SENSEI CHOKI MOTOBU
Choki Motobu (1871-1944) was
born in 1871 in Akahira village in the Shuri region of Okinawa.
He was the third son of Motobu "Udun", a high ranking aji or
lord. The Motobu family were skilled at the art of Ti (a grappling
art of the Okinawan nobility). Motobu did learn some of the
techniques of his family's fighting system, but because of
Okinawan tradition, only the first son, Choyu, was educated
and choose to carry on the family's martial tradition. Because
of this situation, he went looking for instruction elsewhere.
Choki began training extensively
with makiwara and lifted heavy rocks to gain strength. He endeavored
to become as strong as possible and trained with ferocity. He
became known as "Motobu zaru" or Motobu the monkey because of
his agility and speed. Eventually, Motobu became the student
of Anko Itosu (one of Mabuni's sensei).
Now a young man, Choki spent a lot of time seeking out strong
looking men to challenge on the street. He won most of his fights
and learned much from these encounters. Itosu sensei was not
impressed by the young man's bullying and promptly expelled him
form the dojo.
Motobu's aggressive behavior soon
earned him a bad reputation and many sensei would not teach him.
Once man, however, liked the spirit he showed and accepted him
as a student of karate. This man was Kosaku
Matsumora of Tomari. It was from Matsumora that Choki learned
many Kata. Motobu still challenged others to fights often and
was eager to develop and improve his fighting skills. He eventually
asked Matsumora to teach him kumite, but Matsumora told him to
continue to learn on his own. Motobu, however, was persevering
and is said to have watched the kumite training through holes
in the fence around Matsumora's dojo.
Motobu's street fighting served
him well (to the detriment of many). He formulated his own formidable
style of kumite and began to get much attention in Okinawa and
in Japan on his trips to the islands. One day while in Kyoto
he witnessed a contest where people were asked to match skills
with a foreign boxer. A friend coaxed Motobu to give it a try.
The boxer was arrogant and goaded
Motobu constantly. For two rounds Motobu just avoided the boxer's
attacks. In the third round he had enough. He used a practiced
technique and promptly knocked the boxer out. The crowd was quite
taken aback. They had never seen this kind of fighting. Motobu
had simply struck his opponent with a fore knuckle in the temple;
a basic technique. Needless to say, Motobu quickly gained a reputation
as a master and many curious people came to learn this mysterious
new art. Soon, Motobu became a full time teacher.
During this time, Motobu gained
great respect for his fighting ability. He was hailed as the
greatest fighter in Japan. Many sensei advised their students
to go and train with Motobu and learn his kumite techniques (
for obvious reasons). He was also asked to teach at several universities.
Because of this, many of today's great instructors of various
styles had the benefit of his instruction, so it is clear that
his was a large influence in karate.
Motobu usually only taught naihanchi
kata to his students and it was his own version with many Ti-like
grappling and throwing techniques. However, it was his kumite
that had the greatest impact on karate. Oddly enough, there is
a story of Choki, full of confidence, challenging his brother
Choyu to a fight. It is said that Choyu threw Choki around like
a rag doll. After the experience, Choki is said to have humbled
himself and adopted more of his family's Ti forms. In 1922,
Master Motobu helped Master
the teaching of Karate to the Japanese. Filled with a new outlook
on his life, Master Motobu returned to Okinawa in 1936 and began
training with Master Kentsu Yabu. Master Yabu was only man to
have ever defeated Master Motobu.
Later in life, Motobu seemed to
stress the importance of tradition in training. He strongly stressed
the importance of makiwara training and became as enthusiastic
about kata as he had always been about kumite. In 1936, at the
age of 65, Motobu left Tokyo and went back to Okinawa to visit
his instructors to talk about the state of karate in Japan and
to make sure that he was teaching the kata and techniques in
their originally, unaltered form. Subsequently, he returned and
continued teaching in Tokyo. Shortly before World War II, he
returned to Okinawa and died in 1944 of a stomach disease at
the age of 73.
It is obvious that Choki Motobu
was very instrumental in the development of karate and that he
was the inspiration for many who trained in the art. It is good
to see that, today, millions of people still keep the art alive
and strive to keep the fighting spirit of karate which Sensei
Motobu so dearly loved.
From The Coslet's Karate Newsletter