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#318184 - 01/26/07 08:31 AM Which came first: kata or bunkai
harlan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 07/31/04
Posts: 6664
Loc: Amherst, MA
Must be good for a fight.
Which came first: kata or bunkai
Only one choice allowed


Votes accepted starting: 01/26/07 08:31 AM
View the results of this poll.

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#318185 - 01/26/07 08:49 AM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: harlan]
Victor Smith Offline
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Registered: 06/01/00
Posts: 3219
Loc: Derry, NH
Kata obviously. Bunkai is not an Okinawan term and was developed by some (not all) of the Japanese systems to explain uses for kata technique. Then migration of the term to the states and then from the states to Okinawa actually got some Okinawn's using the term.

Ignoring the development of the term Bunkai, all answers as to which came first are in the relm of science fiction. The seniors conspiciously did not document their systems and succeeded, nobody has any proof of the chicken or the egg of the issue.

pleasantly,
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#318186 - 01/26/07 08:52 AM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: Victor Smith]
harlan Offline
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Registered: 07/31/04
Posts: 6664
Loc: Amherst, MA
Pish posh, Victor. Wasn't asking for proof...just opinions.

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#318187 - 01/26/07 09:35 AM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: harlan]
Victor Smith Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 06/01/00
Posts: 3219
Loc: Derry, NH
Harlan,

I WANT proof! <GRIN> because I really have no idea how this material evolved. If they really didn't originate the ideas, but borrowed them from the Chinese, then the kata would be first, technqiue) and application later or a close second.

In the case China technique is the core you have to go back a long ways to answer it.
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victor smith bushi no te isshinryu offering free instruction for 30 years

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#318188 - 01/26/07 09:43 AM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: Victor Smith]
BrianS Offline
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Registered: 11/04/05
Posts: 5959
Loc: Northwest Arkansas
I disagree.

We are talking about the techniques not the exact term bunkai, right?

The techniques were developed first and then later the kata was formed as a way to pass these techniques along, in my opinion.
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#318189 - 01/26/07 09:49 AM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: BrianS]
harlan Offline
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Registered: 07/31/04
Posts: 6664
Loc: Amherst, MA
Yes...the techniques. Chicken or egg: did kata evolve from techniques (assume folks considered them effective probably from having had to use them)...or did kata come first and techniques 'discovered' later via bunkai?

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#318190 - 01/26/07 10:30 AM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: harlan]
MattJ Offline
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The way the question is worded, I agree with Victor. To have Bunkai implies that kata existed first. I actually agree with BrianS overall, though. The techniques existed long before kata did.
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#318191 - 01/26/07 10:47 AM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: harlan]
oldman Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 07/28/04
Posts: 5884
I do not know but I wonder if kata might find it's origin in war dances and retelling stories of battle. Which came first? war and battles or the retelling of the story. For some the battle came first for others watching others do dances that recounted battle might inspire and begin to prepare them to face conflict themselves. People watching the re enactment of a battle done as folk dance may just see dance others with different experience see the story of the battle. I imagine there were even tribesmen that originated dances but had little or no experience in battle themselves.

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#318192 - 01/26/07 10:50 AM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: oldman]
JoelM Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 07/26/04
Posts: 6355
Loc: Georgia, USA
Quote:

I imagine there were even tribesmen that originated dances but had little or no experience in battle themselves.




Is that why kata doesn't work on the street?
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#318193 - 01/26/07 11:49 AM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: JoelM]
student_of_life Offline
Veteran

Registered: 10/12/05
Posts: 1032
Loc: Newfoundland, Canada
now that will start a fight,lol

i'll throw this idea out....

as far as the chicken or the egg thing, i think that life had to have come around first in some form, as they are both forms of life. therefore, i believe that fighting was around befor either, and kata/bunkai came about as forms/ways of fighting.

harlen, what posessed you to start this??

yours in life
_________________________
its not supposed to make sense

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#318194 - 01/26/07 11:52 AM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: student_of_life]
harlan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 07/31/04
Posts: 6664
Loc: Amherst, MA
Oh...I was bored and thought it would be nice to watch a fight. However, it being Friday I suspect most folks won't rise to the bait.

Quote:


harlen, what posessed you to start this??

yours in life



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#318195 - 01/26/07 03:01 PM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: harlan]
Ed_Morris Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 11/04/05
Posts: 6768
Victor was trying to be funny by splitting hairs. Stick to Martial Arts Victor...you ain't no comedian. lol

seriously, what Victor meant is that the terms 'bunkai' and 'oyo' are new....therefore 'kata' is older. har har

my answer is only valid to those who believe kata is a training tool for learning self-defense principles. since it's a learning tool kata is likely to have been created by a teacher who taught those principles.

the principles came first from trial and error. kata is an artistic sculpturing of those principles. formed, reformed and altered however slightly or majorly thru each generation the form passes hand.


the answer to the chicken-egg question: the egg came first.

since a full grown chicken has always been a chicken - it's assumed they were born that way - A chicken. that includes when that Chicken was still in it's egg.

The thing that laid that egg (the first chicken's parents), might have been close to chickens....but not 100% chicken.
but...

a near chicken + a near chicken + natural occurance of randomly mutatable genes = a possible chicken egg.

easy. got anything more difficult harlan?

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#318196 - 01/26/07 03:09 PM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: Ed_Morris]
JKogas Offline
Prolific

Registered: 01/25/03
Posts: 10818
Loc: North Carolina
Obviously bunkai came first because no one in their right mind would have intentionally come up with KATA first.

Probably what happened was they discovered some bit of truth, but then had to organize it, disguise it and catagorize it. Plus they realized that kata was an excellent way to pull the wool over their students eyes so they could keep them confused for longer periods of time. Thus, they could keep their students coming BACK longer without them actually learning very much at all.

Keeping them confused and coming back ensured that the "masters" would eat well and often.


-John


Edited by JKogas (01/26/07 04:07 PM)

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#318197 - 01/26/07 03:16 PM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: JKogas]
Ed_Morris Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 11/04/05
Posts: 6768
sounds reasonable. certainly as reasonable as kata coming from war dance or straight off a battlefield.

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#318198 - 01/26/07 04:31 PM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: harlan]
Ronin1966 Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 04/26/02
Posts: 3113
Loc: East Coast, United States
Hello Harlan:

The application had to come first... here's why.

The movements were not invented in a vaccum. Invented strictly to tell the next person shown "...here's how I stopped him/her..." and here are the movements I used...

When it becomes a teaching tool.... examining the movements with 5, 20, 50, 10,000 other people, sizes, temperments, refinements, modifications, nuances will likely be found...

Do not believe the movements came first as why would they be invented ?

Jeff

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#318199 - 01/26/07 06:36 PM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: BrianS]
Unsu Offline
Member

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

I disagree.

We are talking about the techniques not the exact term bunkai, right?

The techniques were developed first and then later the kata was formed as a way to pass these techniques along, in my opinion.




Yeah, Brian makes sense. I agree with him. Kata were formed (no pun intended) in order to convey the generalities of the actual self-preservation techniques. They are like an outline to a thesis, or table of contents in a book. The details are revealed after ones mind/body has thoroughly studied the "text" and comprehended the specifics through effective, repetitive action and thought.

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#318200 - 01/27/07 12:33 PM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: Unsu]
CVV Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 08/06/04
Posts: 605
Loc: Belgium
Not all kata are just for remebering techniques.
Take sanchin kata(goju-ryu). The techniques used are not the issue in that kata but it is a basic training kata for understanding better the 3 conflicts in executing technique and how to overcome these conflicts and have them focused into the same perspective.
We do not teach bunkai for sanchin kata.

As to origin of martial dance. Interesting to know that in Okinawan dance, same fist formations as in karate is found. Probably karate influenced the dance. And even in their cultural events, like tegumi (wrestling) or thug of war, or their stage plays, karate/kobudo is present.

But for most of the classical kata, I suspect that they have an origin in training technique, so probably build from application. But kata's primary goal is not always specific technique. Most times it is just principle, principle of moving, principle of breathing, principle of rooting.

From what I understand of the history, is that most karateka started training somewhere between 12 - 15 years old. Starting with makiwara and basic stepping next to basic kata sanchin or naifanchin or happoren, and partner drils in yakusoku kumite. After some years of this they started with classical kata (sesan, patsai, useichi, unsu, suprinpei, ....). For some, researching the potential of the techniques displayed, is the true goal of karate. So for them kata comes first, bunkai next.
For others, gaining understanding in applying technique comes first and for that they hava the kata as their initial memory stick. These people insist bunkai is first and kata second.

The first kata we teach is a kata of stances, no techniques. Students so remeber the stances musubi-dachi, heiko-dachi, zenkustu-dachi, sanchin-dachi, heisoku-dachi, hachi-chi-dachi, neko-ashi-dachi and shiko-dachi. They also learn basic stepping. No hand or foot techniques are in that kata.

Also, do not forget that conditioning is a very important feature in karate. Sometimes kata is trained with goal conditioning. Uechi-ryu sanchin and in lesser extend goju-ryu sanchin have this goal. But in that regard any kata can be transformed into a conditioning exercise.

The beauty of kata is that it is multifunctional. To me, this makes kata / karate training interesting. Some think it is a waist of time to learn fighting by training and investigating kata. But for me this is what I like and I have friends to train / research with.

Apperntly in older days, (pre 20th century), a friendly match could be a kata contest to know the 'better' martial artist. So maybe the goal of kata is then the display of 'martial aura' and not the understanding of individual technique.

I think, that kata is a lot more than just the chaining of techniques to remeber the application of them.

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#318201 - 01/27/07 06:06 PM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: Unsu]
JKogas Offline
Prolific

Registered: 01/25/03
Posts: 10818
Loc: North Carolina
Quote:

Kata were formed (no pun intended) in order to convey the generalities of the actual self-preservation techniques.





"Techniques" with little hope for actual applicative effectiveness IMO


-John

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#318202 - 01/27/07 06:22 PM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: JKogas]
shoshinkan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 05/10/05
Posts: 2662
Loc: UK
Hi John,

of course your opinion is valid, as its your opinion

but you are in the forms section, please respect that others opinion is that kata can deliver practical technique (with the relevant supportive training of course),

your short rather direct awnser could be considered trying to get a 'rise', LOL.
_________________________
Jim Neeter

www.shoshinkanuk.blogspot.com

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#318203 - 01/27/07 07:07 PM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: JKogas]
Unsu Offline
Member

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

Quote:

Kata were formed (no pun intended) in order to convey the generalities of the actual self-preservation techniques.





"Techniques" with little hope for actual applicative effectiveness IMO


-John




In this instance, and in anything regarding true martial ARTS, your opinion is not valid it's just gibberish. It's like getting surgical advice from a butcher. Stick to the superficial stuff you do, and keep out of grown folks' conversations------ IMO.

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#318204 - 01/27/07 07:09 PM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: CVV]
Unsu Offline
Member

Registered: 09/29/06
Posts: 142
Loc: San Antone, Tejas
Yes I agree with you totally too. I think you felt as though my use of "self-preservation" meant only fighting techs. Au contraire, self-preservation also entails the health aspects and other supplementary benefits of good kata training. They also serve to "preserve" ones self. Peace and good take...

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#318205 - 01/27/07 08:33 PM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: Unsu]
Ronin1966 Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 04/26/02
Posts: 3113
Loc: East Coast, United States
Hello Unsu:

I thought I said that already

Jeff

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#318206 - 01/27/07 09:36 PM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: harlan]
haze Offline
Dragon

Registered: 06/11/06
Posts: 106
Loc: Syracuse NY USA
Has to be bunkai, How in the world would you create a kata and then try to figure out how you could use the moves? As stated previously in this thread, kata is a packaged version of various techniques. It is just a way to organize things into a way that can be used to pass the techniques on. Also a way to practice techiques with out a partner.
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#318207 - 01/28/07 12:42 AM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: Ronin1966]
Unsu Offline
Member

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

Hello Harlan:

The application had to come first... here's why.

The movements were not invented in a vaccum. Invented strictly to tell the next person shown "...here's how I stopped him/her..." and here are the movements I used...

When it becomes a teaching tool.... examining the movements with 5, 20, 50, 10,000 other people, sizes, temperments, refinements, modifications, nuances will likely be found...

Do not believe the movements came first as why would they be invented ?

Jeff




You said what I said first? Really? Where? Anyway I didn't even read all of the other responses, just the initial question and some of the responses. I think with the exception of Victor we all pretty much said the same thing anyway. So I see what you're saying.

I think Victor is saying that the concept of bunkai was really emphasized once American servicemen started learning karate on Okinawa in the 1960s and 1970s. Many only had a few years to train and needed to know why they were doing what they were doing so that they could convey that message to future students. The applications have always been there. Those old Shotokan clips showed that. Maybe Americans have less patience or creativity or both, and wanted concrete answers to pseudo-esoteric training right then.

Nowadays people have gone bunkai crazy, especially in Europe. If you do the kata, the drills, hojo undo, the kihon waza and spar with reasonable contact and resistance for many years, then these things are revealed without the emphasis on bunkai. There often is no cut-and-dry answer for why kata is the way it is. It just works if you are doing the forms in as pure and logical method as possible. Exaggerated movements, unsound principles, not understanding that kata and fighting are different things, makes kata training almost useless. That is the way that many karate-ka approached kata training until recently when folks like me started questioning the methods of so-called karate types. This includes everyone from Elvis to Fred Ettish.

That's why John Kogas and the many of the RBSD and MMAs types say what they say about classical training. They have no proof that karate really works, in their opinion. It's a valid opinion. Most karate-ka couldn't fight their way out of a wet paper bag, especially if they had to use their karate training to do so. I do know that.

But what these flavor-of-the-month martial sports types fail to recognize is that Bill Wallace, Chuck Norris, Mike Stone, Joe Lewis, Benny Urquidez, Gene LeBell, Dan Inosanto and even Bruce Lee were classically trained. There are many more to add to that list, but I don't have all night to prove I'm right again . Nowadays arguably the best striker in "MMA" is Chuck Liddell a Koeikan Karate and Hawaiian Kempo black belt. They always point to his wrestling experience, but he would tell you himself the training he had sparring in those "karate" styles made him the striker he is today (along with the unorganized neighborhood boxing matches he partook in as a kid).

Do these combat sports guys realize that even the Gracies are classically trained? Do they really think that all these journeyman wrestlers didn't have to learn kickboxing which came from classical arts like Muay Boran and Okinawan karate kumite in order not to punch like some caveman or little girl?

Not a one of them will ever equal a Chuck Norris or Joe Lewis, because they don't have kata in their repertoire, and they don't have BB level traditional training under their belt. They strive for fame and success, dedicate a lot of their time to one thing, RBSD and/or MMAs, and they still are no more than journeyman with unoriginal concepts, mid-level knowledge, excessive training and what I call "jockriderosis". They will never be Bruce or Royce because people like Bruce had a good combo of the old and new.

Oh boy, sorry for the rant, but I despise shortsighted know-it-alls who know nothing of true martial ARTS.

KATA, KATA, KATA!!!

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#318208 - 01/28/07 02:47 AM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: Unsu]
shoshinkan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 05/10/05
Posts: 2662
Loc: UK
Bryan you need to cool it with the direct negative comments to other forum members please,

make your points politely or not at all please.
_________________________
Jim Neeter

www.shoshinkanuk.blogspot.com

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#318209 - 01/29/07 09:32 AM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: Ed_Morris]
ButterflyPalm Offline
Enigma

Registered: 08/26/04
Posts: 2637
Loc: Malaysia
Quote:

...got anything more difficult harlan?




Yeah, which came first, the bull or the BS.
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#318210 - 01/29/07 09:55 AM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: haze]
ButterflyPalm Offline
Enigma

Registered: 08/26/04
Posts: 2637
Loc: Malaysia
Quote:

Has to be bunkai, How in the world would you create a kata and then try to figure out how you could use the moves?




...by watching different animals fighting and imitating the moves (primeval kata?) and THEN figure out how those killing moves can be used on other humans? So the "moves" came first?
_________________________
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#318211 - 01/29/07 09:56 AM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: ButterflyPalm]
harlan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 07/31/04
Posts: 6664
Loc: Amherst, MA
Hmmm...know any animals that perform armbars? Better yet...I only see 'horse' stances in kata. Where do the kicks come in?

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#318212 - 01/29/07 02:35 PM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: harlan]
Stormdragon Offline
Who Dares Wins
Professional Poster

Registered: 08/05/04
Posts: 3409
Loc: Salem, OR
Bunkai becuase without practical and directly app;icable combat techniques you have no basis around which to develope kata, and the movements become meaningless; nothing more than a dance. It is an irrefutable fact that you can develope effective fighting skills without kata. Here look at this "Wow, this is an interesting and cool looking arm movement, I think I'll throw it in, it must be good for osmething practical."
Didn't happen, or else Kata would be called Japanese Ballet.


Edited by Stormdragon (01/29/07 02:37 PM)
_________________________
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#318213 - 01/29/07 04:18 PM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: Stormdragon]
shoshinkan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 05/10/05
Posts: 2662
Loc: UK
taken literally Victor is 'right' on this one, kata before bunkai (the analysis of kata).

I guess it leads to the question what is kata then, my off the cuff awnser is as follows -

kata, is the method chosen by a past masters of karate to deliver the principles of their fighting art to the next generation, and it takes a life time to unfold all its secrets.
_________________________
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www.shoshinkanuk.blogspot.com

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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: 6768
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
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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
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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
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*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
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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
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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
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Posts: 266
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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
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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.
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#318224 - 08/05/08 09:39 PM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: Yugen83]
Shonuff Offline
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Interesting... which came first, the application or the principle? Which one was the kata designed to house?
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#318225 - 08/13/08 01:54 AM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: Shonuff]
Yugen83 Offline
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Registered: 08/02/08
Posts: 110
Loc: Southern Maryland
Quote:

Interesting... which came first, the application or the principle? Which one was the kata designed to house?




I would guess the principle came first and that the kata was designed to house the principles. A principle can beget myriad techniques and applications, so it would seem like the logical starting point instead of trying to work in reverse. Working in reverse would be sort of like building the house to figure out what blue print you are going to draw up instead of drawing up the blue print from the start and then working from it to build the house.....Ok, now I am confusing even myself, I'll just quit while I am ahead. Very intriguing topic, though.
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#318226 - 08/13/08 01:59 AM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: Yugen83]
Yugen83 Offline
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Loc: Southern Maryland
Oh yeah, and I was thinking like, techniques are empty in and of themselves, however, principles give those techniques a purpose and a context. So I was also thinking that since principles are concepts that really don't need techniques instead of vice versa, that perhaps the kata, based on principles, came first. The bunkai would come as a result of applying the original principles of the kata in a combat situation.
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#318227 - 08/26/08 02:34 PM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: Yugen83]
Ironfoot Offline
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Registered: 06/10/04
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Loc: St. Clair Shores, MI USA
The bunkai came first, as it is linked to a technique. Kata are assemblages of the techniques of a great master and/or fighting system.
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#318228 - 08/26/08 09:38 PM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: Ironfoot]
dandjurdjevic Offline
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Having done at least some analysis of Chinese techniques vs. Okinawan techniques I can say this: techniques survive, even when katas morph into different forms.

Techniques are often ancient: they can be isolated, packaged, repackaged and reisolated.

Techniques come first. The packaging is often irrelevant.

My instructor taught me stray qin-na moves (complete with appropriate footwork). I decided to "package" them for practise, so I combined the moves into 2 sequences that enable me to groove or drill that footwork. Where techniques had approximately the same footwork I adopted a "compromise" move that would serve both techniques (rather than create a pointlessly long sequence). So a "kata" is born.

I'm certain that this is the process by which most, if not all, functional kata were created. IMHO kata can't "come first" in any logical sense...
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#318229 - 08/26/08 11:27 PM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: dandjurdjevic]
Ed_Morris Offline
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Posts: 6768
an interesting spin to add, is the documented suggestion that some forms were created for aesthetic value only. Have a read of the compilation of Chinese Training Manuals by Brian Kennedy. also the book on turn-of-the-20th century Chinese sport programs by Andrew Morris.

It's reported that some forms were composed with a sortof street-performer advertisement mindset during the 19th century. and during the 20th, forms designed specifically for athletic and dexterity exercise.
The aesthetic: Body movements to interest and attract for recruitment into schools (which often doubled as political movements during the various insurrections in Chinese history).
The physical: China (and many Asian countries for that matter), sought to beef up their physical ed. programs during the turn of the 20th century. as they engaged the world arena, they saw how their social stuctures were lacking in the area of phys ed in schools and culture. With added programs and much propaganda, they turned that image around.


so it seems, tracing back to older forms do not, by definition, necessarily bring you closer to your goal (assuming your goal is extracting fighting principles from traditional kata of Chinese origin).

Does your kata come from an Okinawan, who learned an aesthetic Chinese form and perhaps changed it to attempt to meet his needs and abilities during his time period? or is the kata you have an exact replica passed down with effective fighting principles intact?

this thread's question is a double-edged sword: your kata could be a composition made from forms which had no 'application' or an application which is different from what you intend to use them for now.

In a way, you are retrofitting your intent into a kata, in order to exctract your intent....which is a self-fullfilling prophecy. I'm sure you'll find exactly what you were looking for and claim kata-based training a victory.

An excellent argument to address: why not just train your intent without the self-imposed baggage of kata? If you go back far enough, there must have been a time when there was no kata - how on earth did they learn how to battle? and I would argue, the further back you go, the more hand-to-hand combat you'll find. so the birds-eye view moving back in time: more hand-to-hand combat, yet less kata. hmmmm.


...just thought I'd throw that log on the fire.

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#318230 - 08/26/08 11:48 PM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: Ed_Morris]
dandjurdjevic Offline
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Note my reference to "functional kata". Some kata might well have been designed for aesthetics only; modern wushu forms come to mind. However the Fujian systems from which Okinawan karate can hardly be said to be "aesthetic" imo.

As to practising without kata - sure, this can be done. However I happen to find kata a useful tool, so why would I not include it as part of my training method? After all, it is for this reason that I "packaged" the qin-na techniques into sequences of movement; in other words, I found it useful to do so for solo practise.

So yes, it is possible to train without kata. It is possible to train without a lot of methods (makiwara, certain exercise equipment). I'm less interested in whether kata is/was "necessary" than I am in what use/enjoyment I find in it today.
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#318231 - 08/27/08 12:33 AM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: dandjurdjevic]
Ed_Morris Offline
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it's a function of enjoyment, I agree. but I've seen non-kata MAists show just as much interest and have a 'fun factor' in what they do as well.

does that mean kata was originally designed for fun?

given a fun kata-based training system, and an equally fun non-kata based system, which method meets what particular goals beyond satisfying that fun factor?

I don't want to turn this into a kata/non-kata debate - my point is motivated in getting to the heart of the thread's opening question.

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#318232 - 08/27/08 01:22 AM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: Ed_Morris]
dandjurdjevic Offline
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Quote:

it's a function of enjoyment, I agree. but I've seen non-kata MAists show just as much interest and have a 'fun factor' in what they do as well.




As I said, I'm less interested in why others can and do train successfully/enjoyably without kata, than whether kata is a potentially useful/enjoyable tool per se. Some people don't like makiwara and train successfully on bags. Ditto vice versa. This doesn't mean that one or other is not potentially useful or enjoyable.

Quote:

does that mean kata was originally designed for fun?




I don't see anything justifying this conclusion. As far as I can tell kata was designed because it fulfilled a function. Yes, an abhorrent "tool" will be avoided, so there had to be some element of "enjoyment". However this is true for any training method.

In the end I am satisfied that kata has a function. Given this (and the fact that I enjoy it), I will practise kata as part of my training. If someone else doesn't like it, they could probably dispense with it (just as I don't like heavy bags and dispense with that).

Quote:

given a fun kata-based training system, and an equally fun non-kata based system, which method meets what particular goals beyond satisfying that fun factor?

I don't want to turn this into a kata/non-kata debate - my point is motivated in getting to the heart of the thread's opening question.




I find kata to a useful way of grooving good technique in a dynamic context. I happen to think it is harder (though still very possible) to do so without kata. The question of who will meet their goals is so relative to the individuals practising MA that I would find it near impossible to answer.
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#318233 - 08/27/08 11:24 AM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: student_of_life]
JAMJTX Offline
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Actually neither. There could not be bunkai until after there was kata.
But the kata grew out of a need to pass down teaching in some organized way that students can remember and practice on thier own. The genius of the kata was that, wihtout being shown bunkai, it could be very difficult if not impossible for a non-student to to learn.

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#318234 - 08/27/08 12:13 PM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: JAMJTX]
JAMJTX Offline
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I came back to edit my reply but could not.
What I meant by "neither" was that the ideas of KATA and BUNKAI came about together.

People mistakenly think of BUNKAI as APPLICATIONS. This is not necessarily so. BUNKAI is a verb not a noun. It means to "pick apart", "analyse" or perhaps "dissect"

You can not pick aprt or anlyze a kata until after the kata is created.

If you analyze the kata, you will also find more than just applications. Some kata have movements designed to develop balance, teach breathing and other supplemental skills.

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#318235 - 08/27/08 07:23 PM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: JAMJTX]
dandjurdjevic Offline
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You are right - but most people have understood the question to be: "Which came first, kata or the techniques/combinations that make up kata".

Breathing and "supplemental" skills are often taught as single moves or short combinations - for example "qi gong".

On the other hand, each move in a taiji form is a "qi gong"...

In other words, you don't need a long sequence which strings together different techniques for those techniques to exist independently.

In my opinion it's clear the techniques came first, then they were "packaged" into sequences for ease of remembering/teaching/categorisation, practise in a dynamic/flowing environment (transition from one technique to another) etc.
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#318236 - 08/27/08 09:38 PM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: dandjurdjevic]
Victor Smith Offline
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Registered: 06/01/00
Posts: 3219
Loc: Derry, NH
The answer seems obvious:

#1

Sesan kata, goju ryu karate, by Higaonna sensei http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXNjK_HuV1Y

Sesan bunkai, goju ryu karate, by Higaonna sensei http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nt6UaofHJow

Or #2

Seifa Bunkais by Higaonna http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJyZYBc5Wo4
Seifa kata by Higaonna http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKj5drvygec

Does it really matter? Nope! Just practice your backside off....
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#318237 - 08/28/08 12:22 PM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: dandjurdjevic]
Yugen83 Offline
Member

Registered: 08/02/08
Posts: 110
Loc: Southern Maryland
Quote:

You are right - but most people have understood the question to be: "Which came first, kata or the techniques/combinations that make up kata".

Breathing and "supplemental" skills are often taught as single moves or short combinations - for example "qi gong".

On the other hand, each move in a taiji form is a "qi gong"...

In other words, you don't need a long sequence which strings together different techniques for those techniques to exist independently.

In my opinion it's clear the techniques came first, then they were "packaged" into sequences for ease of remembering/teaching/categorisation, practise in a dynamic/flowing environment (transition from one technique to another) etc.




Ha, I see what you are saying, and it makes perfect sense. Taking it further, you could say that techs and sequences were "packaged" into styles for better rememberance of a teacher's lessons or personal way of doing things, as well. What I was originally getting at was: take crane style, someone watched the crane and mimicked its movements in an effort to try to capture the essence and behavior of the crane. A "form" was born from this process, and the movements were applied to a combat situation which produced possible responses to situations, attacks, etc. There is more than just fighting applications in the form which would suggest that the form was not created merely for fighting purposes, but that the fighting applications came as a result of taking the form and applying it to fighting situations. Kind of a process of discovery. I think a good point was made that we don't really know the original applications to the techs found in the kata, so we are indeed retrofitting them or at least reinterpreting them and giving them our own little spin.
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#318238 - 08/28/08 08:30 PM Re: Which came first: kata or bunkai [Re: Yugen83]
dandjurdjevic Offline
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Registered: 05/10/08
Posts: 844
Loc: Australia
Quote:

What I was originally getting at was: take crane style, someone watched the crane and mimicked its movements in an effort to try to capture the essence and behavior of the crane. A "form" was born from this process, and the movements were applied to a combat situation which produced possible responses to situations, attacks, etc. There is more than just fighting applications in the form which would suggest that the form was not created merely for fighting purposes, but that the fighting applications came as a result of taking the form and applying it to fighting situations. Kind of a process of discovery. I think a good point was made that we don't really know the original applications to the techs found in the kata, so we are indeed retrofitting them or at least reinterpreting them and giving them our own little spin.




I agree - particular with the last part. Well said!
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