Friday, 20 March 2015

Giving Bassai Dai a makeover

I am not going to pretend to be the first one to do this. In fact- if you have seen more than one style of karate you'll find that different versions of a certain kata often exist in different styles (and some styles have kata that others won't).

I decided, however, to adapt one of my favourite Shotokan katas so that it can be practiced in two of my other favourite martial arts- Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan.

With each video I'll tell you a bit of how I experience each art:

  1. Bassai Dai in Karate Mode:

I was told that "Bassai Dai" is Japanese for "Storming the Fortress". It was my favourite kata in my Shukokai days and I like the Shotokan version as well.

When I began learning karate I had to learn the basic blocks and punches. Each punch and block had its own Japanese name and also each stance. Stances and blocks/ attacks got combined later on, but the lessons for white belts were broken up into these bits which made the technique easy to learn.

Karate people can list each block, punch and stance found in this kata.

2. Bassai Dai for Kungfu (Maybe now we should call it Daliang Kanfa)

My kung fu training did not start with learning stances, punches and kicks. Instead- the movement as a whole- meaning the stance, body movement and limb movements- each had a long, poetic name which did not often make sense. Karate people might not recognise the kata now, but anyone studying a traditional Shaolin form will recognise movements like "Poisonous snake shoots Venom", "Double Dragons play with Pearl" or "Crane drinks beside Stream". Also- the Chinese word for kata is "Taolu". 

I tried to translate "Bassai Dai" to Chinese using Google Translate. What I got was "Daliang Kanfa" which translates to English as "Cutting Down Large Quantities". Let's take poetic licence and say that it is actually "Striking Down a Large Number", shall we?

3. MyTaijiquan Version of Bassai Dai (Still Daliang Kanfa)


If this was my attempt at cooking a new dish I'd say this one actually tastes good! 

A form of Wudang Kungfu- Taijiquan also has long, poetic names for their movements. Replacing the Shuto Uke (knife hand blocks) with "Playing the Lute" some even say ("Playing Guitar") did feel awkward at first, but actually ties in nicely with the rest of the movements. I decided that the back and forth rocking motion of "Single Whip" is the closest to what one feels when going from that throw to the knife hand block at the end of the karate form. 

A notable difference between Taijiquan and a large number of other styles lie in its footwork. The body is never shot forward as we find in karate or hard styles of kungfu. The leg is rather cautiously extended before weight is shifted onto it. One thing I like about this way of moving is that it gives your stepping punch ("oi zuki" in Japanese) a real wallop! 

Two more kata I am already working on are Heian Sandan and Jion. :D If this post gets enough likes, +1's and favourites I'll post videos of them as well.

That's all for now.

Enjoy your weekends and train well.  

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