Lessons on Terminology and History

with Dan Bernardo, Sabom

Eung-Yong "応用" - Form Application

How many times do you hear the term Bunkai or Boonhae "分解 "?  You probably hear it a whole lot more now than you did 20, 30, 40 years ago.  I bet you hear it in regards to the application of forms (hyung/kata).  I know I am seeing it all over the place now.  It's the new fad.  But I'm seeing what appears to be some misunderstanding about Boonhae, and it isn't solely within the Dangsoodo (Tangsoodo) community.

Here is the problem, in Japanese and Okinawan Karate, the term Bunkai literally means "to take apart" or "to analyze".  It does not mean "application".  Instead, the term Oyo (which is pronounced Eung-Yong in Korean) means Application.  So, just to make sure you are with me...

Bunkai / Boonhae --> Analysis

Oyo / Eung-Yong --> Application

Got it?

Okay, so you should probably understand at this point that as one learns and performs hyung over the years, they are (or should be) analyzing the martial principles of the form.  This is Boonhae.  If you aren't doing this, you aren't actually practicing martial arts.  So, the practice of Boonhae and the practice of Hyung are simultaneous and inseparable.  In fact, most argue that the idea of Bunkai as a "distinct term" used by Karateka in regards to analyzing kata is a fairly modern invention.  Mainly from the advent of public teaching in Okinawa and the standardization of the styles within the Japanese culture, and even more-so... the advent of writing books.

Before karateka taught publicly, there were only a few students who trained seriously and for life.  The teaching was more "do it like this", with the student copying.  If a question was asked about why a technique was done, the teacher would ask the student to attack him, he would show the application, and then move on.  And many of the applications of the techniques were not taught until the student had so many years into training.  This accounts for the subtle variations taught within systems, and even how many students of a single teacher perform differently.  The idea of a codified system really came about after the push to bring Karate to the public.  Even the name of the art varied... Funakoshi himself went through 3 names with each of his first 3 books... Ryukyu Kenpo Karate (1922), Karate Jutsu (1926) Karate-do (1935).

So what does this all have to do with Boonhae and Eung-Yong?  Hwang Kee, in his Tang Soo Do Kyobon in 1958 drew an outline saying... 

무덕관에서는 다음과 같은 원간, 강령을 두고, 수양하고 있는 것이다.

In the Moodukkwan, we have the following curriculum:

Included is 진리탐구 , or "Seeking Truth".

Martial artists, no matter what style you practice, should constantly be searching for truth.  This includes the truth of your hyung.  Be very careful not to get caught up in FACTS.  Fact and Truth are not the same.  There is truth even in legends and myths.  So, when we are practicing our hyung... we should always be looking beyond the names or labels that could get us bogged down into one-tracked mindedness.

As I've said before, Mahkee doesn't mean "block". Therefore, if we only look at our hyung and apply only "blocking" principles to Mahkee techniques, we are limiting our martial progress.

Progress is the key word here.  Part of this Seeking of Truth is simply the natural progression of the Hyung becoming personal.  Every time we learn a new form, you are learning the basic movements, the vessel (so to speak).  This is the Omote "表" Bunkai, or Pyo "표" Boonhae... the Public or "face valued" Boonhae.  As we practice this hyung, the analysis becomes more in depth and our own.  This is the Ura "裏" Bunkai, or Dwi "뒤" Boonhae... the Private or "inside house" Boonhae.

In the end, it seems like the focus of extracting Eung-Yong from the Boonhae as something distinct from practicing Hyung shows the lack of martial principles being taught in forms.  As Funakoshi says in his Karate-do Kyohan  "Once a form has been learned, it must be practiced repeatedly until it can be applied in an emergency, for knowledge of just the sequence of a form in Karate is useless".

Think about it... How many forms can you perform?

Now, how many of those forms can you apply to a real fight in an emergency situation?

This is very important.

As Mabuni Kenwa (arguably the first to use the term Bunkai in written form) says...

"Breadth, no matter how great, means little without depth".

All calligraphy done by Master Dan Bernardo

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