Bunkai the science behind Goju Kata

If Kata are the epicentre of Karate, the art behind it then the bunkai are the science behind the art. Bunkai to me allows you to dissect and analyse the kata and helps you to understand its real world applications. I like the fact that one section of a kata can having many different bunkai, from extracting the exact same moves from the kata, to using the minute hip turns with in the kata, to applying these defensive strategies.

For example in the Saifa kata in the first sequence, it can be used to deal with a wrist grab, arm grab, or a shirt grab and you use the rip away techniques directly from the kata, or you could work on it coming from a punch and using the angles to get away and use your elbow as a form of deflection. The possibilities can be endless if you are prepared to experiment.

Which leads me to my next point on why I like Bunkai, you can adapt or only use bunkai if it works with your own body mechanics, there is no point in a small woman in using the end of Saifa kata as a pushing away when in a real situation in may not work, she has to adapt it so that it will be a move that she can use in a real life situation. Likewise with me there is one bunkai I was taught in Seiunchin which I could never get, and when I mentioned this to my Sensei he said if it doesn’t work for you then do a different application for that part of the Kata.  Which is why the higher belts tend to have a wide variety of Bunkai of practical applications suited for themselves. Its this adaptability that makes Goju Ryu more accessible to a wider variety of people, it doesn’t assume that one technique is for all.

The last point I would like to make is that it was experiencing the first five bunkai of the first kata in my first lesson of Goju Ryu that got me interested in karate, just in the first kata there was a wide variety of real world applications and it was very realistic and I am not afraid to say that it intimidated me, which made me realise that this was the real deal. Real karate isn’t for sissies.

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5 Responses to Bunkai the science behind Goju Kata

  1. Just a thought… have you tried, instead of tearing away, the idea of tearing into, as an impact, or body blow. Or tearing across, perhaps twisting as you go, across the face, or throat, or neck, or any other soft areas. With enough pressure, the friction should be high enough to tear skin and flesh – nasty I know, but this ain’t a knitting club!

    • djsolly1 says:

      I thought that was what I meant by going across them, but that is a very interesting thought. I would like to know if that would still be saifa as its going up and close and personal into seiunchin territory. You could apply a similar move to one of the later bunkai in the end which is similar to the saifa move except for the hip twist and the torso being more square on. At least that’s one interpretation I can think of it.

      I think that each later kata is an evolution from the previous kata’s, so there will be some similarities with certain bunkai. I did try your suggestion against a mate (training of course), and because of how close I was to him, and how I got his body to twist awkwardly gave me the opportunity to give a power grab of the hair and downwards tetsui using the hips to drive power. It needs more practice but I like your thinking.

  2. Jay Killeen says:

    Great post! I might go as far to say that the Kata is the art, the Kihon Ido is the science, Bunkai is the experiment and Kumite is the application. However I think this makes Kata seem like there is little worth. I find Kata to be a great tool for forcing you to perform techniques that would usually be uncomfortable or require constant repetition to develop muscle memory for. Kata gives us technique without timing or distance. Whilst it is artistic in that it has that empty canvas element the sometimes still is a right and wrong. Great thought process though 🙂

    • djsolly1 says:

      Thank you for your compliment, and I found your comment insightful. I just love Goju Ryu kata and it was the bunkai that showed me how effective they can be and in that way I think you can’t have the one without the other.

  3. Jay Killeen says:

    And yes Karate is not for sissies!! Real karate (not that sports rubbish) by its very nature is required to be highly effective.

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