karate ka

Your bunkai is not a bunkai.

You all know I LOVE kata. I love training every single part of karate, but when practicing kata, I feel… at home. So welcome into my house lovely people…


One of the most famous terms connected to kata is bunkai.
But what you mostly see in YouTube video is in fact, not bunkai at all.

Prepare yourself, let’s get into this!

Originally posted by nekosekainightmares

First up: what is kata?

Yeah okay, it’s a ‘predetermined set of movements that teach you fundamentals of the techniques’.

But it’s more.

First and foremost if you ask me:
It is a method to teach you how to use your body.

Every kata is a complete fighting system. NONE of the movements you make in a kata are without meaning. Every move you make has a specific objective and principle. So with every technique, step, resting moment in a kata, you are practicing a self-defense situation AND a karate principle.

Okay now I’m going to introduce the three stages of bunkai kata, and remember them well:

  1. Omote (surface)
  2. Ura (behind)
  3. Henka (changing)


Originally posted by fushy3874

Now a lot of YouTube video’s promise you bunkai, but give you something else:

Kaisetsu  (解説)

Kaisetsu means ‘to give an explanation’. But as we know, a Japanese word has many meanings, so let’s take the karate translation:

‘Endless application’

Application. To apply what you have learned. What you see, is what you get. Does it look like a block with a punch? Hot damn, it might actually be a block and a punch!

It’s an explanation of the kata on a surface level, with the embusen mostly intact.

Which are, most of the video’s on the internet when you search the name of your kata, like Pinan Yondan or Kushanku:

(‘bunkai’ starts at 8 minutes into the video, or check out the first 30 seconds for a gist of it)

Do not be fooled. The video is tagged bunkai, but it is not bunkai. It’s Kaisetsu.

3 Tips to recognize Kaisetsu versus Bunkai

  1. Does the karate-ka follow the techniques of the kata exactly (like punches/blocks, embusen etc.)

  2. Is the karate-ka attacked in an equal karate manner? (like attacked with junzuki or mae geri)

  3. Does it look like the kata in every way?
    Kaisetsu. All the way.

Don’t get me wrong, I love this video, it shows good kaisetsu and it’s performed on a proficient level. But what bothers me is that it’s labeled as bunkai when it’s not.

Let’s talk about bunkai shall we?

Originally posted by heroofomegle

Bunkai (分解)

It means to dissemble a kata completely. It’s a complete breakdown, analysis of the steps, techniques, movements, everything.

Remember the three levels of bunkai kata?

Omote (surface)

Ura (behind)

Henka (changing)

The thing is, kaisetsu and omote bunkai are a bit hard to tell apart.
Omote means surface, and omote bunkai refers to bunkai on a surface level. Kaisetsu is applying the techniques on a surface level. That’s why they get mixed up so easily.

Omote bunkai is different from kaisetsu in a very easy-to-spot way:

The attack.

Bunkai is practical application. Kaisetsu is endless application.
Now I know it sounds similar, but it’s not.

You can think of an endless amount of karate attacks in which you can apply your kata (kaisetsu). But can you incorporate the kata on a choke hold? A knife attack, or a grab on the wrist?

That’s the difference between kaisetsu and omote bunkai. The setting and attack is crucial. It’s very different to start in a fighting position and receive a perfect mae geri than to be caught off guard and you have to apply what you’ve learned when you’re in a choke hold.

Ura bunkai ( 裏分解)

There is no fixed bunkai. Never. There is not ‘one application that fits all’. Karate forms your body and mind into a weapon, make no mistake about that. Which means the possibilities for destruction of your opponent are endless!

Originally posted by scumreject

Catch my drift?

Anyways, ura bunkai is what goes on behind the what-you-see-is-what-you-get part of a kata. I am so amazed that a few years ago kata Naihanchi (Tekki Shodan) actually taught me how to break someone’s neck.
You read that correctly. 

Break. someone’s. neck.
Killing them

Scary stuff. The real deal.

So yeah that lame little ‘gamae’ posture that gives you a breather in the kata? You could also use it to break someone’s neck while you’re at it!
But I could’ve never seen it for myself. Students are blind to ura bunkai, they need guidance. Myself included. A great ambassador of omote- and ura bunkai in my opinion is Ian Abernathy. Practical self-defense using kata.

The video is 3 minutes of pure no nonsense beating the living daylights out of this guy. In a respectful karate manner, using Naihanchi.

Henka waza (変化技)

The last stage is henka waza. It’s the stage after omote and ura. It’s a stage that you can reach when you have a higher DAN degree and have practiced for many years. But you have to search and study actively for it.

It’s when the kata are so ingrained in your body, and you know so many applications (both omote and ura), that you are free of form. Almost like a kata without kata.

変 = Hen = unusual, change, strange
化 = Ka = change,  take the form of
技 = Waza = technique, art

変化 Henka = change;  variation;  alteration;  mutation;  transformation; metamorphosis

It means you can transform the kata, the techniques to your own will and apply them freely in any situation. Free as a bird… of prey.

Originally posted by nidoqueen

That’s it for now! Oof okay this has been lengthy! But in my defense, bunkai is a VERY deep and broad topic so in my opinion, this was short.


Okay that gamae had an application, you mayby could have guessed. But did you know that ‘looking left and right’ in Naihanchi also has a practical meaning?

Enjoy this 8 minute explanation by, once again, Sensei Ian Abernathy!

Thank you for reading, I am open to questions and requests!

The Importance of the Black Belt

The black belt is associated with a certain stigma among many different types of people. To them, if you achieved a black belt it can be brushed off with a simple comment such as “well you couldn’t stop someone shooting you so….” or something else along the lines of “Wow you could totally kick someones ass!”.

To me, these comments can be quite irritating even if the last comment can be taken as some what of a compliment. Only those who have train in martial arts or who have witnessed someone close to them learn the art can, in my opinion, hold a proper understanding of the importance of this belt.

In a proper training environment (and by saying this I am not referring to some of the ‘cash cow’ dojos that are lying about where if you pay the right price you can buy your black belt) the belt represents many things, such as:

  1. Years of diligent practice.
  2. Patience through the progression up the ranking system of the martial art.
  3. Overcoming the steep learning curve of martial arts, including both the physical and mental aspects.
  4. Pushing yourself to the limit.
  5. Taking martial arts into your daily life.

The reason that the fifth point is mention is because, if you have been learning your martial art for long enough, you would have probably incorporated some of your training into your daily life routine, whether you realise it or not.

To cut it short, the black belt represents a level or personal, mental and physical commitment to an art that not everyone can achieve. By earning this, it puts all of that commitment into something that you can wear with pride, an item you can cherish and a state of mind no one can take away.

Ibuki and Makoto

Here’s my submission for the UDON Capcom Fighting Tribute!

I’ve always been a fan of these two ladies from Street Fighter 3; Third Strike. The implied rivalry between these two in their intro animation captured my imagination when i first booted the game up. I was glad to have a chance to paint a duel between this ninja and karate-ka. This painting will show up in the art book that will be released in September of 2015, so pick it up if you get a chance!

- Capcom Fighting Tribute will premiere with a limited-run convention edition hardcover at San Diego Comic-Con, July 9-12! http://www.udonentertainment.com/blog/news/round-1-of-udons-san-diego-comic-con-exclusives
- The standard edition of Capcom Fighting Tribute will be released September 2015. Links to pre-order the book at a variety of online retailers can be found here: http://www.udonentertainment.com/blog/product/capcom-fighting-tribute

Martial Arts naiveté


Random person: “Oh, you do Tae Kwon Do.”

Karate-ka: “No, I do Karate.”

Random person: “It’s not the same thing?”


Tae Kwon Do 

Same random person: “Oh, you do Karate.”

Tae Kwon Do-ka: “No, I do Tae Kwon Do”

Same random person: “It’s not the same thing?”

Do you even kiai, broh?

Wado Ryu is one of the 5 most practiced styles around the globe. With a number of roughly 50 million karate-ka out there, that’s pretty widespread!

Every style has something unique, an edge that sets them apart. And although there is a bad habit of badmouthing other styles (don’t lie, we all know it’s there..), I have found that we’re not so different!

Õtsuka Kazutaka Sensei (3rd grandmaster of Wado Ryu)

On the 39th Kobudo Demonstration Nippon Budokan 2016 performing:

  • Tanto dori (defense against knife techniques)
  • Joshi Goshin Jutsu (self-defense techniques for women)
  • Shinken Shirahara dori (defense against a sharpened katana)

As a Wado practitioner, I love this. It’s pure budo (in my opinion). 
But since I’m a karate appreciator all around, I decided to peek over the fence at the neighbours!

Higaonna Morio Sensei (10th DAN)

Founder and Chief Instructor of the International Okinawan Goju-ryu Karate-do Federation (IOGKF). 10th DAN, this man is a beast.

Performing… hey! I know that stuff! We do that too! Like, and that, and that…

I recognize a lot of what they performed here. I’ve done it myself! Yet I never ever had a Goju Ryu class in my life.

So why does it look so familiar?

We’re related. After all, Karate-do in all its forms, have the same roots: Okinawa. Or should I even say: China.

But there is one universal thing that sets Wado Ryu a bit apart from the other main styles of karate:

Whenever I watch a kata or kumite video of the founder, his son OR grandson, there is no kiai.

When I watch the representative of our style in The Netherlands, there is no kiai.

Did you watch the first video? NO KIAI.

We’re already nicknamed ‘the soft karate style’.. this ain’t helping our ‘badass image’ people!

So eh, do we kiai in Wado Ryu?

Let’s break down kiai first shall we?

Kiai (ki-ai) is closely related to kime, on which I wrote a post on not too long ago. Literally translated, it means harmonized energy

You focus all of your energy (ki) and bundle it (harmonize it) into your technique. And in most styles, it will be recognized by a loud sound, originating from the hara (underbelly).

Originally posted by osakaxkobe

You know, that’s the leftover from your dragonballZ/this-is-realistic-fighting-right-?- kind of dream. The kiai. That must be it!

This is what we see in most karate styles and what we call:

Yuusei no kiai

Yuusei no kiai is the audible kiai. It’s what you hear in the second video with Higaonna Sensei, and believe me when I say: there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. Like I said, not here to bash stuff.

Everyone starts to train with yuusei no kiai. 

Heck, I still do so. Sensei of mine still do so. But I’m noticing that some of the reaaally high up ranks don’t (anymore). And since I am constantly evolving as a karate-ka, I’m starting to notice that sometimes… I don’t always do a loud kiai either. It conflicts with my breathing sometimes. It conflicts with the timing sometimes. 

And sometimes I notice that I don’t need it to show strength or channel my ki. But I still breathe through it, I still focus everything I got into that technique. And that is what we call my-dear-lovers-of-karate:

Musei no kiai

Sometimes we use one. Many times we use the other. 

In solo kata there is traditionally only do Musei no kiai and that is why Õtsuka Sensei never did Yuusei no kiai (audible). But we still kiai. Kiai does not have to be vocalized with a loud shout. 

The general thought behind it is that yuusei no kiai makes you lose your power while musei no kiai helps you channel your kiai towards your opponent. According to the teachings of Õtsuka Sensei. 

Does that make it the absolute righteous thing because I am a follower of Wado?

Hmm, no not necessarily.

Gohan needed an extra amount of effort to get to that super saiyan form at first right?

Originally posted by kazuyamishima

But later, it went pretty effortless. He didn’t even flinch! 

It’s because you get used to a form, practice the form and familiarize yourself with the techniques and principles.

That’s why I see either as fine. But it makes us Wado practitioners look a little softer than those loud kiai you always hear in competition (although they might just overdo it a little don’t you think?)

Originally posted by karatechampion

(she’s still yelling after the punch is long done..?)

So Budoblr, do you even kiai?


Here’s a treat to the Two Best Friends Play fan community! It’s a video of two Okinawan Goju-ryu karate masters demonstrating sanchin, featured in today’s Karate Master 2 episode. In short, sanchin is a practice where a karate-ka must control his breathing and apply tension to all of his muscles while a partner strikes his body with kicks and palm strikes, with usual targets being the ribs, the shoulders, the thighs and the testicles. The objective is to sharpen the mind and harden the body.

It’s painful to watch and not for everyone, obviously, but it’s living proof of how incredible these people are. Don’t forget the large, grisly callouses they’ve developed on their hands due to makiwara practice.

Morio Higaona, the older of the two masters, was once described as “the most dangerous man in Japan in a street fight”.

You’re small and having trouble fighting? I got your back!

By the way all you tall handsome and gorgeous people reading this, these tips might annihilate your enemies as well.

I am doing great in my karate, I am focused, I am nailing those kata and techniques! But there was always that one tiny problem~

My sensei are just as Dutch as I am, men and at least 1.80m (or 5,9″ in the U.S.) which leaves me with quite some neck pain at the dojo from looking up all the time!

After hitting puberty everyone flew up to the clouds and I was left on earth here with my 1.60m (or 5,3″). This basically left me for years like this:

Well at least I’d make a cute Pikachu.

Sounds familiar? Sadly my first few (shorter) Sensei left before the kumite sparring got real (and everyone outgrew me) and I was left for a couple of years with only tall Sensei. I am very grateful for their teachings but they never had the same problems being so Eiffeltower-y tall! 

Now don’t you worry my fellow member of the allegiance of tiny people who are secretly really awesome.


NEVER back out. 

Look going back is a great movement to immediately go to the frontal attack again, but let’s face it: 




As much as we’d like to, we need to take a huge step back to evade that huge leg swinging our way but we cannot cover the distance that has made between you and that tall son of beach!

Originally posted by scolipede

This will most likely still be the reality for us then…

#2 Nagasu/Inasu (inasu is similar)

So what the fridge are you supposed to do?!


Means parrying, or moving with the attack, to evade a blow, often while countering. The body is moved slightly off of the line of attack so that the attacking technique is evaded, but at a close enough angle that the power of the opponent’s attack can be used to increase the force of the counterattack. 

Get out of the way of that incoming train! Sidestep, left, right, just MOVE your pretty butt out off the way!

#3 Alright, I moved now what -> SEN

You got out of the way right? Congratulations! You took your first step in releasing your punching bag status! Now this next one is great:

It means attacking simultaneously with the opponent as in nagashizuki. It implies that the ‘defender’ will be able to complete his attack first, and/or displace the opponent’s attack.
You want to attack me? Sure, but you’ll regret it.

Hey if it works with a KATANA then a leg or arm should be no problem, right?
Sensei Õtsuka Hironori II (R.I.P. 2015) and his son Sensei Õtsuka Kazutaka which I had the privilege of training under in several seminars.

More options? 

#4 Sensen no Sen 

This means to attack when the opponent’s intent to attack is perceived, thus pre empting the opponent’s attack and catching him/her off guard.

Stretch your arms out around you, make a circle with them. That my friend, is your personal bubble, your space.The trick is to attack as soon as someone is wanting to burst that bubble. Don’t be shy, but timing is crucial. It is definitely tricky to master, but if you do, your sparring partners will start hating you in a very good way.

#5 Hold your guard up high

This is a golden tip for our very punch-able heads. Keep your guard up a little higher than you’re used to. In Wado, we tend to keep our firsts not higher than chudan height which is great: if you don’t have a head to defend. Our faces are chudan height for our tall sparring partners making us vulnerable to their punches.

It won’t expose our lower areas because that is not relevant for our opponents!

And THAT, is how you made your Pikachu into this:

That is one badass ushiro-iron-tail!

Karate, as many as our fellow martial arts came from Japan and China.

They were basically MADE for us small people! And don’t forget: bigger limbs mean less speed. They need to travel longer than ours! There is no ultimate karate-ka body figure, everything has pros and cons, figure out how to use those pros of yours!

Karate for olympics, yay or nay?

So I will make this short and bittersweet:

I love karate, I really do. But sport karate has never really been part of my routine. Sport karate does ADD to shaping a karate-ka. But it does not add to karate itself in my opinion, not as a martial way.

Positive sides to sportkarate:

  • Athleticism is great 
  • In sparring, your reaction time is very fast
  • The focus you see during competition is real
  • It is great for a generic public to look at, it adds flavor to the karate dish!

And to me, that’s about it. But in my opinion this is what it comes down to:

Kumite - a game of tag

Yup, a game of tag. Tag, you’re it, I scored a point! Oh and the running around screaming when they think they’ve scored a point? 

Originally posted by callmeklimt

Ugh. Think I’m over exaggerating?

This is just a small example, search YouTube for kumite championships and you’ll find it allover. I’m not saying that this is a disgrace for karate, it is just how a sport evolved. Or in my opinion, devolved. Where is the real fight?!

Kata - A beautiful play

Now, I admit it, I love watching kata championships, it looks awesome. But in the back of my head there’s always this little voice whispering: this is so not… realistic? In any form, shape or way? Aren’t they going a bit too far with this?

European Karate Championships 2015 ITA va. ESP Male team kata final. 
So pretty to look at!

I will only quote what Hanshi Suzuki Tatsuo (8th Dan Wado karate)  said about kata competition:

“In my opinion, kata competition is not a good idea because, in competition, competitors want to get high marks so they over exaggerate the movement, losing the original movement of the kata. Karate kata is not a form of gymnastics. When doing kata in competition, hardly any people have an opponent in mind while doing it. It is not necessary to ki-ai many times in one kata. Once, twice, or at most three times is enough, too many, is a waste.”


So, I am wondering how the budoblr community sees this. Seriously, I want my opinions challenged and questioned because I am pretty critical!
Karate for olympics in 2020, yay, or nay?