To this day, many people confuse 分解 and 用 用. I have published a lot about it in the past, but I have decided to repeat this important point because of this predominantly “continuing misunderstanding” / “misconception”. To confirm this, I must emphasize that “this article specifically refers to the budo / bujutsu form of Shotokan” and not necessarily to other types of karate. In fact, it is not uncommon for other Ryuha and Kaiha to use different terminology and training approaches. Regardless, I hope this article is still a useful read regardless of your background.
|In the two photos above, Funakoshi Gigo Sensei shows Bunkai.|
Okay, so first of all, I want everyone to take a closer look at the kanji and the meaning of both.
分解 (い ん か い): Bunkai = ‘analysis’, ‘decomposition’, ‘disassemble’, ‘decomposition’, etc.
用 用 (う う よ う): Oyo = ‘applications’.
As you can see, the meanings are very different, BUNKAI is about breaking / dissecting things; whereas the OYO is about ‘pragmatic application’ – at least for those looking for effective karate; i.e 空手 空手
If you’ve seen “bunkai” in Nakayama Masatoshi Sensei’s publications, let’s hope you understand the points above. Otherwise, it would indicate that “… do you believe that Nakayama Sensei thought / believed that he was demonstrating oyo”. This assumption would require one to believe that “Nakayama sensei had no idea of effective karate and unarmed combat in general,” which is irrefutably wrong.
This point itself draws a line in the sand between bunkai and oyo.
So what’s the point of bunkai in Shotokan if it’s not a real fight? Please forgive me for repeating previous articles, but what am I going to say on this topic cannot be sufficiently clarified.
Breaking the kata, that is, the bunkai, is literally for learning and improving the movements and positions of the kata: “… for the precise execution of the kihon.” Remember that the key technical characteristic of karate is KIME. With this basic point in mind, Nakayama Sensei wrote, “Regardless of the similarities in motion, anything without kime is not or ceases to be karate.”
Conversely, oyo uses waza and / or fighting principles in the appropriate kata for practical self-defense.
Let’s analyze in retrospect how we look at it. Imagine Nakayama Sensei demonstrating oyo in his publications on kata. The clarity of movements and positions would certainly be blurred, and in many cases would probably worsen the technical development of people: especially outside of Japan, where karate was in relative diapers and largely misunderstood.
In addition, there are two other main and interrelated factors: safety and accountability. Most oyo of kata are absolutely brutal. They are not talking about a “fair fight”; rather, it is a survival to life and death (in the case of an “unprovoked and life-threatening attack” that literally requires drastic countermeasures). Therefore, there are no rules in this desperate position and oyo karate reflects that.
With this explanation, I think that the elements of ‘security’ and ‘responsibility’ do not need to be explained. It reminds me of an old saying: “When a student is ready, a master will appear.”
I’d like to add a little that might really shock some readers. In fact, I really appreciate the bunkai in “Best Karate” (Volumes 5 to 11), also in Nakayama Sensei’s videos. This is because in addition to learning in the dojo, “… this bunkai clarifies the exact initiations, trajectories, and completed waza when performing kata as a solo exercise.”
When I first came to Japan in 1993, I noticed that beginner classes, when learning new kata, would also be taught this “Best Karate” as bunkai. At the time, I was making fun of how unrealistic it was. However, I later realized that it was ‘a tool used for better and faster learning of every executioner’; moreover, as I explained above – no one has ever thought of this practice as “oyo”. After a moment’s thought, I discovered that this “… is another common gap between us Western and Japanese karatekas.” In addition, the smaller of these gaps leads to much better karate.
Finally, I’d like to say that the next time you hear someone make fun of Shotokan bunkai – now you’ll know – “they just don’t know what they’re talking about” (or they’ve only learned “sports Shotokan”). Also, if you watch one of Nakayama Sensei’s videos or read his books, you will be better able to see the movements and positions of the executioner through this “bunkai”, which of course makes them valuable! I have only one critique of the videos … Music! I have a feeling that when they see me, through my living room window (with loud enough music), my neighbors will probably think I’m watching a different kind of movie !!
Jokes aside, through “recognizing the difference between bunkai and oyo” – and training them in this proper understanding – “… will improve both the basic actions of man and his effectiveness on the street.”
This brings me to a series of books and videos about Nakayama Sensei’s self-defense ‘Practical Karate’ … This is a completely different ‘can of worms’ and has a very commercial story. I will address this accordingly in my next article. Until then, greetings from cold Japanese Kyushu.
忍 忍 !!
© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2022).