Bunkai literally means “analysis” or “disassembly” and is most commonly used to breakdown through demonstration the techniques performed in katas to show their practical application against opponent/s. Basically put; Here is your kata, it is made up of x movements, lets take movement no.x from the kata and this is the how it could be used in reality.
Jesse Enkamp put it nicely with this quote from his Bunkai Blueprint (article opens in new window)
“If you know several kata, but never take advantage of the ancient lessons they were originally meant to impart (bunkai), then you might as well be doing ballet.”
It’s important to remember that although Bunkai applications may be similar, there will be variations from one karateka to another. Everybody is different and we are all open to interpretation. In addition, varying circumstances such as the opponent, the surroundings, and your own ability to name a few will factor in to varying Bunkai representations. The good thing about this? As long as the core technique is respected then it is open to interpretation and with this comes creativity.
Below are a set of Bunkai applications to Shotokan kata sourced from Youtube and created by Sergej Vlasov Sensei and Didier Lupo Sensei.
Enpi or Empi