Our Style - Uechi-Ryu
The style of karate taught at this school is called Uechi-Ryu. It is derived from a form of Chinese martial arts (chuan-fa) with its headquarters on the island of Okinawa, Japan – the birth place of modern karate.
In China, various fighting systems developed through the combination of native and foreign techniques. Many of these styles were based on movements of animals. Those of the Tiger, Dragon, and Crane form the basis from modern Uechi-ryu Karate-do.
Grand Master Kanbun Uechi, considered the founder of Uechi-Ryu Karate-Do, was responsible for lifting the veil of secrecy, bringing this art out of China and into Okinawa and Japan. He was born on May 5, 1877 in Isumi, a small village in northern Okinawa. In 1897, he went to Fukien Province in China. There, he briefly studied a style called Koko-ryu. Then in 1897, Mr. Uechi begin studying under Master Chou Tzu-ho (spelled Zhou Zi He in Pinyin, pronounced Shu Shi-wa in Japanese. Master Chou (1876 - 1926) was proficient in a number of martial arts, especially Hu Hsing Ch'uan (Tiger Form Boxing). Master Chou, a Buddist priest who had received his training in the Shoalin Temple. There, in Fukien Province, Kanbun Uechi studied the art of Pangai-noon. Pangai-noon was taught in the Shoalin Temple in Southern China, and is derived from the interwoven movements of the tiger, crane, and dragon. It is a specialized method of self-defense that concentrates on the use of the single-knuckle punch, spear-hand strike, pointed toe kick, and circular block. Master Uechi studied in Fukien for ten years and became a Master of Pangai-noon in 1904. He has the distinction of being one of the very few foreigners ever to teach chuan fa in China.
In 1907, Master Uechi opened a school in Nansei no cho (Nansoe), a city in Fukien Province, where he taught for three years. Master Uechi referred to the art which he taught as Pan-gai-nun which means 1/2 hard, 1/2 soft. Kanbun Uechi was a warm hearted, affectionate man who was well like by his students. His fierce martial arts ability was secondary to his easy, likable demeanor. Though now teaching in his own dojo, Kanbun continued his instruction by making semiannual visits to Shushiwa to continue his own dedicated training. Kanbun Uechi, despite requests from his students and Shushiwa to remain, closed his dojo in 1910 and left China forever.
Returning to Okinawa, he married and on June 26, 1911 his son Kanei was born. Despite much pressure to do so, he did not teach during this period due to a variety of reasons. He did, however, train on his own and with a few friends. In April 1924, Kanbun left his family in Okinawa to seek employment and traveled to mainland Japan. He settled in Wakayama and secured employment in a textile mill. In April 1925, after many appeals from Ryuyu Tomoyose and other Okinawans for Kanbun to pass on his great knowledge and ability to future generations, Kanbun changed his mind and ended his fifteen year ban on teaching martial arts and opened his first school in Japan. Ryuyu Tomoyose officially became Kanbun Uechi’s first student followed by a number of other Okinawans including Seiryo Shinjo. Master Uechi came to have more and more students and in 1932, the Pan-gai-nun-ryu Karate-jutsu Institute was established in Wakayama. In 1940, Master Uechi's students changed the name of the school to the Uechi-ryu Karata-jutsu Institute.
Kanbun decided to return to Okinawa in 1946. Master Uechi did not offer instruction on a formal basis after returning to Okinawa. However, he did teach a few students at his home on Ie-Jima, a small island off the northwest coast of Okinawa. Master Uechi died on November 25, 1948 on Ie-jema Island. The Shinjo family were the only ones present when Kanbun died.
At the time, Uechi Kanbun's eldest son, Uechi Kenei (1911 - 1991), became the second master of the Uechi-ryu.
In 1927, Kanei Uechi traveled to Wakayama and joined his father and the dojo. Ten years later he received a Certificate of Instruction and Full Proficiency and opened his own dojo in Osaka. In 1941, he was promoted to Master level by his father. In 1942, Kanei returned to Okinawa (now with his own family) and began teaching Pangainoon in the yard of his home. He taught a small group of students in Nago.
In 1957, after his father's death, Kanei opened the Futenma dojo to the public. (The first North American student and Black Belt of Uechi Ryu was George Mattson.) Over the next few decades Kanei Uechi continued to be completely dedicated to the organizing and teaching of his system.
During Uechi Kanei's years of falling health, classes at the Futenma dojo were conducted by his eldest son, Uechi Kammei who ultimately took over leadership following Uechi Kanei's death. Kanei Uechi died on February 21, 1991 at the age of 80.
It was under Uechi Kanei's leadership that the Uechi-ryu was modernized and spread throughout the world. Besides dojos on Okinawa and in Japan proper, there are now schools in Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, France, England, Germany, Yugoslavia, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Canada, and the Unitied States.
In 1907, when he was 27 years old, Seiryo Shinjo (June 10, 1908-March 5, 1976) became a disciple of Kanbun Uechi at the Pangainoon-Ryu Karate Academy. There, he learned and mastered Sanchin, Seisan, Kategake, and Kakete, the traditional Kata of Chinese Nanppa Shorinkenpo. He was a small person, but he was very agile with Shukooken (hand waza) and Keriwaza (kick waza). He was called Seijin in his childhood, so people used to call him Hisaguwa-Seijin (Swift Kicker Seijin). This was his reputation among the people. Seiryo had to stop his own karate training after the war due to a respiratory problem.
Seiyu Shinjo (July 10, 1929-Oct 23, 1981) was born in 1929 in Wakayama Prefecture. He lived there for 17 years, until the end of World War II. After studying in Miyamae Elementary and Middle Schools, and Wakayama Technical High School, Seiyu volunteered for and entered the Preliminary Pilot Training School, but World War II ended in the midst of his training.
In 1939, at the age of 10, Seiyu, like his father, became a student of Kanbun Uechi at the Karate Academy of Pangainoon at Showa Street, Tehira-Cho, Wakayuama City, Wakayama Prefecture. It is said that admission to the Karate School was so strict and severe, in that day, especially for children, that a couple of sponsors were needed to obtain permission to enter the school.
For seven years, before, during, and after the war, Seiyu learned under Kanbun Uechi. During this time, he was surrounded by many good, senior students, who had much Karate experience. The training in those days was divided into three shifts - morning, daytime, and nighttime, so it is said that Kanbun Uechi Sensie was instructing his disciples all day long. Since he was named Seiyu by taking on letter (kanji), "Yu" from the name of "Ryuyu Tomoyose", who was one of the top leaders of Okinawans, it cheered him all the more to learn Karatedo like his teacher.
After the passing of Kanbun Uechi, Paigainoon Karate became Uechiryu Karatedo, which was tramitted to Kanei Uechi Sensei. Seiyu Shinjo made readmission to the gym of Kanei Uechi in order to learn all the skills of Sanseiryu. It isn't any wonder that all the people concerned were interested in Uechiryu Karate. From the viewpoint of its historical background, it was rather easy to study, when compared to Shurite (Shuri Styled) and Nahate (Naha Styled). While Kenei Uechi, Saburo Uehara, and Seiki Itokazu were establishing themselves in operating gyms in Ginowan, Oroku, and Naha, an authorization was granted for Seiyu Shinjo to open his own Dojo.
In 1955, when he was 26 years of age, Seiyu Shinjo opened his own Uechiryu Karatedo Asato Academy, and from then on, he dedicated his life to teaching Uechiryu Karate.
In 1960, at the age of 31, Seiyu moved to Kadena, where he reopened the Dojo as the Kadena Shubukan. At that same time, the third generation, Kiyohide Shinjo, at 10 years of age, begin to learn Karate skills from Seiyu Shinji, his father and teacher. About this time, also, Uechiryu Karate became famous as one of the three great Karatedos in Okinawa as its students participated in tournaments throughout the country.
Seiyu Shinjo died young at 52 years of age, on October 23, 1981. He has been recognized by many, including Kanei Uechi himself, as being one of the strongest proponents for making Uechi Ryu karate a strong internationally recognized organization.
Seiyu Shinjo's first son, Kiyohide Shinjo, born Nov 3, 1951, assisted by his younger brother Narihiro (born in 1960) now continues this legacy with the Kenyukai organization he started in 1982 in honor of his father’s death that year. ("Ken" means fist, "yu" is part of the name of Seiyu and "kai" means group.) Thus Kenyukai stands for "Seiyu Shinjo’s strong fist group".
Uechiryu Karate, itself, oftern held its own open tournaments, which Kiyohide won nine straight years, starting in 1972. This is a result of the leadership of Seiyu Shinjo, and the endeavors he made night and day. Kiyohide also became famous as one of the top Karate leaders, following the severe practice of his father and teacher, Seiyu. In fact, he was very keen to instruct younger students as overseas instructors, or to lead the reinforcement trainings given to the students.
Kanbun Uechi Sensei, after many years of keen and constant practice, learned and mastered all the skills of Sanchin, Seiryu, Kotegake, and Free Style which were all introduced from ancient China. These Karate skills are handed down to the Shinjo Family, because the Shinjo Family was taught physically and spiritually by Kanbun Uechi Sensei, and now it is particularly a tradition of the Shinjo Family, as they cultivate more Karate skills in many ways.
Uechiryu Karate has expanded to the Unitied States of America, Canada, Argentina, France, Spain, and to other areas of the world. Kadena Shubukan, however, is the only Karate Dojo, anywhere, where three generations, father, child, and grandchild, learned karate in the same gym, as it was in the inauguration day of Uechiryu Karate.
After the death of Seiyu Sensei, Kiyohide Sensei inaugurated the Kenyukai and continues to develop and refine the system. Kiyohie Sensei derived the Kenyukai from "Ken" for first, "Yu" from his father Seiyu, and "Kai" which means group. Literall it means, "Seiyu's strong fist group". Kiyohide Sensei newly established the Asato Gym, Kadena Shubukan, uniting all his students, causing the name of Uechiryu Karate to become popular. It is growing in the Unitied States, Argentina, France, Italy, and Germany. The future looks bright for further advances for Uechiryu Karate.