One of the things I was most apprehensive about before my grading on the weekend was the bunkai component. I had 4 kata to learn, 3 to perform: Saifa, Hakkucho, and Seiunchin, and had officially learned full sets of bunkai for 2 of them. I am pretty sure I have seen bunkai for the third at one stage too, and had learned bunkai at camp for the one I wasn’t performing, and I may have even been able to remember, if push came to shove,(well more likely grab but you know what I mean!!).
You would think that all that would have made me feel very prepared, and quite confident about it all, but no, instead I felt a bit overwhelmed and out of control. I practiced whenever I could find a willing and resisting opponent (for some reason it was harder than it should have been to find someone to grab or hit me, especially given the company I keep!!), but still, had no idea what I would be tested on.
The night before my test, having been preocupied for days and in my dreams with bunkai possibilities, I made a decision: it would be what it would be and there was nothing I could do except roll with it……Probably just as well…..the bunkai I was asked were not ones I particularly had practised intensively, or had even remembered well. I got past it though and instead of freezing like I had thought I might, I was able to at least describe what the bunkai was, by looking at it and thinking it through in the cases where my memory needed help. I may have needed some pointers and encouragement to make it more realistic and practical, but at least I managed to laugh and not cry about it. And let’s face facts: it was pretty funny being told repeatedly to hit my Senpai in the groin and pinch his inner thigh harder to get him to be more “compliant” as my tori (attacker).
I do promise to write something more deep and meaningful about my experiences over the last week or two. I also promise to reflect on being on both sides of the panel table, scrutinising others, and being scrutinised myself. I promise to tell you all how it feels to be the other side of this experience, and to be (figuratively speaking) the first in the kyu (sic), standing on the last rung of the ladder leading to the launch pad so to speak. But in the mean time there is this:
Bunkai Ballad – The Crane who Smashes and Tears Calmly in the Storm.
Cranes are quite graceful but deceivingly vicious.
Hakkucho looks birdlike but the bunkai means business!
I’ll escape from your hold, head you off at the pass.
Hit your face, grab your groin and land you on your……..
Ask me about Saifa, it means “smash and tear”.
I’ll escape, and I’ll scrape and I’ll pull out your hair.
I’ll push you away and make you lose your hearing.
At the end of the day, it’s me you’ll be fearing.
Pulling in battle, can help me break free,
Seiunchin has storm within calm, you will see.
Move in to move out, move around, get them down,
Once they’re on your level, take them out and to ground.