Hawaii Karate Seinenkai.

The following article originally appeared in Classical Fighting Arts, Issue No. 2, 2003 (pages 48 - 49) and is reprinted here with the permission of the author, Joe Swift. Photographs have been omitted. Copyright © Joe Swift. All rights reserved.

A Night of Talking about Karate
Karate Ichiyu-Tan

by Choki Motobu, 1934
translated by by Joe Swift

Itosu Sensei and Pinan

I was interested in the martial arts since I was a child, and studied under many teachers. I studied with Itosu Sensei for 7-8 years. At first, he lived in Urasoe, then moved to Nakashima Oshima in Naha, then on to Shikina, and finally to the villa of Baron Ie. He spent his final years living near the middle school.

I visited him one day at his home near the school, where we sat talking about the martial arts and current affairs. While I was there, 2-3 students also dropped by and sat talking with us. Itosu Sensei turned to the students and said show us a kata. The kata that they performed was very similar to the Channan Kata that I knew, but there were some differences also. Upon asking the student what the kata was, he replied, "It is Pinan no Kata." The students left shortly after that, upon which I turned to Itosu Sensei and said, "I learned a kata called Channan, but the kata that those students just performed now was different. What is going on?" Itosu Sensei replied, "Yes, the kata is slightly different, but the kata that you just saw is the kata that I have decided upon. The students all told me that the name Pinan is better, so I went along with the opinions of the young people." These kata, which were developed by Itosu Sensei, underwent change even during his own lifetime.

Sushi Nagahama and Itosu Sensei

Itosu Sensei studied under Bushi Nagahama when the latter was living in Shuri Menumo.

Although Nagahama Sensei was only a year older than Itosu Sensei, Itosu respected him as a senior and a teacher. Thus, they got along very well. Itosu Sensei once told me the following story.

"When Bushi Nagahama was on his sick bed, and knew that he was dying, he called me over and told me the following words: `Itosu-kun, I am finished, and prepared for the end. As I look back on my life, I realize that I made one huge mistake. These are my final words, so listen well. It seems that my style of martial arts places too much emphasis on hardening the body. Upon reflection, this is wrong. The training that was supposed to have given me a strong body has instead made me weaker. I taught you to make your body hard, but from my experience, I know now that this is not good. It would be a crime for you to teach this way to future students, so I want to correct this one point: These were his final words to me."

This was the story that Itosu Sensei told me. Young men should take this lesson to heart.


There are differences in the performance of Naifuanchi no Kata between Matsumura Sensei and Itosu Sensei.

In Naifuanchi there is a movement where you lift one foot up to the opposite knee. There is a difference in this technique between the styles of these two masters.

In Matsumura Sensei's style, the foot is set down flat on the ground, quietly. However, in Itosu Sensei's style, the foot is stomped down strongly, on a diagonal. This holds true for both the left and right sides.

Next, there are differences in the move where one hand is thrust out in front of the chest. This is the move where you pull one fist to the hip as the other fist is thrust out to the side, in front of the chest. This technique is also performed on both the left and the right sides.

Matsumura Sensei's style punches out on a diagonal, so the elbow is nearly straight. However, the style of Itosu Sensei punches out parallel to the chest, so the elbow is bent at a right angle. This holds true for both the left and right sides of the body.

Karate and Boxing

It seems that those who have studied karate a bit and learned some techniques of attack and defense want to make an issue of fighting with a boxer. However, in this case, karate is not very advantageous, so it is a good idea not to engage in such bouts.

The reason is that karate's value is in its use of both hands and feet, and if one enters into a contest with a boxer, then they will be bound by the boxing rules. Thus the true power of karate cannot be put forth. If one states that they definitely want to take part in such a match for their own studies, then they must receive special training beforehand. Those without the experience who want to fight with boxers, just because they know karate, should not do so. If they do, then they are in for a rude awakening. Of course, in a pure test of skill with no rules, is a different issue altogether.

The free use of both the hands and the feet is the life breath of karate. One should not take part in cross-style bouts that are governed by unfamiliar rules.


I would like to thank Kinjo Hiroshi for providing me with a copy of the 1934 publication Karate Kenkyu that this essay originally appeared in.

Translator's Note

This essay originally appeared in the 1934 publication entitled Karate Kenkyu (Karate Research)?, published by the Karate Kenkyu-sha. Although the byline is given to Motobu Choki himself, the actual writer was a reporter for the company, presumably Nakasone Genwa. The reporter writes that he visited Motobu at his Daidokan dojo, located in Tamachi, Hongo Ward, Tokyo.

For More on Motobu ...

For some of the most detailed and reliable information on Motobu Choki in the English language, the reader is encouraged to read Patrick McCarthy's translation of Motobu's 1932 book entitled Watashi no Karatejutsu. This publication includes not only the English translation of this book, but also many other related articles and essays. It is available through the International Ryukyu Karate Research Society.

Copyright © Joe Swift. All rights reserved.

Hawaii Karate Seinenkai.