kata bunkai speed fight

Karate Kata Bunkai Speed, Intensity and Realistic Practice
by Jason Armstrong

Often one sees clubs practice bunkai regularly and sometimes quite well in terms of technique. However, often the speed of a true combative situation is missing. Sports Karate provides a very good arena to develop timing and true combative speed (and learning to negotiate that first incoming strike thrown at a distance), but, how does one translate a similar speed and timing result to bunkai given its usually complex and brutal techniques - which are more difficult to control than simply “pulling a punch or kick”? 

An obvious but not often implemented approach is – practice and repetition! Many karate clubs will drill point fighting speed combinations and kumite for 20 minutes a night in a class repeating maybe just 20 combinations year-in and year-out (of course the corresponding speed and control develops). Rarely do clubs ensure they focus on a small subset of kata so that a trainable 20 self defense combinations are drilled in high frequency to achieve great speed and power. Remembering that bunkai tends to develop our close in fighting skills and point kumite is about the distance situation.


Bunkai Speed in Training - Taira Sensei of Jundokan

Remember the old kata saying: 

“San nen no kata”  = 3 years one kata 

In the authors travels the most dramatic observation of bunkai performed in a street context with speed and power was seen by Masaji Taira Sensei of the Okinawan Jundokan (above video). He has been featured in a number of documentaries such as one by the National Geograhic channel in which you see the nature of his bunkai. 

One has to walk before they can run. One observation I have had in recently attempting to train with students to get to such levels of speed and control in bunkai is that it does not work if you begin with the entire sequence as a drill. The sequence needs to be broken down into single techniques which are drilled one at a time in high repetition and then re-assembled after control and speed has been acquired.

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