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I'd like to learn more about the various applications and interpretations of Karate katas. Is there a written source I can use?

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By interpretations, are you meaning bunkai? – stslavik Feb 10 '12 at 2:54
Yes, I mean bunkai. – blueberryfields Feb 10 '12 at 15:59
This post was edited and my answer became invalid, so I deleted my post. Shame, really. – Anon Feb 12 '12 at 1:47
@Trevoke: it was only edited to clarify that he meant bunkai by interpretation. Please review the edit history; your answer was and still is entirely valid. – stslavik Feb 12 '12 at 2:13
@stslavik True. The edit just really emphasized that 'Shotokan' was in the title. Now I also want to add the word 'waza' to the title, though.. I mean, if we go for exactness, we may never be done. – Anon Feb 12 '12 at 3:26
up vote 6 down vote accepted

There are numerous resources for learning various bunkai or kata. I don't know if I would consider any one of them authoritative (instead preferring this sort of classification better left to the teachings of a shihan), but they exist and there is no sense limiting that information.

I encourage this list to be expanded and edited by those far more knowledgable in this field than I.

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Iain Abernethy has some good information online relating to Bunkai:

And also in video form:

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Welcome to the site. Generally, answers here need substance, not just links (links can go dead and result in a loss of information). Perhaps you could paraphrase what it is that makes those links relevant to this discussion. See Answering Questions on – stslavik May 17 '12 at 15:42
A summary of Abernethy's content would be swell. He's got good stuff, but a raw link just isn't helpful. – Dave Liepmann May 17 '12 at 17:05

One outstanding source for anything bunkai is any of the chin na books by Dr. Yang Jwing Ming. Dr. Yang has probably forgotten more than most people learn in a lifetime. He authors/teaches mainly from a Chinese (Kung Fu, Tai Chi Chuan) perspective, but once you read one of his books or view one of his DVDs your reaction will be "Dang!! That might not be my art, but I've got a move in my kata that looks incredibly similar!".

And therein lies one of the secrets of bunkai - it doesn't matter what art you train in, the opponent's body is the same no matter whether you use Kung Fu or Karate*. The application of bunkai can be adapted across styles. Even if you have yet to learn similar techniques to what he shows, he has shown you the points on the body to use and the mechanics of the move and you will find that you know other techniques that can utilise the same points and mechanics.

*Speaking broadly, the bunkai Dr. Yang teaches can be utilised in most external styles

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No. To avoid such knowledge being used by the wrong people, it is kept hidden and only shared to students. It's fair to assume that some particularly effective applications are not taught to people who haven't reached a certain rank.

The Way of Kata will help you learn to think about the moves in your forms and how they can be interpreted. It is well-written and will get you started, but it is not the be-all, end-all of form interpretation. I recommend you also study the following two books:

Hidden Hands

Martial Maneuvers

Be responsible, study, practice, meditate.

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Re.: avoiding knowledge use by the wrong people - has the secrecy been effective? – blueberryfields Feb 10 '12 at 16:54
Given the amount of misinformation and stupid stuff around, and the amazing lack of real understanding out there, I'd say yes, it is. – Anon Feb 10 '12 at 17:31

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