About Our Style
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.
Originally taught as Pangainoon (meaning half hard, half soft), the name was changed to Uechi Ryu to honor Kanbun Uechi (1877-1948) after his death. The word karate-do means empty (kara), hand (te) and way of life (do). Thus, studying Uechi Ryu karate do means literally to follow the way of Uechi’s style of empty hand.
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. At the age of 20 (in 1897), in order to avoid serving in the Japanese military, which at that time occupied Okinawa, Kanbun fled to China. There, in Fukien Province, he studied the art of Pangai-noon. Pangai-noon was taught in the Shaolin 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 kick and circular block. His teacher was Shushiwa, a Buddist priest who had received his training in the Shoalin Temple. Master Uechi studied in Fukien for ten years and became a Master of Pangai-noon. He has the distinction of being one of the very few foreigners ever to teach chuan fa in China.
At the end of training, Master Uechi opened a school in Nanchon, a city in Fukien Province, where he taught for three years. During this time it is believed that one of his students became involved in a dispute and called upon his training to kill another person. Disheartened by this event, Master Uechi vowed never to teach again, closed his school and returned to his homeland in 1910.
Returning to Okinawa, he married and on June 26, 1911 his son Kanei was born. In April 1924 Kanbun left his family in Okinawa to seek employment and travelled 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.
In 1927, Kanei Uechi travelled 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. Kanbun decided to return to Okinawa in 1946 and died on November 25, 1948 on Ie-jema Island where he and the Shinjo family had relocated to. The Shinjo family were the only ones present when Kanbun died.
In 1957 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. Kanei Uechi died on February 21, 1991 at the age of 80.
Seiryo Shinjo (June 10, 1908-March 5, 1976) entered Kanbun Uechi’s dojo in 1927. They became very good friends. His first son, Seiyu (July 10, 1929-Oct 23, 1981) became a student of Kanbun in 1939. Seiyu was extremely fortunate to learn from both Kanbun and Seiryo until Kanbun’s death. Seiryo had to stop his own karate training after the war due to a respiratory problem. Seiyu, however, after moving back to Okinawa (first on Ie-jima Island, then Naha and finally Kadena) continued his karate training with Kanei Uechi and opened his own dojo. 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.
His 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 Sieyu and “kai” means group.) Thus Kenyukai stands for “Sieyu Shinjo’s strong fist group”.
NAMES TO REMEMBER
RANKING SYSTEM & TESTING PROTOCOL
The levels below Black Belt are referred to as Kyu ranks and students at this school progress in the following manner:
All testing is by invitation from an instructor. Formal tests are held 5-7 times throughout the year. Students will be informed in advance as to whether or not they have been invited to the formal test. The decision to test a student is based upon such factors as technical skill, attitude and character, class attendance, length of study and age. Students green belt and above who are invited to test but are unable to attend the formal test, will be invited to the next test, provided they have maintained an adequate level of training.
Kyu ranks are followed by ten “Dan ranks (degrees of Black Belt). The minimum age for promotion to Shodan (1st degree Black Belt) with recognition and certification from Okinawa is 15. At Desa School of Karate students under the age of 15 may be promoted to the rank of Junior Shodan, Junior Nidan, etc (1st, 2nd degree black belt). To be tested for Junior Shodan, a student must have a minimum of three years training
Black Belt tests are held twice a year. All students who are eligible will be notified well in advance. These students will then be expected to maintain their training and attend all qualifying classes. Closer to the actual test date, Sensei deSa will invite those students who have achieved the level of training necessary for their next level to participate in the Black Belt test.
In the dojo (school) or at Karate related events your Head Instructor, Manuel deSa, should be called or referred to as “Sensei” or “Desa Sensei”. All visiting senior Black Belts will also be addressed in the same manner.
All senior students (Black Belts) should be called or referred to as “Sempai” or “name (Smith) Sempai”.
When entering the dojo for the first time on any given day, students must bow followed by two claps.
The same format is to be followed when leaving the dojo after the class is done.
Thoughtless and careless actions have no place in or out of the dojo.
Always keep your body and gi clean.
All jewelry must be removed for training.
Hair longer than collar length must be tied back.
Help to maintain a clean dojo at all times.
You are required to learn and practice the student creed as outlined below.
Remembering that the Martial Arts begin and end with respect, I intend to:
Develop myself in a positive manner and avoid anything that would reduce my mental growth or physical health.
Develop self-discipline in order to bring out the best in myself and others.
Use what I learn in class constructively and defensively, to help myself and my fellow man and never to be abusive or offensive.
In the Orient, bowing is a form of showing respect. In some cases, it is equivalent to shaking hands when greeting someone. It also has other uses. Uechi Ryu uses two types of bows. Each has a certain set of circumstances in which it is used, although the exact usage may vary from school to school. The most important thing about the bow is the thought behind it. As Kanei Uechi once said, “Without sincerity, the bow is meaningless. Rather than be concerned about its outward appearance, put your heart and soul into the bow; then it will naturally take on a good shape”.
KNEELING BOW (Seiza)
The kneeling bow may be used in the following cases:
When entering the dojo, prior to starting your workout.
As part of the ceremonial class opening and closing.
When leaving the dojo for the final time.
At the beginning and end of each class, the students say the following:
Beginning “One Gozaimas” Meaning please (as in please teach me)
End “Domo Arigato Gozai Mashta” (Thank you very much)
This terminology is also used when bowing to the Sensei at the start and end of each kata and also when doing a standing bow to your partner before and after doing partner drills. (Thank you very much can be abbreviated to “arigato gozai mashta” during class).
STANDING BOW (Ritsurei)
The standing bow is the most common way of showing respect. The standing bow is used in the following situations:
Whenever the instructor bows to the student.
Before asking a question of the instructor and after receiving his reply. Depending on the circumstances, this practice may be slightly relaxed. The student should be alert and follow the instructor’s lead.
When entering or leaving the dojo together with two claps.
At the beginning and end of all kata.
Before and after doing a two person drill with a fellow practitioner. Generally, this bow need not be repeated between each repetition of a two person drill. It suffices to bow when the partners begin working with one another and when they are finished.
When doing a two person drill in certain formal situations a standing bow is directed to the front before the opening bow to one’s partner and after the closing bow to one’s partner.