Bunkai, How to do it wrong.
In the opening to this website, you may recall a snippet about folks trying to do bunkai, but still getting it wrong. Let's explore that a bit.
So there are a few things that bunkai are and aren't.
What Bunkai IS.
Bunkai is the practice of analyzing your kata and picking sections of it to practice as a defensive technique. These defenses should make sense, be realistic and practical. This may mean straying away from the exact movements of the kata, and that is OKAY. Kata now is light years away from what they were meant to be, a mnemonic tool for remembering and practicing defensive techniques. And that's okay because what kata now represents is the beauty and heritage of karate. However, we should keep this in mind when practicing kata, practicality over punctuality.
What Bunkai is NOT.
Bunkai is not a performance; it is not pretty to look at; it is not acrobatic or impractical in any other way. It can be cleaned up a bit to make presentations but is not inherently meant for this. Bunkai is not overly elaborate, and in fact is better the more simple and direct it is. BAD bunkai is easy to spot. Does it jump in the air? If so, it's terrible bunkai. Does it require the 'attacker' to stand in place for 15 minutes while the 'defender' performs 87 different techniques? If so, it's terrible bunkai. Is it something you could ACTUALLY DO while sparring, throwing or grappling? If not, it's terrible bunkai.
Confrontation is not clean, it is not controlled, it is dangerous, and if you putz around, you're going to get hurt.
If you are not preparing for REAL, PRACTICAL, SELF-DEFENSE, you are wasting your time. You should not be practicing karate to get fit, socialize, develop focus, get better grades, or any other nonsense that big McDojo's will make selling points of. These are all part of training in an outstanding school with a great teacher and good students, but if you are told that you are practicing karate for any of these reasons before self-defense, you and your teacher are doing it for the wrong reason. That's a fact, not an opinion. Karate was made for self-defense; if that is not your primary goal, you would probably have a better time in social dance or team sports.
Now I know that last statement will step on toes
And some may even be offended, and that's okay if you feel that way, hear me out, and consider how you view karate or any martial art. I want you to understand the gravity of bunkai, why it is so important, and why we need to be honest with ourselves and throw out techniques when they are no good. Remember, we seek what the masters sought; this is what our 'Traditional' karate is. This means that if something doesn't work, throw it out and come up with something better. I genuinely hope that my students don't hold onto a technique if it doesn't work or doesn't make sense. I want my students to make critical thinking and analyzing techniques our tradition. Not to just do something because I told them to do it that way. Then to SHARE that knowledge with anyone willing to learn this tradition.
Food for thought? Or just an angry rant? Either way, I hope it makes you think. If it does, I have accomplished my goal.