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Uechi-ryu (???, Uechi-ryu?) is a traditional style of Okinawan karate. The founder of Uechi Ryu was Kanbun Uechi (????)(1877-1948), an Okinawan who went to Fuzhou in Fukien Province, China to study martial arts when he was 20 years old. [1] Uechi-ryu means “Style of Uechi” or “School of Uechi.”

Kanbun Uechi studied Pangai-noon (half-hard, half-soft) Kung Fu under Shushiwa in the Fujian (a.k.a. Fukien) province of mainland China in the late 1800s and early 1900s. After 10 years of study under Shushiwa, Kanbun Uechi opened his own school in Nanjing province. Two years later, Kanbun Uechi returned to Okinawa, resolved never to teach again because one of his Chinese students had killed a neighbour with an open-hand technique in a dispute over land irrigation. It was while working as a janitor that he was persuaded by a co-worker, Ryuyu Tomoyose, to teach again after Uechi was first convinced to show Tomoyose ways of defending against different attacks. His confidence as a teacher restored, Uechi, with the help of Ryuyu Tomoyose, moved to Wakayama City, Wakayama Prefecture, where in 1925 he established the Institute of Pangainun-ryu (half-hard and soft) Todi-jutsu, and opened a dojo to the public. His Okinawan students eventually renamed the system in 1940 to “Uechi Ryu.”

Kanbun Uechi’s son, Kanei Uechi, taught the style at the Futenma City Dojo, Okinawa, and was considered the first Okinawan to sanction the teaching to foreigners. One of Kanei’s senior students, Ryuko Tomoyose, taught a young American serviceman named George Mattson, formerly of Boston and now residing in Florida, who authored several books on the subject and is largely responsible for popularizing the style in America. Uechi Ryu emphasizes toughness of the body with quick hand and foot strikes. Several of the more distinctive weapons of Uechi practitioners are the one-knuckle punch (shoken), spearhand (nukite), and the toe kick (shomen geri). Because of this emphasis on simplicity, stability, and a combination of linear and circular motions, proponents claim that the style is more practical for self-defense than most other martial arts.

In contrast to the more linear styles of karate based on Okinawan Shuri-te or Tomari-te, Uechi Ryu’s connection to Chinese Nanpa Shorin-ken means it shares a similar foundation to Naha-Te (and thus Goju-ryu) despite their separate development.[2] Thus, Uechi Ryu is also heavily influenced by the circular movements inherent in kung fu from Fujian province. Uechi Ryu is principally based on the movements of 3 animals: the Tiger, Dragon, and Crane.

There are eight empty-hand katas in Uechi Ryu; the longest has 36 steps. Only Sanchin, Seisan, and Sanseirui are from Pangai-noon. The others were added to the style by Kanei Uechi. Kanei Uechi designed all of the non-original katas except for Kanshu (designed by Seiki Itokazu) and Seichin (designed by Saburo Uehara). Many of the names of the newer kata were formed from the names of prominent figures in the art, e.g. Kanshiwa from Kanbun and Sushiwa. The current list of empty-hand kata is:

Note: There are newer Katas (one or two) still being worked upon by the Okinawan Karate-Do association.

The Sanchin kata is deceptively simple in appearance. It teaches the foundation of the style, including stances and breathing. Kanbun Uechi is quoted as saying “All is in Sanchin.” Though it is not difficult to learn the movements of Sanchin, it is thought to take a lifetime to master the form.

Additionally, some organizations teach that each kata has a ‘meaning’ or moral; the more accurate meaning, however, is that each kata teaches a specific concept:

Some Uechi Ryu schools have added additional kata such as Shoshu, Seiunchin, Seiryuchin, Tochin, and others.

These are the ten black belt or Dan ranks:

These are the ten beginner or Kyu ranks:

There are no weapons in the Uechi Ryu system, although several masters in Okinawa have cross-trained with Kobudo weapon systems and made them part of their curriculum. Okinawan weapons include in part: bo (6′ staff), Nunchaku, Sai, Kama, Eku Bo (Oar), Tonfa.

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