Foreword by Iain Abernethy.
‘So here we are with the final volume of this series of books from John Titchen! You can now see John’s full interpretation of the Pinan series! How cool is that!
Gichin Funakoshi – who is frequently referred to as “The Father of Modern Karate” – wrote the following in Karate-Do Kyohan about these kata,
“Having mastered these five forms, one can be confident that he is able to defend himself competently in most situations”.
The Pinan / Heian series were therefore always intended to be a holistic self-protection system; and I think John’s books have shown a great way in which this traditional view can be realised!
While the past masters passed on the kata and a great deal of information about how they should be viewed and understood, they did not pass on a complete picture of the applications of the kata. We traditional pragmatists therefore have to do a little analysis (“bunkai” literally translating as “analysis”) in order to understand what the kata have to teach us. This invariably leads to differing “bunkai theories”.
When science sets out to assert a theory, that theory needs to be able to explain all the existing data and, crucially, it needs to be able to make accurate predictions. For example, the theory of gravity explains everything we see on an everyday scale, and it makes accurate predictions about how future events will occur. We can dismiss gravity as “just a theory” but if you step off a high building you are going to fall and accelerate at a rate of 9.81m/s until the resistance of the atmosphere has you reach terminal velocity; or you hit the floor (whichever happens first).
Now, does this mean we know for a fact and with 100% certainty how gravity works? The answer is no, we don’t. But the theories we have explain all the data and make solid predictions. We can put satellites around distant planets with these theories! I would say a similar process needs to be applied to kata i.e. any application needs to explain all the data and make predictions (i.e. work when tested).
Any bunkai theory needs to address the following three points:
- The bunkai must adequately address all parts of the kata (i.e. explain why the kata is as it is).
- The bunkai must be in accordance with the historical information we have.
- The bunkai must be functional in the context of civilian self-protection.
If a given set of bunkai can do that, then it is valid. In science there are sometimes competing theories, but all are valid if they can explain the data and they work.
John’s take on the Pinan / Heian kata is a very logical and well-structured bunkai theory. It is not a collection of “tricks” which happen to look like the motions of the kata, but a valid bunkai theory based on, and permeated by, sound underlying combative principles. It’s not the same as my theory, but I acknowledge its utility and the fact it meets all of my personal criteria for validity. It is very good stuff!
Now that the series is complete, you can take the information presented within and run with it “as is”, or use the information John has given you to help inform your own take on the kata series. We can then move past the “analysis stage” to use the kata in the way Funakoshi said they were originally intended: as a holistic self-protection system. This is what John has presented.
These books have made a great contribution to the collective knowledge base of the practical karate community. Well done to John for writing them! Well done you for reading them!’
Available across the globe the fourth and final volume of the Pinan Flow System is now available as both a paperback and ebook! Use the links on my website or visit your ‘local’ amazon provider or order it at your local book store!
I can now share with you all my ‘starting points’ for training the whole Pinan / Heian set of kata. This is not an end, this is just the beginning!