We train in a tradition. Not in a museum.
We practice, investigate, challenge, learn and share what we discover. This makes all of us, and the karate that we practice, better and stronger.
According to Shoshin Nagamine, from his book Tales of Okinawa\’s Great Masters:
In Okinawa during the old days, students spent years meticulously learning a single kata or two… later…without ever understanding their respective applications… Kata had become a lifeless practice, Motobu believed.
Motobu Choki said:
…if you have not fully mastered the practical applications, in a sudden situation, you will be unable to act with speed, and because of this, such a martial art is of no use…
Iain Abernethy’s commissioned translation of Anko Itosu’s sixth precept says:
6. Practice each of the techniques of karate repeatedly. Learn the explanations of every technique well …
As Abernethy acutely points out – Itosu did not say “only in advanced kata.” He said “each technique.”
From scholar/practitioner Mark Tankosich’s translation of Mabuni\’s \”Practice Karate Correctly\”
In karate, the most important thing is kata. Into the kata of karate are woven every manner of attack and defense technique. Therefore, kata must be practiced properly, with a good understanding of their bunkai meaning.
Either we bring our karate to life or it dies out.
Joe Rogan and his martial arts guests, for all their good qualities, talk about karate as if it was a joke. They are not right. But maybe they and some of their listeners experienced fake, shallow karate. Their message reaches millions of people. What do we do? Argue? Cry?
We train sincerely. We prove them wrong by what we do and how we do it.
Many people have been watching our Yamabayashi kata interpretation videos. The feedback has been great. Some people have offered suggestions and alternatives. Some prominent internet bunkai presenters have been studying our videos, and now and then are using what they see. That is all gratifying.
Our objectives in creating our videos are 1. to investigate our kata, and 2. to get useful techniques to sincere karate people – including any members of Yamabayashi Ryu and other practitioners of Shorin Ryu, Shotokan and related styles, who would like to take a look.
There used to be lots of hints and speculation about secret techniques. Now there are thousands of public sources of bunkai ideas. There are many good ones. It is no secret that you have to train a lot to get proficient. And there is no known limit on how skillful you can become.
We are sharing our Yamabayashi bunkai interpretations openly. If people want to use these ideas, they can. If people want to improve on them, they can do that too.
Someone might tell you they will teach you the meaning of your techniques in a few years. Are you sure you have a few years before you need to defend yourself? Why not learn what the kata techniques mean, right now?
Besides, there is no way to do good practice without knowing what you are trying to do. Without knowing the meaning of the moves, you end up doing empty gestures in the air. Filled with sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Whether we train for health and fitness, for competition in shiai or kata demonstration, for self-defense, professional competence, for inner mastery, or for all of them – the more we understand the kata we are studying the more completely we will be able to get what we want from training.
Some of the bunkai interpretations we have been posting are new, some are unfamiliar, all have been tested and found to be effective, worth investigating and using. None are the last word.
Many people, in this group and elsewhere, work on new interpretations as a regular part of their training. It is a fruitful process, humbling and energizing. And it is working.
That is what it means to train in a tradition, not a museum.
The more everyone shares info and insights, the better off all of us, and our art, will be.
Post Copyright © 2023 by Jeffrey Brooks, Mountain Karate, Yamabayashi Ryu, Saluda, NC USA
For more bunkai interpretations and much more read True Karate Dō –
“One of the best books I’ve read in years, inviting and compelling. Jeff Brooks moves effortlessly from martial arts to Buddhism to consciousness studies, self-transformation, and related fields in this wide-ranging and Illuminating study that has much to offer both novice explorers and veteran practitioners. A splendid achievement.”
— Philip Zaleski, Editor, The Best Spiritual Writing series
— Co-author, The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams.
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