Let’s examine our Kata & Bunkai!

Point of view from Sensei Lee Adams!
Presentation topic for Winterfest, 2021
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The COVID-19 pandemic and the reduction in dojo time has given me the opportunity to research more of what is presented via social media outlets, many uploaded videos and blogs showing Kata’s and bunkai based around the presenters own understanding or interpretation, what I believe I have witnessed is a number of very well performed kata and bunkai that leave me feeling something is missing.

If we are to assume that kata teaches everything, we need to be successful in combat, then why do change snippets of kata to make them work for bunkai?

There is also a plethora of bunkai techniques that are clearly misinterpreted or make little sense but are presented because they have been made to fit the kata movement so we can easily recognise what is being demonstrated.

Whenever this topic is raised the whole question of style or association requirements comes to the head, how many times have I heard that “this is the way because this is what my teacher taught me!”.

yakusoku Kumite is often taught as a linear exercise with tori attacking in stance and delivering a textbook karate punch, bunkai where there is no balance break and the body line is so far off centre that the technique is negated.

If we take the question of style or association off the board then we are left with the principles to which we should be applying to our training, I have listed them below, it should be obvious that there is an intangible link between the two, but how often is this missed in training?

Yakusoku Kumite outcomes:

The student understands the primary principles of Uechi Ryu and can demonstrate them in yakusoku kumite.
These are:
SHIZENTAI NO RI (the principle of natural posture)..
JU NO RI (the principle of non-resistance through demonstration of soft Uechi).
KUZUSHI NO RI (the principle of breaking balance).
MAAI – the student understands the concept of keeping defensive distance and can close that distance to exploit effective technique using tai sabaki.
METSUKE – the student understands and demonstrates visual and mental focus.
SEICHUSEN – the student understands and demonstrates keeping the centre line, particularly in Yakusoku kumite, when defending against tori.
TOITSURYOKU – the student understands and demonstrates the concentration of his power through one point using body movement from a stable posture.
IDORYOKU – the student understands and demonstrates coordinated, controlled and effective movement of the whole body across the dojo and this is evident in the execution of his/her techniques.
The student demonstrates an understanding of the importance of (ai) harmony between tori and uke and that yakusoku Kumite is a partnership performance.

The student demonstrates that he/she understands the appropriate level of response for: –
KAKARIGEIKO – Practise where no resistance is given by tori allowing Uke to learn movement and understanding of the techniques.
HIKITATEGEIKO – In this practise Tori would offer more resistance to encourage the use of combination techniques.
The verb form of hikitate is hikitateru. That means “to make someone look (or perform in this case) good”.
RANDORIGEIKO – The student demonstrates in yakusoku kumite the appropriate use of combinations of techniques against Tori who is also actively trying to defeat an opponent.
URA WAZA – counter techniques in yakusoku kumite.
And that the student operates safely in the Dojo, shows due concern for the safety of others and demonstrates high quality ukemi for his/her own protection the student observes and demonstrates good reigi/formal etiquette in his/her conduct in the dojo.

Kata outcomes:

Several outcomes with minor amendment remain constant for both yakusoku kumite and kata, the student understands the primary principles of Uechi Ryu and can demonstrate them in kata.

The kata outcomes are:

SHIZENTAI NO RI – (the principle of natural posture)
METSUKE – the student understands and demonstrates visual and mental focus throughout the kata sequence
SEICHUSEN – the student understands and demonstrates keeping the centre line throughout the kata sequence
TOITSURYOKU – the student understands and demonstrates concentrating his power through one point using body movement from a stable posture idoryoku – the student understands and demonstrates coordinated, controlled and effective movement of the whole body across the tatami and this is evident in the execution of his/her techniques.

The student operates safely in the dojo, shows due concern for the safety of others and demonstrates high quality ukemi for his/her own protection and that the student observes and demonstrates good reigi/formal etiquette in his/her conduct in the dojo.

We may list some additional outcomes more specific to an understanding of yakusoku kumite and kata:
The student observes and can show correct form and sequence in the demonstration of kata.
The student shows a good understanding of pace, rhythm and timing in the performance of yakusoku kumite/ kata.
The student understands the specific character of each yakusoku kumite/ kata she/he is required to demonstrate.
Finally, in relation to both yakusoku kumite and kata:

The student can name and identify specific techniques when called upon and demonstrates an effective knowledge and technical command of the curriculum required at her/his grade.

This is by no means an exhaustive list and you may consider them too theoretical but I believe them to be based on fundamental principles that offer the basis for establishing criteria for progression at each level.

Lee Adams – IUKF GB.

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