Tek9,

Earlier in the post you stated:
Quote:

First rule of bunkai, we don't talk about bunkai.
Second rule of bunkai, we DON'T talk about bunkai.Are these the rules in most karate schools or just in korean karate?



I really liked this quote since it summed up so much of my experience in tradition Japanese, Korean and even Okinawan Karate dojos.

Before replying I asked for some info about your training and you provided the following.
Quote:

I have earned two black belts. One in a traditional system of taekwondo and one in the modern sports style of TKD. We had arond 43-45 katas to do for a bb test. The classes were two hour long and on average we spent 1 hour on kata alone.

My second school, which is more sports based, we only do one set of kata, 9 kata for a black belt. Here kata is only practiced as formality for testing, however, it is practiced so that balance and power is very well developed incase the student wishes to enter kata competition. Literally no application is taught from the kataÖ




I have long wondered about this ďlack of bunkaiĒ problem. My experiences are similar to yours. The teaching of meaningful bunkai is surprisingly rare. I believe the most instructors teach what they have been taught. If it hasnít been handed down, then it doesnít get taught.

Why it hasnít been handed down is a matter of some conjecture. My own feeling is that the old masters, when introducing karate to the school systems did not want to mass-produce skilled bullies. The kata were taught, as well as basic fighting concepts (blocking, kicking, striking, grappling), but actual applications were rarely taught.

It is my belief that the old masters expected students themselves to immerse themselves in kata. The more they would practice them, the better they would understand them.

Today there has been two shifts in the practice of kata that prevents this from happening, and your two schools are perfect examples of each development.

In your first school, your training matches what Itosu recommended 100 years ago. 2-3 hours everyday. In your school, you practiced kata for half of your training. I donít know if we have accurate information on the norms of practice in Okinawa 100 years ago, but my guess is that it probably made up 50 percent or more.

Hereís the key difference. In your first school, you trained in 40+ kata. Funakoshi writes that when he studied under Itosu, his first three years were devoted to Naihanchi Shodan. Over nine years with Itosu, he only trained in the 3 Naihanchi. He writes that this was the norm.

The key point is that a short kata like Naihanchi shodan might have a 50th or a 60th of the movements in the 40 plus kata you trained in. Letís look at repetitions. Naihanchi shodan is a short kata and takes less than 30 seconds to perform. Even with plenty of rest, a vigorous workout of 1 hour of kata could easily yield 50 repetitions. As Itosu urged us to practice everyday, that translates into 15 thousand reps in a year. Even if we estimating high by a third, that would still leave 10 thousand reps per year the norm.

For those that think this kind of repetiton unlikely, consider one source that claimed Motobu would train in Naihanchi 500 times on some days. Funakoshi writes that it was common for a master to know 1, 2 or at most a handful of kata, and this was embodied by Motobu. Although Motobu certainly knew a number of kata, he was well known for his teaching and practice of Naihanchi.

It is my contention that this kind of repetition over a long period will usually focus the mind of the student. They would be motivated to independently figure out useful applications. This is not to say they had no assistance. The art of Ti that was taught then probably lended itself to kata movements. But it is lots of evidence that describes the masters withholding the most deadly of uses to all but the most senior students. To me, that means that they waited until the intense repetition had been completed before passing down some of the more subtle uses to students.

Around 100 years ago, there were three key changes in the practice of karate that changed it dramatically. First, as noted above, kata was introduced to large groups (such as high school students) where training was far less rigorous. Instead of 15 to 20 hours per week, training time was probably a fraction of that.

Second, in the 1940s, sport karate began to fill up a significant part of the training time. As a result of these two changes, students spent far fewer hours practicing kata.

But the third change was perhaps the most significant. Kata was introduced to students at an rapidly accelerated rate. Masters such as Itosu and Kyan accumulated larger numbers of kata and passed them on to their students. Mabuni and Funakoshi took this even further. A student with four years training might be working on their 10th or 15th kata (or in Tek9's case, his 40th kata). In contrast, Funakoshi was still on his second Naihanchi, and training far more hours per week.

These three changes together resulted in most students practicing only a few repetitions of most kata.

Nagamine writes that it took Chotoku Kyan 10 years to master Kusanku, and he practiced kata all the time. A student of Oyata told me that Funakoshiís and Kyanís numbers were the norm. 3 years to learn a kata, and 10 years to master it. But to me those numbers imply many thousands of repetitions of a kata per year.

If we all practiced kata like that, we probably would be able to figure it out ourselves.

But most people donít. Most instructors follow the same patterns they were taught. Many students practice 2-4 hours per week, not 15-20. Much of that time is spent on kumite-oriented training. With what little time is left, there are few repetitions of many kata.

Your second school represents that result of this. Many choose to de-emphasize kata. They donít see the value in it. And I wonder why anything thinks they should.

-Kakushite