Bunkai- a beginners guide (please replace old version)
We begin with 3 premises-
1 You (and the students) know all the aspects of the Kata very well- stances, footwork, posture and striking and blocking techniques. So start with what you know as all of these aspects will have a bearing on the applications. In other words, work with the Kata you know best, not the latest most complicated one you have learned.
2 All parts of the kata contain potential, realistic defence techniques (this may not always be the case, but gives us somewhere to start).
3 There's just one attacker, and you're looking at him.
Start off by taking the students through the process. Get them to pair up, go for similar height but mix the grades if possible. Make sure they have at least one Kata in common!
Pick an early Kata- Pinan Nidan, Shodan or Sandan are a good start. You can do it with Taikyoku katas if you practice them but by their nature they're less rich in fighting techniques. Initially, start at the beginning of the Kata.
I call it the 5 Fs or FFnFFF (say it with me)
Demonstrate/go through one short set of moves from the Kata with a partner whilst talking the students through the process.
Face- turn to face your opponent after Yoi, usually the first move in any Kata. You want to see what he's doing, right? Look at him but don't necessarily turn your body towards him- the kata is telling you your body position in relation to the attacker, NOT indicating that this technique only works with attacks from the side (for example).
Fist- Most assaults physically start with a punch to the head so it's sensible to assume that most sequences within kata start with a head defence (this is certainly true of the opening moves of the Pinan series IMO). If the first move doesn't appear to be a head defence maybe you're looking at the wrong part of the movement?
not Fancy- your attacker is not a martial artist and is unlikely to use fancy or risky techniques (such as high kicks or double punches) but will stick with simple effective moves- big swingy punches to the head, groin kicks, headbutts, grab and punch etc
Few- this is a real fight and you will have had a rush of adrenaline, reducing fine motor skills and forcing you to react, rather than taking lots of time to consider complicated or lengthy combinations. So, your response will be short and fast with only a few moves, 3 or maybe 4, before you escape.
Finish- your goal is to get your opponent down and out so you can escape. So your last technique is aiming to knock him unconscious and/or knock him to the ground and/or injure him sufficiently to allow you time to run, in the confidence that he can't get up and come after you. Quite often this is a Kiai or turn within the kata (particularly if the turn then involves doing the same set of movements on the other side of the body).
Once you start to work from moves deeper in the Kata, you might find that you have to look at the moves immediately before and after to make the combination of techniques make sense.
Having come up with a potential combination, it's now time to make it real. Drill it with the attacker behaving as if he has no training, probably bigger more telegraphed moves but from a closer, shorter stance moves should be less formal, simpler. Does the technique/combination still work? The defender may also have to adjust the techniques to make them more effective, but the principles should be intact, just less pretty to look at!
If it still works the next stage is to drill with increasing intent and speed, work with both sides of the body and then moving on to include variations such as attacker coming from behind etc.
Please note that there is no one correct answer, different people will respond in different ways and favour different techniques. But there will be wrong solutions, usually too long and requiring the attacker to behave in a bizarre or unlikely way or simply involving too many fine motor skills.
Having gone through the process with you, you can now let them loose on a Kata of their own choosing!
P.S. This should work with Forms/Kata from most arts, providing at least one of the pair are familiar with the principles of that art.
For me, this is the creative part of my art.
Try it with your students.
Go in peace, but carry a big stick.
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