You're unlikely to find the "original" bunkai for many kata, but does that matter?
If YOU can find something that you can make work and you feel suits your personal aim for why you train, then surely that is enough.
Having said that it is interesting to look for original bunkai! If you look at some English translations of old karate books by Funaksohi, Mabuni, Motobu etc you will find alot of little hints at bunkai. Although you have to keep in mind that they were written a while after karate had moved from pure self protection to having fitness/personal development as it's main goals.
Original bunkai would imply the one end all be all interpretation which doesn't exist .The founders had many interpretations for bunkai and as it was a highly individualized art bunkai was tailored to each individual .They never had more than 5 to ten students at anytime in their lives.Try doing that with 100 or more students .BUNKAI was not only tempered by physicality but temperment as well.This has led to many arguments as to who is doing the "correct" bunkai usually among lower ranks hi rank should understand their isn't a correct bunkai just one that fits you physically and according to temperment.
Some like to charge in some are more defensive or strategic some are tall or short or lightweight or heavyweight and everything in between obviously bunkai is not a "one fits all" deal.Thing is to weed out the ones that are truly laughable.
-------------------- common sense is so rarely used it is often mistaken for genius.pay attention at all times do your home work Posts: 1120 | From: TORONTO GTA ONTARIO CANADA | Registered: Apr 2007
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whilst I cannot prove that for instance what I do is 'origonal bunkai' I do feel it is close as our lineage is very direct to Matsumura.
I would suggest if you were part of a Ryu tha that has a strong lineage then you may find more origonality than if you were not - of course that isnt always true and certainly doesn't mean the bunkai will be more 'effective'.
The movement to re-engineer bunkai IMO is usually a very, very strong and posative thing, when done well - also karate is and absolutly was a fairly personal art - each master had his or her ideas and perosnality, this certainly led the training one way or another.
The principles upon which the applications of any kata are based are universal: (lever, wedge, wheel/axel, screw, pulley) and so is the body upon which these principles are applied. (I think you have heard the same as me: the arm bar in shotokan, goju, judo, hapkido etc all work the same way.)
Strategies i when to apply certain techniques are indepentant of styles, and purely idiosyncratic of the teacher and then the practitioner. The "in goju they do this, in wado they do that" approach doesnt make any sense as the people who have taught it will add or remove training ideas as the style has evolved, and would also limit the art/style rather than show its full diversity.
Styles/ryuha are variations on the training methodology not the actual application; though they may look a little different as we make the application look like a certain movement from a certain kata, the application is exactly the same and a person wanting to know more about how to apply their karate (if not taught at their dojo) will gain as much from looking at how it is done in other ryuha as they would from looking at their own, as the common features of the karate ryuha are much greater than the sometimes superficial and often exaggerated differences.
I think I was coming more from the historical point of view in terms of origonal Bunkai, ie if your lineage is solid then you have more chance of 'getting' it as it was meant to be given.
That of course doesn't make it better, your teacher McCarthy Sensei is blessed with wonderful lineage and of course outstanding personal research and ability- best of both worlds!
I see what your saying about the underlying principles, im 3/4 with you - the differences between the major Ryu are there, and for a reason as the Ryu do tend to promote different strategy, at different stages but as we progress it's just fighting.
A simple look at Goju and Shotokan Kihon, kata or training practices does show this IMO.
1. How do you know your lineage is true and 'strong'? 2. On this lineage how do we know the people passing it down have fully understood what is needed or actually been any good at it, even on Okinawa?
Styles are not preserved once the founder dies - the new teachers put their own stamp on it and it changes - as it should. The result of this change is that while we can trace a lineage of who was taught by who, we cant judge the quality or even the depth of study, hence the mess we have today. Of late people have tried to preserve styles, but this has been to their own detriment.
I dont see how you can draw the link between basic training and strategy, the training methods used in different schools vary between and within ryuha. This could be described as a differing training strategy, but this does not mean the strategies being employed in fighting are different.
Without at all meaning to offend, I think what you have asked is equivalent to asking "Can someone tell me which culinary school can teach me 'original' French cooking", or which are schol can teach me 'original' Hudson River School landscape painting, or which machine shop can teach me the 'original' way to lathe metal.
Many ofthese places might be able to show you a 'tradition' handed down across generations.
Many of them might be able to show you an AUTHENTIC cultural legacy, something which was legitimately CONNECTED back to an original source.
But in the end, who can show you what is 'original'? How would they prove or disprove that? I am in a style I can like directly back to Matusmura. I can show a student many applications for the motions in formss, but I can't show them 'original' applications. Actually, I am more likely to show them 'original' applications as in the kind I make up. They are 'original' in that they are created by me.
So, I find myself very closely aligned with Komatsu's first statement.
Where my opinion differs from his is that I do believe that there likely was (at some point) a singular 'original' application for the movements of an inherited form. My own belief is that the 'mechnical interpretation' model is the RESULT of an inclination to preserve and pass-on forms practice AFTER that interpretation has been changed, obscured, or simply 'lost' through non-transmission or mistransmission across generations.
My basis for this belief is an analysis of other arts, where, to large degree, pattern-based traininng tends to be WYSIWYG, at least to my view. Yes ther are plenty of exceptions, but if you look across the spectrum of combative arts, there seems to be a disposition toward practice of teh ACTUAL motion is close facsimile.
None of that is to say that I believe you CAN'T interpret the motions of a form, or that I beleiev to do so is not on occassion, a useful exercise. But, it has become my (entirely asserted) belief that this was not the 'original' purpose of this training method. When I look at how other systenms (take MMA as an example today) organize drills and patterns it's just seems that 'human nature' is to use what I would call a "topical" approach where like-kind things are grouped together, OR where sequential movements where order is important (i.e. a "combination") are taught. This just seem to 'make sense' to 'most' instructors and seems to resonate with 'most' students based on how we learn (another observation-based assertion. )
I agree with Ben that certain root principles are inherit in 'all' kata and that McCarthy's simple-machines method is one of several good lenses to begin to look through if you end up staying with what I call the 'interpretive model'. Good luck.
[ May 03, 2010, 06:12 PM: Message edited by: mike t ]
-------------------- Mike T., 4th Dan Shorin Ryu Posts: 1228 | From: West Michigan | Registered: Aug 2005
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The only way you are going to learn the "original applications" of a form or kata, is to have trained with the person who created the form/kata and have them explain thouroughly the intent and application of all the moves.
ALL okinawan kata were influenced by both the indigenous hand methods of their island and also their various training times with the chinese.
Many kung fu sets have moves that are NOT meant to have "bunkai", but are to teach a concept or idea (all of wing chun's forms) or they are to train chi kung or another physical aspect (look at the beginning of hung gar's forms). Could you find a combat application and make it fit? Sure, but that doesn't mean that this was the original application or intent.
It reminds me of the kid's movie, "The Little Mermaid". The seagull shows them a fork and calls it a dinglehopper, and says it was used by land people for their hair. Could you use a fork to comb through your hair? Sure, but that isn't what it was designed for.
An excellent source for interpreting kata and finding applications that make sense is "The Way of Kata" by Mr. Kane and Mr. Wilder. It uses Goju-Ryu as it's basis, but they apply to all styles.
[ May 04, 2010, 02:05 PM: Message edited by: Kevin ]
Posts: 67 | From: West Michigan | Registered: Sep 2007
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there has to be some amount of original bunkai for karate katas. kungfu forms contain original bunkai, why not karate?
isnt it relevant for me to argue that karate katas are flawed if they are open for interpretation since some people are bad at interpreting them?
what bothers me is karate kata reflects "believing what i want to believe." for example, a person can put value into a kata by saying the kata contains throws due to his own interpretation. isnt it more relevant to just practice judo?
i read somewhere that wankan is a fighing form. this implies wankan has set bunkai. am i wrong?
the story of chinto is it is a record of a chinese sailors fighting methods. if chinto is all about interpretation, then where is the value in the story about recording the chinese sailors combat methods?
by the way, im not looking down on kata. i just wanna hear everyones views.
Posts: 16 | Registered: Mar 2009
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