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Guest Post: Yabiku Moden

This Guest Post is by Mario McKenna of the Okinawa Karatedo Kitsilano Dojo in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Mario is an instructor of Tou'on-ryu Karatedo and Ryukyu Kobudo. He is the English translator of Kobo Jizai Goshinjutsu Karate Kenpo (Kenwa Mabuni, 1934) and Seipai no Kenkyu Kobo Jizai Karate Kenpo (Kenwa Mabuni, 1934). His article Okinawa Kata Classification: An Historical Overview appears at the Hawaii Karate Seinenkai website. Mario also has an excellent Karate Blog.

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Yabiku Moden is an important but little known figure in kobudo history. He was born in Shuri and was the eldest son of four children. His father, Yabiku Mayo, was a strict but fair man who demanded much from his children. Because he was such a frail and skinny boy in his youth, Yabiku Moden was nick named "scarecrow" and was often teased and bullied by other children. Like many of his contemporaries, Yabiku Moden resolved to make his body and mind strong and as a result began the study of Karate under Itosu Sensei and Ryukyu Kobujutsu under various teachers including Tawada, Pechin Sensei and Chinen, Sanda Sensei (Nakamoto, 1983; Alexander, 1991; Bishop, 1996).

After graduating from the Okinawa Prefectural Teacher's College, he taught at Bito elementary school. Already by this time he had excelled in his Karate-do and Kobudo training. It was also during this time that he began to teach Karate and Kobudo formally to the local people of Bito. Around 1911, after moving to the Japanese mainland in search for better work, Yabiku Sensei founded the Ryukyu Kobujutsu Kenkyu Kai (Ryukyu Kobujutsu Research Association) in order to promote and popularize Kobudo throughout Japan (Nakamoto, 1983; Bishop, 1996).

Yabiku Sensei's dojo was probably the first Ryukyu Kobudo dojo on the Japanese mainland which openly taught to mainland Japanese (Sells, 1994). Besides his talent in Karate-do and Kobudo, Yabiku Sensei was known as a master story teller and would enthral his students with stories of the old Okinawa Bushi of a by-gone era (Nakamoto, 1983).

In his daily life it was said that Yabiku Sensei was constantly challenging himself through the study of Budo by always trying to overcome his physical and mental limitations. He is known, for example, to have worn iron geta (clogs) from morning to night in order to strengthen his legs and hips (Nakamoto, 1983)! To strengthen his arms and hands, he would grasp the frame of the ceiling of his home and travel around its perimeter using only his arms (Nakamoto, 1983). On a personal level, Yabiku Sensei was said to have been a deeply religious man who did not drink alcohol or smoke and was never heard to say a bad word against anyone (Nakamoto, 1983). Yabiku Sensei died on June 23, 1941 at the age of 63.

Mario McKenna