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"One thing has always been true: That book ... or ... that person who can give me an idea or a new slant on an old idea is my friend." - Louis L'Amour

"Ideally, your self-defense will never get physical. Avoiding the situation and running or talking you way out - either of these is a higher order of strategy than winning a physical battle." - Wise Words of Rory Miller, Facing Violence: Chapter 7: after, subparagraph 7.1:medical

"Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider..." - Francis Bacon

Warning, Caveat and Note: The postings on this blog are my interpretation of readings, studies and experiences therefore errors and omissions are mine and mine alone. The content surrounding the extracts of books, see bibliography on this blog site, are also mine and mine alone therefore errors and omissions are also mine and mine alone and therefore why I highly recommended one read, study, research and fact find the material for clarity. My effort here is self-clarity toward a fuller understanding of the subject matter. See the bibliography for information on the books.

Note: I will endevor to provide a bibliography and italicize any direct quotes from the materials I use for this blog. If there are mistakes, errors, and/or omissions, I take full responsibility for them as they are mine and mine alone. If you find any mistakes, errors, and/or omissions please comment and let me know along with the correct information and/or sources.

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What is the difference between ippon kumite and bunkai?

Awesome question from Sue C. of the "My journey to black belt" blog site.

So, how would I answer this question, a very, very good question I  have not had presented in my past instruction, training, and practice. Let me begin by first providing my literal definition of each.

Ippon Kumite:

Ippon literally means "one point." Then it is connected to other Japanese terms to provide greater meaning, i.e.

Ippon-ken: one-fist, Ippon-kowashi-no-waza: one technique to destroy, Ippon-nukite: one figher spear hand, and then finally Ippon-kumite which means to me a "one point sparring" process or technique.

To me ippon-kumite is just a level or step in the process to train a practitioner to apply a karate technique, not sport fighting, against another pre-defined technique. Both parties are restricted to either applying or countering one set of applicable techniques. This is a drill format training tool. Since ippon kumite in my system of instruction does not occur until all the fundamentals are ingrained and at least "one" kata is thoroughly covered one does not do kumite of any kind.

In my system of instruction the drills or ippon-kumite level is derived from the kata bunkai (see next for my view/definition of bunkai). This is not always true in other dojo to include other dojo that teach the same system as I do. Some actually have separate ippon-kumite, or drills, that are created from fighting techniques. These fighting techniques are those best used for tournament/sparring/competitive/sport derived applications. I believe Tatsuo Sensei as well as most of the Americans who brought it to the United States developed.

When you consider the short duration and the predominance of promotions that came from Tatsuo for their participation and achievements in "contests" which are tournament/sport oriented you see why they split from kata bunkai to a separate and unique form of instruction and practice.

Ippon-kumite is merely a tool that introduces the practitioners to fighting techniques and helps develop and train in the gross or broad strokes so proper form, stance, posture, weight transfer, power generation, etc. can be taught, trained, practiced and applied in a relatively reality based trainable fighting system.

Too many karate-ka who were exposed to the shortened versions of this tool ended up dropping the kata bunkai for sport fighting techniques and combinations that would get points quickly and achieve recognition and promotions for the trophies won, etc.

In my system of instruction I have tried to keep the kata bunkai, the foundation of techniques for the system as I see and believe it to be, tied to the actual fighting training tools that provide the foundation to applying true karate techniques to fighting, i.e. defensive applications in a combative non-regulated non-sport oriented endeavor.

Once a practitioner achieves a level of proficiency in ippon-kumite then they will move to san-bon-kumite, gohon-kumite, shiai-kumite and finally jiyu-kumite with levels and graduations of levels in and between each of these kumite/drills. The idea is not to find patterns and habits but to achieve a level of proficiency with an end result of each individual taking it beyond the drill/pattern/form level into a unique level where the person can achieve results spontaneously and according to such things as range, application of proper technique, power, and so on. Since fighting is fluid, chaotic and dangerous one must have a foundation that can be morphed and connected and molded on the fly which is extremely difficult. Ergo, why drills with combo's for sport are so quick and more easily achieved, no real effort.

Ippon-kumite at the base level is slow and deliberate enough with mutually beneficial relationships between uke-n-=tori that allows one to "see," "hear," and "feel" how it all works and connects so the brain/mind can learn and file it for retrieval when needed later, etc. Each kumite/drill adds, changes, and increases the level of difficulty. It is not set it stone either.

Each of these can be moved up in intensity as well as a more chaotic application. If you have a variety of one-step sparring techniques after learning them in order and correctly you can start to mix and match, set the drills and follow them, with a final application where tori-n-uke are free to pick and choose what they wish to apply in a one-step fashion to achieve spontaneity of a sort.

Kata Bunkai:

Kata are the blueprints of the system. They contain all the system has to offer for fighting but that is not the limit of what kata provides to the entire person and system of practice and training (this is another post entirely).

Bunkai are and always have been the core techniques of the kata/system. The system has basic bunkai or basic understanding of each move, etc. It is a basic understanding that can and is applied for practical use in fighting. The standard basic bunkai of the system is set by the creator but is not restricted exactly to it other than as the introduction of kata bunkai.

It is incumbent on the Sensei and the Practitioner to achieve more regarding bunkai which when taken to a higher level incorporates the "fundamentals of the system." If it does not then the bunkai are merely academic thoughts which should be ignored if the fundamentals are not present.

Even tho a system has basic movements with basic practical applications bunkai means once the basics plus fundamentals are achieved and proficiency reached the individual must continue to break down the kata moves to achieve a deeper understand and potential of applied to fighting criteria that includes basics, fundamentals and now greater bunkai.  It is a means for the practitioner to "study" their system of its basic practical applications to find more that can be applied practically.

If you then tie both ippon-kumite (as wall as sanbon, etc.) to this level of bunkai study you can then extrapolate and examine additional "karate techniques" and test them for validity to real life fights.

This is an aspect many seem to have lost, the fact that ippon-kumite is not just a basic tool of instruction but a tool the higher level practitioners use to find out if their bunkai has all the fundamentals and actually can be applied to a fight, etc. It helps validate it before one has to use it. It is a tool that helps us find realistic training application that supplements all training tools.

One more tool for the instruction/training/practice tool box.

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