exploringkarate

I've been a keen karate student for 16 years, Shukokai and Shotokan, but there still seems to be no shortage of things to learn and explore. I'm hoping this blog will allow me to share my experiences and hear other martial artists thoughts.

Archive for Bunkai

The fine, practical, points of storming fortresses

On Sunday I had a fantastic 4 hours taking part in a seminar about the practical applications that can be found in the Bassai Dai kata. The seminar was lead by Rakesh Patel, 5th Dan, a fellow Karateka who I’d met through Twitter.

I’m fairly new to the world of martial arts seminars. Previously I’ve attended two seminars lead by Iain Abernethy, who I’ve mentioned on a number of occasions already in this blog and I’m sure needs little introduction, which I’d really enjoyed. I found Rakesh’s seminar equally enjoyable and informative, and I recommend attending one of his seminars if you ever have the opportunity.

Like Ian, Rakesh has a friendly and easy going style but it was interesting to get a sense of how Rakesh’s take on looking at a kata and their applications differed somewhat. In Iain’s seminars it feels like Iain has used his extensive historical research into Karate and it’s masters alongside his combative knowledge to inform his views of what the practical applications of the kata are. Rakesh could perhaps be said to take a more contemporary approach, feeling , as he stated, that the depth of explanatory material into the original applications isn’t available. Rakesh has an approach which looks more at the themes that exist within a kata, in the case of Bassai Dai in this seminar he focused on the use of the pulling hand or Hikite.

The seminar explored how the pulling hand could be used to break an opponents grasp and also increase the effectiveness of striking techniques. Rakesh also stresses the importance of integrating the practical applications with your default attacking technique, the striking technique you feel most comfortable and confident with and so therefore are most likely to use in the scramble of defense against an aggressor.

The seminar group was a really friendly one and it was really good to get involved in working through the seminars various drills. The person playing the aggressor in the drill would respond in a very direct manner which felt like a very likely response so it very much felt that I was feeling the value of the kata techniques in responding to a realistic scenario.

Bassai Dai feels like it’s a kata I’ve spent quite a bit of time studying as in Shotokan it’s the kata you study at two levels of Brown belt and it was one of the katas I had to study for my most recent grading. So it was really good to have the luxury of looking at how it’s techniques can be used. The study of the bunkai of kata in much more depth is something I’ve only started to look at relatively recently in my karate studies but I’m certainly finding it has further energised my interest in both kata and in karate overall.

To have that connection from working through the seminars drills of how it feels to both execute Bassai Dai’s techniques on a training partner and receive them in return certainly gives me a greater appreciation of their value. To feel the discomfort of a knife hand block for example against my neck, and in this context delivered in a very controlled manner, gives me a much greater understanding of it’s value offensively as well as defensively. And this greater appreciation in turn gives me an even greater respect for the kata and a renewed commitment to executing it to the very best of my ability.

So I’m sure it’s evident I brought away a great deal from the seminar. So thanks again to Rakesh Patel for a really informative and enjoyable seminar, Andy Chapman for being a great host in West Hallam on a beautiful sunny day and all of my fellow martial artists who attended.

Have you been to any great seminars, who were they with and what did you enjoy?

Me, myself and I…and the rest of the club…Day 2

Having training on a Tuesday night helped me achieve today’s karate commitment. Some of my fellow students had been successful at Sunday’s grading so congratulations to each of them and every credit to those that didn’t take the night off and turned in for training.

Sensei David has a little game were we all close our eyes and then have to execute the stance he shouts out. Traditionally I’m pretty poor at this and am normally out of the game and seated by the second or third call but of late I seem to be doing better. Previously I wouldn’t have placed knowing the names of the various stances as any kind of priority but now if feels like it’s important to have a handle on all aspects of karate.

I think that’s because I see how it has value in a couple of ways. Firstly I see how knowing how the names translate can give clues to what the techniques are about. And secondly as you become more of a senior member of a club you find yourself coaching newer students and I think knowing the correct names and not going ‘um, you know that one with your right leg over here and the left….’ helps you teach in a credible way. If I look a bit unsure about the name why should anyone trust what I’m saying about anything else.

After running through some basics we spent some time on the kata for our next grading. It was great to have Sensei Colin take us through Bassai Dai and Niseishi. We touched on what a couple of the moves are all about and he showed us what was happening in that situation. Understanding what’s happening really helps to understand how those techniques need to be executed.

What seems clear to me is that I’ve done what probadly a great many karateka do. I placed more importance on being able to do the basics and to feel like I was doing well at the kumite. Subsequently I left my study of kata at understanding the flow of moves, being able to do those moves well and perhaps knowing a few bits of the bunkai.

Now it feels like I’m getting a greater sense on how all the elements fit together and by understanding the value of each you can progress you study in other areas. For example by looking and thinking about what a kata is about and what it’s trying to teach beyond just a set of moves it gets me thinking about how I can be more aware in situations, how I need to work on evasion through my footwork, how I need to look at fitting blocks, strikes and throws together that suit me to list just a few.

I suppose I could dwell on the negative and think ‘well why didn’t I understand that sooner’. But I want to see it as another lesson learnt, new awareness that I need to apply to karate and be able to step back or revisit training and say what else do I need to understand about that, what else is there here that I need to incorporate.

 

Up and running

It felt really good to get the first training session of 2012 under the karate belt. Nice to feel the first few chudan zukis zippin out though lateral hip flexibility felt a bit creaky!

I spent some time running through Bassai Dai with a fellow karateka and we had a bit of a chat about the application of some of the moves so hopped on the internet later to take a look at some bunkai videos. It’s great to be able to watch different bunkai videos and see different thoughts on potential applications, one set I’ve found and like looking at are by Didier Lupo, for example this one for Heian Shodan. Let me know if you’ve seen any other good bunkai videos.