Sunday 22 October 2023

空手に先手無し (Motobu's Perspective)

 Motobu Choki’s commentary about the traditional teaching of 空手に先手無し (Karate ni sente nashi — “There is no first attack in karate”) are pragmatically valuable. I certainly agree with this, coming from a security background where I had a lot of real fights. Accordingly, I decided to share Motobu's view today.

Ironically, it is an understatement to say: 'Motobu and Funakoshi Sensei did not like each other very much'. Nevertheless, and irrespective if this, "...we must not disregard accurate knowledge due to any interpersonal matters", which have nothing to do with us.




Motobu stated, “There is a saying in the martial arts, ‘karate ni sente nashi’, which is often literally interpreted as meaning ‘no pre-emptive strike’. Unfortunately, this phrase is terribly misunderstood, especially by those who interpret it literally and, often, teach according to this misinterpretation. Actually, attacking first is not wrong; however, in the same breath allow me to also say that it’s not budo spirit to ever attack anyone without just cause. Moreover, I believe that almost everybody agrees that this is our priority in both physical and psychological training. Therefore, ‘Karate ni sente nashi’ is a phase that should remind us all (karate practitioners) to never unscrupulously strike or harm anyone without just cause; furthermore, to maintain physical, mental and emotional control at all times.”


Also, in these regards, he pointed out: “When you fight you must do so fiercely, otherwise you risk death or serious harm. Therefore, once it’s been established that a fight is about to ensue, the most important thing is to win. There is no other alternative in a desperate situation. Understanding this rationale places the saying in a different light and allows us to see why attacking first is both a valuable and necessary tool. Think about this mindfully”. 

Motobu only practiced one kata: Naifanchi (TEKKI). While it is very useful to practice an array of different kata, it is essential to 'MASTER' between one and three: This is the traditional Budo/Bujutsu way, and is reflected in our IKS Grading Syllabus.

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2023).

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