In , an interesting incident took place at a big restaurant somewhere in central Okinawa. A party was being held at the restaurant this evening, and one of the invited guests of honor happened to be Choki Motobu. Arriving at the restaurant, Motobu — being an elder — was not given a seat near the entrance like most guests but rather all the way inside the restaurant. This was nothing strange though, since seating is an important part of the Japanese culture — where you sit among other people clearly shows what position you have in the social hierarchy. And — as we will soon see — it was a great strategical place to sit at if a fight was about to go down. As the evening slowly progressed, the party was going great.
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Motobu Choki sensei was born April 5, , into an aristocratic Ryukyuan family. The third son of Motobu Aji Choshin and his wife Maushi, Choki sensei was called Masanraa as a child: "ma" being a polite prefix and "sanraa" meaning "third son.
Being 13 years younger than Choyu sensei, Choki sensei always lost to him in kumite. Because of this, he secretly sought instruction from other legendary masters such as Matsumura Sokon sensei of Shuri and Sakuma sensei while still training under Itosu sensei. Matsumura sensei was such a great martial artist that Choki sensei said of him, "among recent karate masters, there was no one as exquisite or strong.
From the age of 19, Choki sensei also studied under the Tomari-te master Matsumora Kosaku sensei. Choki sensei's abilities in kumite training seem to have made an impression on Matsumora sensei, who is said to have remarked, "for a young man, he is extremely talented in the martial arts" reported in the Ryukyu Shimpo , Choki sensei sought instruction from all the great martial artists of his time and immersed himself in first-hand research into karate. At a time when it was difficult to receive training from even one master, it was Choki sensei's origins as a son of a family of the udun rank that enabled him to do this.
Choki sensei also did something unprecedented for a person of noble birth at the time by venturing into Naha's red-light district of Tsuji-machi to take part in street fights known as kakedameshi. At a time when karate was still a martial art studied only among the military class, it was inconceivable for anyone of that class to flout propriety by fighting in such a dangerous place.
A loss in such a situation would not only be physically dangerous, but would also bring shame upon one's family. Thus, a person of noble birth such as Choki sensei taking part in such fights was unheard of. However, Choki sensei was rational by nature and believed in the authenticity of experience. He sought to verify the usefulness of the techniques he had learned from his teachers in actual confrontations.
In hundreds of kakedameshi encounters, he did not lose even once. Choki sensei had become a living legend while still only in his twenties, but because his desire to improve his bu was stronger than others', he subsequently immersed himself in research into kumite with his fellow student Yabu sensei.
Whenever they encountered a problem or question, Choki sensei would seek guidance from his teachers. Determined not to let his abilities go to his head, Choki sensei began an earnest and humble investigation into the heart of karate that continued into his old age.
According to the old style of reckoning age, by which a year would be added at the start of a new calendar year. By Western reckoning, he was still only In , Choki sensei moved to Osaka. In November of , while visiting Kyoto, he saw a sign advertising matches of judo vs.
Impulsively jumping into a match himself, Choki sensei downed his European boxer opponent in one blow. At that time, Choki sensei was In those days, it was still said that "life is 50 years. Choki sensei was already a legendary karate-ka in Okinawa, but after the match his reputation as a martial artist began to spread on mainland Japan, and he was besieged with inquiries about karate and requests for instruction.
In , the magazine Kingu , which had the largest circulation at the time, gave the story of Choki sensei's victory in Kyoto extensive coverage. It is from this article that many people in Japan first heard of the Okinawan martial art of " karate. This volume is the oldest record of kumite , and the classical Okinawan kumite techniques introduced in it are today preserved only in Motobu kenpo. In the late s, Choki sensei moved his base of operations to Tokyo while his family remained in Osaka.
In , he became shihan of the Toyo University karate club. The exact date of the Daidokan's establishment is unknown, but the few existing records seem to indicate it was functioning by In , Choki sensei published his second book, Watashi no karate-jutsu. In this volume, he appeared in photographs of the entire sequence of naihanchi. Moreover, he strongly warned against misinterpretations of naihanchi and expressed concern about what he saw as the distorted state of karate on mainland Japan.
In particular, his conservative postion regarding alteration of kata came from his opposition to other karate-ka doing so solely to expedite the promotion of karate on the Japanese mainland. Choki sensei also strove to record the names and specialties of the martial artists of the Ryukyu Kingdom and preserve the oral traditions of karate history that he had heard from his teachers.
Today, Watashi no karate-jutsu is considered the primary document regarding the history of karate. In addition, a one-man symposium with just Choki sensei was held on November 7. The contents of this symposium were covered in a series of three newspaper articles titled Listen to the "Real Fighting Stories" of the Venerable Martial Artist Motobu Choki. The respect accorded Choki sensei in this way illustrates his position as the foremost practitioner of Okinawan karate at the time.
In this later symposium, Choki sensei reiterated his dissatisfaction with the state and direction of contemporary karate. He criticized the alteration of kata from their characteristics during the time of Matsumura sensei and Sakuma sensei, as well as the presumptuous creation of kumite with no connection to tradition by a generation with no knowledge of the classical kumite of the Ryukyu Kingdom. However, the subsequent history of karate indeed went down the path Choki sensei feared it would.
In , Choki sensei returned to Tokyo and resumed instruction at the Daidokan. At that time, the boxer known as "Piston" Horiguchi sensei received training from Choki sensei there.
When Choki sensei would return to Osaka, he would also give instruction to his son Chosei sensei. Unlike his elder brother Choyu sensei, Choki sensei had given up weapons training while still in his youth. His students Nakata sensei and Maruyama sensei later said that Choki sensei's use of weapons was impressive and that his knowledge of weapons seemed to be reflected in the principles of Motobu kenpo.
Then in , Choki sensei closed the Daidokan in Tokyo and briefly returned to Osaka. He remained there until the middle of , when he left for Okinawa. At first, he had planned only a short homecoming, but as the war intensified and returning to Osaka became difficult, he decided to see out his last days in the place of his birth. During the war, as blackouts started against air-raids, Choki sensei is reported to have said "The war is lost.
A defensive battle is almost impossible to win. His grave is today in Kaizuka city in Osaka. Motobu Choki sensei. Upbringing and training. Life on the Japanese Mainland. Compilation of Okinawan Kenpo Karate-jutsu Kumite, In , the magazine Kingu , which had the largest circulation at the time, gave the story of Choki sensei's victory in Kyoto extensive coverage. Tokyo and the Daidokan. Latter Years.
Choki sensei front, center in his latter years, In , Choki sensei returned to Tokyo and resumed instruction at the Daidokan.
“Karate Ni Sente Nashi” á la Motobu Choki
Introduction by Christopher Caile. This is the first of a two articles exploring the truths and misconceptions about Choki Motobu who was arguably one of Okinawa's greatest early twentieth century karate masters, and the most colorful. He was also the least understood and probably the most maligned. Motobu was the third son in a great Okinawan family that had enjoyed privilege and landed nobility Motobu peninsula , but which was largely ended by Japanese annexation of the island, modernization and social reorganization. A strong ox of a man with a will and ego to match, Motobu preferred the tough and tumble, practical karate over the pure practice of kata.
Motobu Choki sensei
Motobu Choki sensei was born April 5, , into an aristocratic Ryukyuan family. The third son of Motobu Aji Choshin and his wife Maushi, Choki sensei was called Masanraa as a child: "ma" being a polite prefix and "sanraa" meaning "third son. Being 13 years younger than Choyu sensei, Choki sensei always lost to him in kumite. Because of this, he secretly sought instruction from other legendary masters such as Matsumura Sokon sensei of Shuri and Sakuma sensei while still training under Itosu sensei. Matsumura sensei was such a great martial artist that Choki sensei said of him, "among recent karate masters, there was no one as exquisite or strong.
Despite this Motobu was very interested in the art, spending much of his youth training on his own, hitting the makiwara , pushing and lifting heavy stones to increase his strength. He is reported to have been very agile, which gained him the nickname Motobu no Saru , or "Motobu the Monkey. Although he was reputed by his detractors to have been a violent and crude street fighter, with no formal training, Motobu was a student of several of Okinawa's most prominent karate practitioners. Popular myth holds that Motobu only knew one kata , Naifanchi Naihanchi. Other sources describe Sanchin , Kusanku , and Ueseishi A. Gojushiho, or 54 steps as having been part of his repertoire. He apparently developed his own kata , Shiro Kuma White Bear.
All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Dragon Associates Inc. Posterity has not treated all the old karate masters equally. Some have had their praises sung many times in print while others, equally accomplished, have been all but forgotten.