Shotokan Karate Union, 松涛館 空手連盟, Established 1985. 
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"Coaching The SKU Way!" Official SKU Coaching Resource

First Published May 2013   Issue 51    SKU Quarterly Magazine

Clearing up the difference between Oyo & Bunkai

by Derick Kirkham

OYO 応用

Pronunciation: hoy-ho

Translation: The Application

Noun: Ōyō-ryoku 応用力 the special use or purpose to which something is put.

Verb: Oyo suru 応用する to apply.

Example: "Sensei demonstrated an interesting application for move 3 taken from Kata Nijushiho"

Working Explanation: Oyo - The Application. It's often mistaken and inaccurately referred to as being Bunkai, but Oyo involves the interpretation of the Bunkai and then taking it to the next level. The practical application of karate for self defence. By recycling the analysis of the Bunkai and utilising it to your specific needs and finding a workable application to meet those needs. That is why I have advocated for decades the use of the word implication, as I feel it defines oyo better than application, as there are millions of implied permutations of the traditional application. So that is why for the performance of traditional Karate Kata, Oyo is not an aspect that affects the performance unless one is performing Kata within a sporting environment and one has to demonstrate the Bunkai, which these days has definitely shifted towards a display of Oyo rather than the display of Bunkai.

Bunkai 分解

Pronunciation: bunk-hi

Translation: disassembly

Noun: the process of separating something into its different parts.

Example: "It's a beneficial to isolate and disassemble the various stages of a Kata and study the possible applications for each of the individual techniques."

Working Explanation: Bunkai when used as - The Analysis of or the deconstruction of the Kata, where one is looking for the meaning. At a Superficial level it's taken as a study of "what is the imaginary opponent doing when one is performing a certain technique within the kata. But on closer inspection it's more the whys and wherefores of each movement and each transition; the student is looking to explain to themselves what Karate is about.

Video 1

Bunkai suru 分解する

Pronunciation: bunk-hi Su-Ru

Translation: disassemble

Verb: the action of taking something into its different parts.

Example: "Sensei isolated the various stages of move 3 from Kata Nijushiho."

Bunseki 分析

Pronunciation: bun-sekee

Translation: analysis

Noun: detailed examination of the elements or structure of something.

Example: "isolating the various stages of move 3 from Kata Nijushiho highlighted several interesting possible applications."

Please Note that not every style of Karate or Organisation or even Dojo uses the same 2 terms of OYO & Bunkai to differentiate between the intent of their actions. Some prefer to use just the word Bunkai but then they to add a qualification to it, for example, 1: Bunkai Omote, Meaning the obvious, the surface, 2: Bunkai Ura, Meaning the hidden, the secret alternative), 3: Bunkai Honto, the real, the true.

Good Luck and Good Practice.