To date, you’ve been assessed on Taigyoku Shodan, Taigyoku Nidan, and more recently, Saifa. Each of these kata were 20 counts long. As a novice, you likely struggled to maintain 100% physical intensity and focus throughout the entire kata, but as time passed both your mind and body would have conditioned themselves to the challenge.
So now you’ve arrived at blue belt and you’re introduced to Bassai-dai. With its 38 counts, this kata is nearly twice as long. This makes blue belt an exciting time in a person’s journey because it’s where we once again find ourselves outside of our comfort zone with a new challenge for both our body and mind.
Bassai-dai also introduces us to new self-defence techniques such as Kensetsu-geri (which is a thrust kick to an opponent’s knee), Mikazuki geri (crescent kick) which can be used as a block, to knock an opponent’s guard down or as a close quarter kick coming from outside the opponent’s peripheral vision. It also uses sukui uke (scooping block), a technique for catching an opponent’s kick and turning them around, plus dan tsuki (simultaneous double punch) to name a few, and incorporates for the first time, kokutsu-dachi (back leaning stance) and kiba dachi (horse riding stance) into a kata. Both of these stances are excellent for maintaining balance should an opponent every try to seize you in combat.
While kata may appear as a combination of movements one must learn in order to grade, its real purpose runs far deeper, and that is to equip us with new skill sets valuable for self-defence.
To perform Bassai-dai well, we must now develop powerful and explosive hip movement. This rotation of the hips must also work in sync with any hand techniques, all the while maintaining a solid stance.
Early on, most students struggle to develop this hip movement but like anything, it will come along with focused practise. One pitfall all students must be wary of when developing their hip movement is not to compromise the quality of their stance. Developing co-ordinated and explosive hip rotation that can operate without compromising a deep solid stance is essential for any self-defence situation.
Bassai-dai also promotes explosive straight line speed, another essential skill for self-defence. While we work on this principle in the first two kata, Bassai-dai incorporates it with different stances, namely back-leaning stance and horse riding stance. Back leaning stance is very effective in terms of self-defence as it allows us to prevent an opponent from taking us to ground (should they seize us). Beyond this, it also allows us to generate enormous power should we choose to punch, or shuto-uke. The shuto uke block, which is commonly associated with back leaning stance, has numerous uses for combat. It can act as a strike to the neck or even as a takedown.
For more information on the applications of Back Leaning Stance or Knife Hand Block, visit the Orange belt section of The Belt Journey.