Bassai and the Snake

Discussion in 'Tang Soo Do' started by Makalakumu, Aug 27, 2007.

  1. Makalakumu

    Makalakumu Gonzo Karate Apocalypse

    • MartialTalk Mentor
    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2003
    Messages:
    13,887
    Likes Received:
    232
    Trophy Points:
    173
    Location:
    Hawaii
    Bassai means "penetrate the fortress" in Japanese and has nothing to do with the snake or any kind of snake style of kung fu in its Okinawan or Japanese lineages (as far as I know). Yet in TSD, Bassai is commonly referred to as "the snake" form. I'm wondering where this comes from.
     
  2. Muwubu16858

    Muwubu16858 Green Belt

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2007
    Messages:
    175
    Likes Received:
    4
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Location:
    Greenwich, CT, USA
    If he weren't deceased, I'd tell you to ask GM Hwang Kee...I don't know why, but only in Moo Duk Kwan based styles of TSD do you see snake representing Bassai.
     
  3. FieldDiscipline

    FieldDiscipline 2nd Black Belt

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2006
    Messages:
    739
    Likes Received:
    17
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Location:
    Great Britain
    Please forgive my ignorance but I am curious what other kwan styles of TSD exist? I had always thought the MDK was Tang Soo Do.
     
  4. JT_the_Ninja

    JT_the_Ninja Black Belt

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2007
    Messages:
    592
    Likes Received:
    8
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Location:
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Both palche so and palche deh (bassai) hyung are said to represent the snake. The first move is the likely source of this, with the windup to strike. Part of the philosophy through the whole form is supposed to be keeping the body relaxed until the moment just before impact, to save energy. A snake can be completely coiled up one moment and striking the next. The historicity of this is best left up to historians, I guess.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  5. rmclain

    rmclain Black Belt

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2005
    Messages:
    538
    Likes Received:
    16
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Location:
    Arlington, Texas
    None anymore, except as honorary associations.

    But before the unification process began in the 1960's, most other kwan martial arts were referred to as Tang Soo Do, Tae Soo Do, Kong Soo Do, or Kwop Bup. The name "Tang Soo Do" was not unique to MDK. It is just that the MDK organization has kept "Tang Soo Do" in the name over the years, so most people associate that name with MDK.

    Hwang Kee made up lots of stories. So, probably he told his students that certain animals were linked to some forms he taught.

    R. McLain
     
  6. exile

    exile To him unconquered.

    • LifeTime Supporting Member
    • Martial Talk Alumni
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2006
    Messages:
    10,669
    Likes Received:
    245
    Trophy Points:
    173
    Location:
    Columbus, Ohio
    David Beck's excellent `Controversial TKD FAQs' page (here), which I've found to be consistently accurate and well-documented, says that Byung-Jik Ro, founder of the Song Moo Kwan, originally called the art he taught Tang Soo Do; he also was involved in the formation of the Korean Kongsoodo Association, where he held the position of chief instructor and director of the rank promotion committe, according to Dakin Burdick, suggesting that the kwan founders treated Tang Soo Do and Kong Soo Do as essentially interchangeable (not unreasonable, since the two terms are, as has been repeatedly noted, simply the respective translations for the two different transliterations of Kara te). He went with the majority at the time of the initial split in 1961, when HK left the KTA and never went back.

    The whole story is very difficult to get in anything like clear forms—most of the accounts I've read are partisan and self-serving in the extreme and show a remarkable disdain for historical consistency and documentation!—but as RMcl says, the term tangsoodo does seem to have been in very common use for the generic `Kwan-era' KMA, gradually acquiring more and more political baggage as the mind-bogglingly fractious history of KMA in the postwar era continued to evolve...
     
    • Informative Informative x 1
  7. MBuzzy

    MBuzzy Grandmaster

    • Martial Talk Alumni
    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2006
    Messages:
    5,328
    Likes Received:
    107
    Trophy Points:
    173
    Location:
    West Melbourne, FL
    Right now, the "Official" Moo Duk Kwan organization is the Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan. I say official, because they have gone to great lengths to copyright portions of their name and teachings. Soo Bahk Do, though was formerly known as Tang Soo Do and is still basically the same style. There are many Tang Soo Do practitioners who practice Moo Duk Kwan also.

    Until recently, I had used the terms Soo Bahk Do and Tang Soo Do interchangably, but being involved with SBD now I am seeing more and more differences. But both share the name Moo Duk Kwan.

    I have also heard that there are Tae Kwon Do organizations who refer to themselves as Moo Duk Kwan, but I have no more details on them than that.
     
  8. FieldDiscipline

    FieldDiscipline 2nd Black Belt

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2006
    Messages:
    739
    Likes Received:
    17
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Location:
    Great Britain
    Thanks for the input, I'm aware that a lot of the (now) TKD kwans were initially named TSD, in fact I argued that point reference the Chung Do Kwan over the weekend. I'm also aware that there exist TKD Moo Duk Kwan schools. I understand this to be due a split when Hwang Kee rejected the KTA.

    I was led to ask the question by this post though:

    It seemed to suggest that now there exists schools of TSD descended from other kwans.
     
  9. Tez3

    Tez3 Sr. Grandmaster

    • Supporting Member
    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2006
    Messages:
    25,583
    Likes Received:
    3,982
    Trophy Points:
    308
    Location:
    England
    While we don't belong to any organisation the TSD we do is from Grand Master Kang UK Lee. His biography says he joined Moo Duk Kwan in 1949, in 1956 he was the TSD (Moo Duk Kwan) instrustor at Police HQ in Seoul, 1964-1972 he was Chief Instructor of the Central Moo Duk Kwan Gymnasium and Director of the Korean Soo Bahk Do Assoc. In 1975 he was the President of the UK YSD (Soo Bahk) Do Assoc.

    His book states that " the origins of Tang Soo Do as we know it can be traced back to the period of the Three Kingdoms in Korea, Shilla 57 BC-935 AD. Paekjae 18 BC-660 BC and Koguryo 37 BC -668 Ad. Many relics of TSD (Soo Bahk Kee) from this era survive to the present day...."

    His description of "Ba Sa Hee" hyung "Ba See Hee hyung was devised approx 450 years ago. It is based on the art of boxing and has undergone many changes while evolving into its present form. It was practised by the Buddhist monks at the So Lim Sa temple situated in the Ha Nam region of China and consists of carefully selected moves from the So Lim techniques, which are executed with the effiecient use of force and speed. The name of the originator is not known. Ba Sa Hee symbolises the cobra."


    To be honest it means very little to me, the hyungs are so similiar to my beloved Wado's katas ( only made simpler if you known what I mean?) that it is obvious that the truth is somewhat murky to say the least!
     
  10. FieldDiscipline

    FieldDiscipline 2nd Black Belt

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2006
    Messages:
    739
    Likes Received:
    17
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Location:
    Great Britain
    Hi again Tez,

    I've just been reading about him actually on the United Kingdom Tang Soo (Soo Bahk) Do Federation website.

    I still dont know what the fifth belt was for btw :)
     
  11. Chizikunbo

    Chizikunbo Purple Belt

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2004
    Messages:
    306
    Likes Received:
    2
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Kang Uk Lee's book has many inaccuracies...
    Only in the Moo Duk Kwan do we find the snake representing the form Bal Sae (Bassai, as many other forms similar, Ship Soo -the bear, Pyong Ahn - the turtle etc. These were innovations and characteristics devised by GM Hwang Kee founder of the MDK and go back no further than that. These characteristics as applied by GM are cumbersome in that they lead students away from the true history of the forms. These should only be looked at with regards to the spirit of the form as understood by GM Hwang Kee, no more, no less...Look to Japan to begin your research into the history, then Okinawa, China etc..
    Happy Hunting!
    --josh
     
  12. exile

    exile To him unconquered.

    • LifeTime Supporting Member
    • Martial Talk Alumni
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2006
    Messages:
    10,669
    Likes Received:
    245
    Trophy Points:
    173
    Location:
    Columbus, Ohio
    You said it, Josh. For one thing, he repeats thoroughly debunked pseudohistory about the evidence base for `ancient' KMAs, managing to cram into a couple of pages the standard myths about the physical, documentary and philological data cited for these ancient lineages (I've summarized these in a different thread here, if anyone wants to follow this point up—every last little ounce of detail is there, so there's no point in dwelling on it). There isn't even a little bit of critical reflection on the nature of these specious arguments. I know that people tend to regard anything supporting their agenda as good news, but in the end, this sort of thing comes back to bite you on the ***: you lose credibility because people, once they look at the facts from a broader and deeper knowledge base, start thinking: if he's got this stuff so badly messed up, just how reliable is he on the technical side? You can't help it, you start being unwilling to give an author who makes these kinds of elementary errors—including ignoring research (such as Dakain Burdick's, already mentioned) that was readily available, in print or e-accessible, at least two years before their book appears—the benefit of any doubt at all.

    I think Josh's point summarizes the situation very well, and all I want to do here is bring up a possible explanation for the snake/Bassai (and other animal linkages) unique to HK's tradition in the development of the MAs. So here goes...

    HK was particularly avid to dissociate the KMAs from identification with the hated Japanese occupiers. He therefore emphasized the origins of his interpretation of the KMAs with the Chinese, another victim nation of Japanese racist genocide; but he came to grief, as we are all pretty much aware, over his attempt to pass off the Pyung-Ahn forms as Chinese in origin... at least, that's what he appeared to be claiming, in his earlier assertions that he had brought them back from China. This seems totally absurd, given the fact that the Pyung-Ahns, transparently related to the Pinan katas (though their sequence reflect the Heian ordering) are known, and abundantly documented, to be the product of Anko Itosu's thinking, maybe his greatest single creative work. But as pointed out by John Hancock in this article, there is a way for both solid history and HK's assertions to be reconciled, though it implies a very high degree of disingenousness on HK's part: yes, he brought the Pinans back from China, but he did not learn them from exposure to CMAs. Rather, he learned them from an acquaintance of his when he was stationed as a railway worker in Manchuria—the somewhat enigmatic Gogen Yamaguchi, the Cat, founder of the Japanese avatar of Gojo-Ryu, who was well aware of the Pinans and other Okinawan kata, and was serving as an intelligence officer in Manchuria, stationed in the same specific area where HK was working. You can read Hancock's detailed, well-supported arguments in the link I provided; I myself find them quite convincing, and so does Dakin Burdick, who cites them in his seminal 1997 Journal of Asian Martial Arts article, `People and events of Taekwondo's formative years'. The crucial point is that HK in a sense succeeeded—by formulating things in a way which inevitably would lead people to draw false conclusions—in telling something like the truth while making it seem as though Tang Soo Do owed nothing to Japanese sources for its technical content, particularly its hyungs.

    This is where the snake, and other animal iconography in HK's treatment of the TSD hyungs, comes in, I believe. In marked contrast to the Japanese kata, the use of animal names and other naturalistic imagery is a marked feature of Chinese hsing patterns. I very strongly suspect that, as part of the disingenousness already documented in the way HK told a deliberately misleading story about the source of the Pyung-Ahn hyungs, he created out of whole cloth the snake/Bassai association and other animal name associations with TSD forms specifically to reinforce the Han/Korean connection in his art and obscure the historically demonstrable origins of the postward KMAs in the Okinawan/Japanese fighting systems grouped together under the rubric Karate, one interpretation of which translates directly into Korean as Tang Soo Do. The end result has nothing to do with martial content and everything to do with the political symbolism which different Asian martial arts came to embody in the wake of Japanese colonial expansion and defeat in the postwar era... and I seriously doubt that any significance beyond this for the snake/Bassai connection in TSD is going to emerge.
     
  13. FieldDiscipline

    FieldDiscipline 2nd Black Belt

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2006
    Messages:
    739
    Likes Received:
    17
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Location:
    Great Britain
    I have definately read, and I'm trying to recall where, that if you look at dates, ages etc. HK cant have learned from Yamaguchi. He learned these kata from a book he found at the railway library.

    As you may have noticed I am far from the historian of TSD or Karate but I definately remember reading it, and given the interest on this board for debunking the history of the KMAs its well worth bearing in mind.
     
  14. FieldDiscipline

    FieldDiscipline 2nd Black Belt

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2006
    Messages:
    739
    Likes Received:
    17
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Location:
    Great Britain
    Uh huh. That'll be that bit then.
     
  15. exile

    exile To him unconquered.

    • LifeTime Supporting Member
    • Martial Talk Alumni
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2006
    Messages:
    10,669
    Likes Received:
    245
    Trophy Points:
    173
    Location:
    Columbus, Ohio
    A couple of points, FD. First, is it possible that what you read wasn't about claims involving not HK and YG, but HK and Gichin Funakoshi? Hancock says that

    In 1995 1 attended a regional gathering of tang soo do black belts. During a discussion with one talented young man, I was told that the black belts in his organization were taught that the pyong ahn series was created by Hwang Kee and Funakoshi Gichin. The story goes that Funakoshi and Hwang traveled to China with other martial arts masters, where they studied the Chinese arts. Together they created the pyong ahn forms, and then each returned to his respective country and taught his own version.

    ...This story could have gone unchallenged indefinitely as long as the black belts in that organization never questioned its validity and continued to repeat it to younger generations. But a simple fact check quickly proved it to be a fallacy.

    First, while Hwang Kee did travel to China, there is no indication he was part of a group of karate masters. Second, Funakoshi never traveled to China; he was an Okinawan who relocated to Japan, where he lived out his life. Third, Hwang and Funakoshi were not contemporaries in the sense that the story implies. Funakoshi was born in 1868. In 1927 he relocated to Japan, where he remained until his death in 1957. Hwang was born in 1914 just north of Seoul. In 1935, following completion of high school, Hwang traveled to China as part of his job and remained there until 1937. By this time, Funakoshi was 70 years old, while Hwang was only 24. That would hardly make them contemporaries.

    Nonetheless, some people have perpetuated the rumor that Hwang Kee studied under Funakoshi at his shotokan karate school. As far as I have been able to discover, Hwang and Funakoshi never trained together, nor even ever met each other.


    The facts involving HK and YG are a little less clear. YG was only five years older than HK; HK's dates in Manchuria were 1935–37, and then again in 1941, though it's not clear for how long, while GY didn't go there till 1938, and spent the rest of the war there, so the issue would have been, could any contact have come in 1941?

    But yes, it's true that HK confesses later in his book that he got the whole Pinan kata set second-hand. I have to apologize for being (inadvertently) misleading here: the version of Hancock's article I saw came out in print in 1994, and I just assumed that the web version of the article was the same as the one that had appeared in Inside tang so do (3.2, p.17). But when I rechecked the web version, which is much more recent, I saw that Hancock himself withdrew from the conclusion that HK learned the forms from YK, because just after the article appeared, HK's book came out. So mea culpa on this.

    But what this actually means—assuming that HK was indeed telling the truth at last :rolleyes:—is that, if HK himself was the source of the story that he had `brought the [Pyung Ahn hyungs] back from China', as HK's own son insisted to Hancock, then he wasn't just being disingenuous, but was completely fabricating the Chinese connection. And fabricating Chinese-style names for Bassai and other hyungs taken over directly from Okinawan/Japanese kata would simply be more of the same. The whole point was to cover over TSD's origins in O/J karate with a Chinese-tinged facade, and imposing animal style names or associations on Japanese kata which completely lacked these would be part of the show.
     
  16. Makalakumu

    Makalakumu Gonzo Karate Apocalypse

    • MartialTalk Mentor
    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2003
    Messages:
    13,887
    Likes Received:
    232
    Trophy Points:
    173
    Location:
    Hawaii
    This would have never happened today. With the internet, we are so much more connected to so much more knowledge. If anyone nowadays would have cooked up this kind of story, they'd be exposed rather quickly.
     
  17. FieldDiscipline

    FieldDiscipline 2nd Black Belt

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2006
    Messages:
    739
    Likes Received:
    17
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Location:
    Great Britain
    That was what I had read. Thanks for clearing that up Exile, informative as always. :)

    Shame though isnt it, that so much has been based on lies and half truths.
     
  18. rmclain

    rmclain Black Belt

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2005
    Messages:
    538
    Likes Received:
    16
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Location:
    Arlington, Texas
    As far as people are genuinely interested and try hard to find the truth, they will eventually find it. Nowadays, more of us are interested in finding backgrounds and lineage of the early pre-tkd arts following WWII. I'm appreciative of the research everyone is doing here.

    Even in our Chayon-Ryu system, Grandmaster Kim Pyung-soo originally thought our karate lineage was to Kenwa Mabuni (Shito-Ryu) for a long time. His teachers never told him these things. But, just as many of you here have it, he had a genuine interest to research the background. He found out (from two instructor's directories written by Toyama Kanken, 1st: early 1950's, 2nd: 1959), plus from Master Kim Ki-whang who was a junior friend to Yoon Byung-in (our senior Master) at Nihon University, that our karate lineage is actually Shudokan from Toyama Kanken. Finally, he verified these things by tracking down and visiting with Yoon Byung-in's family in Korea these past 2 years. (Yoon Byung-in disappeared during the Korean War in August 1950, and even his senior students have speculated his background and what happened to him during this time. Now we know.)

    So, even some of the old-days Masters are finding the history for themselves nowadays.

    I applaud the sincere efforts here. Please keep it up.

    R. McLain
     
  19. exile

    exile To him unconquered.

    • LifeTime Supporting Member
    • Martial Talk Alumni
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2006
    Messages:
    10,669
    Likes Received:
    245
    Trophy Points:
    173
    Location:
    Columbus, Ohio
    This is correct, I believe—misinformation of course travels more quickly now because of the web, but correction and critique travels just as fast. The whole world is now kind of carrying out `peer review'.


    You're very kind, FD, but I've been feeling lousy all morning that I hadn't `kept up' with the last stage of the story, instead of just assuming that Hancock's two articles had exactly the same content. And I'm also a bit troubled that Burdick, who's normally so careful with sources, didn't twig to HK's admission—his 1997 article only references Hancock's earlier one, not the current web version; but while Hancock at least has the excuse that HK's book came out a year after his first article in Inside Taekwondo, Burdick's JAMA paper came out in 1997, two years after HK's book. And the JAMA reviewers didn't catch the problem either...I guess it just goes to show how careful you have to be in keeping track of new information... the HK/GY story now needs to be retired as an interesting hypothesis that didn't pan out.

    It's clear from his later, web article that Hancock wasn't out to `get' HK at all—he knew that the Pyung-Ahns came from Itosu's Pinan set, he knew that HK had claimed to have `brought them back from China', and what he really wanted was a way to reconcile the two so that the truth wouldn't reflect completely badly on HK and the `official' story. If H. had been right about HK getting the Pyung-Ahns from GY, then it meant at least that HK's story, the one H. got from HK's son, was at least literally true. You can tell, reading the later web article, that H. was very disappointed that the more benign interpretation he'd been advocating based on the alleged HK/GY connection didn't hold up.

    I know! It's so disheartening, because it means that until you plunge into all that muck and try to sort out what is supported by reliable evidence and what isn't, you're kind of at sea about what to believe. And the history is important, I've always thought, so far as understanding the technical content. But it can become a full-time job in itself...

    Anyway, to try to make up for my own gaffe in the HK/GY story, I offer this interesting link to Iain Abernethy's blog site, where he makes the somewhat shocking claim that `Pinan' should not be translated as `Peaceful Mind', and explains why he thinks that's a mistranslation. There's been an awful lot of controversy about just what `Bassai' means, and now it turns out that the Pinans may also be controversial so far as the kata set name goes. Just more food for thought...

    ... have to look on the bright side, I guess—if we all knew the whole truth, there wouldn't be that much to talk about, eh?
     
  20. FieldDiscipline

    FieldDiscipline 2nd Black Belt

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2006
    Messages:
    739
    Likes Received:
    17
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Location:
    Great Britain
    Indeed. Its a good thing people are investigating now, before the last traces of the truth die out. At least we can pass on what we know.
     

Share This Page

Search tags for this page
animal representing bassai gorm tang soo do
,
bassai animal symbol
,

bassai hyung history

,
bassai snake
,
how many moves in bassai dai tang soo do
,
soo bahk do bassai hyung explaination
,
tang soo do bassai so written
,
tang soo snake
,
tang soo snake form
,
the art of war applied to tang soo do
,
tsd bassai
,

yt kata bassai dai