Author's Note: One of my Western Gongfu students once navigated his way to Sai Kung Town and caught the local bus which travelled in a loop throughout the countryside of Sia Kung. We had given him the name and map coordinates of our Ancestral Village - and he found it - but there was a catch. When he rang the bell in the middle of nowhere to get-off (many of the Hakka villages are hidden from obvious view and must be accessed through a think cover of trees - the bus-driver, seeing that he was alone, refused to open the door. The driver explained that this was a Hakka area and that these people are renowned for their aggressive tendencies. The driver was under strict orders not to let any Westerners (unaccompanied by Chinese people) to get into trouble in areas they do not understand or are not familiar with. Therefore, my student had to safely return to Sai Kung Town. ACW (17.11.2023)
Sai Kung is a Hakka coastal area of the North East New Territories where our ancestral Chan Village is (or was) located. The area is now a very well structured National Park. Sai Kung is also a town which lends its name to the region. We have visited many times and never had any trouble navigating. Hundreds of years ago, the migrating Hakka people planted sustainable forests as part of the charcoal trade they pursued. These forests strewn the hills and valleys to this day.
We have never heard of hikers going missing - as hikers have no reason to enter these areas. Still, things change and the graphics on the maps contained this episode show where our Gongfu took root in South China after migrating from North and Central China many years ago. The Hakka people who occupied these areas used to be highly aggressive to uninvited guests. This martial attitude stems from the history of the place and the reality of the Hakka-Punti Clan Wars of the mid-1800s which killed millions. This was poor quality land that the Hakka had to cultivate and then defend from Cantonese (Punti) attack.
What you say about Miyagi Chojun's attitude toward 'Bunkai' is typical of traditional Chinese gongfu. Many Masters will know one or two 'favourite' applications of the various Form moves - but will always teach that each Form movement has hundreds (or more) applications that should not (and cannot) be limited to a single interpretation.
This being the case, where does the concept of 'Bunkai' come from within Karate-Do? Certainly, there are old photographs of Goju Ryu 'Disciples' in Okinawa applying Kata movements as self-defence - quite often as Miyagi Chojun is looking on. As far as Southern Chinese gongfu concepts are concerned - I am not familiar with the term '分解' (Fen Jie) - which in Cantonese is pronounced 'Fan Gaai' and in Hakka 'Fun Ge'.
However, there are some dialects of Hakka (not that spoken in my family - but in villages further North) - which pronounce '分解' as 'Bun Kiai'. Within the Fujian dialect - '分解' is pronounced 'Hun Kai' or 'Pun Ke', etc. This seems to morph quite naturally into the Okinawan-Japanese 'Bun Kai' - and would suggest the concept spread (linguistically) from South China to Okinawa. Of course, this might not be the case and could suggest the experience was developed in Okinawa (as part of the transmission process) and 'reflected' in the adoption of appropriate sounding 'Chinese' terms.
I would agree fully with Miyagi Chojun - as I teach our family gongfu in just that way. Yes - if asked I can easily explain the purpose behind this or that movement - but it is only through 'practicing' each movement until the human awareness and perception penetrates its fully and its multitudinous (and 'empty') essence is found - that the 'movement' itself is totally comprehended. I was always taught that the ability to sit for long periods of time in cross-legged meditation is the highest expression of all gongfu Forms.
On the other hand, a 'Master Chan' in Malaysia (a 'relative') focused all his life on perfecting just one Form movement - which involves the grabbing hold of a single (attacking) front-kicking leg - and 'breaking' that leg around the 'knee-joint'. He would apply a downward fore-arm (elbow) strike (whilst shifting into a back stance) across bamboo sticks thrust at him by students until one, two or three sticks could be easily broken! Whilst sparring, he would attempt to 'goad' an opponent into 'kicking' whilst skilfully avoiding all over incoming blows. Needless to say, the jungles of Malaysia had a number of permanently 'limping' former opponents!
Shifu Adrian Chan-Wyles (b. 1967) - Lineage (Generational) Inheritor of the Ch'an Dao Hakka Gongfu System.