"The ultimate aim of Karate lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of the character of its participants." -- Gichin Funakoshi

Friday, February 02, 2007

different doesn't mean wrong

I've been doing some web-surfing looking for videos and diagrams of Bassai Dai. Just trying to cram my brain full of it so that maybe some of it will stick in there. Anyway, I've noticed some subtle differences from the way our dojo performs this kata. What struck me as odd was, every video that was different from us was the same different. So I compared and contrasted and tried to make sense of it all. Here is one of the videos I found (since they all ran the kata the same, I won't bother posting them all. A simple search for "bassai dai" at youtube will pull them all up for you though).

The first real deviation from the way that we do it that I noticed was right before the "stutter-step" (step # 14 at Cory Searcy's tutorial page). We chamber our fists at our hips first. Then bring both arms up in a rising block, lift right knee , bring arms down (in what amounts to a collar bone smash, I believe - but I could be wrong there) at the same time the right foot comes down, step forward & punch left, step forward & punch right.

The next difference is after the heel-palm strike (Cory Searcy's step #19-20). We bring the feet together (attention stance) and set the fists in a cup and saucer position on the left hip. Throw an outward crescent kick (right leg) before the first U-punch (he calls it a mountain punch in step # 21). Attention stance, cup and saucer right. Left leg outward crescent, u-punch. Attention stance, cup and saucer left. Right leg outward crescent, u-punch, turn. See, we do 3 kicks. In all the videos, and Cory Searcy's tutorial, those aren't actually kicks, and they don't do one before the first u-punch.

The other big difference I saw was at the end. The videos show step forward, shuto; move right leg back (whereas the right leg was the front foot in your back stance, it is now your back foot) while hands remain in that first shuto; step up to left foot, chamber for shuto, step forward (left foot again) and shuto. The end. The difference for us is, when we move our right leg back, we move our hands into a low shuto. Which actually makes a lot more sense to me than just stepping back and not moving your hands. It's a wasted move in my opinion. Possibly one of those things the Japanese intentionally taught Americans wrong?


Kate said...


Occasional lurker here. I practice Shotokan though I'm guessing it's a different variety than yours. I can offer interpretation on your question about the shuto at the end...we also do it that way (not moving the hand) and interpret it as a throw. Obviously to throw someone you'd have to grab on to them (and thus would not still have a knife hand), but you don't really need to move the arm, because if it's well connected to your hips as they move, the opponent will go flying. That's why the hand doesn't move in the interpretation I learned.

~Amber~ said...

Thank you, Kate! That makes sense now. I love being able to learn the whys - for our specific variety as well as others.

blackbeltmama said...

I don't recognize that kata at all. I've found that an easy way to learn is to videotape my instructor from behind looking towards the mirrors. I then put it on my DVR and watch and follow along whenever I want. It's great to have it handy.

supergroup7 said...

Many styles have placed crescent kick instead of a rising knee block.. All I can say about that is "choice".. or in other words, it's how one wants the bunkai to be interpreted.. are you fighting someone at close distance, or far distance? In the Okinawan type of thinking ( from which Shotokan was based ) most fights were at grappling range, so the kata were designed for this. I can tell you that traditionally high kicks were not common in kata... most kicks were of low level. I learned this information from a well-learned experienced Sensei.

As to holding the hands still on the second last movement. One has to look at what skill is being examined in that movement. We are looking at rotating the body on a pivot using mostly our abdominal muscles.. the hands are not the focus.. the center of your body is where ALL of your attention should concentrate. The rest of your body remains still as you turn everything slowly just by core energy, and application. So whether your hands are up, down, or sideways it doesn't change what the lesson of that movement is supposed to teach you.