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Kyoshi
Kyoshi's picture
Beginning of Passai - a chinese salutation?

The beginning of Passai being an overexaggerated (chinese) salutation?

Look for instance beginning of this video

(couldn't find any better Chinese greetings)

Can someone follow me?

Dale Parker
Dale Parker's picture

I was taught the opening to Bassai type kata is the same as the opening to Jutte/Jion/Jinn, just downward.

When performed upwards as in Jutte/Jion/Jiin, its a salute to a higher ranking official, showing you honor them, when done downward its to honor your family.

AllyWhytock
AllyWhytock's picture

Hello,

Perhaps similar to the European handshake in which the right hand is open to signify that there is no weapon i.e a peaceful gesture containing a sign of strength.

A practical human gesture that through time has become a ritualistic gesture e.g. closing one's medieval war helmet visor prior to battle becomes a salute.

For a more practical point of view at one of Iain's seminars in Montrose, we explored the Jion/Jutte/Jiin upward movement by grabbing the throat whilst grasping the back of the head, as a counter to your assailant doing likewise.

Perhaps for the Bassai downward type it could be interpreted as a clasping hand & counter push against a cross hand grab, during a close proximity encounter.

Cheers,

Ally

Jr cook
Jr cook's picture

I do see the similarity in the opening movement and the Chinese greeting. I would not be completely surprised if there is some relation. But, the practical thinker in me has to ask about the following movement from the kata. As it is commonly done, the left hand is covering the right fist and then makes only a minor change from this starting position in the following forward step. At the point of this forward step it seems obvious that we are within the practical portion of the kata, and no longer the greeting. I guess it is possible that the first two movements are unrelated as far as application goes but, I find that unlikely.

I also question the history of this movement as just a greeting. If it were simply a move based in Chinese culture, wouldn't the Japanese have altered it or removed it from their kata? In both the Japanese and Okinawan versions of Bassai/Passai that I have learned the opening is very similar and arguably resembles the salutation in the video. 

DaveB
DaveB's picture

Kyoshi, I think you are right: 

This is one version of a Shaolin derived salutation, I have seen others where you step before the yin-yang salute. Also there are Shorin Passai where that "salute" is followed by dropping into horse stance. It is done differently to the video but it's there. This shouldn't be surprising though; Shorin is just the Okinawan/Japanese word for Shaolin.

Wastelander
Wastelander's picture

It's certainly possible that it derived from the Chinese salutation--I've actually made that connection in my head before, but I know some kata that do something a little more like the Chinese salutation. To me, the beginning of Passai looks more like a "hands ready" position, and the movement thereafter is a practical technique rather than part of a saluation.

shoshinkanuk
shoshinkanuk's picture

I was taught it is a greeting used to signify the return of the Ming, so a political/social sign used by the Monks and associated people of Shaolin.

In Chinese, the word Ming (?) means "bright" and comprises of the characters for the sun (?) and the moon (?), the two great sources of light and brightness. The signal consisted of the right hand as a fist, symbolizing the sun, and the left hand as an open palm, symbolizing the moon. 

Taken from- http://ymaa.com/articles/history-of-shaolin-long-fist-kung-fu

Black Tiger
Black Tiger's picture

Good read so far

I tend to read many books on the Chinese Arts Especially Chin Na and Chinese Wrestling to find the "secrets" of my Okinawan/Japanese Art. I still believe that Bassai is a complete fighting system created in China although the origins of the kata have died off

Regards to Salutations I find that its quite a method in its self, The freestylers and XMA'ists tend to have trophy on this one. Watching them on kata competition makes me laugh. For me not one part of the Kata is wasted. from the first stance to the last stance its all useful

But I'm the sort of Instructor who puts method into our basic Warm up exercises.

For me if I could only practice one Kata and one Kata only it would be Bassai (which one of the official 35 variants I'm not too sure of)

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Kyoshi wrote:
Is the beginning of Passai being an overexaggerated (chinese) salutation?

Shigeru Egami – a student of Gichin Funakoshi – in his book, “The heart of karate-do” does show and discuss the various hand positions at the start of kata and states:

“The practise of the kata should never be assumed to be a cut and dried matter. Consider, for example, the ready postures in various kata – that of the Heian kata, of Kanku, of Jutte, of the Tekki kata and so on are all different. Why should this be? It is tempting to assume that the ready postures of all the kata should be the same, but this is not the case. We may even ask whether in a martial art there is a fixed posture or whether a fixed posture is necessary. This seems to have some relation to yoga postures, but does it have any relation to the mundras of esoteric Buddhism?

According to the literature on the Chinese Tai Chi Chuan, the shape of the ready stance in Jutte is an expression of the unity of Yin and Yang. How did this posture come about and what function does it have? I know there are changes in function among the various kata, but I must confess I do not know the reason, nor why they change according to the kata. This is one problem, and there are many others, that I believe must be studied more extensively in the future.”

For those who don’t know, the “Jutte hand position” in the photos is exactly the same as Bassai, but just held higher up. This text would therefore seem to be very relevant.

The first thing to note is that many of the possible explanations that Egami puts forward as questions are now regarded as facts in some quarters. I for one have heard and read the “Yin-Yang” explanation cited as fact.

The bottom line here is that Egami is honest that he does not know what these hand positions represent. He does not know what, if any, purpose they have, nor does he know if the purpose has changed. As far as I’m aware (please correct if I’m wrong folks?) this is the only discussion on the starting hand positions we have in written form from a karate perspective. We can therefore conclude that we have no firm guidance from the past on this issue and hence any “facts” about the meaning of the hand positions at the beginning of karate kata are conjecture.

That established, we can only go with what we feel is the best explanation; and acknowledge that such explanations can only ever be a personal viewpoint and never proven fact.

I therefore choose to ascribe combative function to all “opening salutations” and I reject the idea they are greetings or symbolic gestures. The reason I do this is that I am of the view that as soon as you “open the door” to kata motions being non-combative it is possible to explain away the majority of the kata as being “symbolic” or “a strengthening exercise” or “good for balance” or a “non-combative body motion deigned to teach a body motion that can be used in combat” (an illogical contradiction, but nevertheless a popular “explanation”), and  so on.

I firmly see all non-combative explanations of any part of kata as an easy “cop out” and I am therefore opposed to such “explanations” in my own research, training and teaching. Non-combative “explanations”, grease up that slippery slope and quicken the demise of kata to a non-functional, purposeless dance in my view.

As for Bassai, I see the opening salutation as an attack to the wrist and hand should the enemy threaten or gesticulate with their hand i.e. poke your chest, point a finger, “give the bird”, etc. The following motion – what is most frequently viewed as the “first move” in the kata, but in my view is the second – flows on from this by taking the body weight past and down and hence taking the enemy off balance (all on my Bunkai-Jutsu 2 DVD for those that have it).

That combative explanation fits the kata perfectly and it also sits well with my approach to kata; which does not accept that any motion is non-combative. If I don’t have a good combative use for a motion, then I’ll keep looking for a combative explanation as opposed to explaining it away as being somehow “symbolic”.

There is zero evidence either way that would allow us to say with certainty if the “opening salutation” of Bassai was originally meant to be combative or if it was somehow symbolic. We simply don’t know. So all we can do, as modern martial artists, is decide from a functional perspective what explanation we feel best serves our training goals.

For me, the combative approach provides function; whereas the symbolic approach does not. I therefore decide to go the combative route; but I acknowledge that others can legitimately choose to go another way because there is no evidence either way.

One other thing that Egami says in his book (on the page next to the pictures of the various “salutations”) is:

“The techniques [of the kata] should not be practised simply so they can be performed in the kata. Since karate is a fighting art, each technique or movement, whether offensive or defensive, has its own meaning. The karate-ka should consider their meaning, how and why they are effective, and practise accordingly.”

I totally agree. However, I also feel that the opening hand positions should be seen as an integral part of the kata. An effective combative explanation is therefore what I will seek.

All the best,

Iain

JWT
JWT's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:

I therefore choose to ascribe combative function to all “opening salutations” and I reject the idea they are greetings or symbolic gestures. The reason I do this is that I am of the view that as soon as you “open the door” to kata motions being non-combative it is possible to explain away the majority of the kata as being “symbolic” or “a strengthening exercise” or “good for balance” or a “non-combative body motion deigned to teach a body motion that can be used in combat” (an illogical contradiction, but nevertheless a popular “explanation”), and  so on.

I firmly see all non-combative explanations of any part of kata as an easy “cop out” and I am therefore opposed to such “explanations” in my own research, training and teaching. Non-combative “explanations”, grease up that slippery slope and quicken the demise of kata to a non-functional, purposeless dance in my view.

 

One other thing that Egami says in his book (on the page next to the pictures of the various “salutations”) is:

“The techniques [of the kata] should not be practised simply so they can be performed in the kata. Since karate is a fighting art, each technique or movement, whether offensive or defensive, has its own meaning. The karate-ka should consider their meaning, how and why they are effective, and practise accordingly.”

I totally agree. However, I also feel that the opening hand positions should be seen as anintegral part of the kata. An effective combative explanation is therefore what I will seek.

All the best,

Iain

Quoted for truth!  I absolutely agree.smiley

Personally I think that where Chinese Kata have whole sequences as stylised salutations, we should perhaps consider those as the 'signature moves' of the style or family system with the subsequent Kata as the technique or strategem catalogue that is open to change and adaptation from generation to generation and teacher to teacher.

I very much regard many single Kata as intended to be fairly complete (or rather as complete as people felt they neede to be) systems in themselves when studied and drilled appropriately.  Twenty years ago I might have laughed at this, but I find that the more I train the more different things I can reliably and effectively do with fewer movements.

John Titchen

Kyoshi
Kyoshi's picture

Thanks Iain for that great contribution! 

The reason why i thought so, was that the 2nd move of Passai is somewhat similiar to the 1st "opening" move of Kusanku. 

If there could be a connection, maybe there would be other corelations throughout those katas. Im excited about this new idea.

Dill Young
Dill Young's picture

shoshinkanuk wrote:

I was taught it is a greeting used to signify the return of the Ming, so a political/social sign used by the Monks and associated people of Shaolin.

In Chinese, the word Ming (?) means "bright" and comprises of the characters for the sun (?) and the moon (?), the two great sources of light and brightness. The signal consisted of the right hand as a fist, symbolizing the sun, and the left hand as an open palm, symbolizing the moon. 

Taken from- http://ymaa.com/articles/history-of-shaolin-long-fist-kung-fu

I attended a seminar with Patrick McCarthy last year in Ireland. The course focussed on Matsumura Bassai. He informed everyone that the salutation with the left hand enclosing the right  fist was in reference to an eclipse. The corona, or left hand symbolising a return to brighter times.  The explanation given above is in line with this explanation. I dont think that it is unthinkabale that opening kata hand positions could have their origins with other significant historical traditions. China is an ancient culture with a very turbulant history. Allegiances to gangs or dynasties could have been represented by something as simple as hand gestures. In India they called them "Mudhra`s" and are deeply symbolic and steeped in ritual.  Different hand shapes represent different things. I dont see Martaial arts as being any different. Although as we know , things become re-interpretated to the host cultures needs and current thinking. This thread for instance, Iain is making his case for an understanding of the opening hand shapes and it could be understood as practical in a contemporary setting. I think all of it is relevant and certainly food for thought. Thankyou.

Jr cook
Jr cook's picture

Kyoshi wrote:

If there could be a connection, maybe there would be other corelations throughout those katas. Im excited about this new idea.

I have long had a theory that the opening movement(s) in kata might represent applications for the "opening" of a violent conflict. While some of the information recorded in kata is (in my opinion) for use once you are already in the fight, there should also be responses to likely opening attacks. What better place to put these than the beginning?

Many of my own applications have shown this to be the case in the katas I practice. Also, a number of the applications shown in Iain's DVDs would seem to hold to this theory. See his Naihanchi Shodan, Kushanku, and Passai for examples. There may be others as well. 

If there is any truth to this threory then it only takes an understanding of how violence starts to find some of these applications. Shaking a fist in someone's face.  A poke to the chest. A shirt grab followed by a probable punch. A step in with a swinging attack. All of these are common acts of violence that we see in the escalation into a fight. I think it only makes sense that katas recorded responses to this type of threat right away, progressing to alternative scenarios, likely failure points and backup techniques and the more complex tactics. Just as a math book begins showing simple problem solving skills and builds on those foundations into more complex problem solving.

Hope this isn't drifting too far off-topic. Just throwing an idea out there.

Stevenson
Stevenson's picture

I agree completely with Iain, and in fact have heard him express this before while I was forming my ideas about bunkai, so it has coloured my own.

I do in fact have some bunkai based on the interpretation of Bassai that I practise.

We perform the opening move as similar to a chinese salutation, with the left enclosing the right but with the hands at face level (it sometimes performed with the hands at groin level in other styles). The next move is raising the right leg in the manner of a sweep to the left 45 degrees, and the hands pulled back as if you were going to swing a baseball bat.

One of my applications is similar to Iain's, it is a double handed grab of a leading arm, pulling to off balance, and the right knee driving into the upper leg of the opponent. It's followed up with a figure of 4 shoulder lock, the left leg crossing the back of the right leg to signify a take down - ie you position your left leg behind the legs of the off-balance opponent as you vigorously apply the lock and the opponent will go down.

My second application is simply hooking your hands behind the neck of the opponent and driving your knee upwards. Pretty crude stock standard MA stuff, but hey, that's what it looks like. And to me one of the beauties of kata is that it reminds you of techniques you may overlook, and the exploration of the applications of bunkai keep you engaged and thinking about possibilities. Even if you need to adapt the movements to make them work they still give you that compass.

Finally, I would say I find the opening move extremely useful in kumite, especially against opponents who have static guards. Simply grab their guard and follow with a mae geri, you find their reaction is very predictable - they always drag themselves into your kick. Or in actual fact they pull you in which adds potency to the kick. 

shoshinkanuk
shoshinkanuk's picture

Some good points being raised, here's something to consider-

'Kamaekata (Ready Stances)

Matsubayashi-ryu kata karate-do has 18 kata (forms). Each kata has a given ready stance which begins and ends every performance. The following are the three types of kamaekata (ready stances), and the kata that begin with them. In every case, the shoulders are relaxed and the eyes are fixed straight ahead.'

Page 57, The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do (Shorin Ryu) by Shoshin Nagamine, whos primary teachers were Ankichi Arakaki, Chotoku Kyan and Choki Motobu (all renowned 'practical' karateka of their day).

Nagamine then goes on to describe Shizentai Dachi, Musubi Dachi and Heisoku Dachi and the hand formations they have. (inc the Passai sun/moon positon).

Granted this is not concrete proof, but a very credible source from a legendry Okinawan Master who learned from some of the early/mid 20th cen greats.

Personally I feel Matsubayashi-ryu is 'modern' karate all ready, but thats another discussion! I also accept his book, whilst fab does not go into Bunkai or Oyo aside from the 7 formal Yakusoku Kumite of the Ryu, which I believe were methods put together based on the teachings of Choki Motobu- all of which start from shizentai dachi with hands in yoi positon.

Do we have even 1 example of an Okinawan Master using the opening/closing positons of classical kata as Bunkai, Oyo? I don't recall seeing any, but rest assured I shall now search.........

The use of symbolism, specific skill development and such like within kata is absolutly part of the classical line of karate I practice.

I, of course 'see' and accept the opening/closing hand positons can be put to practical application use however I firmly disagree that was their origonal function, proving that is another thing.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi All,

For those who have not seen it, here is an interesting piece by Jesse Enkamp where he shows forty-two possible combative applications for the hand position we have been discussing:

http://www.karatebyjesse.com/42-bunkai-to-monks-salutation/

All the best,

Iain

Jason Lester
Jason Lester's picture

Hi all,

i believe the hand postion makes a very effective close quarter strike, take a look and hope it is of interest.

 

Kind regards,

Jason

Stevenson
Stevenson's picture

I know GKR has its detractors, but I know personally that some of their top instructors are just as passionate and knowedgable as anyone here. The videos below, made by Anthony Ryan (a fantastic karateka) are intended to give some history and background to Bassai Dai which they practise and is considered a key kata in their style, which is introduced at 5th kyu, and so its obviously pitched at that level. There is not much to disagree with, at least from a historical perspective, and I thought the idea of turning an opponent to expose more vulnerable points an interesting one, though I am not sure I agree with the interpretation of Bassai meaning "penetrating a fortress".

In any case its nicely done and if anyone has students wanting a potted history of the kata this isn't too bad:

1st part - history only:

2nd part that has some bunkai in it including an application of the salutation:

Stevenson
Stevenson's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:

Hi All,

For those who have not seen it, here is an interesting piece by Jesse Enkamp where he shows forty-two possible combative applications for the hand position we have been discussing:

http://www.karatebyjesse.com/42-bunkai-to-monks-salutation/

All the best,

Iain

Wow! When they say the interpretation of kata is infinite, I thought it was just a figure of speech!

Jason Lester
Jason Lester's picture

Hi Stevenson,

great video on the history of Bassai-Dai, many thanks for posting, really interesting smiley

Jason

Stevenson
Stevenson's picture

Thanks Jason. I enjoyed your bunkai demo as well. In fact its similar to a Yuma Uke application we were exploring the other day. I hadn't thought of the similarity to Bassai Dai until I saw your video, although in reptrospect it seems really obvious....

Jason Lester
Jason Lester's picture

Thankyou, pleased you liked it smiley

had a nasty back injury when that was filmed so werent as good as i wanted it to be. if you are looking for a start to Bassai-Dai and if you have a copy of he Bubishi have a look on page 168 at the top, this may help wink

Kind regards,

Jason

shoshinkanuk
shoshinkanuk's picture

Hi Jason,

I think you have done a better job with this presentation in general than the Bunkai you have shown before with the exception of the first strike.

I really, truly, cannot think of how thats going to stand up in reality I also strongly feel you would damage your hand and are also tying both hands up in a centre line strike, not a good idea IMO.

Striking round to the side of a supported head I would 'get' a little more. But based on the stance your in it doesn't make sense to me, but thats just me.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

shoshinkanuk wrote:
Striking round to the side of a supported head I would 'get' a little more. But based on the stance your in it doesn't make sense to me, but thats just me.

As regards Jion, I prefer top think of the “salutation” as being a location grip to the back of the neck while the “fist” seizes the throat. The “double block” – which is frequently regarded as the “first move” of the kata – works well as a counter against that attack with the lower arms sweeping away the hand on the throat before a grip can be securely established, and the “outer block” knocking the locating hand off the back of the neck. If you look at the opening move of the Hanashiro version of the kata (see picture) it really does look like that: perhaps other versions are more stylised? Either way it works well.

So the way I look at the kata is that the first move shows how to attack the throat (the “salutation”) and the second move shows how to protect it (the “double block”). That seems logical to me and it fits the kata. The stepping back to clear a space to extend the enemy’s arm and knock it off also makes sense to me.

Having cleared attack to your throat (using move 2), it is possible to attack you partner’s throat (using move 1). Your partner could then counter your attack with move 2 and also attack you with move 1 … and hay presto you have a flow drill! Having stepped back to clear the attempted throat grab, you need to close the distance to get your own solid grip on the throat (which would be countered in the drill). In practice what tends to happen as this drill flows back and forth is the left leg goes back on the defence and forward on the attack; with the right leg moving a much smaller amount (when drilling it on the same side as it appears in the kata). You then see the “feet together stance” (or thereabouts) on the attack side, and the front stance or back stance (depending on the version of the kata) on the defence. This drill fits the kata, is logical, and leaves no part of the kata unused or unexplained. It’s therefore my primary application.

The “double blocks” at forty-five degrees also flow on from the throat grab defence, by taking an angle and redirecting the gripping arm (the one that was on the back of your neck, but has just been knocked off, or at least knocked) to a position where the enemy can’t spin in towards you because of your relative position and how their arm is held, you can the kick out the knee and punch.  A little harder to get across in words, but very simple to do. Anyhow, that’s my thoughts on the use of the “opening salutation” in regards to Jion.

All the best,

Iain

PS I’m hoping to get Bunkai-Jutsu 6 filmed sometime in the next twelve months which will cover my take on Jion.

shoshinkanuk
shoshinkanuk's picture

Yes Iain, good stuff- I forgot wherever there's a closed fist we can be grabbing, particulary when it's supported.

I haven't really thought about this much as my view on the kata 'salutaions' is not primarily Bunkai related etc.

Jason Lester
Jason Lester's picture

Hi Jim, thanku for your reply.

the demos i have posted in the past were filmed on a seminar/course, i was strapped for time etc.

As for reality, anything is possible, for example if an attacker is walking towards you in an aggressive manner with their hands by their sides, the 1st example i gave would make, as i see it and experienced make a good defence.

As for damaging the hands, daily use of the Makiwara would ensure to strenghen ones hands.

This is of course just one example of an opening application to Jion, there are of course many more.

Either way i hope the video was of some interest and thankyou for your postsmiley.

Kind regards,

Jason

Tau
Tau's picture

Ok, this thread has discussed Bassai and Jion and touched on Kushanku. I'll ignore Naihanchi here because it's covered in great depth elsewhere. But, am I only person that learned Heian Yondan as starting with open rather than closed hands? My recent video attempted to explain this but I subsequently realised that actually it doesn't matter what position your hands are in to begin with to make the bunkai that I presented work. So really I'm no further along.

shoshinkanuk
shoshinkanuk's picture

Hi Jason,

We can agree to disagree re the strike, be interesting to see what others feel about that aspect.

Ben Ryder
Ben Ryder's picture

Hi,

In regards to the opening salutation from Ji'in, Jion, Jitte I believe it is just that - a salutation. That is not to say we cant get an application from it: lets face it the ambiguity of our art and its appliction practices allows us to get application from just about anything (I once did a lesson on the applications of the Macarena dance without revealing the origins of the 'deadly art'). Dill got there first with the explanations of its origins - sun and moon fist is how I remember it first being described, with origins in the Ming dynasty if I recall correctly.

As far as the application of that salutation goes it makes next to no sense to me as a strike in its presentation. It is not dyanamic in any way at all (it is completely stationary!) and does not comply to any method of power generation (no hip rotation, body locomotion or extention or flexion of the arms)...you can adjust the solo representation only so far to fit the application practice to keep the relationship between solo and application strong, the changes in the video shown are pronounced and the relationship between solo and application is weak. Also, the impacting tool is quite weak on that angle of use (irrespective of conditioning) and doesnt fulfil on objective of gaining (at the very least) a significant gain before the assault continues.

If the posture were going to have an application it would make more sense as a default position from which to work. Iain's looks good, or it could be both hands wrapped around the back of the neck in a clinch (I remember Iain using taking this position and escaping using something from Naihanchi as one of his warm up exercises a few years back), and I think Rick Young in a BCA DVD ended up in the same hand position responding to a single arm grab or push in the Kali section of the DVD, though this movement and most others for the same posture are best recorded at the end of Chinte where the hops increase the intensity of application to around a dozen applications.

 My 2c!

Rgds,

Ben www.irkrs-uk.com Koryu Uchinadi Kenpo Jutsu Shidoin Leeds, UK

miket
miket's picture

My own conclusion after a lot of thought:  Useless motion is Useless.  :-)  

DaveB
DaveB's picture

Quote:
I, of course 'see' and accept the opening/closing hand positons can be put to practical application use however I firmly disagree that was their origonal function, proving that is another thing.

For myself I feel it depends on the kata. I don't think the original starting postures had any application, but regardless of ryu, karate kata are not originals, they have all been modified by style founders and their teachers before them probably to before the forms left China. The temple kata, jion, jitte and Jiin, have no opening application in my opinion. They use a fairly standard and traditional salute common across Chinese arts. That said it is worth noting the usefulness of a greeting that holds both hands in front of you at chest height. Perhaps the Sun Moon salute was also a medieval fence. Though I am certain it started out as a Chinese salutation I believe Bassai was altered to have application that follow the theme of the kata, the same is true of Kanku dai and Chinto. It is a judgement call for each martial artist to make, but just as Ian fears opening the door to impractical uses of kata (though I agree with Jim that kata are a holistic exercise with components other than combatives), we can also go the other way and start drilling belt tying as practice for a bear hug defense, or worse go the 75 applications for low block route and never actually practice anything because applications are infinite (the most common excuse I've heard for sticking to traditional kihon centric syllabi in the face of years of available info on applications).

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