Article by Emanuel Giordano

As we saw in a previous article, Miyagi sensei published his book, Karate-do, in 1953. It is a valuable document for several reasons, but from a technical standpoint it is an interesting book due to the particular versions of the kata practiced by the author. Although in some kata the influence of Funakoshi's Karate is evident, a master that Miyagi met in mainland Japan, in general his kata represent the versions taught at Shihan Chugakko in the years in which he attended this school, that is between the 1911 and 1916. The Passai, together with the Kusanku and the Naihanchi, is part of the triad of kata typical of Shorin-ryu (as I explained in a chapter of the book Shorin-ryu Karate: Kata).
The Passai (dai) reported in this book is, in fact, very similar to that which was handed down by other teachers who came out of the aforementioned teaching institute, such as Toyama sensei, who studied at Shihan Chugakko from 1906 to 1911. This was in fact the school where future Okinawan school teachers were trained, who would then teach in the various schools of the island. The project carried out by Itosu sensei provided for the introduction of Karate in the world of public education, which is why the students of this institute were also trained in Karate, in such a way that they could then in turn insert this teaching in schools in they would go to work. This type of Karate is now known as School Karate, not to be confused with the Karate that Itosu taught outside of this environment (handed down in the Chibana lineage).
As I said above, this kata is similar to other versions, but exactly like the Kusanku discussed in the other article, this form also has some noteworthy peculiarities. Unfortunately, however, unlike other forms dealt with in the book, the description of the Passai is accompanied by a few photographs. However, from a first translation of the text, it seems that most of the sequences I will analyze fortunately also appear in photos.
The kata begins, unlike the other versions, with a morote-uke in kosa-dachi similar to that found in the kata Pinan godan. In fact, you can see from the attached photo both the position of the hands and that of the feet. It is possible that, just as with the Kusanku, this kata too has been altered to resemble more the Pinan which, paradoxically, derive from the simplification of the ancient kata.
The next part of the kata is quite in line with the others until the shuto-uke sequence. At this point some versions (eg. Chibana and Toyama) perform Kake-uke / Saguri-te, others a different type of open hand technique (eg Hanashiro, Funakoshi), while Miyagi describes (unfortunately without photos) a hand and feet position reminiscent of the one in the picture of Toyama sensei attached here, but performed with the right fist closed 右拳内受, and with the left fist to the waist (koshi) 左拳腰. The image next to that of Toyama comes from the same book, but is located in another section. It could be the photo related to this sequence, or not, unfortunately the caption does not specify the kata of origin. Nevertheless it seems to correspond to the aforementioned description, which would suggest yet another modification that recalls the Pinan shodan (the photos of this kata are in the same book, and the sequence in question is photographed from another angle, however it cannot be excluded that it is this kata). However, this is clearly another simplification, which sees the disappearance of a more complicated technique such as Kake-uke / Saguri-te.
After the technique discussed above, the kata normally continues with a kick which, depending on the version, can be a sokuto-geri, a mae-geri or a fumikomi. Usually versions that perform a fumikomi (eg Chibana, Toyama) continue to face in the same direction of the kick before turning 180° and continuing with the kata. Immediately after fumikomi, the hand position is low. In the Chibana version they are placed on the right side, while in the Toyama version they are one on the right side and another on the left. Miyagi's version is very similar in the execution of the kick, but the position of the hands at the end of the movement is totally different, as can be seen in the photo and the description, which mentions the positioning of the left hand under the right breastplate.
The remainder of the form is fairly in line with the other versions of this kata, and the final techniques are described as shuto-uke. However, it cannot be ruled out that the latter variant was influenced by Funakoshi sensei, since the other versions of the kata (scholastic and non-scholastic) usually end with Kake-uke / Saguri-te.
  • "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)