Thursday, February 2, 2012


When do you stop merely imitating and start thinking for yourself?

In karate, there's a concept called bunkai. Bunkai is the process of kata analysis in which the kata that one has been studying are disassembled and one tries to figure out what the meaning behind the moves are. Mind you, the meanings are lost to time - assuming there were any meanings to begin with. But that's a topic I'm not going into here because I value my sanity (not really, but I don't want to get off on a tangent!)

The idea is that you are taught a kata and learn how to do each move correctly in turn. After you are comfortable with the sequence, bunkai takes you from knowing the how to knowing the why. My bunkai may be different from yours, but both can be correct. It's a combination of logical process and personal preferences.

When you start taiko, you do what you're told (unless you're a jerk, ha!) You get told what's expected and you try to match what your instructor shows you. Sooner or later, however, there needs to be a time when you start looking for more than what you're being told. Unless your instructor is only teaching you, there's only so much they're going to be able to help you with. Also, your instructor may intentionally hold things back from you because they want you to figure things out for yourself.

When that time comes, what you look at and what you figure out is really up to you. And like with bunkai, what you figure out might be different from what someone else figures out. The real question isn't what should you look at, but when?

Bunkai is an easy concept to have someone begin, even if the actual process is difficult. Depending on your dojo, you will have set guidelines for when bunkai is expected/required. Whenever you hit that rank, you should be thinking about it. Simple enough. But that's karate, where ranks are clearly established. In taiko, those sort of systems don't really exist, so when do you go from just doing to thinking?

I can't tell you that, it's something you'll have to figure out for yourself. There are few (if any) taiko teachers that are going to tell you, "now it's time for you to figure things out." As I say in my posts again and again, your development is really up to you!

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