Written by Motobu Naoki, translated by Andreas Quast
Motobu Chōmo (1890–1945) was the second son of Motobu Chōyū. His nickname was Torajū. He got this nickname because he was strong, quick-witted and agile, reminiscent of a tiger’s tail. He also came to Ōsaka during the Taishō period (1912–1926) and was active together with Motobu Chōki for a period of time. When Motobu Chōki opened his dōjō in Ōsaka, Chōmo seems to have acted as an assistant instructor.
Later on he moved to Wakayama where he also interacted with Uechi Kanbun sensei. Just at that time, in order to hand down Motobu Udundī, Chōyū sensei dispatched Uehara Seikichi sensei to Wakayama where he instructed Chōmo in Udundī for half a year.
Originally, Chōyū’s eldest son, Motobu Chōmei, was meant to succeed Udundī, but because he did not show the intention to succeed, the second son, Chōmo, succeeded Udundī. Once, Chōmo visited his older brother Chōmei who was living in Kaizuka in Ōsaka.
As Nabi, the mother of sōke [Motobu Chōsei] was watching the situation at that time, while Chōmo said to Chōmei “I feel that you are in a good mood,” she was surprised at how the Udun brothers made contact, since Chōmo fell prostrate before Chōmei, such as a retainer did before his lord.
Well, besides Udundī, Chōmo knew several general kata of karate. However, these were not kata that had been modified for physical education since the time of Itosu, but so-called old school kata (koryū kata). One of them was a kata called ‘Tomaikun’.
More than ten years ago, I heard from Uchima Anyū the story about this kata that his uncle has studied it under Motobu Chōmo. At first, I thought Tomaikun was “Tomari (Tomai in dialect) no Kūsankū”. Because Uehara sensei referred to Kūsankū Dai (公相君大) as Ufukun (大君), I thought that ‘kun’ referred to the last character of Kūsankū, i.e. kun 君.
However, the answer is that Tomaikun is different from the composition of Kūsankū and is a different kata. Unfortunately, while Tomaikun was a kata of the deepest and most important core of the art, it is said to have been forgotten and to be a lost tradition. But it is said to have had one feature distinctive from ordinary kata, that is, it did not use the regular fist (seiken) to strike, but the intermediate phalanges, with a hand gripping method similar to that of the so-called flat fist (hiraken).
As a matter of fact, this method of striking is also found in the Motobu Udundī.
Therefore, while I think that Tomaikun was handed down by Chōyū, it has become a mystery today, including the kata itself. In this way, persons from the Motobu family knew an original kata that can not be seen anymore today.
The original Japanese article was written on March 9, 2018 on Ameblo, and the English translation was written on March 11, 2018.
Written by Motobu Naoki
Shihan, Motobu Kenpō 7th dan, Motobu Udundī 7th dan. Discusses the history of karate and martial arts, and introduces Japanese culture and history.