Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Monday, December 27, 2021

Levels of Bunkai

Below is an excerpt from a post that appeared at Okinawan Fighting Arts on the three different types of Bunkai: the study of applications found in karate kata. The full post may be read here.

In a recent posting the author mentioned that there were three types of bunkai, as follows:

  1. Omote [] (suitable for beginners), 
  2. Ura [] (intermediate) and 
  3. Honto [本当] (the real application). 

So, after reading it and the following article by the author I had to do my personal analysis of the three terms and their presented meaning. 

First, Omote [] (suitable for beginners). Using the character(s) involved, it translates into English as, “surface; face (i.e. the visible side of an object); front; outside; exterior; appearance; top; first half; cover; foreground.” Now, as to suitable for beginners as a definition we would have to assume the term when used with bunkai along with its intent in karate could mean that omote infers the face, exterior, surface or bookcover of bunkai. 

Second, Ura [] (intermediate). Using the character(s) involved, it translates into English as, “lining, inside; behind the scenes, hidden side, etc.” Now, as to being intermediate bunkai I am left wondering exactly what they mean because intermediate may be inferring something in the middle or a second stage/level of a three level artifact. I have a bit harder time validating the term as indicated. 

Third, Honto [本当] (the real application). Using the character(s), it translates into English as, “truth, reality; actuality; fact; proper; right; correct; official; genuine; authentic; natural; veritable.” If you stick to genuine and authentic it could mean real application but that left me considering “why.” Why real application and why begin with something that isn’t real. What reason is there to have a beginner and intermediate bunkai? 

Fourth, Bunkai [分解]. Using the character(s), it translates into English as, “disassembly; dismantling; analysis; disaggregating; disintegrating; decomposing, etc.” If bunkai actually does mean to analysize something then there can be no beginner, intermediate or real applications because bunkai does not mean application. Bunkai is a process whereby one creates, discovers or finds a real applicable method or methodology. Ouyou is a proper term, Ouyou [応用] translates into English to mean, “(practical) application; putting too practical use; applied.” 

As you can see, even if we switch out the less appropriate term of bunkai for the more appropriate term of ouyou it still does not warrant the breakdown of beginner, intermediate and real. Now, if you take a possible method, analyze it, then test it thoroughly to ensure it meets the standards of reality based adrenal stressors, etc., then we can say it has three stages of learning to achieve a real ouyou or practical application for self-protection in self-defense. 

So, to make the clearer and applicable to me I would rephrase it too: “

Theoritical (riron-teki [理論的]) Method (hoho [方法] [理論的方法])

Methodological analysis (bunseki-hoho [方法論分析])

Practical Method (Ouyou [応用]) (jissai-hoho  [実際方法])

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