Toshu Jutsu and White Lion Boxing

Bassai Dai: The White Lion Form

Bassai Dai: The White Lion Form

1) Toshu Jutsu is a complete martial art that contains Judo-like throws, Thai-like strikes, MMA-like groundwork, Kung Fu-like trapping and Aikido-like locks for example. These are not modern interpolations. Karate was always a complete martial art (prior to the modern era) and this is evident by revealing the counterparts of these techniques (Oyo) when we examine the kata (Bunkai). Aside from the aforementioned Budo techniques Toshu Jutsu also includes pressure points, chokes, rips, strangles, manipulations and breaks.

2) While Fujian based Quan-Fa (ie Shorei Ryu) does account for many of the Karate kata we practice (such as Hangetsu, Nijushiho and Jutte) other Kata, typically those grouped as Shorin Ryu have more in common with the northern long fist styles. For example Bassai is related to Bazi Quan, Kanku Dai is related to Taiji Quan and Empi is related to Hsing-I Quan.

3) Some of the kata are also designed to be practised with weapons, notably Heian Shodan (Sai), Heian Nidan (Nunchaku), Heian Sandan (Nunchaku), Heian Yondan (Dipdao), Heian Godan (Bo), Bassai Dai (Bo), Empi (Jian), Jutte (Bo), Bassai Sho (Katana), Kanku Sho (Timbei and Rochin)

4) The Chinese Martial Art that most strongly influenced Toshu Jutsu was called Bazi Quan which was translated in Fujian as White Lion Boxing.

The White Lion Hypothesis 

The White Lion Hypothesis is the theory that many of the Karate forms practised today originate in a Chinese art called White Lion Boxing.  I first began to explore this hypothesis when looking at the origin of the kata Bassai Dai and Bassai Sho.

Okinawan researcher Akio Kinjo states that Bassai or Passai may be a Fujian dialect translation of “leopard lion” (pao shi) and notes that some of the lifting and stomping movements are similar. Kinjo says it was pronounced as ‘baoshi’ in Manderin, ‘Baasai’ in the Fushou dialect and ‘pausai’ in Quan Shous dialect. Kinjo, a respected researcher, believes that the movements of the kata also resemble the leopard boxing of China. The Leopard style uses a lot of blocking and striking while standing in a cross leg stance, for instance. He also points out that the lion boxing style is well represented, as it holds a great deal of openhanded techniques while using a stomping action.

Personally I would favour the translation white lion (white can variously be bai, pai, pa, haku, ba, ha, in Chinese, Okinawan and Japanese) which would also be more in keeping with other Chinese style names like white crane, black tiger etc.

But we may also note that the form of internal Kung Fu Baji Quan has two kata called Baji Da and Baji Xiao which are comparable to Bassai Dai and Bassai Sho.  The interesting this is that Baji Quan is actually a modern name for an older system called Bazi Quan.  Because it uses a clawing motion, Bazi Quan is translated as “rake boxing” but Bazi could equally be translated the same way as Bassai – as white lion.The raking action being representative of the lion’s claw.

The second kata that shows the “lion” influence is the Goju Ryu form Saifa. Often translated as “smash and tear” this kata is actually more likely to mean Sai Fa (lion method) which Fa used as in Quan Fa.  Sai in the Fujian dialect is the equivalent of the Cantonese Shi which is also written as Shishi.  And this is where we see this syllable again.  Of course “shi” is often said to mean “four” which of course it does, but consider what new meanings our kata could have if we translated this as lion.

Useishi (the old name for Gojushiho) is translated as 54 steps and pointed out to resemble tiger boxing, but could Useishi be a translation of “shishi”.  Naifanchi (the old name for Tekki, also written as Naihanchi) would take on a new meaning as Naifanshi (lion’s inner claws). Even Seishan (Hangetsu) could take new meaning as Sai san (Three Lions).

Lion Boxing is of course well established in Fujian. A glance at the Bubishi reveals the Kata we practice today that have a Fujian origin (Useishi, Jutte, Niseishi, Sanchin etc) are derived from various styles of Lion, Crane, Dog, Tiger and Monk Fist Boxing.  Indeed Jin Shi Quan (golden lion boxing) is still taught in Fujian and one of the techniques that characterises it as Lion Boxing is the use of the arms like two large jaws of a lion. If you can’t visualise what I mean, look at the Yama Zuki at the end of Bassai Dai. There’s that link again.

The commentary reads: It reads: “Tiger Boxing also uses Saam Chien, Sanseiru, and Peichurrin, among others. Dog Boxing also uses Saam Chien and Sanseiru among others. Arhat Boxing, also known as Monk Fist, uses Saam Chien, Seisan, Jutte, Seipai, Ueseishi (Gojushiho), and Peichurrin among others. Lion Boxing uses Saam Chien and Seishan among others.”

Kagoshima’s striking system “Hakuda” which seems related to Karate was essentially a brutal south west Japanese version of Jujutsu but known for its Karate-like strikes. The name Hakuda (haku da) white hand can be reversed as Shubaku (Shu baka) hand white.  Chojun Miyagi (Goju Ryu founder) referred to Hakuda as “Baida” (white hand) in the Chinese dialect and Kanken Toyama referred to it as Taku.

This is why the symbol of Bushinkai is the White Lion.

The keegan coat of arms has the white lion, king's crown and half moon - three Karate kata share these names

The keegan coat of arms has the white lion, king’s crown and half moon – three Karate kata share these names

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