A review of the Kata and Bunkai Course with Shihan Cyril Cummins 8th dan and Sensei Slater Williams 7th dan
Saturday 8th February 2014
Bartley Green Community Leisure Centre
On Saturday 8th february 2014 Shihan Cyril Cummins 8th dan and Sensei Slater Williams 7th dan (Redditch Shotokan Karate) held a special kata and bunkai course. The course was well attended with a number of students from different clubs attending. After the introductions and warm up the class was split into two parts with Shihan Cummins initially taking the dan grades and Sensei Williams the kyu grades.
The black belts started with Shihan Cummins who taught the kata Unsu. He explained the name meant Cloud Defense and the myth behind the name. As he taught the kata to the count he stopped at points to explain the bunkai for particular movements and demonstrated the application of the techniques. We did the kata several times like this before Shihan Cummins gathered us all around so that students could ask questions about the kata and bunkai. We then split into pairs to perform he bunkai for the first few moves with Shihan Cummins moving around the groups to answer questions and offer advice on how to apply the techniques. This was very helpful as only a slight adjustment in how to perform a lock can be the difference between it being effective and ineffective. Finally we performed the kata again to a faster count as the class was now more familiar with the kata a couple of more times before it was time for the sensei to swap groups. During his session Shihan Cummins emphasised the importance of understanding the application and intent of the techniques in order to understand how to perform them correctly and thus achieve correct form. Shihan Cummins also pointed out that at advanced levels a lot of the blocks in kata should be interpreted as strikes. This interpretation in the bunkai can give a kata a vastly different feel.
Sensei Williams then took over the black belts after a brief break for water, first establishing how many people in the class knew the kata Kanku Sho and to what degree of familiarity. As everyone on the class had done it before to some degree he then proceeded to start to teach the kata. Sensei Williams emphasis was on the form of the kata and technique. He asked the class to slow everything down and really concentrate on fluid movements, especially in the first few moves where there is a tendency for people to jump rather than slide. He also stressed the importance of maintaining correct formal stances and using the hips and lower body correctly. This was illustrated in the first two oi-tsuki followed by uchi-ude-uki techniques where he emphasized the importance of the punch being an “ippon” technique and the correct use of hips for the block. Sensei Williams summed this approach up with the phrase “Technique First”. We then went through the kata to the count several times with Sensei Williams illustrating certain aspects at various points throughout the kata including the importance of relaxing in order to be able to use your whole body correctly when performing the techniques. The class then split into pairs to perform bunkai using various moves from the kata after a demonstration of these by Sensei Williams. Sensei Williams moved around the groups during this period explaining how to do the bunkai he had demonstrated. Whilst we were trying to do this we especially found the lock following the throw extremely hard to apply as we often ended up in the wrong position to apply that particular lock and so ended up applying another. Finally Sensei Williams called each rank of dan grade out to perform Kanku Sho after which he offered advice on how to improve.
Whilst I regularly train with Shihan Cummins this was the first time I had trained with Sensei Williams and so it was very interesting seeing another instructors perspective on the kata. Every sensei brings their own insights and observations into their teaching style along with slight variations of techniques depending on what they were taught and their interpretation of the technique so training with a different sensei like this can provide another perspective for your training. In this case I noticed the difference in emphasis to achieve the same goals between the two sensei. Shihan Cummins emphasis is on understanding the application of the technique to achieve the correct form and understand the kata and how to perform it. Sensei Williams emphasis was on the form of the technique to perform a correct kata. From the course and the different emphasis in teaching I get the impression that Shihan Cummins intrinsically links the bunkai with the kata whilst allowing for individual interpretations whilst Sensei Williams sees these as two more distinct aspects of the kata again allowing for individual interpretations of bunkai.
This was a very enjoyable course which gave me areas to think about in order to improve my kata further and I like many of the other attendees look forward to further courses in the future. I’d like to thank Shihan Cummins and Sensei Williams for arranging this course.
Richard Amuzu, 3rd Dan, BHSKC