If you are a serious karateka you’ll know the art has changed considerably from its original beginnings on the island of Okinawa. Since then many people mostly serious practitioners of the art have lived, studied and trained extensively throughout Japan and Okinawa. What they discovered during that time by reading old texts as well as talking to old masters has changed the way many practitioners are challenging the type of martial art and some of the techniques relating to the so-called self-defence techniques that bear no resemblance to the actual unprovoked aggression of real blood and guts fighting you find in the street or alley way outside the comfortable environment of dojo (training hall). They are beginning to question the actual effectiveness of some of the techniques, especially kata of modern-day sport karate’s established fundamentals.
The buzz word doing the rounds today is combative, a seemingly, more effective, direct and easy to learn system of fighting based on military principles which also covers subjects such as, pressure testing how to handle fear and adrenalin rush etc. Yes, I am an advocate of adding these subjects to your existing curriculum because I believe it is important to know about them. But, there still remains the undisputed fact that the old methods as taught a century or more ago pre-dating the advent of sport karate; did indeed include joint locks, throws, ground work, grappling, take downs, strangulation, pressure points and striking certain areas in order to hurt anatomical vulnerable areas of the human body. Well, guess what? All the above techniques are to be found in the kata, however, their existence has been lost over time, until fairly recently. Students and teachers thanks to the pioneering research done by a few dedicated practitioners are now sitting up and taking notice trying to uncover the very same techniques you’ll find in the combative training curriculum. In karate of old they have been there all the time. You just had to know where and how to look for them, sometimes not easy to find the true meaning of a particular application I’ll admit.
And, there lies the dilemma where do you start what is the secret key that will unlock this treasure trove of hidden techniques the true bunkai the actual application and analysis of the katas technique. I will state here and now, that many people have tried but due to complex nature and time involved have given up trying just too much to learn they said.
Practical Kata Bunkai
Originally kata held the fighting concepts and principles for a complete fighting system truth is, today much of the practical aspects of karate has been lost in time. Unfortunately, this has led to many students to ask of karate katas the question why I am doing this move how does that technique relate to actual personal self-defence outside the dojo. In many cases the answer they usually get leaves them confused and disappointed. This situation often lead to disillusionment thus, in turn the student leaves the said club or gives up training altogether.
Whatever the reason, get rid of the myth that kata is useless has nothing to offer or worth bothering about, you’d be wrong. Its fact, for the vast majority of karateka around the world none of what they are currently learning is much like it was taught by the old masters. Younger students didn’t understand and made little connection to the many underlying traditional concepts. Even the techniques were often different as the emphasis was on sport karate and recreation instead of personal survival. It wasn’t deemed necessary where scoring a point was the name of the game. Essential deadly close range techniques made way for the distance type fighting and ippon, point scoring techniques as practiced in sport karate where striking ones opponent is not allowed. However, now is not the time or place to consider in-depth all the various ways and philosophical elements which make up karate do. Kata is skill training but you have to balance out your training schedule kata does not hold all the secrets though. Try and find the roots of karate practiced in the old ways but discovering the true meaning and applied applications still remains a relatively unknown discipline in the western world.
Until the introduction of sport karate the codified rituals (Kata), were passed down over the ages, serving to teach the fundamentals of self-defence. The fixed forms of kata had served as the principle vehicle through which the secrets of the ancient masters were passed on. Knowing the katas but not its applications or principles behind those applications is like hearing a song without understanding the meaning of the words; it’s useless.
Study the past and you’ll better understand the future as well as, provide important lessons about much of the original learnings undertaken by the ancient master, because these questions about kata will always exist. Old karate style traditions offer an original legacy of codified defensive techniques and principles aimed at identifying human weaknesses on the human body (suitable targets) to attack.
Now this kind of advice might seem like mumbo-jumbo to you but in an effort to discover the truth like other karateka before you. You’ll need to find a reason for a particular existence within the kata you are studying and maybe you will find a cure for your disillusionment. Be patient and you will achieve all things.