karate-do, masters

Master Choki Motobu

29 juillet 2008

Master Choki Motobu was born in Okinawa in 1870 in a noble family with a long tradition in the martial arts. Having been born the third and last son in the family, he was not trained in the family martial arts, nor did he receive any extensive education.

Portrait of Master Choki Motobu

Determined to learn the art of combat, Choki Motobu trained himself in large part. An endowed autodidact, he quickly became a frightening combatant with a solid reputation for brawling, regularly testing his techniques in the hot districts of the city. He possessed great agility, which resulted in the nickname « Motobu zaru » or « Motobu the monkey. » His reproachable reputation made the idea of his acceptance with the masters of this difficult time virtually impossible. He, nevertheless, received the training of Master Kosaku Matsumura, who would primarily teach him certain kata, being reluctant to teach combat techniques to such a volatile pupil. It is told that during his seniors personal training, Choki Motobu would hide so that he could observe their combat techniques with other Masters.

Master Choki Motobu in the execution of the naihanchin kata

In 1921 Master Choki Motobu moved to Osaka, Japan, near Tokyo. At the age of 52, a friend convinced him to participate in a fight against a boxer and strong man named Georges in a public challenge. Master Motobu met the boxer in a fight and won without contest. He immediately obtained a great reputation, in the martial art of karate which was little known in Japan at the time. This event would prove to be very important for the future of karate, as well as offering an unplanned opportunity for him.

He taught in the dojo named Daidokan. This teaching period was difficult as Master Motobu spoke a particular Okinawan dialect which his Japanese students found difficult to understand. In spite of this, he leaves a profound debt, particularly in regard to combat, with many Masters who would become the founders of some important schools of modern karate, among which you can find : Yasuhiro Konishi (shindo jinen-ryu), Kosei Kukiba (seishinkai ) Hironori Ohtsuka (wado-ryu), Tatsuo Shimabuku (isshin-ryu), Soshin Nagamine (matsubayashi shorin-ryu), Tsuyoshi Chitose (chito-ryu), Katsuya Miyahara (shorin-ryu shidokan) et Tatsuya Yamada (nihon kempo karate).

In 1941, Master Choku Motobu returned to Okinawa until his passing in 1944.

Interpreted from Philippe Munn’s
original French language article
by J.L. Munn

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