Bassai Dai


Translation:  “Extract from a Fortress”

# Moves:           42

Belt Level:        



Bassai is often translated as “to repel from a fortress,” meaning that one must exhibit the power and spirit required to defend a stronghold against an enemy. This is particularly evident in the kata’s first movement, when the karate-ka launches forward with soete-uchi-uke. The word Dai means “big,” describing the kata’s larger movements, contrary to its counterpart Bassai Sho.

The first part of kata depends on basic outside and inside blocks, and is charaterized by many switching arm block combinations. Remember to make make effective use of the hanmi/gyaku-hanmi (half-facing and reverse half facing) hip positions. This will be more difficult than Heian Nidan because now the front stance must not be shortened to accommodate the reverse hip position. Much of the application of these moves focus on breaking the opponent’s balance and defenses against grabbing attacks. Many techniques are also introduced for the first time in this kata such as tate-shuto-uke, and mikazuki geri, several of which show up again in more advanced katas. Therefore, properly learning this kata is of utmost importance to future development.

To this day Bassai Dai remains one of the Big Four Katas of Shotokan and also a milestone for most students. Learning this Kata means that the student has passed from learning the basic Katas and has moved on to learning the intermediate Katas of the style. The practice of Bassai Dai is both daunting and rewarding.

Some things to note:

  • Use both hands when performing outside and inside block
  • When performing the series of knife hand blocks, the fourth (moving backwards) must have different timing, to “throw off” your opponent
  • The timing for manji-uke is together (fundamentally different from Heian Godan)
  • When performing yama-zuki make sure your fists are parallel and vertically alligned
  • At the end of the kata, do not over-rotate for the backwards shuto. 45 degrees is enough, and allows you to explode for the final move.

Some of the key moves are:

Gyaku-hanmi  – reverse hip position

Fumikomi – stomping step

Tate-shuto-uke – vertical knife hand block.

Soete-uchi-uke – added hand inside block

Ryosho-tsukami-uke – both palms grasping block

Sukui-uke – scooping block

Morote-age-uke  – double rising block

Soto-uke  – outside block

Uchi-uke  – inside block

Yama-zuki – mountain punch

Mikazuki-geri  – crescent kick

Additional Info

Bassai Dai is usually the first Sentei kata to be learned and is the most popular choice as by 1st kyu examinees for black belt.

Bassai Dai is practiced in many styles of karate and has many variations.


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