The Dangerous Risk of Not Training

Last week I was talking to one of our adult students that will be turning 50 this year. We had a funny conversation that comes up fairly often when teaching martial arts about how he could beat up his former self. This student didn’t start training until his late 40s, but now that he has been training for a few years, the skills he has acquired would enable him to defeat his 30-year-old, stronger, faster, younger self in a fight.

The important thing to take away from this is that with every passing year one of two options is happening:

1. You are training martial arts. In this scenario, the percentage of people in the world that would beat you up in an altercation is decreasing year after year. Or depending on your age, at the very least it isn’t increasing as quickly as it would be without training.

2. You are not training martial arts. In this scenario, the percentage of people in the world that would beat you up in an altercation is increasing year after year.

It’s as simple as that.

Sometimes, when talking to someone over the age of 35 or so, they make the assumption that their time to train has come and gone. In all actuality, that is never the case. No matter your age, 35 or 75, it is important to train for self-defense (and so many other benefits).

While you should always try to avoid a fight, through training you are increasing your chances of being able to survive an attack.

Sometimes people say they will just keep themselves out of situations that they might need to fight. That’s really good - I will too! Unfortunately, sometimes there are situations we cannot avoid. As we’ve discussed in previous entries, men can avoid many altercations as long as they check their ego and alcohol consumption. But not all.

And if you are a woman, you have an even more important reason to train, as there is a much greater chance that you could be targeted in an abduction or sexual assault.

So, how would 50-year-old you fare against 30-year-old you? I can GUARANTEE that 50-year-old you will be much better off if he/she is consistently training.

See you on the mat!

Tournament Recap - NAGA Atlanta 2018

Our kids had a great weekend in Atlanta! There were so many hard fought battles and great memories made. With each tournament, I am more and more impressed with their effort, skill, and most importantly - character. I couldn’t be more proud as their teacher!

We posted videos and pictures all of last week on our social media pages, so I thought I’d gather them all up here in one place for you in case you missed some!


Connor (in grey rash guard) slaps on a perfect Anaconda choke in his first match of the day in the Advanced Kids division! He went on to use the same choke with the same result in the finals!


Connor gets his second anaconda choke of the day. I haven’t seen a kid go to sleep in a tournament before, so having it happen twice in the same tournament was pretty crazy. For those concerned, both kids were okay!


6 month’s ago, Grace had to face a big challenge when she stepped up to fight in a boy’s division at her very first tournament. She lost her matches at that tournament, but came back with tremendous experience to build off of - today she picked up two submissions and earned first place in her division!

The wins and medals aren’t why we do this. These competitions for kids help them learn so much about themselves and how to find the spirit and confidence to persevere through such difficult challenges. We had many great performances this weekend - in both wins and losses. And Grace was one of our stand outs!


Look out because here she comes.

This was a big tournament for Maggie. She has improved so much in the last few months, but primarily in one area - starting off strong and bringing the fight to her opponent for the full match.

She demonstrates tremendous skill, heart, and effort in this clip (including a textbook guillotine escape), but what you don’t see are the hours of hard practices she put in to get there. She made huge strides in class with her training partners, and decided she was going to fight differently this tournament.

This is Maggie!

ps - she loved training to this song so we had to throw that in the video.


Ty had some of the toughest matches of the day, and was our vote for the MVP this tournament. He won with mental toughness and good position. I’ll share a couple of videos so you can see the intensity that his opponent’s brought, but has one of our parent coaches said - Ty has ice water in his veins.

In this match he has to overcome a tight Kimura submission, fight back to tie it up before time runs out, and then win in overtime. Please excuse the camera being off occasionally, we were a little preoccupied with the match!

His mental fortitude was they key element, and his physical preparation in the months prior to this are what seals the deal. All of those early Saturday morning practices doing their job…


Here’s another quick one! Grace gets her second submission of the day with a back take from the closed guard and a Mata Leao (Rear Naked Choke).


Alex demonstrated excellent top control and continues to showcase more control and confidence with every tournament. Our team is full of kids that are extremely coachable. We’ve built a great relationship between our coaches and kids, and you can see it in how well they receive guidance and make adjustments mid-match.

This relationship is built on respect, openness, and trust.


Aiden worked really hard on his strategy and position over the last few months and executed it so well in this match.

Watching the whole team takes such big leaps forward from tournament to tournament is an amazing process to be a part of.


Here's a longer highlight of PMA's whole team - we have a little bit of each kid in this video. Our team took 21 competitors to this tournament, with 1 teammate that missed out this time (Mack), as he was in Houston competing with his robotics team at the world championship!

There is footage from both wins and losses in this video. Our kids know that the coaches are just as happy with a win or a loss as long as we get two things - they have fun and give us a perfect effort. And in that regard, we were 21 for 21 this trip.

These kids will remember how tired they were for a few weeks, they’ll remember their matches for a few months, but they will keep the memories of their time together with their team forever!

The Competition Team came back and celebrated last week, and they are right back on the mats training! A little tired, a little sore, but ready to go.

And we had them pose for one last picture with their medals and swords from another incredible trip!

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The Rules of Normal Eating

We teach our students that there are 8 aspects of the martial arts way of life:

  1. Fitness
  2. Meditation
  3. Philosophy
  4. Yoga & Stretching
  5. Health & Nutrition
  6. Striking Arts
  7. Grappling Arts
  8. Self-Defense

A complete martial artist should be putting energy into each of those 8 aspects of their training.

Today, I have a quick video to share with you in one of the areas that is most difficult for people and is often one of their biggest roadblocks to success - nutrition.

In our nutrition and lifestyle coaching program we teach 25 habits over the course of a 1 year program. You spend 2 weeks working on each habit and receive daily lessons (online) that will help you with your current habit. Two of the most important habits in the program are eating slowly and stopping before you are overly full.

This video hits on these concepts. As Dr. Koenig reinforces, this stuff is SIMPLE but not EASY.

Let Your Guard Down: Don’t Be Afraid Of Imperfection

Being successful in any aspect of life does not mean always being right, always winning, and always doing things by yourself.

It is okay to not know an answer. It is okay to lose. It is okay to ask for help. It is even okay for these things to happen when others expect them not to.

This barrier that people put up and think is making them appear to be all-knowing and perfect, is actually the thing that not only adds unnecessary stress and anxiety to their life, but keeps them from reaching their goals.

The mindset we should strive to develop is giving a perfect effort, but being okay with a less than perfect result. Trying is good enough, and then we can learn from and build from our experience. You don’t have to pretend you know something that you don’t. You don’t have to be afraid of losing or making a mistake.

On the mats, this mentality pops up and every student would get so much more out of their training if they could eliminate it. Every time I see a higher rank begin “coaching” their training partner at the slightest sign that the lower rank student might be doing something well, inside I am cringing and shaking my head in disappointment. Don’t do this. It’s okay to lose to or get help from a student that is a lower rank than you. It only means that this student is also receiving good training - it does not mean that anything is wrong with you.

In fact, you will get better by allowing these circumstances to happen and getting the most out of them.

Your fear of losing is putting you in a position to lose more.

More growth comes from situations that we don’t know what to do, accept that, and then learn from it, than when we put on an act as if we know what to do.

You are not perfect, and you never will be. Neither am I, or anyone that I have ever met. Except my wife, of course. (Hey b!)

You will not get things right on the first try, but try anyway.

You will not know every answer, don’t pretend like you do.

You will need help from other people who have experienced what you are experiencing, don’t be afraid to ask for it.

 

FAQ: Why Do We Train Barefoot?

This is a common question we get from new students. What is the deal with not wearing shoes!? Do I have to take my shoes off?

The practice of training martial arts without shoes goes back really far but actually has a much more logical purpose to it than just tradition. While it is traditional in most of the arts we teach to train without shoes, it is not uncommon to look back in history and see some arts that train with shoes on.

In many Chinese arts, practitioners often chose to wear shoes and most believe this to be because of the rocky or uneven land that they would sometimes train on. Whereas maybe on the island of Okinawa or the beach in Brazil, students were training on soft sand or grass and would choose to train barefoot. Practical.

And hey - we know Bruce Lee’s shoes were an iconic part of his image, so he obviously wore shoes often when training!

You could even argue that it is beneficial to train with shoes on so that you know what it feels like if you have to defend yourself while wearing shoes. And it is definitely different! For this reason, we take out students outside and train with shoes on sometimes.

So why do we choose to go without?

The two most important reasons are hygiene and safety.

1. Hygiene

We ask that students wear shoes to and from the dojo and remove them just before stepping onto the mat. We teach Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and spend a good amount of our time grappling on the mats, and therefore need to keep them sparkling clean.

In fact, the mats you train on at PMA are some of the cleanest you will find around the world because we put so much focus on this. Some of our students and teachers that have visited other academies around the world report that they often are training on layers of dust, hair, and dirt!

Please clean your feet, wear shoes to the dojo, and remove them just before stepping onto the mat to keep as many germs, dirt, etc. off of our mats as possible!

*Please remember to throw some shoes back on if you are going back out to your car or something! And if you see a student coming in from outside barefoot, consider giving them a gentle reminder to help keep the mats clean. You can send him to this link to read up if needed! 

And if you want to wear the official flip-flop that most students in Brazil wear to and from class, get yourself a pair of Havaianas! The added benefit of a flip-flop is you can slip it on easily when using the restroom or stepping off the mat to run out to your car during class. Even running into the restroom barefoot in the middle of the class will bring germs back onto the mat.

2. Safety

With kicking and grappling being taught, getting hit with a shoe does much more damage than a bare foot!

Training without shoes enables us to make a little more contact on our kicks with each other, and have far fewer accidental injuries when grappling because we aren’t being hit with any hard heels or steel-toed boots!

Now, with all of that being said, some students need or prefer to wear shoes. When that is the case, there are some safe shoes that you can wear and train martial arts. We just ask that you follow a couple of rules:

  1. Only wear your training shoes on the mats. Never wear these shoes off of the mats or you start bringing in all of the junk we are trying to keep off the mats.
  2. Wear the right shoe for the job. While practicing striking arts, you will need a shoe that is designed to allow you to pivot your foot freely. If you wear a shoe with too much grip, over time you may find yourself with a knee injury. While practicing grappling arts, we ask that you wear a soft shoe, designed to keep your partner safe - such as a wrestling shoe! These are not good for striking. They are designed to grip the mats more effectively, which gives you the ability to drive your weight into your opponent more effectively and your foot not slip out from underneath you.

For striking, below you will find the shoe we recommend. When I was a kid, my father’s academies did not have mats on the floor yet and students trained on concrete, or industrial carpet and these were the shoes that they chose for training - 

https://bushidomartialarts.com/products/bushido-shoe

For grappling, any wrestling shoes should do the trick!

In closing, I personally have grown up training barefoot, and I love it. Getting to feel the ground beneath you while training strengthens your balance and stabilizer muscles that will help prevent injuries when you have an occasional misstep or step off of a curb funny. I now hate wearing shoes!

See you on the mat! With clean bare feet! 😉

Listen

Hearing is, of course, one of our primary senses, but I recently watched (and listened to!) a TED talk that got me thinking about the importance of how we listen. Take a look if you’d like:

It seems as though we are losing our ability to listen, and it is hurting our ability to fully comprehend and understand other people, other concepts, and other ideas.

For the past week, I’ve been observing people in conversation as much as I can and watching how many of them genuinely listen. Sadly, it is usually evident that while one person is talking, the other is more concerned with what they are going to say, or what is going on in their world, than what the person speaking is saying.

Try it out with yourself first, and you will see yourself planning what you are going to say before the person you are speaking to is done. Before you know it, you will be impatiently waiting for them to hurry up and stop talking so that you can start talking.

That, of course, is normal.

What is happening in our world and our mind is what is most important to us, but we are missing out on opportunities to connect with those around us more fully, build more meaningful relationships, and accomplish more amazing things. We can’t do any of these things if we don’t understand each other.

This past weekend, thousands of young people marched all over our country, and lots of discussions are going on around the topic of gun reform. It seems as though the most crucial component we are missing though is listening. If I take a minute to look around on my social media networks at what people think of these issues, it is crystal clear that no one is listening to anyone with a different opinion than their own. We all feel as though the only way to win is to yell our personal opinion as loudly as we possibly can.

What happens?

All of the people that feel the same way as we do “like” it and “share” it. And all of the people that don’t feel the same way comment back, yelling as loudly as possible how they feel about it.

Arguing is not the problem.

Arguing can be so beneficial to solving problems and coming up with fantastic solutions. But arguing is worthless and futile when no one listens. When we listen, arguing can lead to resolutions.

Of course, it is entirely natural to believe what you think is right, but typically the answer to a lot of our problems is found somewhere in the middle and less on one side or the other. 

We have to recognize that so much of what we think  (and as pointed out in the video, so much of how we listen) is influenced by filters such as culture, values, beliefs, attitudes, expectations, and intentions. Pay attention to how you may listen to what someone says and instinctively have reactions against what they are saying sometimes before even thinking it through.

These are serious discussions that we need to be having. Which means now more than ever, if you want to accomplish things, resolve conflicts, have better relationships with everyone you encounter in life (hey, and even master your martial arts!), I encourage you to "empty your cup" and listen.

Confidence Developed Through Training

I’d like to share with everyone a message I received from one of our female students this week. Afterward, be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom for an important announcement!

Random fun story:

Last night I was the designated driver for a part bachelor party and part everyone get together for dinner and drinks. We parked in a random, not particularly well-lit garage. At the end of the night, the guys decided to continue the festivities and catch an uber back home.

So I was going to drive myself and another girl home. Her husband was not keen on us going home by ourselves. Honestly, I got annoyed and was trying to insist that we were fine.

Long story short, after thinking about it later, I realized that while of course, bad things could have happened, I felt capable of defending myself. I mean had the guy walked us to the car, I was more equipped to fight back than he was!

I’m not a fearful person, AT ALL! Mostly, I am just stubborn.

But last night was the first time I felt confident because of my skill set.

It was even hard to catch that I felt that way. I had to think about it for awhile because my actions were not any different than normal. I always would have resisted help because I’m just stubbornly independent and just would’ve believed that nothing was likely to happen.

In the deep parts of me, however, there is something slightly different now about how I feel about it.

These kinds of messages are some of the most fun for me to receive. I have also talked with female students after something physical actually happened, and while of course, I am incredibly proud of them for capably defending themselves, I would have much-preferred nothing ever happened.

We were talking last week about one of the differences between men and women training martial arts. Both will receive the confidence like in the story above in feeling capable of defending themselves, but it is a much more important skill set to develop for women.

Why?

For men, the majority of situations that we could find ourselves in could be avoided by not getting drunk, and keeping our egos in check. For example, I know that chances are much smaller that I’ll ever be in a street fight because I feel totally secure in walking away from some angry person that’s had a bad day (or life) and is taking it out on me.

We know that walking away from a fight is the best answer, for many reasons, but one of the most obvious is that you never know what could happen. The opponent could pull out a knife or gun for example and change the whole scenario!

For women, however, they are preyed on much more frequently than men. They can feel just as strongly about walking away from a fight and still be much more likely to be attacked than their male counterparts.

Therefore, we view empowering women with awareness, self-defense skills, strength, and confidence as one of our most important jobs.

 Female Black Belts at PMA!

Female Black Belts at PMA!


With that said, I’d like to announce our next free women’s self defense seminar on Saturday, April 28th from 3-5 PM!

As a treat for our blog readers, this is the first place we’ve announced the seminar because these fill up really quickly. You can reserve your spot now at the link below (it’s free, but a $20 deposit is required to hold the spot).

This edition of our popular women’s self-defense courses is going to focus on worst-case rape scenarios. We will spend the majority of the seminar on the ground learning how to survive and ultimately get away from the attacker.

It is open to ages 13 & up as always, but parents should keep in mind the mature content of the seminar when registering their children and we will require that a mom or female legal guardian participate in the seminar also.

Due to the content of this seminar, we will need to limit it to just 20 participants. Tell your friends, and don’t wait to sign up! Once we email this out to our database, it can sometimes fill up within a few minutes.

More info and register online:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/evade-escape-now-to-gain-safety-a-womens-self-defense-seminar-tickets-44235078310

Jiu Jitsu Thrives in the Championship Rounds

*NOTE* I ran out of time to finish the blog post I was working on, so this week's post is a recycled article I wrote that was posted on GracieMag.com in 2010.

Link: http://www.graciemag.com/en/2010/08/09/jiu-jitsu-thrives-in-the-championship-rounds/

On Saturday, August 9, 2010, Anderson “Spider” Silva won his 12th-straight fight in the UFC Octagon (a record). After being dominated for 23 minutes, Silva pulled off the submission that is arguably Jiu-Jitsu’s signature move: the triangle choke.

The triangle choke can not only put the person to sleep but it is applied from the bottom, a position most every martial art would say is disadvantageous. You should not ever choose to take the bottom in a fight because of the damage that can be done from the top. However, the fundamental principles of Jiu-Jitsu instilled by Helio Gracie were to use Jiu-Jitsu to survive the fight and most importantly NOT LOSE! Anderson was able to do this that night…from the bottom.

It is a rare occasion that one can see this applied in mixed martial arts competition (not losing, as opposed to trying to win). The reason for this is that the nature of the sport demands that the competitors train themselves to the best and push the pace from the very beginning to try to win. There is a limited amount of time to win the fight, therefore every second counts.

However, in this fight, the five championship rounds provided fans the opportunity to witness this fundamental principle of Jiu-Jitsu: patience.

Anderson was taking a beating, but surviving the fight. Though he was continuously put on his back, Anderson neutralized many of the strikes that were being thrown by Chael. Through many of the rounds, Anderson was positioned to execute the triangle, he had wrist control on the right arm of Chael close to his legs and the left arm of Chael was extended inside the guard. In this position, it was a matter of slipping his leg over Chael’s right arm and… game over.

So why didn’t Anderson pull this off quicker? Nobody can answer this but Anderson. It seemed to me as though he was not sure if the timing was quite right. Without the proper timing, Chael could defend the triangle, possibly advance his position, or at the very least have a read on what Anderson would be trying to do. Chael Sonnen did an outstanding job of putting Anderson Silva where he does not like to be, but we had seen this finish once before versus Travis Lutter. When, he finally thought he had Chael distracted enough and the timing was right, the Spider’s legs locked down the submission.

Anderson represented Jiu-Jitsu very well that night, as did Fabricio Werdum a few weeks before when he pulled off a triangle choke finish versus Fedor Emelianenko. Helio Gracie time and time again demonstrated that he could use his Jiu-Jitsu to neutralize bigger, stronger, dominating opponents and look for a finish later in the fight. Mixed martial arts and sport Jiu-Jitsu competitions many times take away this possibility and thus change the nature of the art in most cases. Same techniques, different philosophies. This is probably necessary for the growth of the two sports, but should always be noted by spectators.

Only a few young, very conditioned athletes can perform at the highest level MMA competitions. However, people from all ages and fitness levels can train the arts that these competitions come from with a holistic approach and carry away with them such benefits as confidence, fitness, stress relief, flexibility, endurance, and overall well-being – the Martial Arts Way of Life.

Anderson had received a lot of criticism after his disappointing performance versus Demian Maia, but on this night he showed a champion’s heart and the patience of a Jiu-Jitsu black belt. After this fight, Anderson did not have a lot left to prove in the UFC. He had demonstrated his superior striking skills and backed up his black belt. From that point forward, it became hard to criticize this UFC legend again and he began to be called "the greatest of all time."

The Reality: Routines, Time, Priorities, and Your Life

We are nearing the end of February, and you are probably comfortably out of the holidays and back into the grind of your routines. 

Your New Year’s resolutions have probably been squashed. You had tons of enthusiasm a couple of months ago but maybe now you are facing REALITY. You might think to yourself:

"Those dreams and goals I had were too lofty."

"I don’t have enough time in the day to accomplish what I want to accomplish."

You can’t make it to martial arts class, there is too much going on. You can’t get your workouts in because other stuff takes priority. You can’t meditate. You can’t spend time playing with your kids. You can’t walk your dog. You can’t meal plan, grocery shop, and prepare meals either!

I talk to students all of the time that tell me when they are on the mat training they are happy and inspired to make changes in all of the other areas of their life. They might be kneeling at the end of class during meditation, soaking up the vibes of the dojo, and thinking about how inspired they are going to be to make a change starting today.

BUT THEN, they walk out the doors of the academy back into the world and get caught up in the chaos of our culture. Before you know it, work, commitments to family and friends, iPhones, traffic, Facebook, Netflix, and so many other things start to battle for our attention again, and we might never even think about those plans we had while we were kneeling on the mat.

In fact, they tell me that often they won’t slow down and think about those things again until the next time they are in the academy. It happens with their martial arts practice too, they have full intentions of going home, making some notes on what they learned, practicing a little bit or going over the techniques in their mind, but then they walk out and never think about it again until the next class. By that time it’s too late - they’ve already forgotten the technique.

*A huge tip for this one, by the way, is to sit down inside the academy with your notebook and take some notes before you leave the dojo. Then pull out your notes before the next class and go back over them - even if it is right before class! We see students that have tons of success with this formula.

I hear you. I really do. But the reality is that you have the same amount of time in your day as every other human being on the earth. And if your day truly is too full to do the things that you said you’d do at the beginning of the year, the reality is that it’s not because you don’t have enough time, it’s because your true priorities are revealing themselves.

Your priorities are what you spend your time doing. We might say that our priorities are things like our family or our health, but if we aren’t spending our time in those areas, then they aren’t our true priorities.

So what are your priorities?

If you really want to know, keep a genuine time log for a week, but don’t change anything about what you do right now. Funny thing is, you probably won’t be able to stop yourself from changing just a little bit, because when you start realizing how much time you are spending on Facebook, or watching Netflix, you almost can’t help making some changes.

Some of the things that we are spending our time on might be out of our control, but are there any areas that are in our control? And sometimes other things are genuinely just more important.

I don't want you to quit your job and train all the time. I don't want you to skip out on playing with your kids to get a workout in.

But I do want you to just stop at the store and buy a few groceries instead of waiting in the drive thru line. I do want you to put your phone down and get a workout in. 

Your health is a crucial piece to you living a long, happy, and fulfilling life. You have to make it a priority too!

The question is do we just tell ourselves that we are too busy when there is actually quite a bit of free time in there?

Try your best to just track and not change anything about what you are doing. Then add up all of the time doing the different activities and discover what your TRUE priorities are.

Now, if you want to make a change…pick one of those categories that you’d rather not be spending so much time and allot that time to doing one of the things you do want to be doing. 

You have to curate your lifestyle. You have the same 24 hours as everyone else, you just have to decide how you’re going to spend them, and then do it!

Choki Motobu - Brawler, Ruffian, Master.

**Today's blog post was written by PMA FILKENJUTSU Black Belt, Gary Hall. Today also happens to be his birthday! This was written by Sempai Gary in preparation for his Black Belt Test this time last year. This is a longer post, but a great look back in history at a prominent martial arts figure. As we have discussed in previous posts, our Kenpo lineage traces back to a man named James Mitose, and many believe Choki Motobu to have been one of Mitose's teachers.

Sempai Gary does a great job of bringing his story to us - enjoy!

- SiFu David


Brawler, ruffian, master. Choki Motobu has to be considered one of the most unconventional karateka luminaries of his very special time.

EARLY LIFE

Choki Motobu was born on April 5, 1870 in Shuri, Ryukyu Kingdom (now Japan). His father Choshin was a descendant of the sixth son of the Okinawan King, Sho Shitsu, namely Prince Sho Ko, also known as Motobu Chohei (Iwai 1994). Due to this lineage, the male members of the family were permitted to retain the "CHO" character in their given names (Sells 1996).

Young Choki, as third son to Choshin, was regarded by the Okinawan culture of the day as the rough equivalent to a feudal lord in social status. It has been stated by the noted historian Kinjo Hiroshi that although Choki was fathered by Choshin, Choki's mother was not his wife, but a courtesan. Choki was thus only a half-brother to his elder Choyu, the eldest son in the family. It has been further suggested that he was constantly reminded of this fact as a child, and this may have contributed to his rather stern temperament. Choki's eldest brother Choyu, in the Okinawan tradition, was given a fine education. He was also taught the family's secret "Ti" (fighting art) tradition that was only passed on to the eldest son. Young Choki was never allowed to participate. By some accounts, however, Choki secretly looked on at his elder brother's training and picked up many rudiments of the art. (Ross, 2012)

MArtial Arts background

The background of these Okinawan fighting arts can be traced from their origins elsewhere up to and through China. With the coming of the Bronze and Iron ages, weaponry and the means for employing such weapons improved. Early Greece (approximately 700 B.C.) recorded a systemized and cultivated form of self-defense called pyrrhic and pankration which utilized kicking, punching and wrestling in combat. In India, around and about 1000 B.C., the warrior class Kshatriya was believed to have a martial art skill known as vajramushti. 

China’s introduction to the martial arts is somewhat vague, but according to historians, it is widely accepted that Boddhidharma, an Indian monk and first patriarch of Chan or Zen Buddhism traveled by foot in the sixth century across the Himalayas into China’s northern province of Hunan. There, he settled in the Songshan mountains at the Shorin Ji (Shaolin temple) and introduced to the priests in the monastery 18 exercises and 2 sutras called Ekkinkyo and Senzuikyo. With the passing of time, these exercises of Boddhidharma (called Daruma Tashi by the Japanese, also known as Tamo by the Chinese) which represented the movements of animals, both real and mythical, were furthered refined and developed into a fierce form of self-defense known as the Shaolin temple fist method (shorin-ji-kempo). Thus, the shaolin temple is believed to be the birthplace of systematized martial arts. This is especially significant to the development of Ryukyu martial arts, as generations of secrecy have created a veil of mystery around the development of Okinawan karate. It is known that this Chinese method of self-defense flourished throughout Asia and eventually found its way to Ryukyu archipelago. 

okinawan history

History has recorded that in 1392, 36 families emigrated from China to Okinawa for cultural exchange. It is known that among the 36 families were experts in the martial arts who solidified the growth and interest of Chinese Kempo in Okinawa. Since the Ryukyu people were able seafarers and traders who frequented foreign ports, wares purchased in Indonesia and Southeast Asia were brought to Okinawa and were reshipped to China, Korea and Japan. Through this extensive trading and foreign contact, the already existing methods of self-defense in Okinawa expanded. The establishment of the Sho Shin ruling dynasty in 1477 brought about a ban on weapons across Okinawa. This move to more completely control the citizens became a very important development in the refinement of both armed and unarmed combat.

The year 1609 remains one of the most significant in Okinawan history. The outcome of one of the many Japanese civil wars of that time saw the Satsuma clan of southern Kyushu defeated by the Togukawa clan. As per the customs of the day, close governmental scrutiny was maintained over the losing (Satsuma) samurai. By decree of the ruling Togukawa clan, the Satsuma was permitted to march against the Ryukyu islands. This was done to both punish Okinawa for its refusal to provide with materials needed by Japan for an earlier attack on China and to remove the Satsuma’s samurai from the Japanese homeland because of the persisting armed threat they posed. This military expedition effectively took away Okinawa’s independence, making way for complete Japanese control.

A number of prohibitive ordinances proclaimed by the Satsuma warlord,  Shimazu, addressed a complete ban on weapons by the Okinawans. Arms found in their possession were immediately confiscated and the owner severely punished. Many clashes ensued, with the Okinawans being forced to utilize any and all weapons available. These weapons often took the form of hands and feet as well as agricultural and fishing related. Several failed attempts of disunited resistance led to the various kempo and tode societies banning together to form a unified front. The result was a new fighting style that was simply called te and was translated as hand

During the early years of development, te was shrouded in secrecy due to draconian laws addressed at eradicating all semblance of any Okinawan martial art. Eventually, Japanese occupation ended with Okinawa becoming an official part of the empire. However, the centuries-long underground training and application of te did not end overnight, it was too ingrained. However, the passing down of these necessarily brutal techniques had been done without being committed to writing so they were effectively only handed down to a select few. With the occupation lifted, the martial art now known as karate (the name having been changed from te sometime in the 1800s) was now the fighting art of Okinawa. Methods or systems began to evolve and became categorized as different ryu (styles). These ryu took on the characteristics and thinking of those destined to become the masters of that particular system. By 1903 karate had become more or less standardized into these ryu, many of which are still being taught today. (McCarthy, 1987)

Motobu's Style

Against this history, Choki Motobu’s personal fighting style was primarily his own invention rather than a reflection of any established system of the time. He learned some of the Motobu family style by watching his brother practice and utilized the knowledge by bullying others into street fights so that he could test his techniques in action. He had a great deal of enthusiasm for the martial arts, but most Okinawan masters refused to teach him for fear he would certainly misuse the skills (Wilson, 2010). McCarthy seeks to debunk the entirely self-taught notion to some degree, “Although he was reputed by his detractors to have been a violent and crude street fighter, with no formal training, Motobu was a student of several of Okinawa’s most prominent karate practitioners. Many teachers found his habit of testing his fighting prowess via street fights in the tsuji (red light district) undesirable, but his noble birth may have made it hard for them to refuse him instruction (McCarthy, 2002).

In 1923, perhaps in an effort to find greener pastures, Motobu moved with his family to the city of Osaka on mainland Japan and was hired as a night watchman at a textile company. ( Iwai, 1994)     One day he attended a series of exhibition matches by a Russian (or German) boxer who had been touring Japan as part of a cultural exchange program, fighting Japanese jujitsuans and other martial artists (karate was then unknown in Japan). Motobu, though 52 years old at the time, could not resist entering the competition. He is said to have simply dodged and blocked the Russian’s punches for the first round, without countering. In the second round the Russian charged in and was abruptly stopped by a front kick to the solar plexus, then felled by a single strike to the temple (or under the nose). The Russian was knocked unconscious—some say he never fully recovered—to the great astonishment of the audience, who had never seen such techniques. (Wilson, 2010). This great victory, however, was the catalyst to what some martial artists would characterize as one of the most famous conflicts between leading exponents of their art, the two Okinawan karate masters who helped pioneer the introduction of karate into mainland Japan (Apsokardu, 2012).

motobu and funakoshi

As background, Funakoshi Gichin is the founder of what is now called Shotokan Karatedo. He is commonly referred to as the father of Japanese Karate, and rightly so. No one did more to bring karate to the forefront in Japan, and Funakoshi's efforts to get karate recognized by the Japanese Butokukai (the Japanese organization established by the government to oversee, preserve and promote martial arts in Japan) were immensely impressive. Interestingly, among his peers and teachers, Funakoshi was never considered a dominant fighter or technician. He gained his reputation as a gentleman of elegant thought; a man of philosophy, linguistic skill, political acumen, and of course karate talent.(Apsokardu, 2012) Standing in stark contrast to this elegant and culturally polished rival was the practical and pragmatic Motobu (his detractors were in the habit of referring to him by a childhood nickname “Saru” or “ the Monkey”. Which interestingly enough was a nod to his unusual agility).

When the aforementioned boxing event was reported in a 1925 issue of Kingu, (a popular national magazine),  it was Funakoshi's image, not Motobu's that appeared, although Motobu's name was correctly reported. Some have suggested the reason for this error was purposeful, the articles having been authored or information augmented by Funakoshi's students. Another explanation is that image of Motobu just was not available and the magazine just substituted an image. Whatever the reason, this event exacerbated a rivalry that was really based on professional and personal animus. The differences between Funakoshi and Motobu weren't just theoretical; they encountered and disliked one another. Motobu considered Funakoshi to be rather soft and superficial in his understanding of karate. He observed the changes Funakoshi was making (considered school karate) and decried them as moving away from the true core of Okinawan karate that he had seen and experienced.

Funakoshi on the other hand looked upon Motobu with disdain due to his constant rough behavior and his apparent lack of social grace.  Funakoshi did not believe Motobu was a proper representative of karate. Perhaps this was only natural. Funakoshi was a natural politician. He was also organized and philosophical. He had been an Okinawan educator, taught Okinawan school karate, was fluent in Japanese and its social customs, and was comfortable as a karate educator in Japanese society. Motobu, in contrast, had avoided formal schooling on Okinawa, thus never became fluent in the Japanese language or its culture. Motobu's karate was also somewhat self-developed, partly from experience in small personal classes by his karate instructors, partly self-taught in challenge matches the back streets of Okinawa. In personality, Motobu was also much more direct, outspoken and opinionated. 

What is without question, is the popularity generated by this unexpected victory propelled both Motobu and karate to a degree of fame that neither had previously known in Japan. Motobu was petitioned by several prominent individuals to begin teaching. He opened a dojo, the Daidokan, where he taught until the onset of World War II in 1941. Motobu faced considerable difficulties in his teaching, chief among those was his inability to read and speak mainland Japanese. As a result, much of his instruction was through translators, which led to the rumor that he was illiterate. This rumor has been largely discredited by the existence of samples of Motobu's handwriting. Motobu was active in the martial arts until his death on April 15, 1944 in Shuri, Japan. It is worth mentioning that his legacy is being carried on by his third son, Chosei, who at age 91 still teaches his father’s style, Motobu-Ryu.

My introduction to the life of Choki Motobu has brought me back to what FILKENJUTSU SiJo Bruce Corrigan has said on more than one occasion (I will paraphrase): “We know what we teach works, the history of martial arts is populated by some rough individuals, but as a consequence of their lifestyle these techniques are street tested”. Choki Motobu was a fascinating figure to research: practical, pragmatic and dedicated to his craft. 

Gary Hall, February 2017

 Gary Hall (1st on the left, back row) is pictured here after receiving his Black Belt in FILKENJUTSU Kenpo - February 19, 2017.

Gary Hall (1st on the left, back row) is pictured here after receiving his Black Belt in FILKENJUTSU Kenpo - February 19, 2017.


Works Cited

Alexander, G.W. Okinawa, Island of Karate. Lake Worth: Yamazato Publications, 1991. Print.

Apsokardu, Matthew. Funakoshi vs. Motobu. Fighting Arts. 2012. 11 Feb 2017.

Bishop, Mark. Okinawan Karate; Teachers, Styles and Secret Techniques. London: A. & C.                  Black.  1999. Print.

Iwai, Tsukuo. Koden Ryukyu Karatejutsu. Tokyo: Airyudo, 1994. Print. (Partial translation by    Joe Swift)

McCarthy, Pat. Classical Kata of Okinawan Karate. Valencia: Black Belt Communications,    1987. Print.

McCarthy, Patrick and Yuriko. Motobu Choki: Karate, My Art. International Ryukyu Karate                    Research Group. 2002. Print.

Ross, Tom. Choki Motobu: Through the myth to the man. Fighting Arts. 2012. 11 Feb 2017.

Sells, John. Unate. London: W.M. Hawley, 1995. Print 

Wilson, Wendell. Essays on the martial arts. Mineralogical Record. 2010. 11 Feb 2017.