Master Motobu was born in Shuri, and his early ambition was to become the strongest man in Okinawa. He thus trained rigorously every day, lifting stone weights and hitting the makiwara (striking post) a thousand times a day. As for training equipment, Motobu stressed the use of the makiwara and the chishi and sashi (traditional Okinawan tools for building the strength of the hands and arms). He also practiced a crude form of weight training by lifting a heavy stone weighing about 130 pounds to his shoulders daily. He was also very agile and got the nickname “Motobu-saru” (Monkey Motobu) not only because of his rough behavior, but also because of his remarkable agility in climbing trees and moving nimbly from branch to branch.
Motobu originally studied karate with Yasutsune Itosu, the leading master of Shuri-te. He later studied with Tomari‑te’s Kosaku Matsumora and with Master Sakuma. In his own teaching, Motobu required that kata relate to combat. Motubu was a strong believer in ju kumite (free sparring) as a method of refining technique. Motobu used a natural stance and stressed training the weaker side of the body to make it as strong as the other side. He frequently told his students, “Defend the center of the body and attack the center of the body.” He also made full use of the lead hand for striking. The forefist, backfist, elbow, and one-knuckle fist (keikoken) were his favorite weapons.