Sensei Daniel Gobillot, Shihan - Shichidan, Northampton
hear the phrase "The essence of Karate is Kata"
but what is
the essence of kata? The definition of kata is, "Form
- an organized
series of prearranged defensive and offensive movements
imaginary fight between several opponents and performed
geometrical pattern. Handed down and perfected by masters
of a system
of karate". So why was kata invented and composed?
Before kata there was likely only what we now refer to as
Possibly individual responses to real life situations, attacks.
Defensive and offensive options were practiced for practical
Then they were strung together for practice purposes to
help train and
perfect body response. This is a theory accepted in the
community of which we are a part of.
"Bunkai" means to separate, break down and take
apart ("bun") then
understand and comprehend ("kai"). Bunkai for
our kata in Shorinryu
karate means to analyze and dissect our kata and then use
movements, all of the movements for practical application.
So why do
we need to think about application if we know our kata?
As karate spread throughout the world in the early 1900's
and learning vehicle "kata" remained while the
application part, the
"bunkai" lost emphasis. Kata can easily by illustrated
in print and moving image. The parts can be defined. We
call a punch
a punch a block a block and a kick a kick. Was this the
intended application? Very unlikely. Couldn't a punch be
else, anything else? Could a block be a strike? Could any
direction be a throw, could every step be a sweep?
It would be much more difficult to illustrate the endless
bunkai. The split second decisions are a response to a dynamic
changing environment. The intension of the response can
brutal, but controlled. I have often responded to an "inappropriate"
attack during kata/bunkai practice that I could never explain
As an exercise in bunkai practice the kata with the attack
front, back and all sides for each move, 360 degrees. Slow
at first, clear your mind and try to use just the movements
of the kata
as your response. Let go of the notion of block and punches.
extreme control to avoid injury. Think of effective disabling
use the movements of the kata. Try to work a little outside
When your fist returns to the chambered position it might
something in it, like your opponents ear. We kick high in
in kata to develop good range and strength but "old
only used low kicks, mostly to the legs and groin area.
There is an
old karate saying that says "if you want to kick someone
in the head
you should throw him on the ground first".
arigato gozaimasu Hanshi,
Gobillot, shihan - shichidan, Northampton Ueshiro Karate