Kyoshi's Technique of the Week

Technique of the Week (October 10th, 2004)

From Sensei Steve Lott,Go-Dan Ueshiro Midtown Karate Dojo, NYC

Kata and Bun-kai - The Attacker Must Always Attack

The exercise of bun-kai while doing kata has been done in the pretty much the same way for quite some time. The person doing the kata does the kata. When the next move in the kata is a block the attacker comes in with a punch or kick. This is correct.

But, when the person doing the kata is punching, the attacker will often block. This is incorrect. The attacker is just that - an attacker. He, or she, should always be attacking. And that means punching or kicking.

So let's examine what happens in a basic kata and what the attacker could do. We'll start with Fukyugata 1. The attacker starts out as always with a kick or low punch which is properly blocked with zenkutsu-dachi gedan-barai-uke by the person doing the kata.

It is at this point where a major change first takes place in bun-kai. The attacker must attack. Since the person doing the kata will be stepping forward with right hand - right foot walking punch, one proper attack would be a left hand punch. The attacker does not necessarily have to move their feet. On the count they would just throw a left hand punch. It may feel a little "crowded" for both students but this is exactly what may happen in a real fight.

If the attacker is a beginner student it may be easier for them to regroup by stepping back, taking a fighting stance and come in with a walking punch - left hand. This punch could be thrown left hand - left foot or left hand - right foot ( reverse punch ). The action of the two punches coming at each other at this moment is much the same as the last move in yakusoku sho ( pre-arranged fighting 1 ). We all know what happens at that point. Both students are in jigotai-dachi. The attacker begins to throw a right hand face punch and the defender waits for the punch to get about halfway and then throws their own left hand face punch inside the attacker's. The defender's punch deflects the attacker's punch and lands all in one move.

This is exactly what happens in the bun-kai here in the kata. The person doing the kata waits for the attacker to launch their left hand punch first. The person doing the kata steps in with their right hand punch inside of the attacker's oncoming left. The result is that the attacker's left hand punch will be deflected by the right hand punch of the person doing the kata. And of course the person doing the kata gets to land an effective solar plexus punch at the same time.

The timing and placement of these two punches is crucial. It will take very careful placement of the punches by both students for both the attack and the kata to be real. This correct placement and timing is the "bulls eye" that Hanshi refers to often. We may not hit it perfectly every time but it is important to strive for the center of the target in each attempt.

The rest of the kata continues in the same way. Each time the person doing the kata punches, the attacker should initiate with an attack of their own. If the next move for the person doing the kata is a right hand punch, the attacker would come in with a left hand punch. Or, if the next move for the person doing the kata is a left hand punch, the attacker would come in with a right hand punch.

One of the more difficult punches to be initiated in Fukyugata 1 is the attacker's left hand punch when the person doing the kata is throwing their right hand reverse punch in the kiai move. Because of the angle of the kata the attacker's punch must be exactly on target.

Attackers remember - the target may not be the one you normally shoot for when performing kata without the bun-kai. Now you have a real opponent in front of you. The target you must go for is the one on the person doing the kata. This means your attack may be may be lower or higher than normal. Be aware.

There are exercises that can be practiced to get a feeling for the timing and placement of the punches. Various stances may be employed. Here are a few:

1. Standing opposite each other in fighting stance. One would be left hand - left foot, and the other right hand - right foot. The exercise would begin by the person who is standing left hand - left foot attacking by coming in throwing a right hand - right foot punch. The other student who is in right hand - right foot fighting stance would come in left hand - left foot walking punch and deflect the opponent's right hand punch by punching inside the incoming punch. Each student would take turns initiating and then they would switch feet and repeat the exercise.

2. Facing each other in jigotai-dachi stance. The students take turns throwing punches and having them deflected by their training partner.

3. A more realistic "street" scenario may be simulated by the students standing in soto - hachiji daichi stance (open-legged stance) with hands at their sides. Somewhat like the start of yokusoku sho, with the exception of the position of the hands.

In all of the above the punches may be executed jodan, chudan or even gedan.

The attacks listed in this article are suggested attacks. Work with your training partner to experiment with other attacks. But remember, when performing bun-kai, the attacker always attacks.

Steve Lott