Bunkai is an analysis; used to deconstruct the inner workings and to create a deeper understanding of Kata.
What is Kata?
Katas are complex. They involve blocks, strikes and kicks as well as proper stances and turns. They are choreographed and must be memorized. Each karate belt has certain katas that are part of the requirement of the rank.
Bunkai Creates Faster Learning.
The stories we tell ourselves as we practice a kata help us to bring it to life. The best katas to watch are the ones in which you can picture the attackers surrounding the martial artist. As the form evolves you can easily visualize, because she is imagining it, her dispensing with each one.
Bunkai is not separate from form. It is the foundation.
Learning the bunkai, or what the stuff does, of a kata should be done early on in the process of teaching.
When I first started, we would teach Pinan Shodan by giving every move a number. We would count through the techniques and students would follow along trying to copy the instructor.
Then I read a book on comprehension and reading. It stated that good understanding starts with the little movies we play in our head as we read. Hmm. That week I started using Bunkai while I was teaching our first form (Pinan Shodan).
I would weave it into my language by saying things like “Protect your head”, instead of “Do a Rising Block.”
“Turn and Down block.” Became…
“There is a guy over there, trying to kick you. What is a good block for that? That’s right, a down block. So, what are we going to do when he tries to kicks us?”
The kids would answer, “A down block.” They were beginning to imagine the scenario.
I would go on to say, “Every time we turn, there is a guy trying to kick us, so every time we turn, what are we going to do?”
A kata that used to take 8 classes for kids to learn; NOW TOOK 3.
We still use the numbers, but only after the student FIRST has the story in their mind.
Bunkai is Only Violent if your Make it Violent.
You can see in this picture that the kids are enjoying figuring out what Pinan Godan is doing. In fact they got really good at moving through the whole thing, at this day long leadership workshop last fall.