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Heian Shodan's Bunkai - Defending yourself with a basic kata


bunkai-heian-ShodanHeian Shodan's Bunkai... the art of defending yourself with a basic kata.

Heian Shodan is a kata basic, very basic that is often considered (me first) as a learning kata that would especially learn the basics and the first techniques of the toolbox Karateka.
However, if we do a research (Bunkai) and that we analyze a little deeper Heian Shodan, we realize that it can contain much more than a simple basic sequence for beginners.
With the study of Heian Shodan's Bunkai that I am going to propose to you, you will see that with a simple basic kata, one can be able to defend oneself and answer almost any type of aggression.

Introduction: A bunkai, what is it?

I already explained in the article "Bunkai, the art of analyzing a Kata", what is a Bunkai and how to shell a Kata to make it a method of self-defense.

I will remind you of the principles in this short introductory video and then we will see in practice how with the bunkai, Heian Shodan, who is considered a beginner's kata, becomes a real self-defense method all by himself.

Here is a video summary of what a bunkai :

>>> Download the video

Here, for the appetizer. It's time now to get down to business. In the following videos, we will dissect together the Kata Heian Shodan to turn it into a real self-defense toolkit.

In the introductory video, I announce you partners, in fact there is only one ... Alexandre whom I thank for his help.

Alexandre has very little experience in karate, he did a little when he was small but soon changed to other sports like gymnastics, triathlon ... In short he is very athletic but has not that bases in Karate (although ... since it is my son, he is a little fallen in the pot from birth!).

In the end, it's not worse that Alexander is not Karateka because I prefer to work with a beginner who will not tend to do purely karate techniques to attack me, because as I have already explained to you you have very little chance of being attacked by a Karateka (it's too nice, these beasts there :-)).

Heian Shodan Bunkai Part 1:

In this video 1ère, we will analyze the beginning of the kata with the Gedan Barai left followed by Chudan Oizuki law. You will see that these simple techniques can respond to many different aggression.

>>> Download the video

That's it, you've seen the principle, do not take a technique and look for what you can do with it, but take a type of aggression (kick, punch, grip, throttle, thrust ...) and look to find an adequate answer while remaining in the motor diagram of the part of the kata which one studies.

Heian Shodan Bunkai Part 2:

In the next part we will have to make a U-turn. There are several possible scenarios with an opponent behind for example, but I chose to have my opponent in front of me and use his strength during the attack to make a projection.

As a general rule for your Bunkaiyou must consider that your opponent is facing you, but you may very well consider that you have an opponent in the back for example with several opponents but this is not what I chose here.

I will ride you how on a punch, use the strength of your opponent to your advantage.

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In the video, I use the strength of Alexander to unbalance him and take him behind me. In the reality of a fight, it's true that it will not be easy to do that on a punch. But tell yourself that it is not a Karateka that is attacking you. The movement that I showed you will be very well suited for example to a thrust that is a type of aggression quite common. In fact as soon as the opponent comes to you, you can use the energy of this movement to your advantage to unbalance it.

Heian Shodan Bunkai Part 3:

Here we come to the famous hammer blow (Tetsui Uchi) Heian Shodan and you probably wonder what I'm going to do with it.

You will see that with this simple gesture, I will be able to defend myself and put my opponent out of action against a punch, a kick or a seizure.

>>> Download the video

You've seen, I'm not just thinking about kata in the first degree, but I'm using all the kata gestures trying to forget what they are at the 1er degree.

For example in the bunkai, I use Ikite to unbalance my attacker and I transform OiZuki into a simple projection.

The important thing is to easily find self-defense responses to aggression, and not to remain sclerotic in the idea that one makes of a gesture but to study each movement of each arm, each leg and to seek to use it to defend yourself.

Heian Shodan Bunkai Part 4:

We will now address the sequence of 3 Jodan Age Uke from the first straight line. You will see that I transform this straight line into a complete sequence that allows you to disable your opponent.

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Note that in a kata, when there is 3 times the same movement you do not have to present 3 times the same Bunkai but integrate these technical 3 in the same bunkai.

You will also notice that I do not stay locked in a line for 3 Jodan Age Uke, but I do not hesitate to make rotations ..

Indeed, each of these techniques include hip rotations, you can very well, as part of the Bunkai, accentuate these to make rotations of the body.

Heian Shodan Bunkai Part 5:

We will now work on the rotation at the end of the first straight line just after the 1er Kiai, followed by Gedan Bars and OiZuki.

In this BunkaiI'm going to use the rotation to dodge Tori's attack and take him with me in the rotation while unbalancing him.

Then, Tori lying on the ground, I will not use Oizuki to hit with the fist but with the knee or the foot when moving.

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At one point in the video, I explain that I always try to make very simple bunkai that can be made even during intense stress such as during an attack. Some will probably tell me that it is very good but that must above all respect the motor pattern of the kata.

I completely agree with this principle, a Bunkai must respect the Kata motor scheme. Indeed, the goal of the Kata is to train his body to make gestures almost automatically so that in case of real conflict, we can apply this gesture without having to think. There may be some differences, but they have remained minimal, for example, change position, but everything else is the same ...

On the other hand I would like to show you how my Bunkai even if my movements seem different from the kata, respects the Kata motor scheme:

In the kata, one has the left hand that goes up to the right shoulder to arm and the right hand that goes down, but all this does it while pivoting on the front foot with thus effacement of the body compared to the attack. So in fact the left hand does not go to the right as one might think but only to the top. In space, it stays at the same level and only goes up. It is the body that pivots (hence the impression that the hand is going to the right). The right arm, from the top (Jodan Age Uke position) and descends while approaching the body at the same time as the body pivots.

In my application, this erasure of the body by wrapping itself inside the attack is very important and I mention it at the beginning. Just by doing the rotation, we do not take the shot.

My left arm goes up in protection to stop the blow during the rotation. As in the kata, he stays on the same level, he only goes up and catches Tori's arm on the way and then goes down again as in Gedan Barai.

My right arm (which in the kata is in the air (Jodan Age Uke)) goes down during the rotation. Incidentally, he catches Tori's neck (with a possible strike, but it is not an obligation) which is found in the hollow of my elbow that I lower and that I come to compress towards me as in the kata to make fold Tori and unbalance him.

For me, the Kata motor scheme is therefore respectful, the only difference compared to the kata is that my right arm to a slight delay is due to the time needed to catch Tori's neck.

On the video, I go with the right arm down but to stick a little more to the reality of Kata, I could leave with the right arm in the air high guard.

On the other hand, I removed the Ikité of the right arm at the time of the projection (Gedan Barai in the Kata), but it is voluntarily because I wanted to accompany Tori (Alexander) in his fall in a concern of security.

Heian Shodan Bunkai Part 6:

This party of Kata corresponds to the same passage as the Bunkai N ° 2 of Kata. This time we are going to study at first a bunkai on a foot attack (like Mae Geri), then we will see what to do with the same passage but on a seizure at the neck.

>>> Download the video

In the beginning of the video I do the bunkai starting with the left leg in front while in the kata is the right leg in front. In fact it works in both cases, except that starting right leg ahead, it will not have to back down squarely as on the kata mas rather work in absorption otherwise we risk to get too far from Tori to do the leg key .

In the second part of the video, I show you a total improvisation for you to understand how to build a Bunkai. Tori grabbed my neck and I try to see what answer I can give to this attack while staying in the engine diagram (here it is!) Of Kata.

Heian Shodan Bunkai Part 7:

This part of the Kata corresponds to the second long straight line of the Kata, starting with Gedan Bars then the 3 Oizuki.

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At first Tori grabbed my left arm. I use Gedan Barai's move to free me from the grab and hit the first Zuki. Then I use the second Zuki (Ikite right hand + Zuki left hand) to make an arm key to Tori.

On the last OiZuki, I will not hit either but use the Kata's move to push Tori out of the combat zone.
In the context of self defense, it would be a wise decision because after the key of arm, Tori no longer represents a danger and it is better to push rather than hit him again.

Heian Shodan Bunkai Part 8:

We will now address the very last part of the Kata after the 2ème Kiai with the 4 series Shuto

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Tori faces me and punches me with a punch (but it would also work with a kick).

I dodge by swiveling on the front foot and I hit with the right elbow in the ribs of Tori (it is the Ikite of the first Shuto).
Then I swivel to the right and hit Shuto Uchi at Tori's carotid artery, then use the last two Shuto's to hit but unbalance Tori and throw him to the ground.

I also show you on this video different applications possible with Shuto. You will see that this technique has a lot of resources and we could get out of multiple situations as part of self defense.

Here we are at the end of this bunkai. I finished the presentation of my research on Heian Shodan but there are countless other bunkai that could be featured on Heian Shodan.

The important thing is that you understand that the Bunkai must come from personal research. You can take inspiration from other people's research but you have to put your personal touch according to your feelings, your ease in this or that passage ...

I insist that you must always imagine doing your Bunkai in situations of intense stress such as during fights or aggression. Do not do anything too complex to execute. You must be able to do your Bunkai as fast as your Kata and especially this one must allow you to get out of the critical situation (Combat, Aggression ...) in which you find yourself.

I sincerely hope that my presentation has more to you and that it has brought you a lot.

See you soon,

Leave me a comment below and do not hesitate to debate and give your vision of Bunkai! Thank you !

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  1. thank you for this work and all this information that allows us to work and continue our training at home in addition to the dojo.

  2. I will study the bunkais of each kata this year and in the possible choices, it seems to me that it is necessary to avoid some projection (or one raises) which do not work on a big size, heavy and stable (except if the one is oneself so made).
    .It seems that, as Mr. Funakoshi admits, we have a mixture of two high / short, long / low styles. Ex .: Yama zuki corresponds to a seizure to the hair or the seized lowers, "comes", and strikes face and parts? Down it does not make sense belly and tibia, head down to be known. Maybe it's a track ... It's very convincing on the book of Mr. Funakoshi.

  3. Hello
    Nice apps
    Just small remarks on strangulation little chance that some work
    The natural reflex will be to breathe so the hands will go to the throat
    It is necessary to have a hardening with hugs close to the real one before separating the hands at least one in simultaneous attack the determination of the attack makes the difference and will cause a "panic response"
    To explain the movement of Kate this good for the real self attention!
    Moreover the distances are codified on the punches in real c is closer unless to be prepared by dialoguing if one had verbal interview before the coup
    Then the direct are very rare the circular or hammer are more common
    Agree with you on karate is an art based self but too codified over time and watered down for kids
    The essence is more complex
    The modern kion is useless in self
    Kata is something else

  4. very satisfied with your bunkai on heian shodan
    especially during a strangulation with clearance by a gedan barai
    a big thank-you

  5. Hello Bruno,
    I want to thank you for everything you do for this martial art. for your approach on the bunkai of Heian Shodan I ask myself some questions:
    - Does the fact of wanting to respect the sequences of the kata (2 or 3 movements) gives a realism to the application that you propose?
    - Do not the movements that you propose are a bit too much for this level?
    I think it is better to make applications of maximum 2 movements with naturally a finality on the last (out of combat), but especially that the movement is acquired by the student with a good stability (anchoring on the ground).
    Thank you again for everything you do, and I allow myself these few lines because I assume that criticism is constructive.
    Thank you

  6. Hello Bruno and thank you for your explanations, I went brown belt and I think to spend the black in December, I chose pinan nidan for my bonkai, I am wado, but I think I use your advice to introduce it, except for some small differences on the end, I find the kata in your demonstrations, thank you again for everything, you're a precious help for me.

    • Hello Sophie,

      Yes Pinan Nidan and Heian Shodan are very close so the bunkai too. On the other hand do not forget that you must also do a personal search because what you will find of yourself, you will have a lot of ease to execute it and to present it at the passage of rank.


  7. Hello Bruno

    thank you very much for this bunkai even if I am wado-ryu !! but hey, we can always learn otherwise?
    I always enjoy following what you do
    Good continuation


  8. Me who is a beginner in karate (yellow-white belt) improves me more and more thanks to this site that I find exellent. This course on the bunkai is good but for me I miss something ... You could have broken it into two videos after all four videos is a bit too much but still thank you for your courses that I find exellent.

  9. Hello,

    At first, I find your website very well done. Thanks to your site I was able to learn Bassai Dai.
    Your Bunkaï of Hein Shodan I find it quite successful and he gave me a good idea for the future. Thanks to you I have another approach of Kata and I am interested more and more.
    Looking forward to meeting you

  10. Hi Bruno,
    I'm karate teacher, your approach to bunkai is not bad, you would have to explain the different positions and their purpose in the kata, I explain:
    Ex1: Shiko dashi is a position to lower his center of gravity.
    Ex2: neko ashi is a position to absorb ...
    I regularly judge candidates who do not differentiate between educational positions (bodybuilding and relaxation) and fighting positions. When I see a candidate in zenkutsu "shotokan" in bunkai, it is because he did not understand what the bunkai is ...
    In the meantime, good luck and respect for what you do.


  11. Thanks for his explanations on the bunkai. I always go to your site when I need information and I always find what I need. You really explain very well.

  12. Hello Bruno; I enjoyed your Bunkai Heian shodan but I think it is incomplete! maybe there is a sequel! In addition, I have a question that tears me from that I started to consult your site certainly very informative and I allow myself to ask you today because I got a little familiar with you: If you have so much knowledge in karate, why did not you advance further? karatekas with your level and even less than yours have a better rank! at least here in Morocco. PS: I hope you are not shocked by my question!

    • here we have a 70 judo teacher ... who is 2ème dan very revered in the world of judo! many graduates do not equal! I think it's not the ones in which the value is reflected! it's a lure. the race for grades, in .. .. ?? certainly that's good without more!

    • Hello Mohamed,

      Do not worry, your question does not shock me. First of all, I do not have so much knowledge as that, I'm looking for a lot but I'm sure I've found everything.
      For my in, I had a period like many people where I practiced much less because of my schedule (Work, family ...). In addition, I am not in the race for in. I think we need to get the black belt quickly because it's the beginning of learning true karate, but then we can go at his own pace and progress without necessarily passing the ranks.
      That said, I prepare my 4ème dan for 2 in years


      • The more we advance, the more it corresponds to a positioning in an organism (fd). So there are also issues that are not only technical or political in the broad sense.
        For grades, whether someone is brilliant, high grade, etc. ... proves his qualities, according to criteria, but does not imply that he can help me. As I am doing better by stopping some treatment the horrified herbalist tells me "but the doctors have done eight years of study" and tease I replied "of course, but he did not study me, ... ME"
        This is the criterion of unstoppable appreciation: is it helping me or not? unless you come as a pompom girl, it's different.

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