Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bunkai and Calligraphy

 When students ask about “Bunkai” within the kata we teach, I explain to them as it was explained to myself (through Taika). Every motion within a kata, represents a technique motion. This motion may be a strike, a grab or a necessary motion for a technique to be “applied” (regardless of the individual technique).    
 It is important to learn every motion of the kata, and practice them repeatedly until they are comfortable, and natural. With continued practice of the kata, you will begin to understand the applications when they occur (during an encounter). As I have mentioned before, we view the kata motions as “letters” (of an alphabet).   
 These letters are combined to make “words” (techniques). Combining various “words”, one can make “sentences”. Usually, this becomes clearer with continued practice.
 My students often become frustrated by (my) constant corrections. Very often, these are over (very) minor motions/placements (the turn of a hand/foot, the direction the student is “facing”, the position of an arm, etc.). Although these may, or may not effect the “overall” technique, they none the less can effect the results of the technique. Just as every “gross” motion, represents a (part of a) technique, the subtle positioning and angles effect the outcome (or even the ability to perform the technique).
 Just as the motions represent “letters”, and combining them, creates “words”, then using them with other motions (words) creates “sentences”, I believe that the “small” positional corrections are akin to “punctuations” (commas, periods, exclamation marks, etc.). Though not generally considered to be “techniques” per say, they are necessary to complete (or even make possible) the applications.
 Since “Calligraphy” is my (other) interest, I obviously relate it to a lot of my martial arts training. Taika also (briefly) talks of this “connection” in his book. As I am brushing various kanji, I see the correlation when comparing kanji. Some, are a “single” character, some are combinations of various individual characters. The “Radicals” are the major characters (of which there are 214). Every kanji will contain at least “1”(form of) of these radicals. The radicals are sometimes combined with each other, and sometimes with several of the (many) forms of other kanji (to create a single kanji). Not “all” kanji can/should be combined with any (indiscriminate) “other” kanji (they just don't make any sense). The same is true with the “motions” within the kata. Many, but not all motions are applicable to be utilized with all other motions.
 A major portion of our training time, is spent practicing, and determining “what” motions “do”, and “don't” work well together. We present numerous (basic) “combinations” to introduce the student to application of kata motion. The techniques/combinations that we show our students, are not the “only” manner, or “way” that these motions can/should be utilized (like “Cylon's”, there are many variations,..LOL). Some work “better” for certain individual's than others (because of various factors, “size”, “arm length”, “tori/uke experience”, etc.). With continued practice the student will determine what works best (for them) in a given situation.
 Although we have been working with this group of students for awhile (almost 2 years) they have only been exposed to (maybe) 30 (or so?) different individual techniques (tuite and/or combinations). Between working on those, and the 12 kata, they've had “a lot” to take in. Some techniques still elude their ability (so far) to perform effectively (“every time”), but that is what “class time” is for,...”practice”.