with set movement patterns, wouldn't that motif carry over to empty hand, if this is the general teaching curriculum of the day?

Just a thought.

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#318217 - 01/30/07 01:54 PM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: butterfly]
Ed_Morris Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 11/04/05
Posts: 6772
Quote:

What would prove most important? What commonalities of practice would he incorporate to speed up use and understanding?




how to deal with the first 1/10th second of an attack...instinctively.

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#318218 - 02/01/07 03:39 AM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: butterfly]
Unsu Offline
Member

Registered: 09/29/06
Posts: 142
Loc: San Antone, Tejas
Quote:

Ed,

My assumption has always been how you proposed it. OK, I'll preface this with my Limited Liability assertion: I am not a kata or form guy, but I don't "not" think that kata has usable techniques within them as they have been shown to me with some derived bunkai. My concern has always been in the utilitarian aspect of training them for use, in which kata may not be the most practical format to train now. Often times it seems the aesthetic surpassed the practical, and that has limited merit from my perspective. OK, qualifying statement over.

If you want to think of fighting or SD as the original intent of these arts, then practicality had to be important. How would an ignorant, illiterate streetfighter today prepare a younger brother for his battles but not having him go through the same, perhaps nearly disasterous, fights that he almost lost?

What would prove most important? What commonalities of practice would he incorporate to speed up use and understanding? What would be the benefits vs the detriments of doing something one way and not the other?

Furhter, if a thousand years ago, regardless of nationality or kingdom, it was the knife or sword that reigned supreme as the hand held weopon of choice, how would you first teach someone handling characteristics without a new trainee accidentaly slicing off a hand? Wouldn't there be stances and unarmed counters and parries first and then the use of a mock-up weapon incorporating the same movements for training? Then after confidence was gained, a live weapon implemented into the practice.

Now if weapon's training went this way with set movement patterns, wouldn't that motif carry over to empty hand, if this is the general teaching curriculum of the day?

Just a thought.




I love your angle and I agree with it totally, if we are speaking of kata in the self-protection sense. The thing is some ryuha and their kata training is for self-preservation which encompasses the longevity of life or health enhancement issues. Done properly the forms which have the least evolution preserve these aspects the most. Kata is more than fighting. Much more. Still you are right in so many ways.

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#318219 - 06/24/08 11:31 AM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: Unsu]
harlan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 07/31/04
Posts: 6664
Loc: Amherst, MA
*bump for the newbies* Wanna fight?

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#318220 - 06/24/08 04:34 PM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: harlan]
Zach_Zinn Offline
Veteran

Registered: 12/09/07
Posts: 1031
Loc: Olympia, WA
Well my original answer would be that applications obviously came first, they were systemized into drills, which were then systemized into kata.

I don't see amny folks arguing that kata came first, if they did, what would the argument look like?

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#318221 - 06/26/08 05:04 AM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: Zach_Zinn]
Victor Smith Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 06/01/00
Posts: 3219
Loc: Derry, NH
The argument that kata came first, well that's a simple one.
If the contention that the origins of Karate are borrowed Chinese arts, it could be that the kata are just abstract versions of Chinese arts, by those observing or trained in some of their forms. Then the Okinawan's simply built forms on the logic of having seen or received some training in Chinese forms, and later taking the time to work up their own applications for them, and in turn not having a codified set of applicatoins to pass from students leaving the admonishment "It's up to you to work them out yourself".

I think that would be the logical case.

The 2nd part of it being Okinawaw was a quiet place, with little violence and those who crafted the forms may not really had the experience to draw on answers they used.

Logic is always there, but logical analysis, while logical is never necessarily true, on either side.

Truth is gone, the Okinawan seniors by keeping their arts un-documented, non-literate, insured that we can't prove anything..... hmmm
_________________________
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#318222 - 08/04/08 10:36 PM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: Victor Smith]
kakushiite Offline
Member

Registered: 02/06/03
Posts: 266
Loc: Ithaca, NY, USA
I think this question gets right to the source of contention with kata. (Contention being many don't understand it, and many believe it to be problematic for effective training in self-defense.)

We all know that any of our answers are guesswork for the older Okinawan kata practiced today. We are clueless about where these movements and sequences come from. We do know that there has been a lot of evolution of kata within Okinawa. From that perspective the kata precedes the bunkai, as masters have adapted old patterns for their own reasons.

There is some history that says some forms originated in China. We really don't know which ones. Of the Shorin Ryu forms Kusanku, Passai, Naihanchi we don't know what is Chinese and what is Okinawan.

However, as many of you mentioned, a given kata did not just materialize out of thin air. Someone had to create it. And the thought that someone created a kata without some firm concept of what the movements meant to himself is far-fetched. Why would someone cobble together a series of movements that had no meaning to him. Why would he waste his students time practicing a sequence of meaningless movements.

My speculation is that there were very good reasons for whatever the old masters decided to include in their kata.

Some would have been favorite techniques that a master had trained in for years (his basics). Some would have been what he learned throughout his training. And some would be his own personal innovations.

Victor makes an important and often overlooked point. In Okinawa, the practice of kata in many ways mirrors the Chinese approach to Tai Chi. Who cares what the movements mean? The practice of them is good for you.

Now we do know that there is great depth to Tai Chi, but for many students, the form is all that matters. It is done for health, for strength, for fun, and for so many other reasons. But self-defense is not part of the picture for many.

In Okinawa there traditionally has not been a real focus on Bunkai. This is a more modern term. Dan Smith says in Zenryo Shimabukuro's school it was called ti chi ki. (See his letters, below)

http://www.karate.org.yu/articles/sensei_dan_smith_letter1.htm
http://www.karate.org.yu/articles/letter_2.htm

Other Americans that spent many years in Okinawa have described similar training. Lots of kata, lots of tough training. Some application (bunkai) but certainly not an extensive focus on all components of a kata, or utilizing one movement in many different ways.

We will probably never know all the factors that have led to this state.

But we sure can speculate.

-Kakushite

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#318223 - 08/05/08 06:42 PM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: kakushiite]
Yugen83 Offline
Member

Registered: 08/02/08
Posts: 110
Loc: Southern Maryland
Okay, you guys are super intelligent, so please forgive me for sounding like a complete dope. I believe that the kata came first as a means to catalogue techniques and to express the core principles of karate. One technique can have several bunkai, or several levels to a given technique. So it seems cumbersome to build from the bunkai when there can be so many of them just for a single technique alone. It almost seems backwards, in a way. I am looking at this in a Kung Fu sense, but perhaps there was the form based on the essence of something, then the individual applications were discerned from the form to express the principles inherent within the form, but in an isolated manner? Perhaps the deeper one explored the principles inherent within the form the more ways they found to express those principles, and each expression of those principles amounted to a bunkai or application of technique? I don't know. My brain hurts now. Feel free to flame.
_________________________
Locked, cocked, and ready to rock!

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