Yoi for Bunkai

A “ready stance” has an important place in practice.

But in bunkai it can yield good results when it is understood as a pass-through point in ongoing movement. Not as a static position.

People sometimes try to interpret the first move of their kata as if they were standing still in their “yoi” position when an opponent attacked.

In your own experience, or when you look at kumite, video of street confrontations, surveillance footage or dash cam video you will not see people standing still with their hands crossed in front of them or with their arms extended straight down below their waist in fists – or in any of the other positions we normally use to begin kata – when they are attacked.

When we practice our yoi positions in kata we are highly alert. Aware people do not usually hold a rigid posture until teh moment they are under attack or until they are grabbed. It is not a good defensive habit to stand still when a potential threat is in close. Something else is going on in our yoi positions.

Our use of yoi – ready positions – is not a flaw in kata. Combatants definitely pass through those positions as they move in response to attack or as they move to initiate or pre-empt an attack. We can use that understanding in interpreting the first move of our kata – the yoi position is a part of an ongoing continuum of movement that began before the kata started.

A simple example:  let’s say you block a punch – it can be any punch, and it could be any block – and the opponent’s punching hand opens and grabs your wrist. In response you drop your wrist sharply downward (or thrust upward), sidestep and rotate your wrist to release his grasp while striking with your opposite punch. Bunkai applications like this are in all the Pinan katas.

That is an example of a way to use the initial “yoi” position as a pass-through rather than a static position, in bunkai interpretation.

Yoi position is not only for bunkai. The yoi positions function well as “ready stances” because have certain specific properties of balance, energy flow and body responsive capability. We learn from these postures.

We make good use of the ready stance yoi positions for uniformity in group practice. We use them to develop habits of moving from disadvantageous postures. We can use them to learn to move from the center and to return to the center.

We can use them as neutral or “formless” postures of body and mind.

But in doing bunkai for the first move of each kata we can get good results if we treat the yoi position as part of a continuum not as a fixed posture you happen to be in when you are attacked.

Post and photo by Jeff Brooks

Post and photo © 2019 Jeffrey Brooks, Mountain Karate LLC

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