Empty Hand - Kenei Mabuni - ebook

Empty Hand ebook

Kenei Mabuni



The Lifework of a Grandmaster of Karate Budo is the path of the Japanese traditional martial arts. Mabuni Kenei has followed this path for almost eight decades until now. He belongs to the last masters taught directly by the founders of modern karatedo. The son and heir of Mabuni Kenwa - the founder of Shito ryu - has acquired a deep understanding of the essence of Karate as a budo art during his course of life. He communicates this extremely complex knowledge to the reader in a vivid and fascinating way. For this purpose he uses his own memories and experiences, technical descriptions, historical and philosophical considerations, legends and anecdotes of the lives of famous samurai and budoka (masters of sword fighting, aikido, Okinawa-te and karate). For the beginner the book provides an idea of the inexhaustible possibilities of budo as a school of life, and the experienced practitioner will find numerous stimuli for his further development and also for his own teaching activities.

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Empty Hand

Kenei Mabuni

In cooperation with Masahiko Yokoyama

Empty Hand

The Essence of Budō-Karate

Edited by Carlos Molina

Translated from Japanese by B. Winter


As to the notation of the Japanese personal names: On the cover and the title sheet the name of the author has been written according to the conventions of the English-speaking countries, i.e. in the order first name, last name. In the text of the book the usual notation of Japanese names is used, i.e. the last name followed by the first name.

The publisher would like to thank Jörg Seidel, Chemnitz, for proofreading the English edition. Furthermore he thanks Patrick McCarthy, Brisbane (Australia) for putting the photograph of Itosu Ankō at his disposal.

First English Edition

1 st ed. May 2009

Original title:

武道空手への招待(»Invitation to Budō-Karate«)

© 2001 by Sanko-sha Ltd.

Translation from Japanese by B. Winter

© 2009 by Palisander Verlag, Chemnitz

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval) without permission in writing from the publisher.

Cover design: Anja Elstner, using a drawing by Matthias Stein and the Shitō ryū emblem.

Publisher's editor: Frank Elstner

Setting: Frank Elstner

1 st Digital Editon

Digital Publication by Zeilenwert GmbH

ISBN 9783938305249


Sōke Mabuni Kenei (2001)

Union Shitō ryū Europe

Internet: www.shitoryu-europe.org

The Author

Mabuni Kenei, holder of the 10th Dan, was born in 1918 on Okinawa, the birthplace of karatedō. As the son of Mabuni Kenwa, the founder of the Shitō ryū and one of the most important karate experts in history, from his childhood on he was in touch with karate and some of its greatest masters. At the age of 34 he became the head of Shitō ryū. Even today, in his old age, he holds seminars in different parts of the world where he teaches authentic karatedō.

The Publisher

Carlos Molina, the editor, holder of the 7th Dan, was born in 1947 in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. He became one of the first disciples of Mabuni Kenei in Latin America. Since 1976 he has introduced the Shitō karate in the Federal Republic of Germany. Today he is the Shitō ryū representative in Germany.

Sōke Mabuni Kenei und Shihan Carlos Molina (2007)


The editor thanks his disciple Mrs Silvia Pellegrini for her extraordinary efforts to realize this project.


The copyright for the photograph on p. 4 and for the photographs no. 5 to 10, 12 to 15, 20, 22, 24 to 80, 82 to 87 and 96 is owned by the author. The copyright for the photograph on p. 6 and photograph no. 21 is owned by Carlos Molina. The other photographs and illustrations are public domain. On many of the photos Mizuguchi Hirofumi – sometimes together with the author – can be seen demonstrating techniques.

Table of Contents




Sōke Mabuni Kenei


Preface by the Editor


A Martial for Everyone

Karate as a Means for Physical, Martial and Spiritual Education

The Emergence of Modern Karate

Karate and Health

The Physical Effects of Karate

Karate in Dangerous Situations

Karate as a Spiritual Martial Art

The Breathing Techniques in Karate

The State of Total Inner Calmness

I Budō Karate

1 The Development of Karate

1.1 Karate as Fighting Technique

Unarmed Fighting in Ancient Times

Shaolin Kempō – the Fighting Techniques of the Warrior Monks

The Influence of the Chinese Kempō on the Japanese and Okinawan Martial Arts

Karate – the Fundament of Martial Arts

1.2 The Emergence of Karate on Okinawa

The Old Okinawa-te

The Kata of the Shuri-te

The Jigen Sword Technique and the Shuri-te

Drawing a Circle With a Straight Line

The Emergence of the Naha-te

The Origins of the Tomari-te

The Shitō Style as Heritage of the Okinawa-te

2 Shitō Karate – the Teachings of Mabuni Kenwa

2.1 “Captured” in the World of Budō

Striving for a Healthy Body

A Life Without Selfishness and Greed

Praised by Kanō Jigorō

Funakoshi Gichin Learned Kata From My Father

The Creation of the Shitō Ryū

Following My Father’s Footsteps

My Father’s Goals

Shitō Karate is Authentic Budō Karate

2.2 The Pleasure of Learning and Teaching Karate

How to Teach Karate

Karate for Children and Youngsters

The Wealth of the Traditional Kata

Karate in Europe

A Lack of True Leaders in Karate

3 How to Overcome the Own Limits

3.1 Karate – More than Kicks and Punches

Yagyū Sekishūsai and the Art of Mutō Dori

Karate Turns the Whole Body into a Weapon

How to Harden the Body

Thrusts with Muchimi

Karate as Support for Every Budōka

3.2 Blocking is Attacking – Without Beat

Starting With a Block

Blocking the Opponent’s Attack With a More Powerful Counterattack

Rhythm and Speed

The Five Principles of Blocking

3.3 Learning the Techniques

The Diversity of the Kata Techniques

Three Principles of the Bujutsu

The Principle of Hikite

Understanding the Heian Sandan Kata as Fighting Technique

The Gojūshiho Kata, and how to Cope with Unexpected Attacks

The Kata Niipaipo and Haufā

4 Criticizing Present-Day Budō

4.1 Budō Becoming Sport

Sport or Martial Technique

Competitive Sports and Ritual Games

Hagoita – Ritual and Game

Sports or Budō – What is More Serious?

Separation of Sports and Budō

Sundome and Full Contact

4.2 Modern Competition and Budō

The Assessment of Competition Kata

Is Modern Karate Really a Progress?

Flowing Techniques – Consciousness Going Ahead

Learning in the Flow of the Practice

The Reductionism of Sports

Competition Karate Returning to Ancient Patterns

4.3 The Unity of Soul, Body and Technique

Testing the Abilities Before Kumite Came into Use

Harmony instead of Competition

“There is no First Attack in Karate”

II The Spirit of Budō

1 The Essence of Budō

1.1 The Difference between Budō and Violence

Taking Life, Giving Life

Karate and the Spirit of Respect (Shurei)

The Meaning of the Karate Techniques

The “Superhuman Techniques” of Ueshiba Morihei

The Main Principle of Karate: The Body Follows the Mind

1.2 Beyond the Natural Movements of the Body

Reacting to Natural Changes

“God-like” Techniques, and the Falling Dewdrop

The Magic Experience of the Control of Gravity

Ambling, and the Parallel Punch

The Release of Power in Budō and Sports

The Crab Walk, and “Taking the Knees out”

2 Victory or Defeat

2.1 Their Famous Fights

Ōyama Masutatsu’s Report

A Lack of Heroic Stories

Matsumura’s Fight with his Bride

Matsumura and the Bull they Called “the Killer”

Knocking down a Raging Bull

2.2 Not to Lose Means Winning

Victory Without Struggle

A Victory by Running Away

Matsumura Sōkon and the Big Guy

The “Miyamoto Musashi of the Ryūkyūs”

2.3 The Absolute Will to Win in the Yagyū Ryū

Sword Fighting and “Mental Cleansing”

The “Life Saving Sword”

Mutō Dori and the Point of Origin of Karate

Yamaoka Tesshū and the Mutō Dori

Karate and the Yagyū Ryū

2.4 The “Soundless Kamae”

The Satori of Yamaoka Tesshū

“There is no Kamae in Karate”

The Simultaneous Withdrawal of Both Opponents

The Utmost Spheres of Bu Are Beyond those of Zen

A Sword with Blunt Blade

3 Karate as “Zen in Motion”

3.1 The Sphere of Emptiness (Kū) in Karate

Karate as the “Fist of the Nobles”

The Sūpārinpai Kata and the Worldly Desires that Cause Suffering

Karate – the Hand Reaching into the Spheres of Emptiness

The Enlightenment of the Novelist

The Buddha Nature in the Depths of the Heart

3.2 “Zen in motion”, and the Rules of Breathing

“Zen in motion” – the Unity of Body, Soul and Technique

Arranging the Soul

Regulating Body and Breathing

Types and Forms of Breathing

Yin and Yang in Breathing

3.3 Preventing Disorder

Methods to Prevent Disorder

The Story of the Marvelous Techniques of the Old Cat

Theory and Experience

The Spirit of Death Defiance

Preventing Disorder

Bu – Never Accomplished

Afterword by the Editor of the Japanese Edition


Preface by the Editor

I met sensei Mabuni Kenei for the first time in November 1965. At that time I was 18 years old and sensei Mabuni came to my hometown Que­tzal­tenango for a karate demonstration together with a group of karateka from the capital Guatemala City. Already in ancient times Quetzaltenango was a Maya city and it is the second largest city of Guatemala today.

Sensei Mabuni had already been staying in Central America for a year, at first in Mexico following an invitation by sensei Murata Nobuyoshi, and then in Guatemala where at that time about one thousand karateka were practicing Shitō ryū.

I still had no karate experience, nevertheless I realized that there was a great difference between the way of moving demonstrated by sensei Mabuni and the performance of the other karateka representing various schools. I was so impressed that I decided on the spot to study karate. So, I joined the Shitō ryū club in my hometown. My first teachers were Jorge Sosa and Nobuyoshi Murata. I learned the basics of Shitō ryū and a lot about the history of the Mabuni family from sensei Murata.

In 1969 when I received the 1stkyū I got the chance to attend a lesson by sensei Mabuni in Guatemala City. This was a great honor for me. About 20 disciples, all of them holders of the 1stkyū degree participated in this lesson. We all had studied different karate techniques for several years, but Sensei Mabuni exclusively trained breathing techniques with us. After two hours of such exercises, of the 20 participants only a friend of mine and myself were ready to continue. The other ones left the training room because they could not bear the constraints caused by the breathing techniques any longer. When the two of us were alone with sensei Mabuni he said: “Now you can begin to study karatedō.”

Sensei Mabuni stayed for another year in the Guatemalan capital. To attend his lessons we traveled every week the 120 miles between Quetzaltenango and Guatemala City.

In 1974 Sensei Mabuni came for the last time to Guatemala. At that time I held the 2nddan. In 1976 I decided to visit my Sensei in Japan. However, on the way to Japan first I came to Europe – to Berlin. Here I met a lot of people who asked me to teach them karate. So, I stayed there.

I met Sensei Mabuni again only in 1984 – on Corsica. He was invited by sensei Nakahashi Hidetoshi who had been living in France for many years. Hence I became a disciple of sensei Nakahashi until sensei Mabuni accepted me as his uchi deshi1. Since then I have been trying very hard to deepen my understanding of Shitō ryū karate under the guidance of sensei Mabuni and supported by sensei Nakahashi and Sensei Hatano. Thanks to sensei Mabuni I could learn a lot about the essence of budō karate. He always emphasized that karate is no sport but a way of life that can be helpful in any situation.

I feel grateful and happy that sensei Mabuni has decided to express his ideas in this book that has become not only a source of the Shitō ryū but also shows the history of the origins of karate as martial art and way of life. When I look back to my first steps in karatedō, trying to compare my personal character of those days with the present one I realize how much I have changed. Only now I begin to understand what he ceaselessly has taught since then. Sensei Mabuni always stressed the importance of values like politeness, charity, respect and grace, and he always warned us of the dangers of mistrust, laziness, pride and envy. Although I am not always able to achieve all of this in my own life I begin to understand that these values are the basis of social and human existence. There is a motto he always uses to repeat and that is now deeply ingrained in my heart: “Try to improve, become better today than you were yesterday, and tomorrow become better than today.”

I am deeply grateful that sensei Mabuni gave us this book. It is a treasury of wisdom!

Shihan Carlos Molina, Corsika, 1 August 2007


A Martial Art for Everyone

I was born in 1918. I have been happy to spend all my life with karate. My father, Mabuni Kenwa, who founded the Shitō karate, always said: “Anyone can practice karate, young and old people, men and women.” Karate can meet different needs of different people. It can be used to take care of the health and to maintain beauty and fitness, and of course it can be a means of self-defense or of real fighting. But that is not all. In particular budō2 karate is not only a system of physical techniques, called taijutsu, but also rich in mental techniques, called shinjutsu. Once during a kata performance by an experienced karateka, I heard a bystander saying: “Just by feeling this spiritual energy, I understand that karate is something of great value.”

Other people like karate as a means of artistic expression. For example, at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000 the Austrian team in synchronized swimming caused considerable public discussion because they included a karate kata called Heian yondan into their performance. In August 2001 in the Nihon Budōkan the 3rd Shitō Karate World Meeting took place. I met a famous Japanese dancer there who told me: “I can see a connection between karate and dance.”

To my mind karate can be compared with a huge mountain that can be climbed via many different paths, which will reveal very different sights according to the point of view or to the season. Neither the aims nor the paths of this mountain hiking adventure are fixed. Some walk slowly up the hillside to build up their physical strength, others, the ambitious mountaineers, want to climb the highest and steepest summits at any cost.

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!