Archive for “January, 2016”

An interview with Kyoshi Christian DiLiberto

SportKarateCanada: First of all Kyoshi , thank you for doing this special interview with We know this is unusual for you to agree to do this kind of thing, and we appreciate it very much. Our readers will be thrilled to know more about you and your martial arts career.

SportKarateCanada: Please tell us about yourself; your style, your rank, how long you have been studying martial arts, etc.

Kyoshi Christopher DiLiberto: I started in the martial arts in 1966. Within the last 39 years, I have trained in a number of different arts. I hold a 7th dan in Okinawan Goju-Ryu karate-jutsu, a 7th dan in Okinawan Kobu-jutsu, a teaching license in Nami-Ryu lai-jutsu.

SportKarateCanada: Where do you train and/or teach, and who is your teacher?

Kyoshi Christopher DiLiberto: My family and I reside in Ancaster, Ontario. My dojo is in Mount Hope, Ontario, both are communities just outside the City of Hamilton. My teacher in karate and kobudo is Tetsuhiro Hokama, san, Hanshi 9th dan in Okinawan Goju Ryu and 10th dan in Okinawan Kobu-jutsu of Okinawa, Japan. My teacher in Iaido is Akir Achimura, san, Hanshi, of Ibaraki, Japan.

SportKarateCanada: What do you consider your finest achievement to be in martial arts, in competition or otherwise?

Kyoshi Christopher DiLiberto: My finest achievement in competition is winning Gold in Okinawa at the World Tournament. Since 1999, out of a potential of 355 divisions, I have placed 1st in 346. Current success rate in all Grand Championship Divisions is 95%, won the Grands at the Ontario Provincial Open 7 years in a row. In non competition, receiving my 7th dan Kyoshi Samurai title from Dr. Hiroyki Hamada, Hanshi, on behalf of His Royal Highness, Sosai, Higashi Fushimi Jigo. (Royal Family of Japan) and the Dai Nippon Butoku Kai.

SportKarateCanada: What makes Christopher DiLiberto tick? What drives you to continue to compete, even although you are rarely out of first place, no matter where, or on which circuit, you compete?

Kyoshi Christopher DiLiberto: I do not look at it as competition. (if that makes any sense) I come out to demonstrate my art. It is my responsibility to demonstrate my art (Kenshi-Kai Karate) to the martial arts public in this country.

SportKarateCanada: Do you plan to retire from competition eventually? What about training and teaching? Will there ever be a time when Kyoshi DiLiberto does not have martial arts in his life?

Kyoshi Christopher DiLiberto: I train 2 hours a day in karate, kobudo and Iai-jutsu. I teach 2 nights a week. Half of my weekends are spent at tournaments and seminars and the other half with my family. I¡¯m having too much fun to retire from my martial arts way of life.

SportKarateCanada: Can you tell us about your students, and your philosophy of teaching?

Kyoshi Christopher DiLiberto: My dojo is principally a black belt club. Several of my black belts drive in from other cities to train with me. I have approximately 25 black belts from shodan to godan, ranging from 17 years of age to 57. The average years of training for my black belts is approximately 20 years. My philosophy of karate teaching is in the following definition,

“Karate” The expansion and contraction of the human body, while in motion, in a state of total harmony with the universe. To produce maximum destructive power, while at the same time, neutralizing incoming aggression with the least amount of energy. Achieved through hard physical training to unify the mind, body, and spirit for the purpose of self enlightenment and to promote world peace.

SportKarateCanada: What do you believe is the most important part of training?

Kyoshi Christopher DiLiberto: The most important part of training is to train at least an hour everyday, 7 days a week, kata with bunkai and on basics, basics and more basics.

SportKarateCanada: Please tell us about the 600 year old weapons kata you perform with the oar.

Kyoshi Christopher DiLiberto: This lyeku kata is known as “Tsuken aka chu no lyeku de” is one of the many kobudo katas of the ¡°Okinawan Kobudo FederationEbut the only one for the lyeku. It is one of the oldest of all the weapons katas.

SportKarateCanada: For open hand forms, we have seen you perform Kurunfa many times. Do you also perform other forms in competition, and is there a reason you prefer this one?

Kyoshi Christopher DiLiberto: I have performed the Kushanku, Passai, Nipaipo/Fukiensho Hakutsura Ken, Anan, Wanduan, Aragaki (Niseishi, Sochin, Unsu), Rohai, Kumemura Hakutsura Ken, Sepai Seiyunshin and Suparinpei. I have won with them all.

The Nahate Kururunfa is one of the most advanced of all the katas. It demonstrates maximum expansion and contraction of the human body and total harmony. It is pure Goju Karate-jutsu. It is my favorite of all my katas.

SportKarateCanada: You are a very traditional martial artist. The area of Southern Ontario has produced a number of very successful traditional martial artists over the last few years. Do you believe you have had an influence on this?

Kyoshi Christopher DiLiberto: Yes, I have proven that traditional karate kata is alive and well. That there is no substitute for real traditional kata.

SportKarateCanada: You seem to prefer to support local circuits, rather than go further a field too often. Can you tell us why you prefer this option?

Kyoshi Christopher DiLiberto: I feel I have had the most impact by supporting local circuits. (approx. 22 tournaments a year Emostly in Southern Ontario). It is like heavy advertisement in a local market place. This massive local exposure has allowed my easy access to the local seminar market, and therefore influences Southern Ontario Martial Artists.

SportKarateCanada: In competition, who do you see as your most difficult opponents or competitors?

Kyoshi Christopher DiLiberto: My real pursuit of competition is an inward one. I strive to achieve power, precision and perfection in my form. My true opponent is myself.

SportKarateCanada: What do you think is the most important part of martial arts?

Kyoshi Christopher DiLiberto: The most important part of the martial arts is to study the old to understand the new.

SportKarateCanada: How does martial arts fit into your every day life?

Kyoshi Christopher DiLiberto: Only through hard physical training will one be above to unify one¡¯s mind, body, and spirit which is the primary recipe to cope with daily life. Martial arts training has taught me my short comings and therefore has enabled me to deal with people and accept people for what they are. This allows me to be at peace with myself.

SportKarateCanada: Can you share with us what you carry in your pouch? We know it is a mystery to most people.

Kyoshi Christopher DiLiberto: I carry a gift from my Teacher Hokama, san in my little pouch.

SportKarateCanada: What do you like to do when you are not doing martial arts?

Kyoshi Christopher DiLiberto: I am a big game hunter. I have hunted in Alaska, the Yukon, North West Territories. I am also a ski instructor and enjoy the outdoors very much, but most of all, I enjoy ¡°ballroomEdancing with my wife Enza.

SportKarateCanada: We know you have a son who is prominent in martial arts, and a very supportive wife. Can you tell us more about your family, and how they fit into your life?

Kyoshi Christopher DiLiberto: My wife Enza and I have been married for 30 years. We have two sons; Baldassare Christopher (22) and Charles Vincent (20). Both are in post secondary studies. My wife and I run our own professional Real Estate Appraisal practice in the “Golden Horseshoe” area. My wife and I both enjoy fine dining, ballroom dancing and have traveled extensively throughout Central and South America

SportKarateCanada: Please share with us anything else you would like to tell our readers.

Kyoshi Christopher DiLiberto: The past president of the Dai Nippon Butoku Kai Manabu Adachi, Hanshi Judan (10th) dan, Kendo said: “The essence of Kendo is to be able to cut. I am afraid that the current picture and substance of Kendo today seems to have been reduced to only athletic competition.”

I’m afraid the same is true with karate. Traditional karate is over one thousand years old. Think about that statement and ask yourself how an invisible edifice built my man, with no walls and no floor, can last a thousand years! Answer: Kata with its hidden bunkai. At the same time keep in mind, sport karate has only been practiced for a few decades.

SportKarateCanada: Once again, SportKarateCanada would like to express our appreciation to Kyoshi DiLiberto for granting us this interview. We are sure the readers enjoyed it as much as we did.


by Genkai Nakaima

Remarks: This is a translation of the original article “Chojun Miyagi the Karate Master. His kindness is infinite. He preaches
morality.” written by Mr. Genkai Nakaima which appeared in the local monthly magazine “Aoi Umi” No.70 February 1978 issue (pages 99-100) published by Aoi Umi Shuppansha. This special issue featured Okinawan karate masters. The magazine was already discontinued. The original Japanese title is “Ontaku Muryo, Ningen No Michi Wo Toku Bujin Miyagi Chojun”.

Translated by Sanzinsoo

One day in the spring when I had just moved up to the second grade of middle school, my classmate, Bunshun Tamagusuku said to me, “Why don’t we learn karate from Master Chojun Miyagi?” He had been asked by his uncle, Jin-an Shinzato. Those who were asked to learn karate from Master Chojun Miyagi by Jin-an Shinzato were Tatsutoku Sakiyama (his name at that time was Tatsutoku Senaha), Kiju Nanjo (his name at that time was Kiju Azama) and me.

Jin-an Shinzato was my next door neighbor. He had already graduated from Naha Commercial High School, so he was my senior. He resided in a rented house of Mr. Yukei Kuniyoshi.

In the evening Shinzato wearing white bandage around his neck appeared in front of the wooden gate of Mr. Kuniyoshi’s rented house. Bunshun Tamagusuku, I, and sometimes Tatsutoku Sakiyama, got together there.

Shinzato hung from the bar of the wooden gate and pulled himself up until his chin was above the bar. He showed us how high his chin was above the bar. He demonstrated us many repetitions of chin up. He also taught us one arm chin up.

Later we often got together at the school playground of Naha Jinjo Koto Shogakko (= an elementary school) in the evening. We enjoyed doing various exercises on chin-up bars or horizontal bars. Thanks to Shinzato, we could perform Giant Swing, Backward Giant Swing, Somersault and other advanced techniques.

Before long, Jin-an Shinzato enrolled in the police academy.

The four of us, Bunshun Tamagusuku, Tatsutoku Sakiyama (= Tatsutoku Senaha), Kiju Nanjo (= Kiju Azama) and I (= Genkai Nakaima), decided to learn karate from Master Chojun Miyagi.

I had to ask for permission of my father first. My father was ten years old when Shuri Castle was occupied by Japanese troops, Ryukyu Kingdom was abolished and became a prefecture of Japan in 1879 (Meiji Era 12). He was three years old when Japanese Government established the Ryukyu Clan as an initial step in their program to abolish Ryukyu Kingdom and establish Okinawa prefecture in 1872 (Meji Era 5).

Because my father was born in such a time of transition and the ancestors of our family had come from China, our family did not
allow him get an education of Japanese system called “Yamato Gakumon”, so he did not go to school. However, he built up a powerful and flexible physique because of the hard work. I heard he was a strong Okinawan style sumo wrestler. He was very delighted when I received a big prize at athletic meeting.

It was Spring in 1923, I was 15 years old, when I told my father that I was going to learn karate from Miyagi Sensei (= Master Chojun Miyagi). He said to me “It’s great if you learn from Bushi Miyagushiku (=Miyagi the Karate Master)!” and gave me permission. At that time Miyagi Sensei was already famous for his karate, so my father thought he was an ideal teacher for me.

We, Kumemura community people in Okinawa, were proud of Chinese lineage. We believed our ancestors came from China to Okinawa, so we highly respected not only Chinese literary arts but also fighting arts. As to literary arts, we established a school, “Meirindo” which was something like a college today, where the youth were educated. As for fighting arts such as karate and Bo (=staff fighting), I think we practiced individually in accordance with each physical strength and other conditions.

According to a program of the cultural festival at “Meirindo” school, there were performances of Bo (=staff fighting), Tesshaku or Tiechi (=Sai), “Sesan”, “Chishokin”, “Tohai” and “Suparinpe”. Most performances of karate were the same as what Miyagi Sensei had taught us.

Well, lessons by Miyagi Sensei began. We had lessons three times a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, after school from 3 p.m. until 8 p.m. at Miyagi Sensei’s home, not at Dojo (=a training hall) like these days. Some time later, quitted my classmate, Bunshun Tamagusuku whose uncle was a famous karateka Jin-an Shinzato, so remained three members: Tatsutoku Sakiyama whose family name at that time was Senaha, Kiju Nanjo whose family name was Azama at that time, and myself.

The process of our training consists of the preparatory exercises, the supplementary exercise and the foot movements of Sanchin.

According to the explanation of Miyagi Sensei about the preparatory exercise, by doing physical exercise, we can prepare for the formal karate training such as Sanchin and other Kata exercise. It also has an element as a warm-up.Another meaning of the preparatory exercise is building up our physical strength by training all the necessary muscles so that we can use the muscles in any situation. In short, we build up karate body by the preparatory exercise.The supplementary exercise is a kind of training mainly for learning basic technical components of Kata. It helps us to understand science and logic of karate, and at the same time, our skill of karate will be created with the development of our athletic ability and physical strength. In this way, we can lay the foundations for karate by doing the preparatory exercise and the supplementary exercises.

Miyagi Sensei told us various stories for two or three hours after the practice was over. The topics of his stories were not only technical matters of karate but also the general world affairs, the present situation of karate circles, the origin of karate, his studying attitude toward karate and Buddhism, karate and Okinawan traditional performing arts, and so on. At that time we were just junior high school boys, but Miyagi Sensei preached to us about the truth of karate, the soul of karate master, the Way of karate, namely the Way of man or morality. I still remember his bright face with sharp eyes in which I find the true karate master’s love and kindness.

Now I will tell you some of Miyagi Sensei’s words as follows.

“If you practice only Sanchin all your life, you do not have to practice any other Kata. Sanchin is so essential and important.” One
day I asked him, “How many times do you practice Sanchin to think that you performed well?” He replied, “I think I performed Sanchin well only once out of 30 times practices.” At that time he was young, 34 or 35 years old. His words are still impressive to me.

“The hand position at the ending of Sanchin is the same as that of a Buddha statue.” Miyagi Sensei often told us this story. I think the hand position at the ending of Sanchin is the most beautiful expression of praying. In fact I saw the same hand position of Buddha statues in some temples.

“Goju is the willow tree blown by the strong wind,” said Miyagi Sensei. The strong wind blows the willow. The willow never resists
the wind, just remains passive, but will never be broken or destroyed. In this way we take advantage of the opponent’s strength flow. It is a secret of the arts that we have to master through the practice.

I think it was 1926 when the National Athletic Meeting was held at the Outer Garden of the Meiji Shrine, Tokyo. Miyagi Sensei’s
disciple, Mr. Jin-an Shinzato participated in the Meeting to perform karate as a classical fighting arts. At that time he was suddenly asked by an official of the Meeting, “What is your style’s name?” then he replied “Goju-ryu style.” Later he explained this matter to Miyagi Sensei and Miyagi Sensei approved it. Since then we call ourselves Goju-ryu.

I asked, “Sensei, do you have eyes in the back of your head? They say that even if we follow you secretly and quietly, you immediately notice us and turn around quickly to find us.” Miyagi Sensei replied, “There is no one who have eyes in the back of his head. However, when I walk along the road, in some cases I feel something strange. I think it is the so-called sixth sense.”

“We should always be cautious when we turn at the corner of a road, walk along a rainy street and climb up and down a ladder etc. It will become useful for self-defense if we have practiced karate sufficiently hard and are accustomed to being cautious. As the result of a long time training of karate, we can obtain the so-called sixth sense and can notice if someone is following.”

“Studying karate nowadays is like walking in the dark without a lantern. We have to grope our way in the dark.” said Miyagi Sensei. He also told me, “There are so many things in karate which does not make sense and there are a lot of things I cannot understand. Therefore, while our grand masters are still alive, we have to see them and ask many questions. I think it is still very difficult to find the answers even if we did so.” I ever went with him to homes of the grand masters, Chomo Hanashiro Sensei and Itosu-No-Tanmee (=Itosu the Old Master) to hear their stories of karate.

In 1926 (the last year of Taisho era), karate masters got together and founded a club to research karate on the south side of Asahigaoka, Wakasamachi, Naha City. The masters who participated in the club were:

Chojun Miyagi
Juhatsu Kyoda
Ume of Motobu
Saru of Motobu (= Choki Motobu)
Kenwa Mabuni
Taizo Tahara
Shinpan Gusukuma

On the first day and fifteenth day of each month, they worshiped Bushin or the God of Martial Arts. Tatsutoku Sakiyama (= Tatsutoku Senaha), Kiju Nanjo (= Kiju Azama), Kogyu Tazaki, Kamade Yagi (= He is now in South America), Seiko Kina and I (= Genkai Nakaima) also went to the club and got training in karate there.

Miyagi Sensei approved the change of writing “karate” in Kanji (=Chinese charcters) from “China Hand” to “Empty Hand”. The kanji for karate: “China Hand” gradually was changed into the kanji for karate: “Empty Hand”.

Like Jujutsu became Judo, he devoted himself for evolving karate from “karate” of a fighting art to “Karate-Do”.

When Master Jigoro Kano of Kodokan judo visited Okinawa in 1925 (= Taisho 14), we demonstrated Goju-ryu karate for him at a public hall in Naha City. Miyagi Sensei himself explained it to Jigoro Kano. The friendly meeting of Kano and Miyagi, the two founders of martial arts, must be bright light for Karate-Do and good fortune for the development of Judo.

“Kenkoku Taiso” exercise was created in Japan during World War Two. In fact, the “Kenkoku Taiso” exercise consisted mostly of Kata of karate, so it might be a variation of karate.

As far as I know, Miyagi sensei has never tried to show off karate. Therefore, we also never talked about karate both at school and
outside school. We bore firmly in mind that we should not show karate to other people in public.

When the high-ranking judo instructors of Kodokan came to Okinawa on the way to Taiwan, they asked us to show them karate. Tatsutoku Sakiyama (= Tatsutoku Senaha), Kiju Nanjo (= Kiju Azama) and I (= Genkai Nakaima) demonstrated karate at the judo training hall of Second Middle School. After the judo instructors left the school, Miyagi Sensei visited Sochoku Nakachi, a teacher of Second Middle School, and asked him gHow was the karate demonstration by my students?”

When Prince Takamatsunomiya visited Okinawa, Miyagi Sensei appointed me to show him Sanchin as a representative of Goju-Ryu. I performed Sanchin only wearing a pair of pants just like a daily practice. Miyagi Sensei did not demonstrate karate.

The rhythm of karate drawn in the air is the wisdom of the blessing from the heaven. It is same as the rhythm of traditional Okinawan dance or Ryukyu Buyo.


Remarks: This is a complete translation of the article written by Mr. Seijin Jahana, the original title “Choki Motobu, a Forerunner of Combative Karate” appeared in the monthly magazine “Aoi Umi” (=Blue Sea) No.70 February 1978 issue (pages 106-110). This number features articles on Okinawan karate masters. The magazine was published in Okinawa but was already discontinued.

Translated by Sanzinsoo

I was in Okinawa in 1978. It seemed to rain soon in the early evening. I had to find his house soon, so I became hasty. A few drops of rain fell on my head when I succeeded in finding the home of Mr. Chozo Nakama, 80 years old, which was surrounded by a board wall.

When I was allowed to enter the house, the rain started falling. The ground of the courtyard was stamped flat. Maybe it was Mr. Nakama’s training place of karate. There was a barbell got wet in the rain.

Mr. Nakama was awarded “Hanshi” (the highest title), 9th Dan(=degree) black belt. He teaches karate at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at a community center in Sakiyama, Shuri, Okinawa. He learned karate directly from Choki Motobu (1871-1944). It was about 1940 that Choki Motobu opened his own Dojo(=a training hall) in Nishishinmachi (=Kumecho now), Naha city after returning to Okinawa from Osaka, Japan.

I visited Mr. Nakama to hear the stories about his teacher, Choki Motobu during that time.

Choki Motobu passed away at his mistress’s home in Tomari, Okinawa at the year when World War Two broke out. He died at the age of 73. His life was always with karate and karate.

He was born in Akahira, Shuri, Okinawa as the third son of Motobu Udun(=a feudal lord) in 1871. His elder brother was Choyu Motobu, the founder of Motobu-ryu karate. Choki Motobu was a rough fighter by nature. He began thrusting Makiwara(=a thrusting board) when he was a child and studied karate in his own way. Genius shows itself even in childhood. “Let’s play karate fight, Grandpa!” He often said to his uncle who was “Ufuchiku” (=a police sergeant) as well as a teacher of Kobudo(=Okinawan classical weaponry arts) and used to visit Choki’s father’s home to have a chat.

Since he became strong enough after training in his own way, almost every night he went to a bar district such as Tsujimachi, and challenged a man who looks strong to street-fighting. Because of this, his reputation among karateka at that time was very bad. No one at his age could not defeat him. Maybe he thought his street-fighting was one of his karate training.
Choki’s fighting skills were created in the real fights, although people frowned upon his street-fighting. They said his fighting skills were full of variety and amazing. He created his Kumite(=sparring) techniques by himself. He rarely accepted disciples, as he was afraid that his Kumite(=sparring) techniques might be “stolen”.

Although Choki studied karate in his own way, in fact he had three teachers. His first teacher was Anko Itosu, but he was soon refused to see Master Itosu, as Master Itosu received complaints about Choki’s street-fighting.

His second teacher was Shitsunen Tokumine. Master Tokumine was a heavy drinker. Choki brought a bottle of Sake(=rice liquor) to him as a lesson fee. But later one day, Master Tokumine was very drunk and disorderly in Tsujimachi. He had a big fight with dozens of “Chikusaji” (=policemen) there, and eventually he was arrested by the police and exiled to a remote island in Yaeyama(=Ishigaki islands). He passed away in the remote island. Master Tokumine was a expert in karate and staff fighting arts. Chotoku Kyan alias Kyan Miigwaa(=small eyes) visited Yaeyama to learn Kata of staff fighting arts from Master Tokumine, however, at that time Master Tokumine had already passed away. Fortunately the owner of a small inn where Master Tokumine once stayed, had learned the Kata of staff fighting arts directly from Master Tokumine, so he taught the Kata to Master Kyan. In Yaeyama today still remains the Kata of staff fighting arts whose name is “Tokumine No Kun” (=The staff fighting arts of Master Tokumine).

After Master Tokumine was exiled to a remote island, Choki Motobu went to the karate Dojo of Master Kosaku Matsumora. When he asked the Master to teach him karate, he changed his name as Sesoko, not Motobu. He was afraid that Master Matsumora might also refuse to see him like his first teacher Master Anko Itosu. He was accepted by the Master Matsumora, but soon Choki’s bad reputation of street-fighting disclosed his true name Choki Motobu alias Motobu Saaruu(=monkey). The Master Matsumora called him and questioned.

“Why did you tell me a lie that your name is Sesoko?”
“It’s true, Master. I wouldn’t tell you a lie. My name is not only Motobu but also Sesoko. My mother’s family name is Sesoko. I was brought up in my mother’s village when I was a child.”
“I see. Never tell a lie!”
“No, never!”

Then he was formally accepted as a disciple.

Choki was very frank and open-minded, so he did not care about money at all. He always spent all the money he had. It was his later period of his life. When Mr. Nakama visited Choki’s home, Choki invited him to go for a walk. At that time Choki received a pocket money with the exact amount for a meal, a taxi and so on from his mistress who had been living with him since staying in Osaka. She was worried that he would spend all the money with him if she gave him some extra money.

Needless to say, Choki could not save money. He could not make money either. His horse-carriage business in Okinawa was failed, so he and his family went to Osaka, Japan in about 1921.

There is a famous story that Choki had a match with a professional boxer when he was in Osaka. He worked as a guard at a cotton factory. It was an owner of a rooming house where Choki lived who suggested him to play a match with a boxer. The owner found an advertisement in the newspaper that a promoter seeking an opponent of a Russian boxer, Johnson. He explained the advertisement to Choki who could not read letters, and for a joke he suggested Choki to apply for this offer. Choki agreed with his suggestion seriously at once. The owner of a rooming house was surprised to hear Choki’s reply, but he made an application for Choki.

Well, on the day of the boxing match, the ringside was crowded with a lot of people. The tall and big Russian boxer versus short Choki.

“That man (=Choki) must be a fool!” said many spectators.
Choki was told to put on the boxing gloves, but he refused to put on them.
“He is really crazy!” said the spectators again.

In the first round, the big Russian boxer was driving Choki into a corner of the ring. The boxer was stronger and tougher than expected. “I cannot defeat him. I will lose.” thought Choki. “But If I easily lose this match, I would be very very sorry for my Okinawan fellow students of karate.” The first round was over with much difficulty for Choki.

In the second round, the professional boxer, Johnson maybe thought that this match was too easy for him. He charged toward Choki with less guard. Seeing the unguarded moment, Choki immediately jumped. The big body of Johnson fell down to the mat. In a moment the spectators could not understand what happened. Then, knowing Choki won the match, they shouted and applauded with admiration. Some of them excitedly threw their money and precious watches into the ring.Choki jumped and hit the back of Johnson’s ear with his fist. Choki Motobu or Motobu Saaruu’s jumping and karate skills were really amazing.

The match was reported widely all over the country by newspapers and magazines, so the name of Choki Motobu and the power of karate became very famous. Some people visited him for asking him to teach them karate.

Choki also taught at university by request. When he taught there, the Okinawan student acting as interpreter was always beside him, as Choki could not speak Yamatoguchi(=standard Japanese language). The interpreter translated Choki’s explanation of Kata etc in Uchinaaguchi(=Okinawan dialect) into standard Japanese. His illiteracy and lack of education might be helping to make a bad image of Choki such as a rude and rough fighter who has no good manners and so on. But in fact, he was polite and very rigid in good manners not only for himself but also for his disciples.

In about 1937 or 1938 Choki was in Okinawa, while his family was left in Osaka. A judo teacher whose name is Sudo came to Okinawa from Japan to study karate. He was a black belt of 8th Dan (later he became 10th Dan). He visited Mr. Kojun Yamashiro who was also a judo teacher at the Second Middle School (=now Naha High School). Sudo visited many karateka(=karate players) in Okinawa. One day he came to Choki and challenged him to a match. Choki accepted the challenge. They made rules before playing a match, because they might be severely injured or damaged if they really fight each other with real karate techniques without any rule or restriction.

Choki and Sudo took a fighting stance, and watched sharply each other without moving. One minute passed. Two minutes passed. “I can’t win. Please teach me karate!” said Sudo with loosening the stance.I suppose a true martial artist can see his opponent’s ability and power if he look at the opponent’s sharp eye when they face each other.Since that day, Sudo, a judo teacher came to Choki every day to study karate. He learned how to fight with a man wielding a knife, how he should respond by karate techniques if surrounded by many men, and so on. He studied practical karate by Choki Motobu, the pioneer of combative karate.There is another episode related to this match. When Choki met with Sudo to have a match, he wore Haori-Hakama(=a Japanese traditional black kimono with a coat over it, a formal suit at that time). He thought an ordinary clothes was lacking good manners, so Mr. Nakama, his disciple rented Haori-Hakama, a formal clothes for him. Choki did not have any formal clothes.

There are very few books of Choki Motobu. It is regrettable that there is no comprehensive book of Choki’s Kumite(=sparring) techniques. I wish he had written such books. In fact, Choki had a plan for publishing karate books. There was the manuscript written at his dictation. When he was about to go to Osaka again, he asked Mr. Nakama to keep the manuscript for him. “Please send it to me immediately if I ask you.” said Choki. It was a very thick manuscript. Mr. Nakama copied it in his four notebooks. Some days later, Mr. Nakama was asked to send the manuscript to Choki in Osaka soon. But eventually the book was not published. In fact, Choki sold his manuscript to someone else just for money. He had no choice but to sell it, because he needed money to pay the hospital. He had been in hospital due to ill.

Mr. Nakama’s notebooks of the manuscript copy had been burnt to ashes due to air raid in Okinawa during World War Two. To whom or which publisher did Choki sell the original manuscript? Does that manuscript still exist?

The content of the manuscript consists of karate history, Kata, application of Kata, sparring techniques and so on. It must have been a comprehensive book of Choki Motobu’s karate studies.People frowned on Choki’s karate, as they thought his was just for the purpose of fighting. However, the truth was that he was always earnest or very serious about karate. Considering this, it is quite regrettable that Choki’s comprehensive book made by all his life did not appear after all.
But it may be suitable for Choki Motobu who very rarely accepted disciples as he was afraid that his karate techniques might be “stolen”. If he were still alive, maybe he would tell us not to “steal” other karateka’s techniques but to create by ourselves.

Choki Motobu also known as Saaruu of Motobu was a legend even while he was still alive, because he was a strong man, and he had natural-born ability of martial arts. He sought a combative karate. He always challenged to street fights. So there were a lot of fighting stories about him. It made him a legend in the process of transmitting the exaggerated stories to the public. Some people says “That¡¯s because he is a Paafuchaa (= a bigmouth or a bragger in Okinawan dialect). Most of his fighting stories are questionable.”

In fact I have found small discrepancy in the situation when I investigated stories about Choki, even among stories which are said to be heard directly from him. Maybe that¡¯s why he was called a Paafuchaa.

The person whose ability is better than others got the best and the worst reputations at the same time in his or her days. Choki is not a exception, either. Even today the reputation about Choki and his karate varies depending on who talks about him.


What are martial arts lesson worth?

by  Andrew Wood

I am often asked by friends who know my martial arts background what they should pay for their children’s lessons or indeed for their own? Recently one of my best friends, my dentist called me outraged that the school he had just visited wanted what he considered to be too much money to teach his son. To him I gave this response.

What are martial arts lessons worth to the shy little boy who never raised his hand in class for lack of confidence letting a world of learning pass him bye before gaining the self esteem to not only to raise his hand but to actually ask questions having taken just a few weeks of martial arts lessons.

What are lessons worth to Justin Rue’s mother, a single mom struggling to make it through life with a young son lacking in focus, motivation and self-discipline.  After nine months in the program their where tears in her eyes when she and a beaming Justin came in to the school with his first ever report card containing an A!

What are lessons worth to the little eight year old girl, whose lessons gave her the where withal to give a strange man a hard enough kick in the shins that he let go of her long enough for her to run away. (Thankfully they arrested him later that day) As a parent I get chills even thinking about such things but I am sure those parents will never question the value of those lessons.

What are lesson worth to Fritz Stutz an auto mechanic with chronic back problems that vanish after several weeks of the stretching exercises before class. What’s the increase life span for attorney Chris Mears looking to vanquish his stress after long days dealing with difficult people and finding serenity just punching and kicking the heavy bag at the school?

What are lessons worth to the nurse Lisa Clancy grabbed from behind as she unlocked her car coming off the night shift at a hospital? (Not to mention a certain perverse pleasure she must have taken for rendering her attacker to the ward she had just left under armed guard!) All thanks to a special women’s self defense class at the school that showed how to use keys and other every day objects as emergency weapons.

In a word of gangs, drugs and high school shootings we all think it will never happen to our kids. What’s it worth to a parents extra peace of mind to have their teen involved in the pursuit of physical and mental EXCELLENCE while learning the value of respect to themselves and others surrounded by a positive environment of discipline and learning?

  • What is a child’s confidence and self esteem worth?
  • What is it worth to experience the joy of self-discipline, motivation and persistence?
  • What is less stress and better health worth?
  • More importantly should you ever have to face a threatening situation what is your life worth?

The answer of course is priceless yet the tuition in most schools is far more reasonable!

Benefits of Martial Arts Training 

  • Flexibility, fewer injuries & soreness
  • Cardiovascular work-out, a healthy heart burns fat
  • Self-defense skills (peace of mind)
  • Healthy lifestyle
  • Coaching to motivate you
  • Mental focus & discipline
  • Self-respect
  • Conflict resolution
  • Practice anywhere (inside & outside)
  • All ages 3-90 years of age
  • Development of respect
  • Agility
  • Personal development
  • Never quit attitude
  • Anger management
  • Families can train together
  • No expensive equipment needed

Compliments of Mike and Laura Sywyk

Chief Instructors

Eastwind Budo Life Centre Ottawa, Canada

Important to know

Shu-Ha-Ri sounds foreign and opaque; but for the most part, it’s not. Most long-time martial arts practitioners actually know what Shu-Ha-Ri is, even without knowing the expression itself.

Shu-Ha-Ri is a concept that can be useful in analyzing a student’s progress in martial arts practice. For example, in iaido, serious practitioners know that a shodan (first degree black belt) rank does not mean much. At our dojo, New York Budokai (NYB), shodan only suggests minimal technical understanding of the shoden (first level) forms. More importantly, it signals a student’s intent to continue study. It is not a license to teach. At NYB, first to fourth dan rankings are spaced approximately two years apart, depending on the person and their attendance. However, after fourth dan, it takes 10 years to get to fifth, our minimum teaching rank. Few get there (approximately 20 years of commitment to anything seems too long to most people); but if we were to organize our ranking system differently, it would be a disservice, both to the curriculum, and to the concept of Shu-Ha-Ri.

Like many Japanese cultural concepts, Shu-Ha-Ri packs a lot into a short phrase. Even those familiar with the concept often have trouble articulating it, as it exists in many layers. Basically, Shu-Ha-Ri is a map that lays out the potential progress of an individual involved in learning a traditional skill, whether dance, calligraphy, pottery-making, or traditional martial arts, such as iaido. Shu-Ha-Ri is progress divided into three stages. Though the stages often overlap, for convenience we will address each aspect in turn.

“Shu suggests progressing to a good technical understanding…”

Shu, as shown here its contemporary form on the left, literally means to “obey.” In a martial arts context, shu is often translated as either “obeying your teacher” or “imitation [of your teacher].” My teacher, Otani Yoshiteru, actually prefers its earlier incarnation on the right (below), and refers to Shu as “tradition.” In Shu, one learns all the traditions of a given style of an art form. For example, in Muso Shinden Ryu iaido, Shu suggests progressing to a good technical understanding of all 48 of the solo kata (both the movement and the bunkai) and any other relevant techniques, along with understanding aspects of the history of the style, and some idea of its general characteristics, strengths and weaknesses relative to sword arts in general. “Tradition” does not simply include the kuden (curriculum) of MSR; Shu also includes learning the history, traditions and customs of the particular dojo.

At New York Budokai, we have unique perspectives on how rank is conferred and considered. We also have a number of sword techniques that are only practiced in our dojo. If we were to draw a diagram of the Shu of NYB as a set of circles, the circle that is NYB would cover a large part of the circle that is MSR (though not all of it, as some techniques are no longer practiced). It would also have a large part on its own, as well as some small part to indicate other techniques that are not unique to NYB, but are also taught in the dojo.

People I know who study various traditional Japanese art forms say it takes ten years or longer to develop a technical understanding of technique. In our practice, after ten years a student might pass through Shu for the first form learned, but it may also take ten years to pass through Shu for the form you learned after your first ten years. Shu, therefore, can take a very long time. And remember: Shu is only the beginning.

Shu operates in layers. Become familiar with the first set of forms, and the second set makes you feel like a beginner all over again. For example, students who develop a pretty good sense of sayabiki (pulling the saya back as the sword is drawn and resheathed – a standard part of our style) while learning the shoden forms seem to forget all about it the moment they move on to the next set of kata. Eventually, as a student begins to learn the upper skill level of kata, she is constantly reminded of everything she doesn’t know about basic techniques. If the basics are not solid, those kata are much more difficult to learn.

So, in some ways, one can remain ever “stuck in Shu,” However the iaidoka may feel about this at least Shu is fairly easy to understand. He either knows the techniques, or he doesn’t.

Ha is very difficult to explain, though that has not kept people from trying. Simply put, Ha means “break.” Break what? Break (from) what? Martial arts practitioners have described Ha as everything from “breaking with tradition,” (i.e. founding your own style) to, maybe worse, “breaking with your teacher.” Others have interpreted it as “breaking down techniques” in order to understand them better. Still others have suggested a musha shugyo – taking a “break from the dojo” in order to explore other styles to enrich one’s overall understanding of the art form. All of these interpretations are potentially legitimate.

“Ha suggests a ‘break-through’ in the understanding of technique…”

However, to me, Ha suggests a “break-through” in the understanding of technique. This is wonderful when it happens: I’ve performed a particular kata thousands of times, I’ve been through the technique, the bunkai (applications), trying my best to perform the kata the way I was taught, busily correcting bad habits when they’re pointed out, when I have a moment of Ha. “(Ha) usually … applies to a flash of insight regarding some small detail.” Ha, at least for me, doesn’t relate to a major part of the kata; usually it applies to a flash of insight regarding some small (but never insignificant) detail. For instance, in the chuden kata Ukigumo, one is required to step over and turn the outside of the left ankle and place it on the floor as the sword is drawn and placed on the opponent’s chest (he is to your right).

Next, with ankle still in place, the iaidoka reaches across her body with her left hand and places it on the back of the blade. In the next moment, she pushes down the opponent as she steps back with the right foot, correcting the position of the left foot so it is flat on the floor. A difficult, and seemingly meaningless detail. I used to badger dojo mates who simply skipped it. For 10 years or more, I performed this kata with no idea what that foot position was for. Suddenly, one day, it hit me: turning the foot, then correcting its position, added power to the act of pushing the opponent. Ingenious.

I tried to explain my new insight to the kohai (junior students) to whom I was showing the form. Not only did no one really understand me, they had no idea why I was ridiculously excited about what everyone thinks of as an awkward part of the kata.

After 10-12 years of practice I went through a series of insightful Ha moments. It was extremely pleasant, but the flashes of insight have given way to what might be a deeper perception of the style. In some ways, it is not nearly as much fun.

Ha can be frustrating too. Just because I have an insight about one form doesn’t mean I’ve achieved satori (enlightenment). The deeper meanings of other kata may remain hidden away for a long, long time. And just in case I think my perceptions are valuable, it’s good to remember that while beginners may appreciate the complexity of iaido kata, they are not likely to understand it. Like my teachers before me, I have learned to stifle any fabulous insights I think I may have, and say “Just do it like this” -that’s if I feel like talking at all. In truth, you can’t just give someone insight. This is why Ha is so difficult to understand. Everyone has his own.

The other, sneaky thing about Ha is that a moment of perceived insight may be all wrong. This has happened to me: a senpai (senior student) by now, teaching beginners from time to time, with something all figured out, and the daisen’pai (top student) or sensei comes in and says “What are you doing?” Crash.

Ha is a dangerous time in training. It’s not by accident that people sometimes describe it as “break with your teacher.” Sometimes students are so convinced of the importance of their insights they do break with their teachers, or they do found their own styles. I am sure there are times when this could be a good thing, but in the case of iaido, there is so much to learn after and through Ha, I’d have to say it’s better to stick it out.

“Ri also has multiple interpretations, but my favorite one … is ‘freedom’.”

The last phase in the triumvirate is Ri. Like the others, Ri also has multiple interpretations, but my favorite one, once again from Otani sensei, is “freedom.” Even though I can’t say I’ve experienced Ri, I know it when I see it.

Some time ago I saw an old film of Nakayama Hakudo, the man who brought the Muso Shinden Ryu style of iaido into the 20th century and preserved it though the martial arts ban after World War II. The film was shot in the 1950’s and later (much later) transferred to video tape. The 20-minute, scratchy black and white film showed an 80-year-old man, his back ramrod straight, going through a series of forms from the MSR kuden. But there was more to it than that. After performing some kata as we would recognize them, Hakudo then performed a fascinating variation on each. He was playing with or improvising on the forms, but with the same level of integrity of technique he used in the originals. I realized, ironically, that these variations would not have won any kendo federation ranking, but they were wonderful: beautiful and functional all at once.

“… A perfect example of Ri, (is) when the practice and the practitioner blend together into a kind of breathtaking harmony.”

That little 20-minute fragment is a perfect example of Ri, when the practice and the practitioner blend together into a kind of breathtaking harmony. This can happen in performing arts, when the artist and audience are transported by means of the performance medium to some other level of consciousness. When the performance ends, they are brought back to earth, as it were, but both parties feel somehow transformed by the experience.

It goes without saying that not many people get to Ri. Some practice their whole lives and may perhaps succeed in attaining a high level of Shu, enhanced by moments of Ha. But the longer you practice, the better the odds.Just the possibility of a flash of Ri is enough to keep me trying to find the path up the mountain.


This article is in part based on conversations with Otani Yoshiteru, founder of New York Budokai, and I dedicate it to him with gratitude, respect and affection. I would like to also thank him for the kanji characters he contributed for this article.


(1) laido is the modern discipline or way of drawing the sword that was popularized in the 1930’s. It is derived from iaijutsu, a sub-specialization of kenjutsu (sword arts) that was practiced by professional (samurai) warriors and involved methods of drawing the sword and cutting as a single motion.

Some new terms for you to memorize

Junanshin (~ a malleable mind)

If you want to learn something, you will have to open up your mind for the ideas of the other person. Openness is a must to learn something. Patience is indispensable. To learn budo is something you can easily fill you life with and you will never stop learning. Picking up some quick tricks has nothing to do with budo.

Trust in what a teacher tells you and not be sceptical towards everything he tells you is very important. Maybe he has a deeper meaning with the excersise you have to repeat boringly, and does not seem very logical at first site.

Humbleness is a very good quality. The arrogant behaviour of some people who think they know a lot, if not all, about budo works contra-productive. They are getting stuck on there level and are blocking there own development.


Zanshin (~a state of awareness)

The concept of zanshin actually contains some of the other principals to deal with later on, for instance kiai, metsuke, shisei and kime. Readiness means more than just lifting up your arms, as it sometimes looks like. No, zanshin is a total state of awareness, where you are totally fixed on your opponent(s). This must be the case before and after performing a technique. The tense must be physically felt.


Kiai (ki ~ mind, ai ~harmony) 

A more common concept in this line. And no appropriate translation is available really. Something like an outburst of energy. A loud yell when you perform a kick or a hitting technique, or when you use strength when throwing your opponent. Kiai can be an affective tool for regulating your way of breathing. For instance try to make a throwing technique while holding your breath ! So, often kiai is used naturally is the right way.

Kiai should not be exaggerated, to much kiai, on every kick or hit is overdone; as long as you breath out every time. With good kiai you can put your opponent in unbalance. Maybe not literally but it makes one unsure, which gives you a bigger chance on winning.


Kime ( ~ check, decision)

We know the name kime from kime no kata, a well known judo and ju justsu kata (for godan and up) Every time you perform a technique you must use kime. It has to do with the timing and the moment of reacting on an attack. When you react to early for instance, your opponent will notice this and will adjust his attack at the last moment so you can not defend properly against it.

There are three moments of reacting to an attack. This is called mittsu no sen. The first form of sen is to wait until the attack of your opponent can not change anymore and then react to it. This is called go no sen. The second form of sen is to react simultaneously with your opponent. This is called sen no sen. The third form of sen is the ideal the samurai where striving for. A sixth organ of sense; to feel when a foe is thinking of attacking, before he actually has made a move. With this sense you can avoid a fight !

Metsuke (~ looking, seeing)

We all probably saw a picture of an old Japanese master gazing as if to mount Fuji on a distant. This man or woman sees everything and nothing. This means to see everything around you but not focusing to anything. This is the way we have to look when we are performing a martial art. So don’t focus at the point where you e.g. want to make a mae geri. You will probably bend your head forward, witch again breaks your balance. And what is more dangerous; you will not see other movements your foe(s) makes.


Ma-ai ( ~ distance)

Ma-ai is a bit harder to explain, especially in the unarmed fight. The distance between two persons as in judo is very small. Though when the distance is to wide, if you want to throw your opponent, he can pull you backwards easily and you can not make a proper technique anymore. This is the same when you are to close to one another.

In kata ma-ai is also applicable, in the beginning of a kata distances are wide (to-ma), no direct danger yet. When you come nearer (chika-ma) danger is increasing and in the end (uchi-ma) you are at a distance where in one step you can perform an attack (I to no mai). At this moment there is zanshin !

It can be compared with a tiger on a long chain. It is lying there looking at you approaching towards it. Out of reach of the chain there is no danger, but when you come into the circle…

Muga Mushin ( ~ an empty mind)

When someone begins to practice a martial art and learns his first techniques, he will have to think hard to remember what his sensei told him, were to look at, how to move and so on. After learning some (or a lot) of these techniques, some people stop with budo, thinking they know everything there is to learn. But they are only half-way. Someone who is practising martial arts for many years, often does not have to think anymore. He moves and reacts naturally and adjusts his defences according to the attacks. In a fight, fear is a bad advisor. In feudal Japan a samurai was thought that whoever took up his sword, had to be prepared to die. If he wanted to survive than, he could not win without muga mushin.

In our modern society this seems a bit exaggerated, but for making the adjust defensive moves, human thinking and than reacting is to slow.

Ri-ai (~ coherence)

With ri-ai coherence is meant between e.g. ma-ai, the knowing what or where we are going to hit and the very moment (kime). If you would be to close to your opponent so that you would strike him with the middle of your sword or jo, you could consider to use a shorter weapon. It is also logical to first choose a target to aim for. Both cases sound very simple and are simply learned, but the third part, the right moment is a lot more difficult to understand.

That is why it is important to try to train the element of danger in practising kata. Because only when you feel more danger real zanshin can be achieved.

A feudal samurai had only a chance of 33 % to win a fight. In the other 66 % he, maybe together with his foe, would be killed or wounded. You can imagine that this despise of death helped him with assuming real fighting situations.

Sei to do (~ action – non action)

When you perform a kata, were the movements are prescribed, sei to do is important to make the kata look tight and neat. Taking a fighting posture (kamae) at the beginning or putting away the weapons at the end (osamae) are those moments of alert rest. But also when performing a common technique there is at the beginning and at the end a alert rest.

When a series of free attacks is performed, you mostly see that sei to do is totally forgotten. The movements are hastily made in too high a tempo and there is no rhythm what so ever.It is not by chance that etiquette (reishiki) has a great rest in it as a counterpart to the actions of the training.


Yoyu ( ~ margin)

When you see a Japanese master perform a technique or a kata, you will experience this as a special happening. Hard to tell what is so different….. With a minimum of exertion gaining a maximum of effect. Also minimal move¡¯s, only the most necessary, is typical for the real master. Yoyu is not a really to be indicated or to learn concept, but points to the interspaces that appear between different techniques. It looks as if there is a lot of time in-between techniques. Only when these techniques are fully mastered you can speak of yoyu. It is important therefore to make the different moves as sober as possible.