Interesting session last night - at our informal Saturday meet. Well, for both of us who were there :)
Get into a side viewing cat stance (shuto uke) and do a front kick with your front leg.
Now do a roundhouse kick from kiba dachi or shikodachi.
Repeat the exercise with an observer. Did you lean back? Did your supporting leg (especially the knee) wobble about?
It's an exercise in getting your posture correct, and in rooting. You have to correctly tansfer the weight to empty the kicking leg to allow it to go out. What we learned last night is that what you think is right isn't necessarily so. People tend to lack awareness of their own body structure, thus exaggerating movement. "Knee over foot" tends to be too far forward, for instance, yet it looks OK when we view it.
We broke the movement down into smaller parts, making subtle changes to improve the technique. Then we noticed the technique itself was slightly different, more powerful and going through a slightly different line.
Next, kata. Taking the same idea we realised that what appeared to be three completely different techniques (in different kata) were really the exact same technique in terms of movement. The differences were the various entry and exit points to the technique and the angles at which they could be used.
Small changes have significant impact on the bunkai. As I posted earlier, when should we start with bunkai? Because if your techniques are out you end up jamming bunkai on top of them - a bit like round plugs and square pegs.
Once you sort out the technique (and the body alignment, posture changes and weight management behind it) the bunkai sorts itself out. The key was getting the centre sorted out - which includes the hip joints, groin muscles and core muscle groups (back to the psoas stretches I think!)
We followed with a little stance testing and push hands, building up the intensity of the exercise.
Finally we looked at a few minor changes to the first movement of pinan shodan. Not radically changing the kata (argh!), but a subtle change in the postures of the first sequence. The section of kata took on a different meaning with a new rhythm and timings, which again has a big effect on how you interpret the kata.
Fascinating night, very painful on the leg muscles (especially the thighs), but this morning I felt much more relaxed and flexible. At that point I came to the conclusion that kata and bunkai work isn't necessarily about "what you can do against an attack", but it is more about "how you move into and out of a situation".
We're not memorising applications, but body managment (tai sabaki), and under intensive pressure testing I'm sure this will come out. I also expact that the combative meanings of movements happen of their own accord - no need to use thinking mind to "try" to "do" an application under pressure. Rather what will happen will happen as part of its own nature.
OK, so you've learned 15, 18 or 26 kata and a whole bunch of ippon kumite and kihon. What else is there to learn?
How about - how to do it right!
The training session was great. From one simple technique we opened a door into a great library. I'm not saying we "got it", far from it, but now we have a better clue about our next progression in training, and how it all fits in together - basics, kata, drilling and exercising, push hands, different forms of sparring and different levels of intensity.
It was a F*&%($% challenging training session! Who said karate was easy?!
Here's an interesting article for further research: