Kata Bassai

This video is from a private lesson led by Sensei Gary Swift Hanshi which has kindly been shared to help others.

‘Thrust asunder’, ‘penetrating a fortress’. Also translates as ‘remove an obstruction’. The Karate Kata developed by Karate master Matsumura-Soken. Practised within the Shorin-ryu schools of Okinawan Karate. Some styles practice two versions of this Kata, within their syllabus, known as Bassai-dai and Bassai-sho. However, there is also a third lesser-known version of Bassai, known as Passai-Guwa. So, there are numerous versions of the Kata Bassai, some having little differences from each other as they come from the similar originating source.

Traditionally, Bassai translates as “to penetrate a fortress”, or “to storm a fortress”. From the translation from these kanji, it seems to mean, “To remove an obstacle”. Possibly, the Kata means “uprooted fortress”, as in a fortress that is uprooted and mobile like a phalanx, this would be in the spirit of the Kata, as it incorporates quick motions but then roots for solid attack and defence portions like a fortress.

The oldest known version originated in the mid 1800’s in Nishihara village on the east side of Shuri. The original kanji (and original meaning) could easily have been lost over the last 150 years.
Excerpts taken from the ‘Wado Comprehensive’ and an ‘A to Z of Martial-arts’, written by Gary E Swift Hanshi.