I’ve been reading some of the writings of Mabuni again recently. I think some of the points were he disagrees with his contemporaries could be interesting to highlight. What I want to show is that there was not a consensus on all issues, but nevertheless a mutual respect.
No judgment is intended here; simply an observation that people disagreed in the past just as they do today.
“Based on fighting eight opponents, Koshokun [Kanku-Dai] is related to every other kata” – Gichin Funakoshi, Karate-Jutsu
“The meaning of the directions in kata is not well understood, and frequently mistakes are made in the interpretation of kata movements. In extreme cases, it is sometimes heard that "this kata moves in eight directions so it is designed for fighting eight opponents" or some such nonsense” - Kenwa Mabuni, Karatedo Nyumon
Mabuni would seem to regard Funakosi’s statement as “nonsense”?
“Recently [Mabuni] thought of moving to Osaka and so he did. There he opened the first karate-jutsu club at Kasai University … Now that we are both actively working in Toykyo and Osaka, karate-jutsu will undoubtedly spread throughout the nation” – Gichin Funakoshi writing an endorsement for Mabuni’s “Karate Kenpo: The art of self-defence”
So Funakoshi is primarily responsible for the karate of Tokyo. And this is what Mabuni had to say of the karate in that area:
“The karate that has been introduced to Tokyo is actually just a part of the whole. The fact that those who have learnt karate there feel it only consists of kicks & punches, and that throws & locks are only to be found in judo or jujutsu, can only be put down to a lack of understanding … Those who are thinking of the future of karate should have an open mind and strive to study the complete art” – Kenwa Mabuni 1938
The karate that Funakoshi taught did include throws and locks – as his writing attests – but this would seem to be criticising the “karate of Tokyo” for lacking such methods; and Funakoshi was a key player in introducing karate in that area. So here it would seem Mabuni is referring to the karate that Funakoshi helped spread (not his actual karate) as being “incomplete”?
Here is what Funakoshi wrote about on Mabuni for Mabuni’s book on Seipai in 1934:
“Kenwa Mabuni is my childhood friend and a prominent modern expert and researcher in karate-jutsu … A warm and sincere gentleman, if he did not know something he would ask, and never thought of criticising another style.”
There is certainly criticism in the above quotes, but it would seem to be indirect and impersonal.
“Mabuni would even approach one of his juniors if he did not know something. He was not concerned with who was senior and who was junior and was respectful to everyone. After he learnt something new, Mabuni would never keep it to himself and would introduce it to his association members who would use it for their own studies. The old way was to keep such information secret, but Mabuni chose to be open and disclose information. As a result it is no exaggeration to say that he is the most knowledgeable karate-jutsu teacher”
Very kind words and an obvious respect and friendship despite disagreement on some points. It’s also worth nothing that Mabuni wanted Funakoshi to contribute an endorsement to his book which tells us a lot about the high regard he obviously had for Funakoshi.
“It is necessary to drink alcohol and pursue other fun human activities. The karate of someone who is too serious has no "flavour." – Choki Motobu
“Those who practise karate-jutsu should refrain most of all from alcohol and women. Alcohol will case your fists to tremble, and your practise to become frivolous and effeminate. All of these things should be detested” – Kenwa Mabuni
Big disagreement on that issue, but Motobu was a fan of Mabuni’s technique:
“For technique, there is none better than Kenwa Mabuni.” – Choki Motobu
Interesting contrasts I think!
All the best,