To Penetrate a Fortress

Bassai is pronounced as Patsai in Okinawan and when translated it means “To Penetrate a Fortress”. It conveys the meaning that in order to break through an enemy’s castle, one needs to exhibit the power and spirit. This idea is quite apparent in the kata’s first movement, when soete-uchi-uke is launched forward by a karateka. Dai means big, where in the kata’s larger movements are described in detail which is contrary to its counterpart Bassai Sho. The three Shotokan kata are Bassai, kanku, and Gojushiho, and they have two versions, a sho version which is referred to as small and a Dai version which is referred to as big.

Bassai can be more accurately translated “To extract from a fortress” which is a fact that has been accepted by most translators. Sokon Matsumura is the one who created Bassai Dai. Breaking of the balance of the opponent and defending against grabbing attacks are the main aspects focused on in the bunkai. Many styles of karate practice Bassai Dai with several variations. The JKA version is believed to have 42 movements.

Bassai Dai is the choice as tokui kata which is quite popular and which is opted by 1st kyu examinees for black belt. It is also the first Sentei kata to be learned. The hanmi/gyaku-hanmi positions are made effective use of in this kata which is characterized by many switching arm blocking combinations. It is popularly known that the performance of gyaku-hanmi in Bassai Dai is comparatively more difficult than what is done in H2. This is mainly because in Bassai, in order to accommodate gyaku-hanmi the first stance should not be shortened.

Techniques such as tate-shuto-uke, sukui-uke, and hasami-uchi are seen for the first time in this kata. It is only in Bassai Dai and Wankan that the most powerful yama-zuki can be found whereas the ryosho-tsukami-uke & gedan-sokuto-kekomi combination is unique to Bassai kata (both versions). Chudan-soto-uke, which is one of the most basic blocking techniques was first used in this kata and was later never seen again. 

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