QUESTION: Bassai is my favorite kata. I heard a while back that Ohshima Sensei changed the three movements 29-31 in Karate-do Kyohan (photos 68-73). I have always practiced this with palms facing my body as Master Funakoshi wrote. Is it true that we now practice with palms facing upward? Any feedback would be great, thanks!— Steven Horwood, nidan, Montreal
ANSWER: This movement is one of those movements that can be done two ways. If you look closely at Sensei’s photos you will notice his hair is different in the photos showing the techniques you are asking about. The original photos showed palm up but Funakoshi Sensei describes the movement as palm toward your body so Ohshima Sensei returned to Japan and took new photos to show the technique the way Funakoshi Sensei describes it. Ohshima Sensei says it is a punch while holding your opponent’s Dogi with the hand that finishes in front of your chest.
-Norman Welch, godan
Norman is exactly correct in this technique. I remember his same explanation and when Sensei returned to Japan to retake those photos. The technique can be performed either way. There are a couple variations of techniques like this in a couple of the katas. Tom Heyman is also correct and mentioned a very good point. When you turn the fist and little finger in, as you would when grabbing you’re opponent’s Dogi, this is the way you would execute it to have a better grip and connection. Pulling the little finger in and rotating the fist a bit more will also pull the elbow in to have that stronger connection.
-Tom Muzila, godan