Here at Leigh Simms Progressive Karate, my aim is to help you to train in high quality kata applications which are within the law and effective in real life in order to give you training a new purpose, improve your knowledge and skills of kata application & to make your Karate enjoying and fulfilling for the rest of your life!
But in order to help you in this way, we need to look at some of the major mistakes that karate practitioners make so that we can avoid them!
For far too long, so called “masters” have been allowed to get away with teaching bad kata bunkai that is not workable in real life violent conflicts.
But with the masses of information now online, it can be difficult to locate bad kata bunkai and separate from the high quality kata application which we and others have shared.
Fortunately, I have been in your position and after years of research and practice I have a list of seven things (you call them the seven mistakes of kata bunkai) to look out for when deciding if a particular application is practical or not.
Seven Mistakes of Kata Bunkai
1. The attacker knows Karate!
If the kata bunkai requires the attacker to “know” karate then we are starting off in the wrong context! Kata was never designed to deal with karate practitioner vs karate practitioner. Kata works against the kind of attacks found in real life violence. The attacker also needs to be close proximity to the defender. One of the issues with the attackers using karate attacks is that they often attack from long distance. The majority of kata bunkai should be used from close range.
2. You finish the sequence with a “block”
If the defender “blocks” a punch and that is the end of the application, then it is not practical! Kata applications contain fighting techniques to be used only when necessary and therefore they need to end the confrontation instantly. At the very least, the kata application will put the defender in a position of near certain dominance. Avoid kata applications which do little more than putting you in a position where you have only stopped an attack without any counter strike.
3. There are multiple attackers who politely wait their turn to attack
Whether kata are designed for multiple opponents or not is a separate question in itself (the short answer being yes!) but if you are training multiple attackers by having four attackers stand at in front, behind, to the left and to the right of you and the attack one at a time, then all you are doing is four sets of single attackers! It doesn’t take an article to tell you that if a group is going to attack you, they will not do it in the manner I have described above!
4. You have lots of wasted motion
This mistake is a bit trickier to explain. A general guideline is that any kata application used should take into account all the motions of the kata movement (otherwise they wouldn’t be part of the motion). If the kata moves to the side, then this just be part of the application. Hands should not be held empty on the hip or inactive in another way. The stance is usually an integral part of the application and needs to be part of the effectiveness of the kata application.
5. Total kata variation is required to make it work
This point is similar to mistake 2 above. If the defenders need to add additional moves (such as extra punches strikes, kicks, takedowns etc…, then the application does not in and of itself work practically. Each kata application sequence aims to end the violent conflict immediately. If the defender needs extra moves, then the application is not effective for physical self-protection.
6. Requirement for highly refined fine motor skills
Slight variation to the exact motion of the kata is, of course, acceptable. However, if the application requires spinning back kicks or lighting fast pressure point attacks that must hit a specific 2cm point on the attackers body then the defender has little or no understanding of practical karate. Kata applications should have an intrinsic high level of failure built-in them. This means that even if a lot goes wrong with the application - a lot can still go right.
7. You are ducking under or jumping over sticks, swords and staffs!
I don’t think any more needs to be said on this mistake…..
Once you’ve learned the above a list, it will not only help you spot bad bunkai that you see but it will also serve as useful guide to you when you are coming up with your own kata applications!
Next time, we will look at training practices and more particular the ONE training exercise that we need to ERADICATE without delay as it is stunting the growth of the great art you love - Karate.
So, until next time…
Leigh Simms Progressive Karate