Shihan’s favorite kata. Bassai Dai.
Okinawan martial artists call it Passai while Japanese karate-ka refer to it as Bassai. Master Funakoshi originally spelled the name of this form パッサイ (Passai) but changed it hold more Japanese connotation later. In Korean the kata has several names: Bassahee, Bal Se, Pal Che, Palsek, Bal Sae, Ba Sa Hee, and Bal Sak.
The origin of “Bassai” remains obscure but some historians believe it dates back to ancient “leopard-lion” Chinese forms: various dialects called it Baoshi, Pausai, or baasai in which had stomping action and similar movements. Some hold it represents Wuxing Quan Kung Fu while others say it was part of Fukuen Crane style. It’s a mystery. Most scholars agree that the kata was brought to Okinawa by Sokon Matsumrua and budoka of his generation.
Passai (拔塞, katakana パッサイ), also Bassai (バッサイ), is one of the most recognizable “kata” in the world with countless Okinawan, Japanese and Korean variations. Versions of the kata include Passai sho (拔塞小) or minor Passai and Passai dai (拔塞大) or major Passai.
拔(batsu) is “to pull out or to extract”
In chinese 拔(bá)” can mean “to seize or capture”
塞(sai/soku)” means a “place of strategic importance” or fort
Bassai (披塞 or 抜砦) in Japanese literally means to remove an obstruction. The Kanji (Japanese characters) 抜塞 are variants of the Chinese 拔塞 (bá sāi) so the meaning falls somewhere in between.
1973 translation of Karate-do Kyohan lists Funakoshi’s explanation of the form name as “Breaking through [penetrate] an enemy’s fortress.” This expresses more of the students attitude then the literal translation.