"The Missing Letters".

""Looking beneath the Surface".

Like all martial arts Shotokan karate is based on certain underlying fundamentals. These fundamentals form the "backbone" of Shotokan and include a wide variety of stances, blocks, strikes, and kicks, just to name a few. When used alone, or in conjunction with each other, these fundamentals give an experienced student a wide array of defensive and offensive movements.

These fundamentals in turn are then used to practice another mainstay of Shotokan karate called, kata. This term refers to a series of pre-determined techniques that follow a very specific, unchangeable pattern of movements, that transition from the beginning of the kata to its end. It is often through the practice of kata that a student first comes into contact with the term "bunkai". This word is used when referring to the visual demonstration of a potential application for a specific movement, or combination of movements, that are found within each kata.

The importance of bunkai can not be stressed enough. Since it is through this method of training that students are afforded the opportunity to practice with a partner, and in this way hopefully a small part of the kata's nature will be revealed to both of them. For many reasons some students never delve to deeply into bunkai, but I think in failing to do so they deprive themselves of the many things that this type of training has to offer.

So, practice your kata often. But also learn why bunkai should be integrated into your training. In doing so you may be surprised at what you discover as you reach for the next rung on the Shotokan ladder. 

Remember: "What you see on the surface is only part of the picture".