Saturday, March 31, 2012

Iain Abernethy's Beyond Bunkai

Review of Iain Abernethy’s Beyond Bunkai DVD
By Michael Rosenbaum

The Naihanchi/Tekki series are some of the most widely practiced kata in modern karate. Numerous versions abound, most tracing their lineage to the Shuri or Tomari styles of fighting. Despite their popularity, these kata are often deemed beginners’ forms and their combative value is paid scant attention. Such misconceptions have long plagued the Nahanchi/Tekki kata series but are now dispelled by Iain Abernethy in his latest instructional DVD, Beyond Bunkai: Advanced Non-Scripted Naihanchi/Tekki Shodan Close-Range Flow Drill.

Abernethy, a leading Bunkai authority, firmly establishes the Naihanchi/Tekki series as a highly effective style of fighting by breaking the kata down into easy to learn, informative segments. He then demonstrates each segment’s function in combat; even the kata’s footwork is used for fighting. Both technique and concept are demonstrated in these segments as is the natural awkwardness of close range fighting. Throughout the DVD Abernethy emphasizes the fact that there are no magic formulas, one touch knock-outs, or easy to apply submission holds for close- range fighting. Hammersmashes, head-butts, biting, elbowing, groin-grabs, stomps and neck-cranks are the mainstay of Abernethy’s arsenal as he stresses the importance of using aggression to conquer one’s enemy instead of aesthetically appealing techniques. Indeed, many of the techniques used would be more appropriate for the pub brawl or back alley fist fight than the dojo, something which may prove disconcerting for staunch traditionalists. For those seeking practical skills though it will be greatly appreciated.

At the beginning of the DVD Abernethy draws a parallel between the alphabet and kata then goes on to explain that just as words are constructed by using letters randomly, so should a katas’ techniques be practiced for fighting. This non-linear approach, which enables the karate-ka to mix and match techniques found within the kata, breaks with many traditional beliefs yet allows the exploration of strategies previously unobtainable. Similarly it is a concept applicable to not just the Naihanchi/Tekki, but all karate kata.

The DVD is professionally directed, the backdrop and cinematography make for easy viewing and its cost is within a reasonable limit, even with overseas postage included. Overall, Abernethy’s Beyond Bunkai: Advanced Non-Scripted Naihanchi/Tekki Shodan Close-Range Flow Drill is a worthy addition to any serious karate-ka’s library.

About the reviewer: Michael Rosenbaum has been training in karate since 1976. He is the author of Kata and the Transmission of Knowledge in Traditional Martial Arts.

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