Motobu Seminar 2005 Review

Way back on July 23, 2005 (in Las Vegas), I was fortunate enough to attend a great seminar with some great instructors. Here’s my review for old times sake.

In the study of Okinawan Karate history, the name of Choki Motobu stands out as a legendary figure. However, this golden age of Karate was nearly a hundred years ago so any chance of me being near such heroes has always been ephemeral. That is until Prof. Kimo Ferreira and Prof. Tom Ingargiola invited me to their Kempo seminar in Las Vegas. The guest of honor was none other than Chosei Motobu sensei and his senior student Takeji Inaba sensei.

The son of one of Karate’s greatest instructors taught class. Both Motobu sensei and Inaba sensei don’t speak English, so Keiko Ferreira translated. The whole experience was surreal and exciting. Though freshly 81 years old, Motobu sensei moved with assured quickness and intent. Fifty years of teaching shows in all his movements.

The seminar was divided into three sections. The first section was on Shaolin Kempo concepts applied to techniques. The second featured Prof. Kimo Ferreira and his Kempo Jutsu. For the finale, we learned the kumite pattern of Motobu-ryu.

Prof. Tom opened the class up with warm-up exercises and shadow boxing but he quickly transitioned into several new techniques focusing on principles. He said students should avoid backing up into the power area of the opponent, rather one should move to safe areas like the side or behind the opponent. Several of his techniques were taught in July’s classes.

For those who are unfamiliar with Prof. Kimo, he studied Karazenpo Go Shinjutsu under GM Walter Godin, the co-founder of KGS with GM Sonny Gascon. He emphasizes the jujitsu aspect of Kempo, showing bunkai for several katas. His techniques favor absorbing principles and striking pressure points. His introduction to Kake-te drill was the highlight of his section. This drill will be introduced into our intermediate classes. It’s a great pre-sparring drill for developing combinations, accuracy, and muscle memory.

Motobu-sensei demonstrated Naihanchi one and two (Monkey Dance 11 and 14) from his families system. He said Naihanchi three was a later addition and not part of the original catalog of kata. Motobu-sensei began teaching Ju Ni Hon that is a set of 12 combinations. These techniques are similar to defense maneuvers or kempos except he calls them kumite techniques.

The seminar closed with his introduction to the Motobu-ryu Palace Hands secret style, which he learned from his uncle and a question period. It was great to see some of my old friends again.