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Kata Combat – Bunkai Training Drills Part 1

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I state in ‘Practical Applications for the Kata Jion’ that Kata was originally intended to capture the ‘highlights’ of an effective combative system. The distillate of this system survived over generations as it had an inherent aid memoir that enabled the practitioner to communicate it to his incumbent generation. As a result of the balance needed between reliance on memory and the need to maintain the principles of Kata, an optimal and not a limitless number of movements exist.

We expect Kata therefore to contain everything we need to effectively train for combat but not necessarily laid out in an order that is immediately usable. We should, however, acknowledge that the Kata exists as a suite of techniques bound by a strong theme of principles, and that to effectively use these techniques, we need to extract their highlights and entrench them in the kata.

This article attempts to prescribe some training drills that inherit benefit from the Kata. For example, I’ll walk you through a simple Bunkai training drill that is based on some key Kata Combat concepts. These concepts are explicitly identified in this article.

These techniques are best utilised when integrated into core fighting motions. Our approach should be that every Kata technique has a situational purpose and to derive optimal use from Kata training, that these kata techniques be extracted and practiced in Bunkai training drills. All Kata do, however, have characteristics that form a common theme. It is important that we maximise the benefit of the training drill through exercising these theme characteristics within the training drill or drills.

The Kata techniques that we integrate into our existing offensive fighting motions should be motions that make up our main offensive artillery, like punching and striking. Common gross fighting techniques consist of fore fist type punches, open hand and club like strikes. These form the primary level attacks in our arsenal. Although these specific techniques are all found within Kata it’s important to note that they are not always explicitly emphasised as their applicability and suitability is assumed elsewhere is the Kata.

We should acknowledge that in order to approach Kata Combat training seriously, we should be practicing our self-defence skills (physical) within our self-protection (nonphysical) skills in the form of pre-emptive and in-fight strikes. We should choose to drill a small number of core strikes a large number of times to ensure quality and reliability in our offensive artillery. We should also be practicing offensive repetition of our core fighting techniques with a forward drive to instil the mindset that our opponent can, and will remain a danger to us until sufficient pressure is applied to enable an escape. It is at this stage that our secondary level motions are utilised. Usually, our secondary level motions are dictated by and are made in response to the outcomes of our primary strikes and are therefore executed out of necessity rather than choice.

With this in mind, I take my left cross (Reverse Punch) as the primary attacking technique. I then consider my opponent’s various instinctive responses; in this drill, I use three. In each case, my primary attack is succeeded by a series of secondary motions supporting my need to maintain and exploit a combative advantage.

For the purpose of the drill, I suppose in each case, my opponent reacts to my initial strike by covering his head area with the arm positioned to best protect him from further follow up strikes. At this point that I will use a secondary technique (Downward Block) to clear this arm which is preventing me from striking successfully, to then expose the target again for the next primary level strike.

It must be stressed at this point that the above sequence should be executed with full commitment and confidence in the primary attack. Self-doubting the effectiveness and outcome of the strikes can cloud the ability to then deal with the next stages of the fight.

It is therefore important to progressively build on this drill to ensure that we are applying the Kata motions effectively. For this purpose, I have split the drill into stages.



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