HISTORY OF UECHI-RYU KARATE
Uechi-Ryu Karate was founded by Kanbun Uechi, an Okinawan who studied and taught in China, and brought the art of Pangainoon (as it was called there) to Japan and Okinawa. Kanbun Uechi was born on 5 May 1877, in Izumi, a small farming village on the northern part of Okinawa. Throughout his youth, he mainly worked to learn to farm the land of his ancestors, and studied some of the martial arts forms available at the time; becoming proficient with the bo staff. He never dreamed that he would be responsible for the preservation of one of the most highly respected fighting forms known (the system no longer exists in China), and now the most popular on the island of Okinawa.
At the age of 19, Kanbun left Okinawa to travel to China. His reasons were twofold: To study the superior fighting forms of China, and to avoid conscription into the Japanese army.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, most of the great Okinawan instructors of martial arts went to China to study. At that time, one studied to survive! A strongly-practiced technique could easily be reponsible for saving one's life in that age of road bandits, brigands, personal vengeance, and violent politics, so students took their training much more seriously.
Another reason was to avoid being drafted into the Japanese army. Okinawan youths were being forced into military service. This was one way Japan attempted to ensure the subservience of the next generation of these troublesome, headstrong Okinawan people: Draft the youth into the army and indoctrinate them into Japanese political thought, give them the little power a soldier has, put a few of them in charge of a small village now and again, and the job is done. It didn't work.
The Okinawans were quite aware of the efforts by the Japanese to erase their culture and subjugate them to Japanese laws and customs. Encouraged by this family elders, Kanbun Uechi quietly left Okinawa in March 1897 for China.
In 1897, he began study at the Kugusuku Karate School with Matsuda Tokusaburo, a fellow Okinawan from Izumi, who had escaped for the same reasons. But, Kanbun had somewhat of a personality clash with a senior instructor and left to study form of Chinese boxing called Pangainoon, under a master named Shusshabu.
Shusshabu proved to be a taskmaster of the highest degree. Kanbun studied nothing but the thrusting motions of Sanchin for three months, which as a result, made his thrusts very strong.
Kanbun told Kanei that mastery of Sanchin took at least ten years, but after three years, his teacher taught him the Seisan Kata. During that time, Kanbun became very strong and fast, his whole time in China being spent in study. This was due in part to the rigorous old-style Chinese training methods for strengthening and conditioning, which used sand, gravel, buckets of rice, gripping weights and holding/lifting with the fingers, etc. But throughout all the training, emphasis was placed on total mastery of Sanchin. Kanbun continued to study under Shusshabu for ten years.
"All is in Sanchin" was a phrase used often by Kanbun when training his son Kanei. This phrase is repeated by the teachers of White Crane Ch'uan-fa who say that, of all the katas and forms, Sanchin is the most important.
In 1904, Kanbun received certification in Pangainoon from Shusshabu, and became an assistant instructor at his masters's school. In 1907, Kanbun Obtained permission to open his own school in Nanching. After only two years of teaching, one of Kanbun's students fell into an argument with another man over a farming dispute. Kanbun's student instictively called upon his training, struck the other man a heavy blow, and killed him. Kanbun was held responsible and vowed to never teach again. He returned to Okinawa without incident. He settled down to raise a family and farm his land.
After some time, Kanbun's reputation was following behind him. When approached by young men seeking instruction, he merely stated that they must have mistaken him for someone else. Finally, during a celebration in which it was customary for all the local karate schools to demonstrate their skills, Kanbun was pressured by the Mayor to take the stage. Other teachers pushed Kanbun on the stage. He hesitated for a moment - just enough time for the other teachers to wonder if stories of Kanbun had been true. Then, with eyes glaring, Kanbun performed the kata seisan so fast and beautifully, with such strength and power, that after he finished, the karate portion ended - no one else wished to try to follow Kanbun's demonstration! From that time on, Kanbun was respected throughout Okinawa as a true expert.
Kanbun left Okinawa for Japan in 1924 to search for stable employment. Kanbun settled in a housing compound in Wakiyama prefecture, near Osaka, Japan, having found employment as a janitor. A fellow Okinawan who happened to be his neighbor, Ryuyu Tomoyose, became a friend of the quiet newcomer. They soon began talking about fights he had been involved in while Kanbun, with excitement, began explaining what techniques should have been used in those fights.
Soon Ryuyu confronted Kanbun with the fact that he knew of his reputation as an expert, and implored him to give him lessons. At first he refused, but karate and teaching were in his blood, and so he relented on the condition that Ryuyu tell no one of his training.
After two years, Ryuyu convinced Kanbun to teach publicly once more, saying that the art would die out if it were not passed on. Finally Kanbun consented. He taught mostly Okinawans in a very small school. Five students were enrolled: Ryuyu Tomoyose, Uezato Genmei, Uehara Saburo, yamashiro Kata, and Matakishi Yoshitada. The school was named "shataku Dojo" and this was the first time Pangainoon was taught outside of China.
In 1927, Kanbun's oldest son Kanei joined his father . In 1932, Kanbun moved his school to a nearby hall and established a full-fledged dojo. The system was called Pangainoon-Ryu, and the school was called Pangainoon-Ryu Karate-Jutsu Kenkyo-jo. This school still operates today.
Enrollment grew to several hundred, with forty-four senior members. In 1940, the students of the Pangainoon-Ryu Karate-Jutsu Kenkyo-jo renamed the system "Uechi-Ryu", and awarded Kanbun the title of Grandmaster.
Kanei Uechi studied for ten years and then opened up his own dojo. After two years Kanei decided to return to Okinawa because his students were called away to war.
Shortly after his fathers death in 1948, Master Kanei moved his dojo to a location in Futenma, calling the school "Uechi-Ryu Karate Dojo". It was reconstructed in 1963, and renamed "Soke Shubukan" (style Headquarters). From here, the system spread throughout the world.
"The original basis for all martial arts was spiritual development and self defense"
"The Whole Essence Of Karate Taught"
"All is in Sanchin"
Uechi-Ryu Karate Academy 52 Gladdu Ave Memorial Drive Chicopee, MA 01020 Tel. 413-534-4740
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