Choki Motobu: A Real Fighter
has not treated all the old karate masters equally.
Some have had their praises sung many times in print while others,
equally accomplished, have been all but forgotten. It would be
nice to turn the spotlight onto some of these little known figures
but so much karate history has been lost that it is often impossible.
Karate was introduced into Japan in the 1920's when several masters
came from Okinawa to teach the art. The best known of these today
are Gichin Funakoshi, who founded the Shotokan school; Chojun
Miyagi (Goju style), and Kenwa Mabuni (Shito style). There were
others however such as Kanken Toyama, Moden Yabiku, Kanbum Uechi;
and Choki Motobu, who in many ways was the most interesting of
them all. Unlike Funakoshi, Myagi and Mabuni, though, Choki Motobu
did not leave behind him a major karate school. Perhaps he never
organized his methods into a formal system, or maybe he was too
much of an individualist.
Motobu was born in Shuri, the old capital of Okinawa, in 1871.
He had considerable local fame in Okinawa as a fighter-strongman
but it was only after he moved to Osaka in 1921 that he became
known in Japanese martial art circles.
What brought Motobu to the attention of the Japanese was his victory
over a western boxer in a kind of all-comers challenge match.
In the earlier part of this century such bouts were occasionally
held in Japan pitting western boxers against judo or jujutsu men,
(karate was unknown in Japan around this time). These were not
"official" bouts for any sort of legitimate title, but
something more like sideshow attractions. The results of such
bouts have even been recorded in a few cases. Boxing historians
for example are fond of pointing out that, back in 1928 in Yokohama,
top bantamweight Packy O'Gatty KO'd a Japanese jujutsu man named
Shimakado in 14 seconds. That 14 seconds included the full count,
by the way. E. J. Harrison also mentioned in passing a couple
of boxing vs. judo shows in his book, The Fighting Spirit of Japan,
first published in 1913. Few of the fighters in these events were
champions in their sports, but the shows did arouse interest in
a certain section of the populace.
Anyway, this was the background to Motobu's victory which so delighted
the people back in Okinawa when they heard about it. Soon after
Motobu settled in Japan he went to watch a boxing vs. judo show
in Kyoto. A boxer taking part beat several judomen rather easily
and then issued an open challenge. Moreover, the challenge was
issued in a boastful and derogatory way. Choki Motobu, who was
sitting in the audience stepped up onto the stage (or ring) and
in the ensuing battle he knocked the boxer out-probably with a
punch, or series of punches, to the head. That is about as much
as we can say about it since no contemporary reports of the fight
I knew that the Japanese magazine Kingu (King) had published a
story on Motobu and the boxer back in 1925, but when I finally
tracked this down and read the translation I found that it was
a piece of imaginative, popular journalism rather than an accurate
blow-by-blow report. However, the importance of this feature lay
not in its accuracy as a fight report but in the publicity it
gave to what had previously been an obscure event. King was the
major general interest magazine at the time with a circulation
of over a million and this is how Motobu's exploits came to be
widely reported. For the record, the King story states that Motobu
knocked the boxer unconscious with a rising palm heel strike.
On the other hand, Seiyu Oyata, a modern day Okinawan karate expert,
states that Motobu won the fight by kicking the boxer in the solar
plexus and finishing him off with a strike to the neck. Shoshin
Nagamine (Shorin-ryu) says that the knockout came in the third
round from a strike to the temple. Motobu hit the boxer so hard
that he was knocked down and blood came from his ears. Nagamine
was told by Motobu that he had won a hundred yen by betting on
There is no doubt that Choki Motobu was a formidable fighter.
Hironori Ohtsuka, the founder of Wado-ryu, knew Motobu in the
1930s and recalled that he was "definitely a very strong
fighter." Ohtsuka remembered seeing a fight, or maybe it
was more of a sparring match, between Motobu and a boxer named
Piston Horiguchi. Motobu blocked all the boxer's attacks and Horiguchi
was unable to land a single clean punch.
Choki Motobu was over 50 years old when he defeated the Western
boxer! People on Okinawa used to say that he liked to fight more
than anything else, and certainly he did not seem to mind a good
brawl. In 1932, when he was 60 years old, a group of expatriate
Okinawans brought him to Hawaii to face the fighters there, presumably
boxers and judomen. However, no bouts took place because the Hawaiian
immigration authorities considered him an undesirable and he had
to leave almost immediately.
Motobu was born into a high ranking family at a time when education
and privilege were reserved for the first born son. Consequently,
as a third son, he was rather neglected. His elder brothers, however
(and particularly Choyu Motobu, the eldest) were good karateka
and he may have learned something of the art from them.
As a young man, Choki Motobu's ambition was to become the strongest
man in Okinawa. To fulfill this ambition he trained himself every
day, lifting stone weights and hitting the makiwara (striking
post). There are stories that he would hit the makiwara a thousand
times a day, and even if this is an exaggeration it illustrates
the importance he attached to this training drill. Nagamine recalls
that Motobu would sometimes sleep outside, (when he slept inside
the dojo he would lie on the hard wooden floor, without a mattress),
and if he woke up during the night, rather than turning over and
going back to sleep he would get up and hit the makiwara. Motobu
was also very agile and quick and he 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 from branch to branch as nimbly as a monkey.
In his youth at least he seems to have been a good natural athlete.
He was a good runner too, and Japanese karate expert Hiroyasu
Tamae writes of one occasion when Motobu was fighting attackers
then ran off, jumped nimbly onto a roof and began tearing off
the roofing tiles and throwing them at his assailants, beating
them off in this way. Tamae makes the point that Okinawan roof
tiles are secured very strongly to withstand typhoons, and it
requires powerful hands and arms to tear them loose, but for a
man reputed to be the best fighter on Okinawa it still seems a
strange way to act. I guess Motobu's behavior was just eccentric
at times. Gichin Funakoshi used to say that he never knew what
Motobu would get up to next.
Choki Motobu's idea of a good training session was to go down
to Naha's entertainment district and pick fights. This area was
well known for street fighting and Motobu picked up valuable experience
in this way. Being bigger and stronger than the average Okinawan
he usually won these fights but there was one occasion when he
tackled a man called Itarashiki and was well beaten. This Itarashiki
was a karate expert and the defeat only made Motobu more determined
to train hard and learn more about karate.
At this time, around the turn of the century, karate was just
beginning to emerge from generations of secrecy and the senior
masters were sensitive about the image of the art. They looked
upon karate as a physical art, building health, strength and character
and they did not approve of Motobu's exploits in the rough areas
of town. Nevertheless he was able to get instruction from several
leading experts. (Seikichi Toguchi has said that, because of Motobu's
upper-class birth, many karate masters found it difficult to refuse
him instruction). Motobu originally studied karate with the famous
Ankoh Itosu (1830-1915), the leading master of Shuri-te. However,
he came to feel that he was not learning enough, and growing dissatisfied
with Itosu's teaching he later studied with Tomari-te's Kosaku
Matsumora (1829-1898) and with Master Sakuma. However, Motobu's
karate always seemed to bear his own distinctive stamp, arising
no doubt from his independent nature and his fighting experiences.
He always emphasized practicality, and in time many people came
to regard him as the best fighter on Okinawa. True, he was beaten
in a shiai (contest) by Kentsu Yabu (1863-1937), Itosu's senior
student and a tough character, but we don't know the full circumstances
surrounding this. Yabu was Choki Motobu's senior in karate by
several years, and at the time of the contest Motobu may have
been a comparative novice. This is something that needs clarification,
but anyway it is a fact that Motobu was famous in Okinawa for
his fighting ability.
I first read about this colorful figure years ago in Peter Urban's
book Karate Dojo. Although this has remained one of my favorite
karate books, it has little value as a historical source and Urban
describes Choki Motobu as a giant of 7'p;4" "with
hands and feet like monstrous hams" . . . an early Okinawan
version of the Incredible Hulk in fact, who was almost impossible
to hurt and who "preferred to grab his enemies and chop them
to death." A couple of years later the American karateman,
Robert Trias, trying to inject a note of reality (?) into the
subject, told an interviewer that the accounts of Motobu's size
had been exaggerated and that actually he was "only 6 feet
8 inches" tall.
All this was rather hard to believe and at one time I wrote to
Richard Kim, the famous authority on karate history, about it.
He kindly replied, stating that Motobu was a little under 6 feet
tall and solidly built, weighing around 200 lbs. This sounded
reasonable, yet as I learned more about Choki Motobu I had to
constantly revise the estimates of his height downwards. In fact
the existing photographs, taken in the 1920s and 1930s, show him
to be no bigger, and in some cases smaller, than his training
partners. The article in the old King magazine gives his height
as 5 feet 3 or 4 inches and I would think this is correct. He
was thus only a little bigger than some of the other early pioneers
of Japanese karate such as Funakoshi, Mabuni and Konishi, although
of a much heavier build. The photos we have of Motobu show him
in middle age when he had put on weight and thickened appreciably
round the waist. He had a sturdy, robust appearance but for a
reputed strongman, the muscular development of his arms chest
and back does not look particularly impressive, at least by today's
Another myth about Motobu is that he only knew one kata, the Naihanchin
(Tekki in the Shotokan version). This is incorrect. He also knew
Passai-evidently there is a rarely seen Motobu version of this
kata-and Gojushiho, and although he may not have practiced them
he was aware of the major kata of each style-Shurite, Nahate,
and Tomarite. (He provided a list of the major kata in his book).
It would be true to say, however, that he did become attached
to Naihanchin and for all the talk about him not being good at
kata, the photographic record shows that technically his performance
of Naihanchin was quite as good-if not better-than Gichin Funakoshi's.
Choki Motobu was not against kata but he did require that they
relate to combat. In Naihanchin, for instance, his students were
taught to pay attention to various technical points. It seems
that the nami-ashi ("wave returning" foot movement)
in Naihanchin was originally interpreted as a stamping movement
to attack the opponent's leg (now it is usually taught as a foot
block against a kick) and consequently many karateka would crash
their foot down noisily on the floor while doing this technique.
Motobu, however, although he did the movement strongly with a
kiai, always kept good balance and put his foot down lightly.
It wasn't that his technique was weak, because he once broke an
opponent's leg with this stamping waza (technique). He explained
to his students however that if the technique was done too heavily
and the foot was brought down with a big crash then you might
find it difficult to maintain your defense throughout the movement.
According to Yasuhiro Konishi, Motobu thought about every detail
in the kata in this kind of way.
However, where Choki Motobu really differed from other leading
karate masters such as Funakoshi, Mabuni and Miyagi was in basing
his style on the study of kumite.
Kata seemed to occupy a secondary position with him. His karate
stressed alertness, sharpness, and practicality, and his experience
in brawls and street fights showed through in his techniques which
were straightforward and effective. Some of his kumite-waza were
shown in his book Ryukyu Kempo Karatejutsu. Kumite, (The Okinawan
boxing art of karate-jutsu. Sparring techniques), published in
1926. Incidentally, Motobu could not speak or write mainland Japanese
at all well and it is thought that someone else must have written
it under his direction, or possibly he dictated it. But at any
rate the book's philosophy is his and he posed for all the illustrations.
Judging from this book, Motobu used a natural stance and it is
noticeable that when blocking or striking he did not pull his
other hand back to the hip (the action of hikite) but held it
across his body as a guard, where it could be brought into action
more readily. He also stressed training the weaker side of the
body to bring it up to the natural side. For instance, in hitting
the makiwara he recommended doing more repetitions with the weaker,
left hand, if you were right-handed. And he also frequently told
his students to "Defend the center of the body and attack
the center of the body"; an early form of center-line theory,
in fact. Motobu also made full use of the lead hand for striking.
This was rather advanced for that time, when the orthodox method
was to block with the forward hand, and use the rear hand to counterattack.
Motobu taught that the forward hand, being closer to the opponent
is quicker in action and should be used for striking effectively.
Choki Motobu relied mainly on hand techniques, with the feet and
knees being used in a supporting but effective role, aiming his
kicks at the stomach, groin, and knee joints. He often liked to
grab and he also used basic techniques of covering or checking
the opponent's hands and arms. His attacks were directed not only
to the face and midsection, but also to the groin (striking with
the knee or foot, or grabbing the testicles) and knees (with stamping
kicks). The forefist, backfist, elbow, and one-knuckle fist seem
to have been his favorite weapons. According to Shoshin Nagamine,
Motobu attached some importance to the one knuckle fist (keikoken),
and he would train this technique on the makiwara, striking with
full force. Over the years he had found that at close quarters
the orthodox forefist punch might be smothered or unable to generate
sufficient power and that in such situations keikoken could be
very effective. "No other karateman in the history of Okinawan
karate," wrote Nagamine, "has ever matched Motobu in
the destructive power of keikoken."
As for training equipment, Motobu stressed the use of makiwara,
and also recommended the use of the chishi and sashi, the traditional
tools for building the strength of the hands and arms. He also
used to practice a crude form of weight training, lifting a heavy
stone weighing about 130 lbs. to his shoulders daily.
Motobu sensei was actually the first of the Okinawan karate masters
to settle in Japan, preceding Gichin Funakoshi by a year or so.
He came to Osaka in 1921, but his purpose in coming to Japan may
not have been to teach karate. He may simply have moved because,
like many Okinawans, he believed Japan offered greater opportunities
to make a living. In 1879 the Ryukyu Islands were made a prefecture
(Ken) of Japan, and from then until 1945 this Okinawa-ken was
Japan's poorest and most neglected prefecture. Consequently, many
islanders emigrated to Japan and it was estimated that by 1940
over 80,000 Okinawans were living there. This was out of an Okinawan
population of something over half a million.
Motobu had been living in Japan a couple of years when he made
the acquaintance of a judo teacher named Doi, who encouraged him
to try to teach karate in Japan. Motobu subsequently began giving
demonstrations and teaching in the Kobe-Osaka area, but development
of the art was slow. After a couple of years he thought of giving
it all up, but then in the mid-1920s interest in the art slowly
began to grow. In 1927 he moved to Tokyo where he probably saw
When Motobu came up to Tokyo, Gichin Funakoshi had already been
teaching there for several years, and a certain amount of ill-feeling
arose between the two men, who had known each other back in Okinawa.
It was something like a question of who was to assume the leadership
of karate in Japan, but really, the two men were incompatible
personalities. Gichin Funakoshi, for instance, seemed to feel
that Motobu did not really understand the true nature of karate.
Funakoshi, a man who valued propriety and culture, criticized
Motobu's lack of education-he called him an illiterate-and his
rough behavior. For his part, Choki Motobu said that Funakoshi's
art was just an imitation karate, not much more than a dance.
A Japanese karate teacher named Fujiwara has also pointed out
that in the rigid social ranking system of Okinawa, Choki Motobu
was two classes higher than Gichin Funakoshi and so it was impossible
for him to regard Funakoshi as his superior in any way.
I don't know if much ever came of all this, but there were rumors.
Yasuhiro Konishi, who studied with both masters, heard that one
time when the two men met, they began comparing techniques of
attack and defense, as Okinawans often do. In demonstrating a
movement Funakoshi was unable to block Motobu's thrust completely
and moreover was knocked back several feet by its force. Konishi
heard that Funakoshi was resentful about this. There was also
a rumor that Motobu had challenged Gichin Funakoshi to a match
and when the two met, he swept Funakoshi to the floor and followed
up with a punch to the face, which he stopped a couple of inches
short-just to show who was boss, I guess. Konishi could not vouch
for the truth of this and it may never have happened. Reading
all the available material on Gichin Funakoshi, he does not come
over as the type of person who went in for challenge matches;
just the opposite, in fact. However, if the two men ever had met
in a serious contest then (this is just my opinion) Motobu would
probably have won rather easily. For one thing, Funakoshi, who
was only 5 feet tall, was slightly built and would have been heavily
outweighed. For another, Funakoshi never became involved in fights,
whereas Motobu had the experience of numerous streetfights behind
him and was a fighter by nature.
But anyway, the years rolled by and "the leadership of karate,"
if it could be called such a thing, did pass to the Funakoshi
school. The Motobu method does not seem to exist today as a distinctive
style. Funakoshi organized his teaching well, he had energetic
helpers (including his brilliant son, Yoshitaka), and influential
friends such as Jigoro Kano, the famous founder of Judo. Funakoshi's
first book Ryukyu Kempo Karate (1922) contained forewords by such
people as Marquis Hisamasa, the former Governor of Okinawa, Admiral
Rakuro Yashiro, Vice Admiral Chosei Ogasawara, Count Shimpei Goto,
and so on. Choki Motobu, however, never sought out such patrons,
and in fact, according to Hironori Ohtsuka he was quite a solitary
man. This agrees with the view of Konishi, who was quite close
to Motobu for several years and never once saw him in an actual
fight. Konishi felt that, although Motobu was obviously an exceptional
fighter, he would never provoke trouble and was actually a very
So it sounds as if Choki Motobu calmed down quite a bit as he
grew older. He seems to have been a straightforward, intelligent,
but uncomplicated type of person who lacked Gichin Funakoshi's
education and knowledge of Japanese culture and etiquette. Motobu
did not speak mainland Japanese very well-the Okinawans had their
own dialect which was often incomprehensible to the Japanese-and
even when he moved to Tokyo he had to use Yasuhiro Konishi as
an interpreter. Choki Motobu spent 19 years in Japan, teaching
karate for most of that time. In 1940 he returned to Okinawa and
died there in 1944.
Motobu and the Boxer
The story of Choki Motobu's contest with the boxer was featured
in the Japanese magazine Kingu (King), in the September 1925 issue
(No.9), pages 195-204. (See inset, following page.) It needed
quite a bit of detective work to track this down and I must thank
Mr. R. A. Scoales of the Japan Society of London, and Mr. Kenneth
Gardiner of the British Library, for their help. It was Mr. Gardner
who finally located a copy of the article for me. I am also deeply
grateful to Kenji Tokitsu, the leading authority on Japanese karate
history in Europe, who made a translation of the article.
A few observations on this old article might be worthwhile. As
I said, when I first heard about it I thought it might give an
accurate account of the contest, but although it obviously relates
to the events which occurred, both the descriptions of the action
and the dialogue are imaginative. The author, someone writing
under the pseudonym Meigenro Shujin, does not give his sources,
but he had obviously done some basic research and probably had
talked to some of the spectators or even Motobu himself. He may
have even been at the event, but somehow I get the impression
that he was not an eyewitness. In any case the article appeared
four years after the events described (if the date of 1921 is
correct) and by then people's memories may not have been too clear
about what actually happened.
One point of interest is that the artist who did the accompanying
illustrations confused the two karate masters teaching in Japan
at that time-Choki Motobu and Gichin Funakoshi-and drew the illustrations
as if it had been Funakoshi and not Motobu, who had defeated the
boxerI wonder what Choki Motobu thought about that when he saw
is entitled, When Human Bullets Clash: Great Contest Between
Karate and Boxing, and it states that in 1921 in Kyoto a series
of contests were held between boxers and Judoka. These gave
rise to much discussion and drew many enthusiastic spectators.
These fights were often extremely violent and surprised even
those onlookers who regularly attended the annual contests at
the Butokuden, (of judo and kendo).
During the action someone with the appearance of an old countryman
went over to the organizers 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 contestSo will you let me enter?"
"Yes, let him enter!" cried 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," replied Motobu. "What rules?"
"It's forbidden to strike with the fists and feet."
"Mm. What about 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 judogi."
The promoter brought a judogi, and looked at the man, still
trying to make him out. 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 organizers
decided to send him against a boxer named George. (No surname
or nationality is given in the article. The name may be invented).
As the contestants entered the arena a cry arose 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 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 three or four inches. As they began, George
took up a 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 Yodan" kata.
George, the expert boxer, seemed surprised by the ability of
his opponent whose guard presented no weak spot. He contented
himself with searching for an opening, continually moving his
fists round and feigning. Motobu kept his position.
George's breathing grew less steady and he realized that he
might tire himself out if things continued like this, he edged
forward and send out a fusillade of blows to the 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
Growing more and more frustrated as the fight went on, George
steeled himself for an all out attack. He drew back his right
hand and threw a punch with all his strength at Choki Motobu's
Just at the moment when it seemed as if Motobu's face would
be crushed he warded off the punch with his left hand. The force
of the parry unbalanced the boxer, forcing his hips to rise,
and at that instant Motobu struck him in the face with the palm
of his hand. George, struck on the vital point just below the
nose with the rising palm strike fell to the ground like a block
Everyone was shouting! "What happened?"
The organizers went to look for someone to help George who was
still unconscious. "What a formidable old character!"
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
Spectators and contestants continued to talk for hours about
the events which had taken place.
King magazine, Sept 1925
For other source material the artist and author must have used
Gichin Funakoshi's Rentan Goshin Karate Jutsu, published the same
year (1925), since the illustration for "the guard of Pinan
Yodan" is copied directly from that book. Of course the posture
shown is not an en garde stance but an intermediate position of
defense before a counterattack is launched. The writer probably
chose this stance because it looked very "karate-ish"
but it is hardly conceivable that Choki Motobu would use it. Kenji
Tokitsu has pointed out it is unlikely that Motobu knew the Pinan
kata, and even if he did (i.e. the order of the movements) he
did not practice them sufficiently to apply the techniques in
combat. Anyway, we know that Motobu's fighting stance was much
more natural and orthodox than this. One point that does emerge
from the story, however, is that Motobu fought without the use
of gloves and struck the knockout blow with his bare hands-whether
with the palm or closed fist we can't really be sure. It does
not seem that Motobu used palm strikes much at other times.
The nationality of the boxer is not given but there is a tradition
that he was German, or Russian. His identity will probably never
be known, and even if it was, it probably wouldn't mean very much
to us. I mean, it is unlikely he was a well known professional
whose record we could refer to. He was probably an itinerant boxer
who found himself in Japan and was making some money knocking
over judomen. That he was the German Heavyweight Champion on his
way to the USA to fight for the (World) Championship, as has been
suggested, is extremely unlikely. There simply was no German contender
for the title at that time. The top European heavyweight was the
Frenchman George Carpentier who did fight for the World title
in July 1921 and was stopped by Jack Dempsey in four rounds. The
first German boxer to make a name for himself was Max Schmeling,
but he didn't win the German title until 1928, when he beat Franz
As for him being the "Russian Heavyweight Boxing Champion"
(per Bruce Haines in his Karate's History and Traditions, the
Russians did not even have organized boxing until after the second
World War, when they began competing internationally in all sports.
However, he may indeed have been a Russian (or German) who had
picked up some boxing in his travels.
All this is not to put down Choki Motobu's achievement but just
to try and introduce some kind of perspective into the stories
which have grown up about this contest. l think that, sitting
there watching the action, Motobu must have realized he had the
measure of the boxers, but it still took courage and confidence
to step up in front of a skeptical crowd and accept the challenge.
When the fight actually began, he did what had to be done; and
he did it at an age--50--when most people today are happy to spend
their time in front of the television or down at the pub. What
a fascinating character he must have been!