Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The many faces of Bassai

I'm a huge fan of Kata. I remember how I felt when I first learned Ne-Sei-Shi-Sho/Dai (recently renamed to Ne-Sei-Shi in the new Canadian Chito-ryu Technical Manual). It was the first kata I learned in Chito-ryu that did not involve a lot of repetition, like Kihon-dosa-ichi/ni or Shi-Ho-Hai, and it required much more attention to detail than previous kata.

One of the requirements for my 1st Kyu is the kata Bassai. The kata is quite difficult with respect to feet positioning, as well as the block and strike techniques at the beginning of the kata. While searching for more information about Bassai on the Internet, I found that the Chito-ryu version is a little different from the other styles of Karate, so I decided to research the kata more, and document what I discovered.

Passai (later renamed to Bassai when Karate was brought to Japan due to the different pronunciation of the kanji) is thought to be at least 400 years old. I won't get into the specifics of the kata as you can just read the Wikipedia article here.

Below is a video of Matsumora no Passai as done by Sensei Bud Morgan (USSKA). I especially like this version as it is slowed down and you can see the finer detail in the kata.

Matsumura no Passai, as you can probably guess, is the kata Passai as envisioned by Matsumura Sokon, who is the maternal grandfather of O'Sensei Chitose. This version of Passai is said to be very close to the original (if not the same), although I am having trouble finding anything that verifies that with the exception of some various comments around the Internet. More on this later. Matsumura Sokon is said to have brought this kata back after training Chuan Fa in China.

Kokan Oyadomari envisioned Passai slightly different. Oyadomari no Passai, also known as Tomari no Passai, has many similarities to Matsumura no Passai, which some say it is based on. Another theory is that Kokan Oyadomari learned Passai from a Chinese living in Tomari, possibly from someone with the same Martial Arts training as the Chuan Fa teachers of Matsumura (Anan?). Kokan Oyadomari's version of Passai has more "local flavour"  that Matsumura's.

Anko Itosu, a student of Matsumura Sokon, brought Karate to the education system in Okinawa. Itosu no Passai is another variation of Passai which is based on Matsumura no Passai.

Finally, here is Chito-ryu Bassai, as performed by Sensei Glenn Euloth from the Atlantic Karate Club in Halifax, NS.  There are a few minor errors in this video, but I believe it's mostly due to the fact that the kata has been refined slightly since Sensei Euloth learned it. You can see many similarities between Chito-ryu Bassai and Tomari no Passai.

While searching the Internet for Passai, I came across this video. Before you continue, let me just say that if you are not already reading the blog Karate by Jesse, you should be. OK, my fanboy plug is done. You may now continue.

You can see the similarities to Chito-ryu Bassai in the sequence of steps. This is an older version of Tomari no Passai, but Chito-ryu Bassai is said to have originated from Shuri-te. Well, it seems that the above video is of a Shurinji-ryu student demonstrating the Old Tomari no Passai for Nakazato Joen Sensei, who was a student of Chotoku Kyan, and in case you're forgetting, Chotoku Kyan was one of O'Sensei's teachers in Shuri.

I believe that Chito-ryu Bassai is as close to the original Passai as we're going to find in Karate today. When I began training in Chito-ryu last year (after a bazillion years away from it), I began to ponder on the possible origins of a lot of the kata in the style. Seeing so many kata with the same name but performed so differently, I thought that O'Sensei changed the kata to fit the style he was perfecting. It appears that O'Sensei preserved them, and the other styles changed things so much to fit their needs.

Yet another reason I love Chito-ryu.

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