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Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture
Choki Motobu

Hi All,

Here is a very good article on Choki & Chosei Motobu by Graham Noble:


The article includes discussion on Choki Motobu’s strained relationship with Itosu (and his critique of his methods), Motobu’s inpact on Wado, how he and Funakoshi clashed, his thoughts on Chinese Kempo, his desire to fight all the judoka at the Kodokan, who he regarded as the greatest martial artist of all, and a whole host of other things.

Graham Nobel is a great writer and this is a really good article which will be enjoyed by all those yet to read it.

All the best,


VIC's picture

Good to know one of the ancients agree with a few of my own feelings about some things in particular never back up and the cat stance.All and all an interesting and informative portrait of early karate developement and MOTOBU's particular skills.


shoshinkanuk's picture

Motobu Choki Karate-My Art - http://www.fightingarts.com/estore/catalog_books_karate.shtml

highly reccomended to all with an interest in the 'old' art.

tksdaddy's picture

Absolutely fascinating, and proof that we don't need to follow our teachers like sheep.  Respect them, learn from them, but you don't have to agree with everything they teach you! 

A lot of what is said here backs up the theory that martial arts should evolve with the individual; find what works and use it, analyse what doesn't work and find a way to make it work for you.  I love cat stance from an aesthetic point of view, which is partly why I enjoy performing Wado-Ryu kata, but would I use it in a practical manner?  Probably not, or at least only in very specific circumstances where I already had control over my opponent - I don't believe it to be a "pro-active" stance to work with, with both mobility and balance compromised,

Just recently I have been struggling with the idea of disagreeing with my instructors.  I often see things that I don't think would work for me in a real situation, but don't say anything out of fear of being disrespectful.  However, this article has shown me that it is not wrong to think for yourself, if it benefits you as a martial artist and as a person.  Motobu may have garnered a somewhat negative reputation by being so outspoken in his criticism, and may have saved face somewhat by being a bit more discreet in his arguments, but at the end of the day his actions vindicated his words, which took courage and spirit, and is an approach which, if utilised sensibly, can only be progressive for martial arts in the long run.

Many of the old masters have my utmost respect for what they have given to martial arts, but I don't agree with everything they have to say.  I am well aware that their methods as well as their motivations will have been different and will have shaped their style and approach and even their ethos, and I find that self evaluation and understanding of both what and, almost as importantly, why they taught what they did are integral to our development as martial artists. 

At least now I know I'm not "wrong" for thinking the way I do!



michael rosenbaum
michael rosenbaum's picture

Of all the early “masters” Motobu has to be my favorite simply because he made no excuses for being a fighter. There’s a lot of interesting things to consider when examining Motobu one being the way karate was practiced prior to styles becoming the over-riding theme. For Motobu style was a personal expression of the Okinawan fighting arts, not a controlling or governing organization as is so often seen today.

Another point to consider is that Motobu’s approach to karate (at least to me) was based on quality, not quantity of technique. That concept in itself is something (IMO) that everyone should strive for. Developing a handfull of simple but effective techniques is a better approach to fighting than trying to master hundreds of them.

Motobu and Funakoshi’s hard feelings also indicate that even then, in the supposed good ole days of karate, egos clashed and there was disagreements about the “right” way to teach karate. Course then again karate was undergoing a major change at that time due in part to it being assmililated into the Japanese culture and practiced on a scale probably unheard of on Okinawa.

One thing I always find interesting about Motobu, and this article, is the Boxer story. I’ve heard numerous versions of this story but the most interesting thing is how Motobu is portrayed beating the Western boxer/barbarian.  Western boxing was just gaining widespread popularity in Japan during the 1920’s so naturally many of the Judoka and Karate-ka of the day wanted to test this Western art of fighting. Sadly though many of the westerners and Japanese who were boxers were not very accomplished, or else their experience was limited to back allley brawling, so Motobu and others like him usually prevailed. These early karate victories established two things. One being that karate was the superior fighting art and two that the Japanese culture was superior to their western counterparts, something which was very important at the time since Japan was embracing a lot of western technology, ideals,  and philosophies during the period 1890-1930 and even still today. However had Motobu fought someone like Jack Dempsy, Jack Johnson or Gene Tunney things would have been very different, we might be all wearing boxing shorts instead of Karate Gis.wink

Have a good day!


shoshinkanuk's picture

I really like Motobu's view, as expressed in his book - it's also a great resource in terms of pictorial evidence.

Personally I think he knew 'a lot' more than he taught in terms of breadth of karate knowledge, I can't remember where but im sure I have read that he taught many other kata (but not LOTS) on his return to Japan, certainly Passai.

His physicality must be recognised, he was a very powerful man - naturally and through training it would seem, lifting rocks, Makiwara work were very significant in his training, according to his book. Putting skill to oneside I would bet this served him well in confrontations and this to should be considered.