I was reading a great piece Matt wrote over at Ikigai Way about how over-complicating technique when it comes to martial arts can be extremely counterproductive when translating said techniques into a real-world scenario (here). I can definitely see what he’s getting at, and can also relate to over-complicating things I think part of it might be due to how my brain operates with all its lovely idiosyncrasies, and part of it might be a determination to try and look outside the box so much (and thus impress with a broader understanding of the technique) that it loses focus and meaning.
This is particularly important as I have a grading coming up in December, and from here onwards I’ll be expected to dissect and provide bunkai for previous kata to demonstrate that the forms aren’t just a dance, but have practical application and techniques that can be applied. Ever since I had my eyes opened to the extent to which you can dissect kata to discover the hidden depths of application contained therein, I’ve found a really satisfying challenging in this realm of martial arts study. While I’m still pretty green when it comes to it, I have to say it’s really rewarding, and I’m glad its a formalised part of my training.
Again, my problem with doing this is not to over-complicate things, and to demonstrate what will ultimately be a 7th-kyu perception of bunkai, and not trying to go too deep in demonstrating bunkai that it gets muddy. I’ve already done that a bit in class already, and have found that, at this level, it’s great to think outside the square, but it’s equally important to adhere to the old adage that you need to walk before you can run
But back to Matt’s post, I believe there’s a place for crazy, out-there thinking when it comes to breaking down kata, but it is absolutely essential that you bring the application to something that can be easily applied to the scenario if you can use it. To borrow from his example, there’s little utility in wasting time trying to recall a fancy grapple/sidestep technique when a straight-up block/parry/counter would suffice, as the time taken to cycle through your options may well negate any form of defense.
At higher levels of expertise, when you have drilled those particular techniques to a fine art and have built in the required muscle-memory to support them, it maybe well be a different scenario.
Importantly, as long as you have a guiding set of principles to cope with the act of violence, regardless of your level of technical expertise, I think this is the most important thing to have, as the principle can be acted upon faster than a specific arrangement of techniques. To that end, I think studying bunkai is important, as it begins to teach your mind about the core principles behind the techniques you are performing, whether it be as part of your basic drills or as kata, so you can apply them when needed. Granted, it takes a great deal of time to achieve mastery thereof, but as long as the core principles are understood, it doesn’t matter if it’s a fancy collection of techniques or a standard oitsuki – the technique must, ultimately, be applicable in a scenario of self defense.
… and that’s my jumbled response