Entrance to the Barn Dojo....

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Saifa kata and bunkai

So the summer is finally winding down. The temperature this morning was in the 50s (F.) and there was condensation on the seat of the scooter I had to dry off before I rode down to get the morning paper. Still recovering from a bronchial infection and a cough that has put a serious kink into training for a fall marathon. Probably shouldn't have done that half-marathon last week but....

"Hey, hold on there partner. What's all this drivel?"

My bad self stood looking over my shoulder as I got up for another cup of coffee. "I'm writing this blog..." I started to answer defensively and a little unsure of what I could say that would be at all convincing. I mean, why do people write blogs? For that matter, why do people read blogs? Sometimes I think there's just too much noise out there anyway. Unless you've got something to say, I suppose, and even then, who listens? Or reads for that matter. We've become a nation of watchers. I'm not sure that's necessarily bad, but it sure ain't what it used to be. I remember giving a seminar to a group once upon a time. The teacher was a friend and had seen the first article I had written on the subject of Goju kata and bunkai for the Journal of Asian Martial Arts--"The Lost Secrets of Okinawan Goju-Ryu." This was back in 2002. I wanted to gauge how much he understood of it to get a better idea of where we might begin the seminar, and so I asked him how he liked it and what he got out of it. He said, "Oh, I'm not much of a reader."

And so, for all you non-readers out there. Here's a video of Saifa kata and bunkai.

"Saifa kata and bunkai Northampton Kodokan"

We pulled out the camera after training on one of those very hot and humid days during that heat wave in July. It's certainly not very professional and we were not setting out to perform for the camera. There are mistakes. But it's a training video. It shows a little of what we do. So in the words of Edward R. Murrow, "Good night and good luck." I'm going for a run.


  1. Many thanks for this video. Seeing is believing... now, your Bunkai system is much clearer to me than after exchanging several emails. Very impressive - I am shaken in my interpretation of Kata - and very curious about your other Bunkai. My mind is already running wild imagining how other Katas repeat and extend the principles of Saifa.

  2. Thanks for your kind comments, Hendrik. I always think I'm being clear describing things with words, but of course there's nothing like a video. I'm glad it was clear to you. That says something in itself. I'm hesitant about putting more videos up on line, but if you have any questions about other kata, please feel free to send me an email. I enjoyed our discussions. -Giles

  3. Anonymous2:34 AM

    I enjoy your posts.Your plea for logic is refreshing. The clip of Saifa makes it easier to understand your ideas. Thanks for posting it.
    While I understand the kick application inherent in the cat stance, this is the first time I actually see the kata performed with the knee strike. Is this how you actually perform the kata or have you changed it to conform to the bunkai?
    All the best

  4. Thanks for your comment, Billy. No, this is not the way I would ordinarily perform the kata--with the cat stance knee kick at the end. But this was rather informal training with a couple of seniors, and in those cases we might actually show more bunkai in doing the kata. If I'd been thinking or re-doing things I wouldn't have shown the kata that way but I didn't feel like re-doing anything. The video taping was sort of an afterthought that afternoon. --Giles

  5. Very nice applications!

  6. Thank you for Saifa kata and bunkai.
    I enjoyed it so much that I am motivated to learn the kata from the video so that I can feel it myself.

  7. You're welcome. Good luck.

  8. You have a great Dojo and an interesting blog.
    I agree with many of your comments.
    I am a beginner ( since mid 1960's), with a love of kata/forms learned mostly from books. I have often been disappointed with applications as they seemed weak. I play all forms with Tai Chi Chuan (Cheng) speed and connection.

  9. Russian spam from Mr. Khan?!