In 1921, in Kyoto, a series of contests were held between boxers and judoka (judo practitioners). These gave rise to much discussion and drew many enthusiastic spectators. The fights were often extremely violent and surprised even those onlookers who regularly attended the annual contests at the Butokuden
One day, during the action, someone with the appearance of an old countryman went over to the organisers and asked if a late entry to the fighting would be allowed. The following conversation occurred.
“Mmm. Who is it you wish to enter?”
“What? You? . . . Are you a judoka then, or a boxer?
“Well what have you trained in then?”
“Nothing special. But I think I could manage this type of contest – So will you let me enter?”
“Yes, let him enter!” cried some of the onlookers who had been following all this with interest. “Everybody would want to see a surprise entrant.”
“But he says he doesn’t do judo or boxing. I wonder if he does some form of provincial wrestling.”
“It doesn’t matter. Since he wants to enter he must have learned something – if not he’s an idiot. Let him enter!”
“Well OK,” said the promoter. “Do you know the rules?”
“Rules?” replied Motobu. “What rules?”
As you now see, the contestant was none other than Motobu Choki, legendary Okinawan Karate fist fighter.
“It’s forbidden to strike with the bare fists and feet.”
“Mmhm… What about an attack with the open hand?”
“Fine, let’s get on with it.”
“Wait a minute. What uniform are you going to wear!”
“I’ll just wear my ordinary clothes”.
“Those you’re wearing now? You can’t do that! I’ll lend you a judo jacket.”
The promoter brought a judogi, and looked at Motobu, still trying to make him out. Motobu’s Japanese wasn’t really perfect either, since he talked with a thick Okinawan accent. However, as he stripped a murmur of surprise arose from the onlookers. Although his face was that of a man well over fifty, the muscular development of his arms and shoulders was impressive and his hips and thighs looked extremely powerful.
Motobu was asked who he wanted to fight; a boxer or a judoka.
He replied “Whoever you like,” and the organisers decided to send him against a newly arrived foreign boxer named George. [No family name or nationality is given in the article. The name may even be invented].
As the contestants entered the arena a cry rose from the crowd.
“Look! A surprise entry” . . . “Who is this Motobu? I’ve never heard of him” . . . “He looks like an old man. What’s someone like him entering a contest like this for?!” the crowd shouted.
The contrast between the two men was striking.
Here was a boxer seemingly brimming with vitality, against a man of fifty who stood only 5 feet 3. As the bell rang, George [who some researchers believe was actually a Russian] took up a traditional boxing guard and moved about looking for an opening.
Motobu lowered his hips, raising his left hand high with his right hand close to his cheek. The spectators thought this looked like some kind of sword dance, (karate was more or less unknown in Japan at this time) but actually it was the opening position of the ‘Pinan Yondan’ kata.
It was Motobu’s trap.
George, the expert boxer, seemed surprised by the ability of his opponent whose guard presented few weak spots. He contented himself with searching for an opening, continually moving his fists around and feinting in the air.
Motobu kept his position.
George’s breathing grew less steady and, realizing that he might tire himself out if he didn’t strike soon, he edged forward and sent out a flurry of blows to Motobu’s face. Everyone expected to see the end of Motobu – but, without moving his position he parried the blows with his open hands and forced his opponent to back away again.
Growing more and more frustrated as the fight went on, George steeled himself for an all out attack. He finally drew back his right hand and threw a haymaker punch with all his strength at Choki Motobu’s head.
But just at the moment when it seemed as if Motobu’s face would be smashed to pieces he warded off the punch with his left hand – and at that instant struck George in the face with the palmof his right hand. George, struck on the vital point just below the nose with the rising palm strike, fell to the ground like a block of wood.
Everyone was shouting!
“What had happened?! It’s already over?”
The organisers went to look for someone to help George who was still unconscious. “What a formidable old man!”
Various people who went to talk to Motobu were astonished by his hands, calloused and almost as hard as stone. Even a blow with the open hand would be terrible, they thought.
“Ryukyu Karate,” said one. “Hmm. I didn’t know such an art existed. In fact, you have such trained hands that you don’t need to be armed. The hands themselves are terrible weapons.”
Spectators and contestants continued to talk for hours about the events which had taken place.