The Secret Karate Techniques - Kata Bunkai
Helmut Kogel learned a modern system of Karate fighting combinations from a western point of view when he started training in 1973. In 1992 he began to train in German Jujutsu. He also learned Philippine Arnis, Kobudo and Nihon Jujutsu. During several study visits to Japan, he gathered experience in several martial arts and in Kyusho. Under the guidance of Japanese Grand Masters he achieved the degree of 6th Dan in Karate Renshi, 5th Dan in Kobudo and 2nd Dan in Nihon Jujutsu. Kogel founded a Dojo in Germany and was head of a Karate group at the University of Ulm.
The Secret Karate Techniques - Kata Bunkai
A Karate student spends the first few years learning its technical particularities. This means learning correct execution of the movements to ensure the right body posture and building up speed and strength of technique. This applies equally to Kata training; primary importance is placed on the correct external form. The actual background of the Kata, its hidden applications (Okuden), is not taught to beginners at this stage. This does make the Kata less attractive for many students, particularly in the western world. On the surface, the various Kata do not seem to be appropriate for use in a realistic situation involving self-defense. It is difficult for a teacher at this "beginner" stage to infect his students with enthusiasm for the Kata. This was particularly problematic in the past, when generally only a few Kata were taught.
Okinawa's old Masters believed it necessary to practice only a few Kata, or sometimes just one, in order to perfect individual techniques and increase their effectiveness. They maintained that one single Master-Kata contained the entire repertoire for a realistic combative situation and for the required measure of self-defense. Today we know they were right. Yet it is understandable that a student might fail to appreciate the depth of the kata. The obvious techniques in the Kata are known in Japan as Omote. The variations in application due to individual differences are classified as Oyo Bunkai.
Tetsuhiro Hokama explained that the Kata in Karate can be compared to a large jug. Whereas a beginner and a student will only see the surface (and at best the bottom of the jug upon raising it), it is the Master (mostly from 3rd and 4th Dan) who enables an advanced student to view its core. Therefore, for an average student, the teachings of martial arts are mostly confined to the Omote - the obvious, easily recognized, simple techniques. Most students do not advance beyond the status of a beginner performing the Omote and their knowledge of the martial arts remains superficial.
This refers to the techniques taught to a more experienced student at an intermediate level. They are more complex and can only be executed with a good deal of practice.
The hidden, secret uses (Bunkai) of the Kata were passed on by the old Masters only to those students who had earned their complete trust. In Japan these techniques are described as Ura Waza. The secret techniques were also known as Okuden. As already mentioned, it is still common practice for those techniques which hold the true content of the Bunkai to be shown only to the higher Dans, and then only selectively. The passing on of advanced or hidden techniques is also carefully sifted. The particularly clever and refined techniques are only shown to especially trusted students (Uchi Deshi). The fact that Karate techniques belonging to the Okuden were not written down in earlier times makes it difficult to define the separate Kata, now, in the way they were probably defined 100 or 200 hundred years ago. Unfortunately, a lot of knowledge will remain hidden to us.
Employing a Kata, however, need not remain confined to known techniques which have been passed down by word-of-mouth. Many Karate Masters have studied the techniques very closely and developed their own interpretations. These individual interpretations of a Kata are known as Oyo, and can distance themselves even further from the original Kata.
Although it is usually easy to recognize the most obvious uses (Omote), it is still often difficult to differentiate between Chuden, Okuden and Oyo.
Various methods are used to research the secret techniques of the Kata:
1. Comparative analysis of Parallel Kata 2. Analysis of related Kata