I recently part of a huge email invitation to a seminar at dojo that was hosting a “master” at bunkai. While this individual is probably a very talented and likeable karateka, this is again an issue that leads susceptible karate students and instructors astray.
While bunkai has it’s place, we have to remember that it’s applicability mostly lies in the arrangement between practitioners, not combatants. When someone leaves a punch locked out, grabs your wrist, attacks you with a knife (all when you give them the “ok” to start) then anybody can create all sorts of possibilities of physical responses since they are controlling the arrangement. In real life, your opponent controls the arrangement and although there are things that you can do to disrupt it, real life altercations are violent and unpredictable.
Because of this, dedication to serious training (i.e. conditioning, mechanics, proper technique, etc) is the goal, not stage combat. There are many that use bunkai like a slight of hand magic trick to create the illusion of superiority over other instructors, but on Okinawa, the greatest karate teachers were created by hard training, not smoke and mirrors.