Kumite – Hand in Hand with Your Opponent

(by Marc Janott, June 2015, revised June 2016)

Part 5 of 8: Kata Oyo Bunkai Kumite

The katas of karate that we have inherited are collections of techniques and principles of self-defence used successfully by past masters. Instead of writing them down we learn them by physically copying the given moves with our own body. This way the combat system can be handed down in a compact format.

The techniques and principles are encoded in the kata movements, and there are rules for decoding kata that have been handed down together with the katas.

This process of decoding is called bunkai (分解) in Japanese. The word translates as “analysis” in the sense of gaining insight by taking apart and learning about structure and meaning. The goal of which is the acquisition of knowledge.

So bunkai is the method of deducting applications from the katas.

The Japanese word for applications is oyo (応用), which also translates as “put to practical use”.

Of course, kata is an excellent method of practising karate at times when a partner is not available. However, the best way to practise the applications of a kata is, of course, by working with a partner, i.e. kumite.

So kata oyo bunkai kumite is the analysis of kata to find and understand plausible applications of the kata moves by means of studying and practising them with a partner.

Kata oyo bunkai kumite is non-competitive by nature. It therefore doesn't have much to do with kata competition bunkai or competition kumite.

Instead, it is entirely about self-defence, because that is the original idea behind karate katas. We want to know how to put karate to practical use “should one by any chance be confronted by a villain or a ruffian.” (Itosu)

Although this type of kumite is primarily about understanding kata, practising kata applications with a partner can be physically demanding. To incorporate the principles from the kata into your own fighting method, you will need to repeat the drills with a partner many times with gradually increasing speed and resistance. It therefore can provide a good workout within a leisure sports setting.