What are Bunkai and Oyo?

In martial arts like Karate, there are pre-arranged forms called Kata (also known as Quan or Hsing) which are stylised ritualised and themed representations of fighting techniques. To analyse these often abstract movements is called bunkai and to then work with another person to apply the resulting technique is called Oyo.

There are several layers to Kata, Bunkai and Oyo study:

1) The Science of Violence: Understanding what kind of purpose the movements would likely have
2) The Science of Technique: performing the movements in an efficient and accurate manner
3) The Science of Learning: The kata being used to drill responses
4) Internal or health benefits: Fast Shotokan type kata can have Calisthenic benefits whereas forms like Sanchin can have muscular (isometric tension) benefits and can also be of internal benefit (ie as in Tai chi and Yoga), improving relaxation, breathing, bloodflow etc
5) State of mind. Kata can help with focus, meditation, concentration, visualisation.

These factors aside if we look purely at the physical self defence aspect of the bunkai, we have various possibilities:

1) Consider the possibility that the application could involve a weapon

2) Consider the possibility that the most obvious application should be applied (ie what looks like a punch actually is a punch)

3) Consider the possibility that the most obvious application should NOT be applied (ie what looks like a punch can’t be a punch and therefore must be a throw)

4) Consider primary sources. Does the work of Motobu, Funakoshi, Miyagi etc actually present a decent oyo for us?

5) Are you looking for something that is not there? Don’t over complicate things. The bow is just a bow – it may look like a headbutt but it’s not

6) Could the technique have multiple applications?

7) Consider changing your perspective. Maybe the attacker is behind you. Maybe you are in a confined space.

8) Don’t be put off by labels and old wives tales. Tekki is not for fighting in a boat or paddy field and Bassai is not for storming a fortress.

9) Don’t be put off by bunkai nay-sayers who will (mis) quote Bruce Lee and say any form study is a classical mess and the mind should be free. it is only by applying constraints that we are able to think laterally about a problem. if somebody told you you could not use your hands, you would use your feet more creatively.

10) Keep it real. Bunkai should be simple and brutal. don’t get TOO creative.

Let’s look at some examples:

A long stance in kata...

A long stance in kata…

... can be useful in throws

… can be useful in throws

Double strikes using the palms....

Double strikes using the palms….

.... don't have to be strikes at all

…. don’t have to be strikes at all

Heian Yondan: This kick works best applied lower than in the kata...

Heian Yondan: This kick works best applied lower than in the kata…

... and aids the followup technique

… and aids the followup technique

Rethinking the X Block 1

Rethinking the X Block 1

Rethinking the X Block 2

Rethinking the X Block 2

Rethinking the X Block 3

Rethinking the X Block 3

here I am giving Kicki some ideas for her favourite kata Unsu

here I am giving Kicki some ideas for her favourite kata Unsu

some times WHERE you strike is as important as HOW

some times WHERE you strike is as important as HOW

Always think about breaking the opponent's balance

Always think about breaking the opponent’s balance

Osae uke, Nukite rethought

Osae uke, Nukite rethought

experimenting with stances

experimenting with stances

Using Shuto as katame

Using Shuto as katame

Hey that funny punch in Heian Sandan isn't a punch!

Hey that funny punch in Heian Sandan isn’t a punch!

joint manipulation can be painful with little effort

joint manipulation can be painful with little effort

opening move of Heian nidan...

opening move of Heian nidan…

done when the opponent grabs from behind

done when the opponent grabs from behind

Opening move of kushanku with added "Danish kiss"

Opening move of kushanku with added “Danish kiss”

when a block s a strike

when a block s a strike

 

opening sequence of Heian Godan

opening sequence of Heian Godan

gedan barai (after a throw)

gedan barai (after a throw)

using cat stance

using cat stance

that drop in Kanku sho

that drop in Kanku sho

when you hold your hands together in Bassai and draw inwards...

when you hold your hands together in Bassai and draw inwards…

Consider this application (i can vouch for its effectiveness)

Consider this application (i can vouch for its effectiveness)

Funakoshi teaching bunkai throw

Remember the old masters did leave some clues

Funakoshi with Bo

Some more subtle than others…

Choki Motobu had a realistic approach

Choki Motobu had a realistic approach

Sometimes simple is best

Sometimes simple is best

sometimes precision is the key

sometimes precision is the key

Use drills to build reactions

Use drills to build reactions

Simon Keegan pictured in Martial Arts illustrated

experiment by combining movements!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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