- IN KATA
LESS IS MORE
- Keeping it
watching a grading recently, I noticed that a common
theme was starting to appear in the various katas that
were being performed by some of the more senior brown
- What I had
noticed made no difference of course to those who watched
with an untrained eye, but to me all of the tell tale
signs were clearly evident.
- There was
no doubt about it.
- As I
watched their individual kata "bunkai" was
beginning to appear in a variety of different places.
- It was
apparent that at the next class, a clear reminder of what
is appropriate in individual kata, and what is not, was
definitely needed in order to ensure that this theme did
not start to become a trend.
"kata bunkai" certainly has it's place in the
overall development and understanding of the many
intricacies that make up the katas found within the
modern Shotokan Karate system, problems can arise when
students start to get what I call, "bunkai happy".
- This most
often occurs when a student gets into believing that
their individual kata will benefit if they show "purpose"
in everything that they are doing.
- The result
of this line of thought is that the student begins to add
unnecessary stuff to many of their most
fundamental kata movements. This stuff was of
course never meant to displayed in the kata in the first
place, and in fact it does nothing to enhance the kata
technically, or for that matter it's outward appearance.
- In fact
quite the opposite is true.
addition of this extra "stuff" in reality only
does one thing, it makes the performance of any kata far
more complex than it needs to be, or was ever meant to be.
- Now the
first step for a student down the "bunkai happy road"
can often occur as early as white belt.
- In order to
help new students begin to get the proper feel
for a kata, it is not uncommon for lower ranks to be told
to try and "visualize an imaginary opponent"
whenever they are practicing their various katas.
- One of the
reasons behind this methodology is that visualization can
be very helpful to students, especially when they are
learning anything new, or complex, such as seeking to
understand just how the various punches, kicks, and
blocks, fit within the scope of a particular kata.
- At times
this concept of "visualization" will often be
aided by a physical demonstration of some of the more
practical applications for the various techniques found
in the kata under review.
partner based applications of technique, are the format
by which most students will obtain a clearer
understanding of the concept, or "purpose" for
the various movements they are learning. It is this type
of partner based movement that we commonly referred to
today in karate terminology as, " kata bunkai".
- I for one
would describe "kata bunkai" as, "the
visual inclusion, placement, and proper application of
those movements, missing or not immediately apparent, in
a non-partner based demonstration of kata".
- While being
able to understand what "bunkai" means is a
very important part of a students karate training, many
students make the mistake of carrying the concepts
learned from their practice of bunkai over into the
physical performance of their various katas, instead of
simply practicing the katas as they were mean to be.
- Make no
mistake I firmly believe in teaching bunkai to all grade
levels, not just to senior ranks, but there is a time and
a place when bunkai is appropriate, and a time and a
place when it is not.
- A group
demonstration where the fundamental purpose is to give a
clear picture to those present of the rationale behind
the kihon in the various katas is indeed a proper place
for this type of application, but not, I repeat not, in
an individual performance of kata. Here the requirements
for the presentation of individual kata is completely the
opposite. In this instance the ultimate goal should lies
in seeking to perfect the katas movements and techniques,
not in displaying their purpose.
difficulty lies in trying to get student to understand
the difference, and then to separate themselves
accordingly when the time comes to do bunkai or kata.
- In an
individual kata as I mentioned, your goal is to perform
the required techniques and movements at they were laid
down by past Masters without any visual attempt at an
explanation of what the applications might be used for,
instead your kata should be a reflection of the "Do"
or "Way" of the kata, not the underlying "why"
in the kata.
performance show others what you are trying to
accomplish on the exterior", while the other method
without all of the false tension, overly loud kime, and
screams from the throat, shows others what you we
trying to accomplish on the inside".
- Over time,
and with proper training, a more practiced and mature
approach to kata will hopefully evolve, and in the end
produce a kata that is far more relaxed and fluid, free
of tension, while at the same time demonstrating balance,
posture, timing, rhythm, as well as co-ordination, and
- This is the
type of kata that should begin to be grasped, understood,
and displayed at the senior brown belt level.
- So when
doing individual kata, remember, for the best results,
less is more, just keep it simple, because in the end a
good kata will teach you a lot about yourself than a poor
- A kata
without the body, mind, and spirit
to work in perfect harmony ,
- is an
empty, and hollow thing indeed.
- Part the
clouds - see the way.
objective of karate-do is to contribute to the evolution
- of the
human spirit through physical and mental training."