Entrance to the Barn Dojo....

Monday, September 05, 2011

Original bunkai??

I was just reading Victor Smith's new blog on bunkai here: http://isshin-concentration.blogspot.com/2011/09/bunkai-i-look-at-original-explanation.html

He quotes Funakoshi:

"Once you have learned technique thoroughly which are required for each Dan, you should analyze them. For instance; this movement belongs to this, that one belongs to that etc."

That sounds good--learn kata and only later focus on applications. My problem is the way Smith goes on to assume that this means that there are many different interpretations or applications for each move in kata. Smith draws the following conclusion from the Funakoshi quote:

"This does not seem to indicate," Smith says, " there was a defined use of kata but a more open ended study."

Why?! What in the Funakoshi quote implies that there isn't a "defined use of kata?" Is this not rather an instance where we find what we wish to find in a suitably ambiguous or vague quote? Mr. Smith has more than once advocated this open-ended interpretation of kata and bunkai. I'm, of course, a strong advocate of at least trying to understand (however difficult and frustrating this may be) the original intent of kata and bunkai. I'm not against using kata techniques in a variety of ways, but I think one should first attempt to learn the principles and the original intent of techniques.

Smith goes on to cite Mabuni's analysis of Seiunchin, with appropriate illustrations from the Mckenna translated book. The ones that are illustrated are rather bogus. Whoa, that's a bit of blasphemy, isn't it?! I used the same illustrations to discuss Seiunchin kata and bunkai in an article in Journal of Asian Martial Arts called "The Teaching of Goju-Ryu Kata: A Brief Look at Methodology and Practice (vol. 14, no. 2, 2005). I'm not looking to upset the apple cart--afterall, Mr. Smith practices Isshinryu and I practice Goju-ryu, so maybe we're both wrong about what Funakoshi may have meant--but why isn't there more open and critical discussion of such things on the Internet?

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