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Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture
Mabuni Quote Image

The recent “Funakoshi Quote” image I put together was pretty popular, so here is one of my favourite Mabuni quotes in the same style!

Dale Parker
Dale Parker's picture

I've often wondered about this quote.  It would seem that Mabuni is refering to Funakoshi's Shotokan.  Yet they were suposedly close friends/associates.

ky0han's picture

Hi Dale,

I have the same feeling like you and I am pretty sure that Mabuni is refering to the Karate Funakoshi introduced at the universities. His private teachings e.g. at the Shotokan must have been different. After all he shows and explains throws in his very first book (1922) and in the following books to.

I wonder whether Mabuni introduced his Karate in Osaka in a "complete manner" or not. Do you know anything about his teachings back then from oral transmissions?

I'll have to take a look at his books again. smiley

Regards Holger

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Dale Parker wrote:
I've often wondered about this quote.  It would seem that Mabuni is referring to Funakoshi's Shotokan.  Yet they were supposedly close friends/associates.

We could maybe draw a distinction here between “Funakoshi’s Shotokan” and “Shotokan” as it evolved?

Funakoshi definitely included throws in his writing and teaching. One of the next images I’m going to put up on facebook is previewed below:

There is also this photo from 1935 which shows Funakoshi (extreme left dressed in black) teaching throws and what appears to be striking on the ground.

I believe this photo was taken in Waseda University in Toyko; which would show that the karate in Toyko at that time, as Funakoshi was teaching it, was not “just part of the whole” but did include throws and locks.

Shigeru Egami – a student of Funakoshi – wrote in his book “The Heart of Karate-do” wrote, “There are also throwing techniques in karate… Throwing techniques were practised in my day, and I recommend that you reconsider them.” So we can see that throws were taught and practised by Egami’s generation, but they were also widely lost during that time.

Mabuni’s quote comes three years (1938) after the above quote from Karate-Do Kyohan and the picture of Funakoshi teaching (1935). So it would seem to me that the loss of throws was starting to happen during that period; as opposed to throwing being instantly removed.

Mabuni’s critique would therefore not seem to be specifically aimed at what Funakoshi introduced, but what was beginning to generally evolve from that.

ky0han wrote:
I wonder whether Mabuni introduced his Karate in Osaka in a "complete manner" or not. Do you know anything about his teachings back then from oral transmissions?

A decade or so ago I interviewed Haruyoshi Yamada when he visited the UK, so I can throw a little something into the mix about Mabuni’s teaching via oral transmission. In the interview we discussed the evolution of Shukokai karate from Tani-Ha Shito Ryu and Shito Ryu. When discussing the training of Chojiro Tani, Yamada said the following:

“Tani Sensei studied under both Miyagi and Mabuni, but he spent much more time learning from Kenwa Mabuni. Tani Sensei studied not just Naha-Te, but also Shuri-Te and Tomri-Te from Mabuni at the university dojo. As well as learning Karate, Tani sensei also studied Shin-den Fudo-ryu Jujutsu and Kobudo under Mabuni.

Mabuni constantly developed the various styles of Karate and the Jujutsu methods and they eventually evolved into Shito-Ryu. However, Mabuni not only taught Tani Sensei Shinto-Ryu, he also taught him the forerunners to the style. In addition to these studies, Tani also studied judo in which he held the rank of 3rd Dan.”

The full interview can be found here: http://www.iainabernethy.co.uk/article/grandmaster-haruyoshi-yamada-interview

So according to the above, it would seem that Mabuni – at least at that point – was teaching quite an eclectic mix of both “old-style” karate, Ju-Jutsu and Shito-Ryu (his personal synthesis of it all). Throwing and locking would seem to have therefore been a standard part of practise. However, we know that they were a standard part of Funakoshi’s karate too in the early days.

Mabuni’s concern that throwing and locking were being lost was bang on the money because, as we now know, it was a practise that was widely abandoned across all karate styles as time progressed. Of course, there were pockets within all styles that kept up the practise, but the wider trend across karate as a whole was to abandon / hugely downplay throws and locks.

Here is a clip from an old Shotokan video showing Taiji Kase demonstrating throws as part of his karate. We can certainly see it is more “modern Shotokan” but the throwing is still there:

So, overall, I think we have a gradual process of general removal which started around the mid-1930s (as opposed to an overnight sea change) and, although widespread, was nevertheless patchy and far from total.

All the best,


Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

Interesting, it brings up the old question of what is the "correct" or peferable way to regain this knowledge. From my own standpoint I can definitely say that my understand of Karate throws only really got anywhere once I took up Ju Jutsu (not BJJ, so lots of throwing). That isn't to say I actively changed anything I learned in kata, or that I am now splicing Jujutsu with Karate, only that with many of the throws, knockdowns, and takedowns I knew from kata, I didn't realize how  badly I was doing them unitl taking up Jujutsu, at which point I was able to refine them and make them more functional.

I've come to the conclusion that part of learning the "complete art" is crosstraining to some degree, not in the sense of leaving your core behind, but in terms of informing it with other arts.

Jose Garcia
Jose Garcia's picture

Perhaps I'm not saying anything you don't know, but in another forum I have read from someone: Karate's first diffusion in Japan tended to convert it in a duel sport with some spirit similar to kendo, thus making the seed of what now we know as sport kumite, so many moves were simplified for competition. This happened perhaps in Shotokan Dojo, but was not what G. Funakoshi teached (his was mainly Shorin Ryu), but his son Yoshitaka and other instructors. In order to identify it as a sport and differentiate ir from spreading Judo, kicks, punches and blocks were emphasized over throws and joint locks. At least in sport kumite foot sweeping are still around. Anyway I think many know the difference between sport kumite and karate bunkai. I have always been told that even Pinan include joint locks and throws, even perhaps since I was white or yellow belt.

Jose Garcia
Jose Garcia's picture

To add more, Funakoshi was not completely happy with the evolution of karate in Japan in his last days.

If you read spanish, there is an interesting article about Shotokan development and the difference between Gichin F.'s karate and what Shotokan came to be. I guess there is many more written about it around. http://webs.ono.com/viclobon/shotokan_tradicional.html#.VJ12BcegC  

Sharing this link I'm not saying Shotokan is bad karate or has no traditional concepts in it, but there is the Myth that Funakoshi was the founder and creator of Shotokan Karate, while the only thing he did about it perhaps was putting the name of the dojo, which perhaps was an open concept karate investigation place, and later on the innovations of some instructors came to be known as Shotokan. The most known part of shotokan around the world seems to be sport aspects and unfortunattely often kihon practice with little or no bunkai, and one antinatural version of Kiba Dachi. But even if Shotokan Style was not the Shorin Ryu of Funakoshi Gichin, there are many deep interesting aspects of Shotokan Kihon (Kase, Harada, etc, or Hutton: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCekOUbElva0WIWCkB14nOfA which i found recently and for me appears very similar to what I think Shotokan practicioners perhaps should know.). Not to mention our host Iain Abernethy, of course.

Well, I guess this aint knew to many here, so sorry if it's a repeat.

Dale Parker
Dale Parker's picture

I've been out for a few days, attending our National Tournament and Masters Seminars in San Diego, Calfornia...

Anyway, I don't have much except that it was difficult in the early 20th century to learn Karate, you had to basically prove you had good character.  What this ended up doing was creating feelings of "elite" status.  Mabuni, himself was a police officer and thus had good credentials and could get into various schools to study, as a result he had more access than most, so perhaps he felt Funakoshi was not adequately teaching or passing on knowledge.  This is of course my opinion.  

Jose Garcia
Jose Garcia's picture

I think it's more probably they were good Karate diffussion fellows. They had shared masters and both came from somehow high okinawan society. I rather to keep on thinking that Funakoshi's sempais in Shotokan Dojo were perhaps mistransmitting some karate concepts, according to Shotokan's History I linked above. This morning I was reading some of them even made some teachings that were the opposite of what Gichin Funakoshi believed, according to these quotes (not from the "misleading senpais") :

Kanazawa: "Nowadays makiwara-zuki is practiced with almost scientifically emphasis on speed and the proper use of force. In the past, we did not care much for the little details, just tried to hit it as hard as we could. This messy practice left us with shattered pieces of skin and straw almost to the bone. When we got home, we had to remove them with pliers and disinfect the wound with iodine. The pain was unbearable."

KAWASOE Masao: "We were asked to front the makiwara everyday - the senpai insisted. You must understand that what senpais said was taken as law. I was used to train that way, but some of the other students were not. With continuous shock, straw pads were covered with blood. The cuts in punches - including mine might add, such was the number of repetitions required - were not allowed to heal and became wider and deeper. If you stopped hitting the makiwara at full power for the pain, senpai, who walked up and down behind you, hit you a bokken to cheer. Sometimes bits of straw were embedded in deep fissures and I can feel now, talking about it, the terrible pain, tearing them. It was a tortuous and senseless training."

NAKAYAMA Masatoshi : "We used to hit the makiwara until our knuckles were bloody"

And all this was apparently the opposite of what Funakoshi said:

"Swollen fists can immerse in cold water to reduce pain and inflammation, but if the skin is ripped, can not use the makiwara for one or two weeks. There are of course some "very brave" high school and college students who do not like to lose and who clench, ignoring the abraded skin, and continue beating until the post padding is stained with blood. Their spirit is admirable, but it is not of great help launching increasingly weak shots. In long term it has no profit."

"The practitioner who brags of calluses on his knuckles has not yet learned the meaning of Karate-do."  

So it would be no wonder to discover many things that today are still considered Funakoshi's heritage -due to they come from Shotokan Dojo- were not such. Funakoshi Gichin didnt even invented long Shotokan stances as they are known today, that is his son Yoshitaka's heritage, for example. Nor was Kenwa Mabuni too, whose zenkutsu and shiko dachi were shorter and higher that what we practise today.

DentoShitoRyu's picture


My informations are from Mabuni Kenei, son of Shito Ryu founder Mabuni Kenwa. So, he said when Jigoro Kano saw his father's bunkai, Kano said, that's minimum godan in Judo! After the Word War II. Kenei sensei was a chiropactor, and at that time to do that, one had to have judo dan rank. Kenei sensei never learn judo, but can get rank, because of his karate. He said, when you're talking about karate in Japan, everybody think of punches and kicks, and throwing techniques belong to judo, joint locking techniques belong to aikido or  ju-jutsu. But karate as budo is complex, throwing and joint locking techniques are part of it.

Of course, he teaches these techniques.

György Pál

Dale Parker
Dale Parker's picture

Jose Garcia wrote:

They had shared masters and both came from somehow high okinawan society. 

I'll need someone like Holger to weigh in on this.  I was always taught that the Mabuni's were essentially middle class.  As for Funakoshi, I have no idea.

Jose Garcia
Jose Garcia's picture

I must recognize being unaccurate with that. I don't really know the differences between social classes in old okinawa. I just meant from what I have read that Mabuni was descendant of a Warrior's family, and Funakoshi from a low-rank Ryūkyūan Peichin. Perhaps that's not top "high society" but I suppose is some social rank that made both able to have recognition in the diffusion of karate, and in similar way were the cases of Miyagi or Motobu. Perhaps other old masters were different (in example perhaps Kambun Uechi, whose trajectory on karate diffussion is quite different) and that was what I meant. Anyway it seems karate diffusion is also perhaps due to the need for a living of class ranks masters in hard times during the transition from the old society to the new or due to personal or familiar circumstances.