Home > Philosophy, Training, Uncategorized > “Yo Ryu Bi” A Philosophy of Mabuni Kenwa

“Yo Ryu Bi” A Philosophy of Mabuni Kenwa

Mabuni Kenwa, the founder of Shito-Ryu was not only one of the greatest karate tacticians ever known, he was also an artist, writer, and philosopher. Mabuni wrote several books on the subject of karate and numerous articles and essays as well. One of his philosophies was You Ryu Bi

The first symbol or kanji is Yo. It means Utilize, Use, Employ.

The second kanji is Ryu. It means Current, Stream, Flow

The third kanji Bi means Beauty, Beautiful

When trying to understand a koto-waza (Japanese proverb) it is important to know that the meaning always is more than the sum of its parts. You need imagination, understanding of the background, language, maybe the environment and culture, and sometimes much more. Luckily, Mabuni left an oral testimony to the meaning of Yo Ryu Bi.

A perfect technique should have three elements. First of all it should be practical (Yo). Otherwise, what’s the point of doing a technique? Putting all of your effort and strength (mental and physical) into every single technique will make them most practical. This is the base, step one. The technique simply needs to be practical.

Next, it should have a flow (Ryu). Because a single action alone won’t suffice. Coming to a halt, physically, will ruin everything. And – more importantly – coming to a halt mentally will mean certain failure. That is, when executing a technique, make it practical, Yo. But don’t stop there. Have a flow, a flexible mind, because you may need to change everything in an instant. Having flow makes you able to take your movements to the next level in a flash, without interrupting the spirit. And you will still be focusing your mind, like a chessplayer, thinking of possible follow-ups and counters. Because you can adapt, flow. One tehnique or a hundred, it doesn’t matter to you.

What do we have left? Beauty (Bi). This is what will ultimately come if you have followed the two previous steps. This completes the technique, making it…


Perfection is very seldom witnessed. It is even less seldom achieved. Yet, as martial artists, we seek perfection and balance in our art and in our lives. When you experience seeing it in another’s techniques it will quite simply take your breath away. The combining of the three elements, although a difficult task, is something you should strive for in every single basic technique you perform . Brining those elements into your basics will carry over into your kata and kumite.

A special thanks to Matthias Golinski who wrote an article on Yo Ryu Bi that was published on the KaratebyJesse website and was a huge source of information for this post

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