Choki Motobu was born April 5, 1870 the 3rd son of his father Choshin. Choshin was the sixth son of the Okinawan King, Sho Shitsu (Prince Shoko). Choki was a half brother to Choshin's #1 son Choyu. At the time, customs had it that only the #1 son was taught karate, so Choki secretly watched his elder brother training and picked up many rudiments of the art. Choki grew up with his mother. He was considered strong both physically and mentally and was athletically gifted and agile. He earned the nickname of Motobu no Saru Umei (Monkey Motobu) as he used his agility to climb and swing in trees.
Because Choki couldn't beat his brother Choyu, he devoted more time to training. He received formal training from Bushi Matsumura and Sanda Kanagusuku as a child, continued his learning with Sakuma of Gibo, and finally spent eight years with Anko Itosu. He emphasized the importance of the Naihanchi katas, but also knew Shiraguma no Kata, Passai, Wanchu, Wankan, Chinto, Kusanku, Chinto and others.
In 1923 Choki moved his family to Osaka, Japan. It was there that he attended a boxing vs. jujitsu match. These matches were a popular event in the early 20th century. Typically these matches where easily won by the boxer, but this time was different. After defeating the jujitsu-ka the boxer asked for challengers and Choki accepted. During the fourth round Choki knocked the boxer out. (Read O'Sensei's account of this event on page 11 of his book.). This event improved Choki's reputation and many began to seek him out. Ten months after the event, King Magazine published the event but used photos not of Choki but of Gichin Funakoshi. Despite this error people still sought him out for training. Several judoka and wrestlers as well as some of Gichin Funakoshi's top students (Hironori Ohtsuka and Koyukonshi) went to train with him.
Choki returned to Okinawa several times, most notably for the 1936 meeting of the masters sponsored by the Ryukyu Shinpocha (Okinawa newspaper). During this meeting they discussed the promotion and future development of karate. They also changed the kanji character for Kara from the Chinese character to the Japanese Kara character. This changed the meaning from China-hand to empty-hand. This was done in an effort to raise its popularity among main land Japanese. Read Choki's solution to being surrounded by 3 attackers on page 15 of O'Sensei's book.
Choki died in August 1944. He was respected both as a person and as a martial artist, and was remembered as a quiet, dignified man.