Article by Emanuel Giordano

At the beginning of this year I started a research for the writing of an article in collaboration with Matteo Muratori. While consulting the texts in my collection, I came across a strange version of the Passai kata, called Passai shodan. This particular version of the Passai kata is presented in the 1955 book Zukai setsumei Karate-do nyumon hyakuman nin no goshinjutsu. This book was written by Nippon Karate Kenkyukai and, in particular, by Reikichi Oya. The name of the kata is already noteworthy in itself, as it is written パッサイ初段, Passai first degree. At the time the book was written, the spelling 拔塞 (Bassai/Passai) introduced by Funakoshi sensei was already in use in mainland Japan. This form is known in some styles (e.g. Shotokan, Shotokai, Shito-ryu, etc.) as 拔塞 大 / バッサイ 大 Bassai Dai, and in others (Chibana sensei lineage) as パッサイ 小 Passai Sho or 糸州のパッサイ Itosu no Passai, but the spelling used in the book is not reflected elsewhere. The kata is described in the chapter called "explanation of the basic kata", where you find the description of the three Naihanchi kata (written Naifanchi ナイファンチ) before, and of Kusanku Dai (written simply Kushanku クーシャンクー) after. Note the use of Okinawan names for all five kata.

The kata is almost identical to the Shotokan version from which it is distinguished, however, by some different techniques and some minor details. Aside from the latter, I will focus on the major differences. 
First, the two uchi-uke present in the initial uke-waza sequences (in Shotokan known as soto-uke) are not present. The first is replaced by an unspecified chudan-uke, performed with the wrist rotated in such a way that the back of the hand faces the performer, as shown in figure 61. This technique has already been examined in several articles, and sometimes takes the name of yoko-uke (if facing sideways as in the Naihanchi kata), tsuki-uke (if facing frontally as in some versions of the Gojushiho and Jion kata, where it is used in place of the kakiwake-uke), or simply chudan-uke (as in Hanashiro sensei's Pinan Shodan, Miyagi Hisateru sensei's Passai, etc., where it is used in place of shuto-uke or saguri-te / kake-uke). This type of chudan-uke is also shown in the chapter "explanation of basic kumite", in images 97 and 99, as well as in the image of another much better known text: Kenpo Gaisetsu, 1930 ( Given the structure of the technique, it is clear that it is a totally opposite movement to the classic one (from the inside to the outside instead of from the outside to the inside), and not a mere rotation of the wrist.
The second uchi-uke (called soto-uke in Shotokan) is normally present after the technique that "hooks" the opponent's leg with a bottom-up movement. After this technique, which ends with the palm facing the head of the person who performs it, and is supported by positions with the feet on the same line (e.g. heisoku-dachi, shiko-daci, etc.), one normally advances with the right foot, "defending" with right uchi-uke. In this version, however, the uchi-uke is replaced by the technique previously described as chudan-uke, which, however, is not separated from the movement aimed at hooking the opponent's leg. In fact, turning clockwise, one does not assume the heisoku-dachi or shiko-dachi positions, but advances directly with the right foot (see figure 62), and the hooking movement described above ends with the chudan-uke, as shown in the figure, thus merging the two techniques in a single gesture. In doing this, he remembers the movement of the Matsumura no Passai, which combines the gesture that hooks the leg and the subsequent jodan-uke, although in the latter kata the position used is shiko-dachi.
The third difference is found at the end of the shuto-uke sequence. Normally, at this point, the kata Passai goes on either with a right kick (a gedan/chudan sokuto-geri or a mae-geri), or with a fumikomi. This particular version requires advancing by lifting the right foot (probably a fumikomi similar to that of the Chibana sensei lineage) and pulling the hands towards the chest. The position that follows this movement (figure 66) turns out to be a hybrid between the position adopted in the Itosu no Passai kata, and that of the Matsumura no Passai kata.
The rest of the kata, except for minor details (eg position during manji-uke), is almost identical to Funakoshi sensei's Bassai Dai.
It is interesting to note that the second technique I have described is performed identically in the version of the kata Passai which was handed down by Kee Hwang, master of Tangsoo-do, in the book Tangsoo-do Kyobon (1958). The other techniques, on the other hand, have no parallel even in this version. It is useful to remember that, in addition to other martial arts, Kee Hwang mainly studied Funakoshi sensei's Karate while he was in Japan, although he also drew information from some okinawan Karate books in the public library, after returning to Korea.
Once again the Passai / Bassai kata proves to be a form performed in many variations, some older, some more recent. Unfortunately, the provenance of the version described above is unknown, although it is clear that it belongs to the lineage of Itosu sensei. It could be a simple variation of Funakoshi sensei's kata, or a separate version. If anyone has information about it he can contact me or add a comment.
  • "Shorin-ryu Karate: kata 2" (here)
  • "Shorin-ryu Karate: kata" (here)
  • "Shorin-ryu Karate: The legacy of the bodyguards of the king of Okinawa" (here)
  • "The legend of the masters of Okinawan Karate: Biographies, curiosities and mysteries"  (here)