This article is the class notes for 05/04/2011. It contains:
1) Ian Abernethy
2) Book: “Bunkai-Jutsu”
3) Makiwara Practice
5) Videos and Questions
Let me start this off by saying that I have been obsessively reading Iain Abernethy’s book Bunkai-Jutsu: The Practical Application of Karate Kata which I found on archive.org in their “text” section. If I stumble upon any other good Karate material I will let everyone know.
I bring up his book because I was about three pages into it and I was already shouting obscenities. By page 10, I was rethinking everything I have ever been told about Karate. Some of his points jumped out at me. The strongest was that almost all bunkai taught in modern schools is based on the premise that that person attacking you will be about four feet away (standard sparring distance) and performing some type of karate attack, mostly the lunge punch.
Have you ever seen anyone else fight like that? I go to a military school packed full of testosterone packed guys who like to brawl, wrestle, box and when we get the chance to go at it – you never see someone just break out into karate. Why? It is because they don’t do Karate.
With that in mind, would you expect someone who is attacking you to be trained fighter or someone resorting to violence as a means of getting your money (or just beating you up). Exactly! So Mr. Abernethy argues that any bunkai that is premised around someone doing Karate moves and you defending against it wouldn’t make sense. Instead the correct application of the kata would be one that responds to a wild punch from two feet away or someone grabbing you in some manner. I was impressed to say the least when thinking about this.
He goes on to point out that, kata contain all of the application that its creator had. Naihanchi (Shodan, Nidan, and Sandan collectively) contain everything its creator knew. Where is the grappling techniques? They are in there, you just have to find them. With this in mind, let me talk about what we did tonight in class.
Everyone agreed that the Makiwara training felt great (after it healed) and wanted to do some more. I had done some reading and these guys seemed to know their stuff about Hojo Undo training, so we took their advice and started doing punching starting with a sideways punch on the non-dominant hand. Then the dominant. Finally back to the non-dominant hand. (Make the side you use less stronger. Anyone who doubts that plan needs to go watch Cinderella Man). We then did half twist punches in the same manner. Finally we went to full punches.
Stance and technique are the most important thing in this training. The knuckles shouldn’t bleed. If they do – stop. When they heal, stop hitting it so hard. Tonight we only did 25 reps per set (75 punches per type for a grand total of 225 punches). We will be working this up to 900 punches a class, but it will take time.
One of the points I was reading that I didn’t think to highlight last time. Makiwara are meant to simulate the effects of punching a person. 900 practice punches for that one that counts. Ever hit someone in the face and it felt like a kicking pad or a fluffy foam punching pad? If you have never hit anyone, the answer is no. Practice for something far worse then you plan to encounter, not something that is way easier.
Part of my new “take it slower than you ever thought possible” plan: we are going to be working almost solely on the Naihanchi katas until they are perfect. We have started practicing every kata in a manner that would effectively work in a fight. Move combinations such as the opening block and elbow strike are done with as much speed (while keeping technique) as possible. The pauses in between combinations are up to the performer, but I am pushing everyone to again practice like its a real fight, not a performance.
To do this, you need to know the pattern perfectly. I had Jeremiah working the kata over and over to learn the pattern. He was keen to listen to what I was saying and doing while practicing.
So what was I doing? Jordan and I were working the bunkai. As I mentioned, I was changed by Mr. Abernethy’s writings. I will no longer teach bunkai that is tailored to the lunge punch or other techniques that I simply don’t believe the regular fighter would do. I am training my class in hopes they will excel in unarmed combat this fall (it’s a class). If they are training to anticipate a sparring match with karate students, they will likely get their asses (I can swear right? It is my blog…) handed to them.
Rather than practicing the opening block of Naihanchi shodan as a defensive maneuver from outside of striking distance, I had Jordan block my punch (that was thrown from at most two feet away) while at the same time taking an aggressive step towards me to then immediately either break my arm or elbow my face. If he missed, he got hit. And he did get hit. After a while, he got good at it, so I stopped telling him what hand I was throwing. If he was on the outside, he went for a break. If he was on the inside he went for a face smash.
As with everything I teach, I do it with my students. So he got to swing for a while. I’m not perfect, but I think I did a pretty good job. Next we worked on the single block, double block (block and strike), and back fist combination. This again was done from “reach out and touch him” distance rather than the four foot sparring distance we are used to. It was meant to be a react and counter drill rather than a calculated “get out of the way while blocking” movement common in Shorin-ryu.
I don’t want to fight, I want to end the fight. If I was not in a position to do that at the end of the combination, something was wrong. We worked from that idea and it felt very effective. No relying on a response from the attacker. He did something and then was left unable to do anything else.
Videos and Questions
I had hoped to get some videos up today. It just didn’t happen. I am gonna get an interest count, but plan to work out a bunch in the dojo this weekend while everyone else at school is gone. See how comfortable I feel verbally instructing people I can’t see.
As always, if you have questions or want further explanation on something I did, please just ask. These are mainly notes for me to remember what worked. Since I do plan on filming, if there is something anyone wants covered in a video, please let me know sooner than later. I will get a video explanation of all the kicks I teach and of an explanation of “good” bunkai vs. “bad” bunkai. Happy to explain anything this weekend, I finally have tons of free time.
Note: Photo has nothing to do with Karate class. I am in it though…