Motobu Choki’s Karate Principles Through Quotes

Motobu Choki's karate principles through quotes

While a lot less well-known and influential in the development of karate than his contemporary peers, Motobu Choki’s technical and fighting ability, without a doubt, was one of the best.

This post provides a list of Motobu Choki quotes that reflect the essence of his karate style.

There is so much wisdom in them and I hope you find them beneficial in your karate training in some ways.

I will write a more detailed analysis of those principles in the future but for now I hope you enjoy the quotes.

Table of Contents

  1. Motobu Choki on training
  2. Motobu Choki on fighting stance and distance
  3. Motobu Choki on fighting techniques
  4. Motobu Choki on kata
  5. Motobu Choki on the art of karate

Motobu Choki on training

On training, Motobu Choki emphasized the importance of training regularly under any circumstances, working on the weak side to develop a balanced body, training using the makiwara and other traditional tools, and the progression from kihon to kumite.

Those who aspire to practice karate… always also devote time and energy to their weak side, and during the time of practice, they keep in mind to use their left hand a lot.

Even when practicing twice during the morning and evening, you must always exercise to improve the strength of your left hand as much as possible.

Not only during times of practice but habitually, you should throw out your chest and place much strength into your lower abdomen (tanden) so that you don’t relax your posture.

Some often argue that the room is too small for practice, but this is a severe indiscretion.

Anyone who has the correct spirit called bu (martial)… can practice under any circumstances.

You have to practice without fail, twice a day in the morning and evening, even if it is only in the corner of a room.

Among the indispensable equipment of karate practitioners is a practice tool called makiwara… when you have trained with it for several months, your fist is well capable of crushing several roof tiles and wooden boards with a single blow.

While in today’s civilization, some people reject them, precisely these primitive tools are essential for the practice of karate.

First of all, there is an oval-shaped stone of about 42 kg. It is necessary for the beginner as an indispensable item to increase physical strength. That is, the practitioner lifts it twice a day, every morning and evening… with your gradual increase in strength, you should try to use oval-shaped stones of up to about 78 kg.

Furthermore, there are the chishi (mounted stone) and the sashi (stone lock) that can be used to increase the physical strength of both arms.

Generally, only those who have graduated from basic training (i.e. kata such as Naihanchi, Passai, etc.) are ready to experiment and practice receptions (uke) and release (hazusu) with each other.

Those who attempt to practice kumite should always choose opponents suitable to them who understand that, in kumite, agility and speed are the most important things.

Motobu Choki on fighting stance and distance

On fighting stance, Motobu Choki considered the basic hajichi dachi to be the most practical stance.

However, his view was that the state of mind is much more important than the outer physical form.

Motobu Choki also emphasized the use of meoto-de or coupled hands (see image below) in fighting.

The front hand should be used for both attack and defense while the back hand is used as a reserve and can be used for both defensive and offensive purposes as well.

This view is ahead of his time when the general view then was to use the forward hand for defense and the chamber hand for attacks.

Motobu Choki with meoto-de hands

Kamae is in the heart, not a physical manifestation.

There are various types of what is usually called posture (kamae), but I want you to know that these are just outer forms… In the case of real combat… there is no fixed outer form in postures (kamae).

I argue that this is because posture (kamae) is a state of mind and not a mere physical outer form.

It is always important to be prepared to deal with the requirements of the moment, that is, in case of being attacked in an instant situation.

All kata use the so-called postures (kamae) … While learning these postures should not be totally ignored, we must be careful not overlook that they are just forms or templates of sort. It is the function of their application which needs to be mastered.

Always bear in mind that the basic stance in karate is the character-eight stance (hajichi dachi)

In case of actual combat, both hands must always be positioned as … “coupled hands” (meoto-de).

Speaking of how to make use of these two coupled hands, since the front hand fights in the front line, it both attacks and defends. In other words, whether it thrusts, or whether it receives the enemy’s attack, it immediately thrusts at the same time.

The rear hand is continuously employed as a reserve, so when you can’t make it with your front hand, you can still attack and defend with your rear hand.

Meoto-de is a principle of karate that must be adhered to at all times. Even in everyday life, for example, when pouring alcohol, holding a cup, or picking up chopsticks, students of kenpō must follow this principle so as to make it a part of themselves.

The basic stance in any situation is the character-8 stance (hajichi dachi), i.e. with the tips of the toes opened, pointing outward in the shape of the Japanese character 8…

This standard form derives from the natural way of human walking and the stance while striking the makiwara as well as the stance of Naihanchi in Naihanchi Shodan are also done in the character-8 stance.

There are no stances such as neko-ashi, zenkutsu or kokutsu in my karate.

Neko-ashi is a form of “floating foot” which is considered very bad in bujutsu. If one receives a body strike, one will be thrown off balance.

Zenkutsu and kokutsu are unnatural and prevent free footwork.

The stance in my karate, whether in kata or kumite, is like Naihanchi, with the knees slightly bent, and the footwork is free.

When defending or attacking, I tighten the knees and drop the hips, but I do not put my weight on either front or back foot, rather keeping it evenly distributed.

When you face an opponent be sure to assume a posture which is not too wide. A posture which is too wide is impractical and leaves one with little mobility.

Mobility is the foundation of responding effectively. One must move freely, instinctively, and intelligently.

Body language is important; never telegraph your intentions. Liberate yourself from fixed postures and seek to cultivate unconstrained technique and movement.

Not being able to place oneself in a position superior to the opponent would unquestionably make any subsequent technique virtually ineffective.

The utmost attention must be placed upon learning to position oneself correctly and make the best use of the space or interval created by moving one’s body in an effort to effectively subjugate any opponent.

Motobu Choki on fighting techniques

Motobu Choki favored hand techniques aiming at the face and the center line and thought that kicks are not effective in combat.

He also considered that one should be able to block and counter-attack in a single motion and it is important to develop the ability to read an opponent with a single glance.

Fighting is based upon strategic deception.

One must develop the ability to be able to read, at a single glance, how much striking power any one has.

One must always try and block the attack at its source.

The blocking hand must be able to become the attacking hand in an instant. Blocking with one hand and then countering with the other is not true bujutsu. Real bujutsu presses forward and blocks and counters in the same motion.

One cannot use continuous attacks against true karate. That is because the blocks of true karate make it impossible for the opponent to launch a second attack.

In a real confrontation, more than anything else, one should strike to the face first, as this is the most effective.

When punching to the face, one must thrust as if punching through to the back of the head.

Defend the center of the body and attack the center of the body.

I started having fights at Tsuji when I was young, and fought over 100 of them, but I was never hit in the face.

Against an opponent of inferior strength, one does not have to defend against attacks one by one. One should instead oneself instantly attack.

Kicks are not all that effective in a real confrontation.

When blocking kicks, one must block as if trying to break the opponent’s shin.

With regards to defending against kicks, there are some instances in which one can support the body on the back leg, lift the front leg up and twist the body to evade.

At this time, the hands are held up, the backs of the fists facing outward as if in the side block posture.

Lifting the leg and twisting the body cover our vital areas so even if the kick gets through, we do not have to worry about it.

Then, using the power gained from twisting the torso and setting the foot back down, we counter. One possible counter-attack would be to use the fists to simultaneously strike to the opponent’s chest and face.

When I fought a foreign boxer in Kyoto, he was taller than me so I jumped up and punched him in the face. This is effective against people who are taller than you.

One must develop the ability to deflect an attack even from behind.

When fighting a boxer, it is better to go with his flow and take up a rhythm with both of your hands.

Motobu Choki on kata

Motobu Choki did not say much about kata but we do know that he preferred testing out his karate techniques through street fights to practicing kata.

He knew a number of kata (Naihanchi Shodan, Naihanchi Nidan, Pinan, Passai, Wanshu, Wankan, Chinto, Kusanku, Chinte) but it is well-known that he favored Naihanchi and developed many applications for this kata.

The position of the legs and hips in the Naihanchi kata is the basics of karate.

The techniques of kata have their limits and were never intended to be used against an opponent in an arena or on a battlefield.

In the Naihanchi kata, twisting to either the right or the left is a stance that can be used in actual confrontation. Thinking of twisting to either the right or left in the Naihanchi kata, one can start to understand one by one the meaning of the movements contained therein.

It’s interesting but when I just think about performing a kata, even when I’m seated, I’ll break a sweat.

The applications of kata have their limits and one must come to understand this.

The techniques of kata were never developed to be used against a professional fighter, in an arena or on the battlefield. They were, however, most effective against someone who had no idea of the strategy being used to counter their aggressive behavior.

In spite of a street encounter never being the same, the principles of the kata never vary, however. Thus, one must learn how they are applied and how to bend with the winds of adversity.

Motobu Choki on the art of karate

Motobu Choki was of the view that karate must be practical and effective, karate is sente and one’s karate can only progress through meticulous personal study and experience, not through copying others’ techniques.

Karate is sente.

Note that sente means “initiative. “Karate is sente” means “karate means taking the initiative”. This seems to be the opposite of “karate ni sente nashi” meaning “there is no first strike in karate”.

One cannot understand the true meaning of something without putting it into practice.

Copying someone else’s technique can, and will, never produce the same results as meticulous personal study and experience. Master the principles and the rest is easy.

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

There is the expression called ‘karate ni sente nashi’ … and some people seem to frequently teach it as “you must not attack first” which I think is quite a misunderstanding…

This expression means that you should not cause harm indiscriminately, and if you are forced to, that is, when it is unavoidable, and the enemy tries to harm you, you must stand up and fight ferociously.

When entering a fight, it is essential to dominate the enemy, and to dominate the enemy, you must move (attack) first. Therefore when entering a fight, you must move (attack) first. This is important to keep in mind.

It would be severe misbehavior if a karate practitioner would behave hot-blooded in youthful ardor or if he would not solely use it to defend himself, but would abuse karate to bully the weak.

The practitioner always bears in mind and complies with the correct meaning of bu (martial) and, in the spirit of modesty and self-discipline, must never forget the concept of bu at any time.

Karate … is also a resource for mental training, that is, the cultivation of the mind. Those who practiced karate developed a strong unity of mind and body, became immovable, and never lost their composure. In these points, the practice of karate coincides with that of zen.

Yoshimi Inoue: The Life of a Legendary Karate Instructor

Valuable Karate Lessons From Yoshimi Inoue (Part 1)

Valuable Karate Lessons from Yoshimi Inoue (Part 2)

How to Improve Your Kata Performance: 5 Surprising Tips

How to Generate Explosive Power in Your Karate Punches

References

My Art and Skill of Karate” by Motobu Choki (1932), translated by Andreas Quast and Motobu Naoki

“Karate – My Art” By Motobu Choki, translated by Patrick and Yuriko McCarthy

Sayings of Motobu Choki Sensei on MotobuRyu.org

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Sophia

I haven't trained in karate for long but it has given me so much and definitely has made me a better person. The more I train, the more I realize that karate is more about mastering your mind than mastering your physical form. If learning karate is like learning a language, I am still at the alphabet stage and I am sharing with you on this blog bits and pieces that I pick up a long the way. I hope you find them useful and wish you all the best with your karate journey!

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