Uechi-Ryu Karate-Do is a blend of Pangai-noon and native Okinawan fighting techniques, and is the martial art practiced by the Uechi family of Okinawa, Japan, and by foreign representatives as authorized by the Board of Directors. The International Uechi Ryu Karate-Do Association (Kokusai Kyokai) is a major organization of Uechi Ryu, headed by Master James Thompson, Kyoshi Hachidan. The organzation was created in 2000, and is comprised of several dojo throughout North America as well as Germany.
DEFINING CHARACTERISTICS OF UECHI RYU:
- Developed from three animal styles of Kung Fu: Dragon, Tiger, and Crane.
- Practices Sanchin, which is considered the core kata of Uechi Ryu.
- Practices three Chinese kata: Sanchin, Seisan, Sanseirui.
- Sokuto Geri technique: Forward striking kick with the blade side of the foot.
- "Tiger Toe" techniques: Kicks are not with the ball of the foot, but with the toe.
- Kote Kitae: Arm rubbing and pounding exercise used for conditioning the body.
- Circle blocking techniques emphasizing half hard, half soft properties of offense and defense.
DEFINITION AND PURPOSE OF KATA
A kata is a set of pre-arranged karate movements, which are designed to develop certain abilities in the karate student. It is from the kata, that all karate techniques and principles come. There are eight kata in the Uechi-Ryu. Sanchin, the basic kata, develops the principles of focus, power, and technique, which are needed for true karate-do.
The remaining seven kata are sometimes called fighting kata, because they show the self-defense applications of Sanchin in a more obvious manner. All advanced techniques come from the seemingly simple moves of Sanchin, and show how Sanchin can be applied. The learning of these fighting kata means much more than merely memorizing the movements and doing them properly. The student must be able to actually use each technique effectively.
EIGHT KATA OF UECHI RYU:
Uechi Ryu Sanchin
Sanchin is characterized by a narrow, upright, "pigeon-toed" stance, performed with emphasis on "dynamic" muscle tension. The entire body is moved as a solid stable unit. Breathing is controlled, and exhalation is forced through clenched jaws resulting in a "sst" noise. Energy is focused from the body's center rather than a twisting hip movement. The rear foot is facing forward, while the front foot is turned inward at a 45-degree angle. The knees are bent inward facing each other in order to protect the groin, and the back is straight.
Sanchin means "three conflicts" or battles. And it is interpreted to mean the battle to unify one's mind, body, and spirit. These three concepts are central to kung fu, and are integrated into Uechi Ryu. Compared to other Japanese styles of karate, Sanchin in Uechi Ryu is the most similar to the original Chinese form. Many styles that teach Sanchin only teach the kata after students have reached the black belt rank. In Uechi Ryu, Sanchin is taught at the beginning level so that students can better grasp its meaning.
The Uechi Ryu version of Sanchin uses fast open hand techniques instead of slow closed fist strikes, characteristic of most Okinawan styles like Goju Ryu. Arms are held up parallel to each other at shoulder height. Fingers are together pointing upward at a 45-degree angle.
KARATE-JUTSU -- is an approach which, combines technical skill with the mental principles of Zen to achieve combat effectiveness. This is the way in which karate was originally taught. Styles, which are taught in this manner, are practiced in pre-arranged fashion only. The techniques are considered to be too dangerous for sport and rules necessary for competition are believed to decrease effectiveness in actual combat. Ranks are not emphasized, with the student's goal being a high level of ability rather than rank.
KARATE-DO -- this approach to karate started becoming popular as the usefulness of karate for combat declined. The Zen principles and physical techniques are taught, but in addition to self-defense ability the student strives, through spiritual discipline, to attain mental and physical perfection. Thus, karate-do is less combatively oriented than the karate-Jutsu from which it is derived, in part because the principles behind the karate-do shies away from sporting contests because they tend to be too competitive, thus hindering self-improvement. Training is generally in the form of pre-arranged exercises, although Jiyu-kumite may be engaged in for the purpose of practicing techniques in semi-realistic combat situations. Sometimes there may be an overemphasis on ranks, which are often given for reasons other than technical proficiency.
Karate Do and Karate Jutsu
Like most martial arts styles, Uechi Ryu experienced organizational splits after the death of both Kanbun and Kanei Uechi. Some of these organizations are now under a new name such as Shohei Ryu and Pangai-noon Ryu. Some are still known as Uechi Ryu, but have different organizational affiliations. Two of these branches are known as Oki Ku Kai and Kokusai Kyokai. All of these styles and organizations still teach the three basic Chinese kata, and still teach the kata introduced by Kanei Uechi. Some organizations have included new kata in their criteria, as well as new two man routines and ranks. The grandson of Kanbun Uechi, Kanmei Uechi, heads the original Futenma Dojo.