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GNARL's picture
Bassai-Dai Opening Sequence

After seeing Mr. Abernethy's excellent Bassai-Dai bunkai video, I began thinking about the opening moves and their significance. The way the leg is raised, hands pulled back and thrown out, and landing in cross stance lead me to think it could be a throwing technique, but I'm not entirely sure how workable that is and if there is a strike before hand in terms of starting hand position. Would love some thoughts and ideas regarding this.

Paul Anderson
Paul Anderson's picture

I've been taught that this is a response to double wrist grab.  I'm guessing this is generic shotokan bunkai

- pull arms to left in a circular motion resultuing in arms end up on top of opponents lifting them up and pushing back towards opponent

- at same time push forward and knee to chest

- finally at the end of the cicular motion with the hands with try to strike/shove opponent backwards, with intention of breaking contact/shoving to ground

I can see maybe the right leg lift being a trip pulling leg up behind opponents knee so when arms pushed around and towards opponent he/she falls backwards..??!

Would be interested in all other interpretations :)

Jr cook
Jr cook's picture

I've been working this kata a lot myself lately. There are a number of potential takedowns that I see from the opening movement, up to the crossed  stance and commonly described "reinforced block".

One application for the movement starts from a close grip or clinch. It's always a good idea to "weaken" the attacker before throwing him. A groin strike can be an option here and may serve to break his balance but it means you will have to re-grip after the strike. Following this it's a basic foot sweep and the step into the crossed-leg stance is where i typically land as the opponent's falling momentum pulls me forward a little. As usual it requires a little flexibility of the kata, depending on the way you practice it but the sequence is there. Here's a link to the judo technique that I'm talking about to help clarify. It's not exactly the same, but it's close.


Another throwing application I really like for this movement is a response to a groin attack. This explains the opening posture as a defensive flinch/parry to the attack. Once the attacker's hand is cleared to your side, you can secure a grip around the back of his collar, his hair or reaching around the back of his head and catching his chin. Then step forward, past the opponent's center of gravity. This can be a pull down with the forward hand or my personal preference, a clothesline with the rear hand. The crossed-leg stance serves to catch your weight, again, and get you out of the way of the falling opponent.

I wish I had a good photo, or better yet a video of this but I don't. I know it's difficult to get from the written description above but the short answer is "yes", there are throwing applications for the movement!

shoshinkanuk's picture

Our version is a little different than Bassai (Passai Sho or Dai in Seito Matsumura).

We lead with a small step with the left foot (trying to establish GyakuTe, reverse Hand position for strength), then take a big step through with the right foot, then finish the line with Kosa Dachi(but left leg forward, another step).

Looking at the wrist grab bunkai this suggests we are being pulled - hard. The first step gets our balance and momentum going, the second step is due to being really pulled hard (by this time we have trapped the opponents hand with our own as shown by the left hand supporting our right arm), the final step (Kosa Dachi as described) is showing a stomp to the opponents shin/ankle to trap and stop the pull or even just acting as a brake.

We then effect Tuite in terms of the supported Uke movement, or if the hands have become free to simply Jam whatever head strike is coming in - or even simply to back fist, or effect a wrist release - we then step back and force our hands down - this is showing the manipulation of the wrist, or if the range allows the opponents neck (we do this in Naihanchi Dachi as a step back).

This is the opening bunkai as I teach it, it's principles are sound and it works well against a veriety of pulls and strikes.

Mark B
Mark B's picture

Hi all,

I tend to apply my primary applications with the principal of trying to establish control of the opponents head, so one of the applications for the opening sequence of Passai/Bassai-Dai that I favour is to pull the head down with the right hand clenched, left hand open cupping the opponents chin, so that you find yourself in the Passai Yoi, although in practice the hands will probably be  slightly higher than in solo kata.

From this position step forward at whichever angle you practice whilst wrenching the opponents neck , so you finish the first motion off the form, right hand clenched, palm facing towards yourself, open left hand applying pressure to the opponents chin. Applied with the positive step, a significant application.

I apply the turn which follows, into Soto uke then Uchi uke as the what if.

If I fail in the application, or the opponent caused it to fail move behind the opponent(the turn in the kata), maintaining tactile control, use the open left hand as Soto Uke to wrench the neck or prevent escape, convert this to hikite and strike to side of the neck, or base of the neck.

Its difficult to really describe Bunkai with words only, so I hope I've made some sense.

All the best


Th0mas's picture

Ok, I am kind of raising the dead here....but I have been worrying about the openning sequence of Bassai Dai, so thought I would share my current thinking, and a neat Youtube video I found to illustrate my point.

A lot of the Bunkai interpretations I have seen and practice for the morote uke just don't feel right...especially when you consider that my interpretation for the following soto and uchi (swap as appropriate for style) in my mind are throws. 

Anyway having had a re-read of this old thread I went and searched for Kosoto Gari and found a rather interesting clip which shows some alternatives... that fit rather nicely with the opening moves and the two following blocks...The intial hand placement and the different shifts in wieght and position (certainly in the shotokan version) also seem to fit (although I could be pattern matching of course smiley )

Basically The first move is an attempted Kosoto Gari, the next is a switch to Tai otoshi if your opponent resists or steps out of the kosoto Gari... see You tube link.

I rather like this interpretation as it make the opening move of Bassai Dai really diffinative and follows up with some nice alternatives.

your thoughs?