View Full Version : Choki Motobu The master of fighting

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6/08/2012 8:21pm,
"Criticized by some and admired by many, Choki Motobu was a master both unique and controversial. His attitude to combat contrasted with that of many of his contemporaries and especially the master Gichin Funakoshi who practiced and taught only prearranged sparring (kihon kumite) and rejected the practice of free sparring (Jiyu Kumite). In contrast Motobu was not only a fervent supporter of Jiyu Kumite, but even carried his passion for the fight ... to the streets. This is the story of one of the most prominent figures in the popularization and development of karate in a time when the martial art was taking its first steps on Japan."


Choki Motobu was born in Shuri Okinawa in 1871 in a noble family of Okinawa, his clan was the owner of an ancient and secret family martial art, which traditionally could only be taught the firstborn of Motobu (in the Okinawa those days it was customary to address mostly the education and training of the eldest son) and Choki ranked third in the line of family succession, this art was known as Udon-te (which means art palace), as well as Goten-te, Tui-te (although the tui-te is rather focused on Holds, takedowns and joint-locks) or more properly as Motobu-te.


Therefore the most widespread opinion among scholars of the origins of Karate is Choki Motobu did not get to study the style of his family and in fact was, as tradition dictated, his older brother and heir Choyu Motobu the eleventh generation in the art of Udon-te. However here are sources who think otherwise, as the French teacher and writer Henry Plee or writer and martial artist Patrick Lombardo, these authors argue that it is illogical that Choki knew nothing of his family's art if Choyu and his older brother, apart from teaching the art to his son Chomo also taught someone outside the family; Seikichi Uehara 1, current soke of Motobu-ryu style.

It is therefore quite likely that Choki Motobu, although perhaps not in depth, at least had basic knowledge of the secret art of his family, the Udon-I.

Back to the history of Motobu, from an early age he was very attracted to the combat, and his character was particularly aggressive, it is said that his main motivation for studying karate was to become the best fighter on Okinawa, precisely by his violent mood, he had many problems to be accept as a student by his teachers. Although he did study with the legendary Anko Itosu and Kosaku Matsumura Sokon, Tokumine (who also taught him the use of the Bo) and Yabu Kentsu who taught him mainly Kata, although he did receive "a lesson or two on kumite" by Yabu


It is well known anecdote that the teacher refusing to teach Kosaku Matsumura kumite techniques Motobu (for Motobu's violent tendencies), Motobu learned by watching his teacher secretly at night, when Kosaku taught these techniques to his other students.
Kosaku agreed to teach the Matsumura kata Naifanchi Passai and being the favorite and one of the foundations of Karate Motobu, who otherwise performed this kata with special expertise.
Motobu had many battles and challenges throughout his life and especially in his youth, in those days there were challenges between fighters from different schools or teachers and Choki, of course, was a fervent supporter and practitioner.
Such was his passion for combat,he even used to hang around unsavory neighborhoods to get into street fights, where he could test his combat skills and fighting prowess.

He won many of these challenges with fighters of different styles: Karate, wrestling, boxing, jiu jutsu practitioners and street fighters ... but as it is logical also was defeated the best known of his loses he had was against a very experienced street fighter and karateka Itarashiki Choiku also against Kentsu Yabu (later to become his teacher). Of these defeats Motobu learned and work even harder on improving his weaknesses and honing his combat skills.
Choki Motobu was naturally very strong , and also regularly practiced traditional weight training and was thrilled with the makiwara work (which is counted in Ippon ken hitting), but its main asset was his extraordinary agility, Hence comes he received the nickname "saru" (monkey).


The main characteristics of his fighting style, that as we have seen had a heavy emphasis in real fighting, used a high and comfortable guard, which allowed good mobility, the fists pulled directly from the guard position, using also trapping and elbow techniques, on the leg techniques he used below the waist, preferably at the knee.
His student Katsuya Miyahira that his favorite technique was ippon ken (a peculiar form of a fist leaving the phalanx of a finger out) and that he got many KO's in his challenges, he was also very fond of using the open hand and combinining a circular Uraken (punch using the backhand).
His most renowned fight was developed shortly after arriving in Japan, in 1921, it should be noted that Motobu and Gichin Funakoshi were the first to embark on the adventure of making karate known in Japan, it seems that Choki Motobu Funakoshi had a warm relation as colleagues and they used to meet frequently to talk about his great passion for karate, but due to their opposing characters it must also be said that there were some disputes and problems between both.

http://shotokankaratedo.es/images/1934_TOYAMA_Kanken_OHTSUKA_Hironori_SATO_FUNAKOSHI _Gichin_MOTOBU_Choki_MABUNI_Kenwa_NAKASONE_Genwa_T AIRA_Shinken.jpg

As we were saying the fight that gave more recognition Motobu took place in 1921, having already Choki with approximately 50 years of age...

During a trip to Kyoto, Motobu decided to make a stop on his way to look at a fair that was taking place and to his astonishment he got to meet boxer 2* (Russian?) so haughty that challenged all present, the fighter had knocked and ridiculed several of those who had dared to accept the challenge (the height and bulk of the Russian, were above the average Japanese). Motobu, despite his age had continued his passion for fighting and without hesitation accepted the challenge and rose to the fore, the result: Choki put out of action the boxer with a punch with the palm of the hand.
3* The story of the battle turned to Japan and karate, which was then almost unknown and considered as a minor art (let alone belonging to Budo) used by the Okinawans began to take its place among the Japanese martial arts .


Choki Motobu was a master of karate, particularly for hsi combat skills (although he was also very good at kata), among his students are great teachers, as Yasuhiro Konishi, Shosin Nagamine (10 Matsubayashi Ryu given), Hironori Ottsuka ( founder of Wado ryu school), Katsuya Miyahira (10 Kobayashi give Shorinryu) or Chitose (Chito Ryu) among others.
Motobu was an important figure in the history of karate, was the first to take him to Japan, wrote and published what would be one of the first books in Japan of Karate, "Okinawa kempo karate-jutsu 4*

But above all Motobu was a warrior who was able to perfect the arts of combat through his experience in actual combat. Some say that his attitude to combat was violent and barbaric contrary to the true spirit of karate .. others think that a teacher was consistent in the practice of a martial art and got where others did not
Controversy aside, Choki Motobu was a master, still both his detractors and his admirers, are fascinated by him and his story can only makes a dream


The grand master Choki Motobu (1870 - 1944)

Notes: 1 There is a style of Karate called Motobu-ryu, this style has nothing to do with Motobu Choki, its founder, Grandmaster and considered living treasure of Japan, Uehara Seikichi, call it to his art in honor of his master Motobu Choyu (Choki's elder brother).
3 The story of the battle was published in the journal "King", very popular in Japan at that time, translation and commentary of that article can be found in the book "Histoire du Karate-do" Kenji Tokitsu, Ed SEM, Paris.
4 Currently there is an English version of this book, entitled "Okinawan Kempo" by Motobu Choki, published by Masters publications, Ontario, Canada

Original publisher David Leonardo Bárcena (in spanish in the site spainkakutogi.blogspot.com)
Article (spanish) http://spainkakutogi.blogspot.com/2008/01/choki-motobu-el-maestro-de-la-violencia.html

Images: http://shotokankaratedo.es/sensei_funakoshi.php

Translation by Google translator and me (with a little help by my cousin)

6/08/2012 11:48pm,
Thanks IIF for moving it!
Yeah I know my english is not the best any corrections are more than welcome, hope you people like it

6/09/2012 2:39am,
Very cool to learn a little more about Motobu sensei thank you.

6/10/2012 10:44am,
Wonderful history lesson it's great to have a better understanding of Karate thanks for the post.

6/11/2012 11:16am,
The story of fighting the large, overconfident, Oriental-hating Russian boxer has become a fairly popular East Asian martial arts myth. I've heard basically the same story said about several different old masters.

6/11/2012 2:11pm,
The story of fighting the large, overconfident, Oriental-hating Russian boxer has become a fairly popular East Asian martial arts myth. I've heard basically the same story said about several different old masters.

Here is a more in-depth analisis of the boxing match
It seems challenge matches were quite common, I believe this one is true I dont know about the others masters, can you provide a link of some of them?

6/15/2012 1:37pm,
cool article mate...thanks for sharing.

6/15/2012 2:15pm,
[/URL]It seems challenge matches were quite common, I believe this one is true I dont know about the others masters, can you provide a link of some of them?
I think Lau Bun of choy li fut kung fu had pretty much the same story told about him in Doc Fai Wong's choy li fut book. I started a Google search but ended up with lots of junk like this:
[url]http://www.fightingarts.com/forums/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=1125072&site_id=1 (http://seinenkai.com/articles/noble/noble-motobu1.html)

Does anyone prefer boxing over martial arts. If so y? Me personaly prefer boxing with the concept of martial arts in mind while fighting. What i mean is boxers in general dont know anything but boxing, but someone who knows both could use boxing for strikes and use countering from martial arts such as chin-na, aikido and grappling. Basically boxing has less openings compared to that of taekwondo.
and I just can't bring myself to sift through that kind of stuff to build the case for the old-Asian-master-vs-Russian-boxer trope. It has all the elements of a good fake martial arts story though- the large foreigner, who's good at the kind of fighting you know about, but you've never heard of him cause he's from Russia, and he's tough, cause he's from Russia, and he's the bad guy because we're raised on Cold War propaganda films, and of course he has no respect for kung fu/karate/etc. Or, its also possible that there were a bunch of Russian boxers who went around challenging tiny foreigners , or its possible that some Chinese people beat up some drunk Russian troublemakers and it got exaggerated from there.

Anyway, not saying that Choki's match never happened or that its exaggerated, I'm just saying that hearing that some master beat a Russian boxer sounds to me like one of those supermodel girlfriends who nobody ever gets to see because she's totally from Canada.

6/15/2012 2:31pm,
I seem to recall actually seeing the newspaper article with Motobu's fight in it.

6/16/2012 1:07am,
I seem to recall actually seeing the newspaper article with Motobu's fight in it.

You are right

But the funny thing about the article is that the picture drawn was of Funakoshi instead of Motobu

Here is a link to another article featuring the same story & another interesting one


6/16/2012 5:34am,
Probably worth mentioning that Motobu was an early proponent of the Bullshido ethos:

"Nothing is more harmful to the world than a martial art that is not effective in actual self-defense"

6/18/2012 10:54pm,
Probably worth mentioning that Motobu was an early proponent of the Bullshido ethos:

"Nothing is more harmful to the world than a martial art that is not effective in actual self-defense"

Thats something that is very important and that he put aliveness as a n important way to train.
I wonder how karate would be now If Motobu's ideas of training would have sticked rather thant funakoshi's
I think Karate in general would be more similar to boxing in being more alive and Think if Oyama would have trained with Motobu just think of that

6/26/2012 8:27am,
Motubu did play a role in the martial upbringing of Oyama, so to speak, as many biographies found online stipulate that the stories about Motobu inspired Oyama to launch challenges of his own.
It is my opinion that Motobu's style was more in line of what we now know as kickboxing. It would've been wonderfull if he had written more about it.

11/10/2012 4:43pm,
The one footnote that Rurik neglected to translate says "2. There are certain sources that say that it was a wrestler." (my translation) "luchador" is the last word here, literally fighter or wrestler, and in context, contrasted with "boxeador," presumably refers to either a practitioner of some foreign grappling technique or a foreign judoka, if the *King* magazine story is taken as getting the general idea right.

Eddie Hardon
11/12/2012 6:39pm,
Christ, look at his Forearms. FFS.

12/05/2012 2:48pm,
My history is pretty rusty, but I am fairly sure that the Russians didn't have organized boxing until after World War II. We had fist fighting, or kulachniy boy, as a tradition for much longer than that, but there are no champions, much less world champions in that because it's just a tradition.

Which somewhat casts doubt on the story of him defeating a Russian boxing champion in 1925. I guess it's possible for it to have been a Russian fighter based in the U.S. or Australia or something, but unlikely. Still a neat story.