Bunkai Flow Drill

Important post today about applying bunkai…

I know, I know “applying bunkai” is kind of redundant, right? Shouldn’t it be just “application” or “bunkai” instead of “applying bunkai”?


Anyway, I digress…

Most often you’ll see two karate-ka apply bunkai (there’s that redundancy yet again) in the following way in a very formal manner.

Both students assume their ready position, either in yoi dachi or zenkutsu dachi. One attacks with a certain technique. The other applies their bunkai responds with their technique from their kata. Repeat 10 times, change roles.

This is all good, but it’s a little boring… particularly after 20 or 30 repetitions. (And problematic if you teach kids as the attackers can tune out thinking “it’s not my turn” and often don’t treat the attack seriously. This in turn makes the whole thing sloppy).

I challenge you to try this approach instead:

Use the same application but turn it into a continuous drill, where it alternates between attack and defense.

For example let’s take the 5 technique sequence from Pinan/Heian Sandan moving towards the “front”. It begins with an inside-out block (uchi uke), proceeds to a spear hand nukite, twisting through to shiko/kiba dachi with hammer fist (tetsui) and finishes with an lunge punch (oizuki). See the picture below. Your stances and style may differ (and you may not have a perfectly round head, either), but you get the idea.


Ok… so the defender begins with blocking and incoming punch to the chest, then proceeds to the nukite and the rest of the sequence... (pay attention this is the important part)… where he/she makes lunge punch to the chest. Let’s now use that final move of the sequence as the ATTACK for the other person to begin their application.

IMPORTANT: With the following picture read it from RIGHT to left as if the person on the right is now doing the bunkai returing to the left of the screen.  Just follow the arrows starting on the RIGHT.


And of course as they complete the sequence the last technique is used as the attack for their partner, who does the bunkai a second time… now moving this way —>


This DRILL proceeds back and forth… forever. Or until somebody accidentally gets knocked out, passes out from physical exhaustion or until you call stop.


This is a great way to add some flavor to your boring old bunkai application (urrrgh) repetitions. It’s great because it alternates and keeps both students alert and paying attention.

You can do this with any application you like. The trick is to make the final technique of the sequence the attacking technique for the second person. And if it doesn’t match up, simply add another technique that solves the problem.

Like this idea? Find more here…