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Seio Morikone: A Dirty Suit Can Be Cleaned

Born in Katsurin, Nakagin Kun, Okinawa, Seio Morikone (1881-1977) attended the Shuri Daiichu (Shuri First School). Because his hometown was far away, his family had to pool the family resources to pay the tuition and allow him to stay at a dormitory at the school. He went on to become a school teacher in Okinawa. While in school and during training to become a teacher at the Shihan Gakko, Morikone learned Karate from Anko Itosu (about 1830 - 1915, student of Sokon Matsumura), who was also called Itosu No Tanme and Ichiji No Tanme. It appears that he learned many Shuri kata, including Naihanchi, Pinan (he actually began training before the Pinan kata were formulated by Itosu), and Kusanku. Having attended the Shuri Daiichu from the age of 13, it appears that Morikone studied with Itosu for about 14 years. Itosu selected his private students by their character and they had to abide by a strict code of self-discipline and non-violence.

In 1906, at the age of 27, Morikone immigrated to Hawaii, settling in the Ninole district of Hakalau, on the Big Island. There, he leased land from a sugar cane plantation, hired workers, and ran a small sugar cane operation of his own. Morikone often helped other Okinawan immigrants. Because of his higher education, he could read and write Japanese. Many immigrants could not do this and relied on Morione for assistance with documents and translation.

He moved to the island of Oahu around 1930 (three years after the visit of Kentsu Yabu, Itosu's senior student -- Yabu visited Oahu, Kauai and Maui, but not the Big Island). Morikone went to work for the Hine Clark Dairy in Ainahaina. Later, he raised chickens at his family's large home in Kaimuki.

When Mizuho Mutsu and Kamesuke Higashionna came to Hawaii in 1933, they went to visit Morikone to pay their respects. They asked to see his kata. Morikone had his son Goro (Gary) demonstrate the Pinan kata. Morikone went with Mutsu and Higashionna to the old Jikoen Temple to give a demonstration. He gave a speech about Karate and demonstrated the Naihanchi kata. Even into his 80's, Morikone was also known to occasionally demonstrate Karate at family parties and picnics.

Morikone taught Karate to children in the neighborhood and to a few adult students. It appears that Seishin Uehara and Thomas Shigeru Miyashiro learned from him, as did Taru (or Taro) Azama, who was related by marriage. He never accepted money for teaching. Students would often bring manju and anpan (Japanese pastries) to show their appreciation to their sensei.

It was often said that Choshin Chibana (1885 - 1969), was Itosu's last student. Actually, Morikone, who lived to the age of 96, was the last senior student of Itosu.

Morikone used to say that Karate students should learn to be like the rice plant: when the rice stalk is mature, it bends. In the same way, when a Karate student learns, he should bow and be humble.

One day, Morikone attended a wedding here in Honolulu with his wife. He wore his best suit. At some point during the wedding reception, some young men became rowdy and began to push Morikone around. Morikone did not strike any of the young men and eventually was pushed into a mud puddle at which point the young men wandered off.

Later, Mrs. Morikone asked her husband why he did not defend himself. After all, Morikone was likely the most senior Karate instructor in Hawaii.

Morikone explained that a dirty suit can be cleaned. When Karate is used, people can become injured or even killed. The harm is permanent.

A dirty suit can be cleaned. Harming others cannot be undone.

Morikone, a student of Anko Itosu, is remembered for not using his Karate. In this way, he represents the highest ideals of the art embodied by his sensei's (Itosu's) maxim: "Karate is a means of avoiding the use of one's hands and feet in a fight."


Charles C. Goodin