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Book Review

Motobu Choki Karate-My Art

His 1932 Classic ”Watashi No Karate-Jutsu” & his 1926 publication “Okinawan Kenpo Karate-Jutsu”

Compiled & translated by Patrick & Yuriko McCarthy

International Ryukyu Research Group
Softcover,120 pages, with more than 175 photos & illustrations
$24.95

Review by Rick Reichert

This is quickly becoming one of my favorite karate books. It is really a combination of two of Motobu’s book in one -- Motobu’s classic 1932 text “Watashi No Karate-Jutsu” (My Karate) which portrays his favorite kata, Naihanchi (Tekki in Japan) along with many of its applications, plus his original 1926 publication “Okinawan Kenpo Karate-Jutsu” outlining his twelve fighting drills.

But what I like most from this small but provocative publication is that McCarthy also helps put this early Okinawan karate pioneer into historical prospective. Included are essays and personal recollections on Motobu by other karate-ka -- including Kinjo Hiroshi (the famous karate historian), Marukawa Kenji, Miyahira Katsuya, Nagamine Shoshin (the famous author and teacher), Graham Noble and Kayan Chotoku. Included too are more than 175 rare photos and illustrations relating to Motobu, his technique and associations.

Readers will also find a translation of the famous and controversial 1925 King Magazine article about Motobu’s defeat of a boxer, an article that substituted drawings of Funakoshi for Motobu. On one hand this article propelled Motobu into public view, but it also helped fuel the conflicting and simmering relationship between Motobu and Funakoshi. McCarthy helps put this relationship into context in a chapter that in part focuses on the relationship between these two great karate masters, contrasting the two, their philosophies, approach and style.

When read cover to cover this book helps flush out the true Motobu for readers, a man who is today being rediscovered by new generations of karate-ka, and appreciated for his practical, no-nonsense outlook: a person intensively focused on his art for its effective fighting techniques and self-defense rather than its philosophy and theory.

Clearly, Motobu was one of the great pioneers of modern karate, a respected teacher and proven fighter. He was also a man of great contrast. Despite his Okinawan heritage of Okinawan nobility, having moved to Japan to teach, he found himself at great disadvantage for not possessing fluency in the Japanese language and its etiquette skills. So he did not easily communicate. He also trained exceptionally hard, had few students, and didn’t create an organization as others did. Thus the dimension of his contribution to karate has been neglected for several generations. This book helps put this genius into true historical perspective.

Modern karate-ka also often make the mistake of trying to understand early karate through their current experience, practice and culture. The technique demonstrated by Motobu within this book provides a unique historical “window” through which the modern reader can perceive the historical past – in terms of technique, applications, fighting distances and movement. As a byproduct too, the reader will gain insight on movements within kata, flushed out by Motobu in their fighting application.

This book is for those interested in old Okinawan karate technique and fighting skills, those interested in karate’s history, or those who want to learn more about its great innovators and teachers.


To find more articles of interest, search on one of these keywords:

Choki Motobu, Okinawan Karate, Japanese Karate History, Funakoshi, karate


Read more articles by Rick Reichert

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