Here are some interesting tidbits about the kata named “Bassai” in which there are two forms – Bassai-Dai and Bassai-Sho.
To begin with, the kata was originally named “Passai” and was named after an Okinawan family. Where they came into possession of the kata is a mystery, however, it most definitely came from China, and it has at its roots elements of the Leopard and Lion forms. This kata is over 400 years old, as they found a tapestry with figures doing the kata and has been carbon dated.
The Passai kata was taught to Sokon Matsumura who taught it to K. Oyadomori and Itosu, however, the Oyadomori family claims to have learned it from a Chinese man living in Okinawa at the time. Matsumura kept the form in its “Chinese” state, and it eventually found its way to the Shorin-Ryu (Goju-ryu) disciplines.
Itosu, on the other hand, “Okinawan’ized” it (as if there is a word). Itosu also supposedly created the “sho” part (Passai-sho) and taught both to Shotokan founder G. Funakoshi. It was Master Funakoshi who changed the name to Bassai – in order to please the mainland Japanese who wanted nothing to do with Okinawan or Chinese sounding names. Funakoshi chose the name Bassai because it was similar to Passai, but the exact meaning of Bassai is to “Extract from a fortress” (and not penetrate as is commonly mistaken), where as Passai is a family name with a different meaning.
Two other interesting tidbits are that the kata was created by a left handed person (which is good to keep in mind when working on the bunkai), and also the beginning of the kata is very similar to the Kung Fu bow (right fist in left palm).