Kanbun's Return to Okinawa And His Return To Teaching


       Later, Kanbun was introduced to Toyama Seiko's 4Th daughter, Gozei Toyama, a girl 14 years his junior.  On May 10, 1910, at age 33, Kanbun and Gozei were married.  They had their first son Kanei on June 26, 1911.  Eventually they had 4 more children together.  Tsuru (a girl who died at age 3), Kame (a girl), Tsuru (a girl named after the one that died), and Kansei (a boy born in 1922).

       Though still practicing regularly, Kanbun was not to teach for almost another 17 years.  He began farming in the northern part of the island near Nago.  Life was uneventful for Kanbun during those years.[63] He tried to forget his years in China, but his reputation was to follow not far behind.  Then, after


Kanbun's return to Okinawa, Mr. Gokenki, the Chinese tea merchant, and former friend and student, often visited Okinawa on business.  He soon located his friend and teacher, and tried to persuade him to teach again.  With the ghosts of past events and the sudden downfall of his reputation in China still haunting him, and the possibility that his recent connections with Chinese training might help to identify him as a draft-evader, Kanbun was alarmed at the thought that his now happy and peaceful life may be destroyed and his new family made to suffer, and so vehemently refused.[64]

       In 1912, Gokenki, moving to Naha, set up a tea shop.  It seems, he was a rather outspoken fellow, and made no secret of his obvious preference for Chinese-style training and its superiority over many Okinawan methods.  He managed, without much effort, to get into a brawl with another karate teacher from Naha, and defeated him soundly.  After that it seems that the reputation of several teachers and systems were at stake -- to save face, other well-known karate teachers challenged Gokenki, but none were able to beat him.  Then of course, many prospective students showed up at Gokenki's door asking for instruction.  Gokenki was astonished at the reaction of people clamoring for him to teach them.  Gokenki made it known that his teacher in China was actually an Okinawan after all, and lived on the northern end of the island.[65]  He would always refer to Kanbun Uechi as a truly great karate master who had taught him in China (Note: Gokenki also  influenced other Historical Martial figures such as Choshin Miyagi (1888 - 1953), Kenwa Mabuni (1889 - 1953), and Hohan Soken (1889 - 1982)).

       Kanbun's reputation grew and grew even though no one had ever seen him perform.[66]  Soon a number of martial artists would visit Kanbun in Izumi with a letter of introduction from Gokenki.  Kanbun would reply that they must have mistaken him for someone else.  These men in turn disclosed Gokenki's whereabouts to Kanbun and he then sometimes visited Gokenki at the Eiko Tea Store located in Naha.  Thus they were able to rekindle their old friendship.  Gokenki highly praised Kanbun's consummate skills in Ch'uan-fa technique to his customers.  Uechi was consequently known as a Chinese Ch'uan-fa expert to the martial artists in the Naha vicinity.[67]

       Finally, the townspeople with Mr. Gokenki confronted Kanbun, and due to his honor, could not deny his identity any longer and told them he was who he was but still denied showing anyone anything about karate and offered no explanation.  From then on, the name of Kanbun Uechi was on everyone's lips without having ever performed in public on the island.  The question of draft-evasion never came up, and Kanbun was never indicted.  He continued to farm his land as if he had never been away, and taught bo-staff technique at village gatherings and festivals -- but no karate.[68]

       Martial Art enthusiasts then conspired to get Kanbun to perform in public.  Every year in Okinawa, the Motobu police department held a large celebration.  It was customary for all the local schools to demonstrate their skills.  Tricking him into attending this demonstration, the idea came up to have the mayor of Motobu announce that Kanbun Uechi would demonstrate by performing a Kata.  They were anxious to see proof of his ability, and so saw to it that he was seated so near to the stage, that if he refused the mayor's request, he would lose face.[69]  The plot worked, for when the mayor asked Kanbun to demonstrate, the other teachers who were standing close by playfully pushed Kanbun onto the stage.  With so many people watching there was no escape for Kanbun.  There was applause, then silence.  Kanbun was furious, but quiet.  He hesitated for just a moment, then, with eyes glaring, he performed his favorite kata Seisan, fast and beautifully, with strength and power.[70]  Knowing he had been tricked, he jumped from the stage and stormed out of the building.  The karate portion of the day's festivities had come to an unscheduled end -- no one else wished to follow Kanbun's  demonstration.[71]  The incident confirmed his standing as a highly respected instructor of Chinese Kenpo.  Consequently, he was offered an immediate post at the teacher's training college by Itosu Anko (1813 - 1915), a great karate expert from the Shorin-Ryu system and a karate professor at the teacher's college in Okinawa.[72]  Kanbun politely refused.

       Okinawa was now feeling the great national pride of a suppressed people, and the poverty-stricken Okinawans were ever on the look-out for heroes and role models to bolster the societies morale.  But "famous" Okinawans represented a threat to the Japanese rule of the island and were subject to harassment and "investigation" by the Japanese officials.  Kanbun was concerned for his families welfare because of his years as a political exile, and would not give in to the pressure to teach, which would only expose him to official scrutiny.[73]  As such, the publicity that Kanbun received from being offered a post at the Shihan Gakko and Shuri-Diachi Ghugako along with the added exposure of constant questions and requests to teach became too much for Kanbun to bear.  The situation on Okinawa was becoming much too unstable.

      After World War I, the economic depression was especially severe in Okinawa.  As a result, large numbers of Okinawans migrated to Japan.  Most went to the industrialized Kansai region in search of employment.  With so much pressure from different sources and income for family support so scarce, Kanbun decided to leave Okinawa and go to mainland Japan in 1924 to search for stable employment.[74]  Leaving his family behind, Kanbun Uechi settled in a housing compound in Wakayama-ken, Wakayami-shi, Tebiro-cho, the Wakiyama prefecture, near Osaka.  Now 47 years old, he found work as a janitor at the Hinomaru Sangyo Kabushiki Kaishi Textile factory -- a cotton mill.  This was the first time Kanbun and the majority of his compatriots worked under someone else's employ.

      Kanbun became friends with Ryuyu Tomoyose, a fellow Okinawan and neighbor in this large Okinawan community.  Ryuyu was from Iejima, an island close to Kanbun's home on the Motobu peninsula.  They would spend some of their leisure hours together.  As time passed Ryuyu suspected that Kanbun knew karate so he set up a plot to see if his suspicions were correct.  The Okinawan community in which Kanbun and Ryuyu lived was in constant threat of Japanese gang attacks.  As such, the Okinawan people were forced to form their own protection organization.  Ryuyu utilized this fact to get Kanbun to talk.  One evening, he fabricated a story about being in a fight with some local Japanese youths his age (he was 24 at the time).  He told Kanbun he lost that days brawl and sadly described his humiliating defeat.  Kanbun became excited.  He had the story retold to him, and then explained in detail what should have been done.  From time to time Ryuyu would present a different fighting situation and Kanbun would become excitedly involved in explaining and describing the proper fighting response.  This continued for quite some time and Ryuyu was soon able to tell that he was in the presence of a real master of fighting.  Finally, realizing that he couldn't go on forever merely telling stories  (and also anxious to get on with some real training) Ryuyu confronted Kanbun with the fact that he knew of his reputation as an expert and implored him to give him lessons.  At first Kanbun refused but karate and training were in his blood, and so he relented on the condition that Ryuyu tell no one of his training.[75]  It is the first time Pan-gai-nun is taught outside of China.

      The attacks on the Okinawans, led by the Japanese gangs (Wabodan) continued.  These attacks made it neccessary for the leaders of the Okinawan Prefectural Association to ask Kanbun Uechi, Nagashige (Chomo) Motobu, and Ryuyu Tomoyose to organize resistance (Note: Motobu is also an Okinawan system of Karate founded by and named after Chomo Motobu's father.  Chomo was the eldest son.).  Rumors had spread of Kanbun Uechi's Chinese Ch'uan-fa expertise and many earnestly requested instruction.  Before the three could act, the gang leaders were effectively taken care of by two other young Okinawans named Kaei Akimini and Susamu Tamamura.  That threat was enough to help convince Kanbun of the need for him to start teaching Kenpo again.  Two years after arriving in Wakayama, Mr. Nakamura and Mr. Tomoyose finally persuaded Kanbun to open his own dojo convincing him that the art would die out if it were not passed on and that something so good should be given to other people.[76]


 THE SHATAKU PERIOD April 1926 - March 1932

       In April 1926, a small company owned house behind the company, became Kanbun's dojo.  This came to be called Shataku Dojo.  The first person to cross the dojo's threshold was Mr. Ryuyu Tomoyose.  Therefore, he became Kanbun's first Okinawan student.  Saburo Uehara soon became Kanbun's second student.[77]  Kanbun taught mostly Okinawans, beginning with a very small school and very limited enrollment -- only five students, the other four being carefully recruited by Ryuyu Tomoyose.  They were Uezato Genmei, Uehara Saburo, Yamashiro Kata, and Gichu Matayoshi all from Okinawa's northern region.[78]  Visitors to the house faced a lengthy wait until all students were dressed before the door was opened.  In this way, the exclusive nature was preserved, with two notable exceptions when Kaei Akamine and Susamu Tamamura joined the clan.  The Shataku dojo was the first Pan-gai-nun school outside of China.  Kanbun was 48 years, 11 months old.

     In those days, practice was vigorous and required that a great quantity of time be concentrated on Sanchin, Seisan, Sanseiryu, and body conditioning.  The technical elements in these three kata, form the foundation for all techniques presently done in Uechiryu KarateDo.  These kata are pure Chinese Ch'uan-fa kata.  They are considered to be in the "sacred inviolable precinct" which strictly prohibits any kind of technical modification.  Since these kata are literally Chinese direct transmission, we must consider them to have classical value.  Kanbun attached different guiding principles to each kata.  Namely, he attached much importance to Sanchin because it thoroughly trains the student's body and mind so that he can be a strong man both physically and mentally.  He pursued the swiftness of action by Seisan which is performed at maximum speed.  He also pursued the perfect destructive effect (the motive power of martial arts) by Sanseiryu which is performed with maximum speed and strength.  In summary, Sanchin is for "strength," Seisan is for "speed," and Sanseiryu is for both "strength and speed."  These three kata are so designed as to enable learners to automatically master all kinds of techniques in their learning process.  There was nothing to be called Junbi Undo, Hojo Undo, Yakusoku Kumite, Bunkai, or Jiyu Kubo.  Only "Kakeai" existed, which was a sort of technique experimentation.  As a general rule, while doing Kakeai, ever-changing and applicable techniques were not used freely; only those techniques derived from the kata were tried.  Practitioners were constantly advised to use only techniques found in the kata.  Kakeai used to be conducted very informally.  There was no regular guidance to this exercise.  It was never conducted before kata practice.  It always came intermediately between kata practices or after kata training.[79]

      Ryuyu recruited many students, mostly Okinawans like himself.  Although the ever-keen Tomoyose did not realize it at the time, it was his persistence which was to keep Kanbun's system alive.  His constant thirst for knowledge, probing, asking, demanding to know about Kanbun's past, had paid off.  Later prospective students received considerable control.  At the time of entrance, strict rules governed who might recommend a new student.  That is to say, the introducer was limited to either Kanbun's senior students or intimate acquaintances and the introducer had to become the named person's guarantor.  Also, students were prohibited from demonstrating what they had learned to the general public.  Therefore, one seldom performed one's kata in public.  The real practice was also done with the dojo doors all shut dressed only in shorts.  In short, the perfect secrecy principle was not to show the workout procedure to anyone except one's fellow students.[80]

       For a six year period from April 1926 until March 1932 Kanbun's "house" became the place to learn the secrets of Chinese Kenpo.  During this time, the Shataku dojo continued to develop and became trustworthy as a secret place of traditional Chinese Ch'uan-fa.  During the Shataku dojo period, Master Kanbun Uechi preferred to have a few capable people rather than a large number of mediocre persons.  Consequently, accepted students were taken in only after being judged by careful selection.  Master Kanbun Uechi did not adopt the open-door principle.  He never allowed himself to instruct it to the general public.  It remained an indoor, limited, traditional Chinese martial art.

      Kanei Uechi, Kanbun's eldest son bore a heavy responsibility as the second generation of the head family.  He began his training as the second generation in 1927 (age 16) at the Shataku dojo which Kanbun opened in Wakayama.  Until the age of 13 (1924) he was brought up under the care of both parents; after that, from the time his father, Kanbun, moved to Wakayama until age 16 he was brought up under his mother Gozei's care.

      Kanei Uechi had various reasons for entering his father's dojo.  Summarized, there are three reasons:

      1.    From childhood he was, unlike his father, not healthy.  He was especially sick in the stomach and intestines.  Thus it was necessary for him to train his body well.

       2.    He received both direct and indirect mental influences from his father's deportment as a martial artist.  It was natural for him to aspire to be a martial artist like his father.  He had a strong desire to learn about martial arts.  In short, he wanted to become a strong person like his father in mind, in body, and in martial arts.

       3.    He recognized his own position of having to succeed his father as a martial artist.  He had a strong self-awakening to the fact that he was a 2ND generation successor of the head of the Uechiryu KarateDo family.

     In those days, when Kanei Uechi entered into Chinese Kenpo under his father, the future of the style was being carried on the backs of trustworthy senior disciples who had real ability.  Ryuyu Tomoyose, Genmei Uezato, Saburo Uehara, Kata Yamashiro, Gichu Matayoshi, Kaei Akamine, and Susamu Tamamura were then learning the Seisan kata.  These seven men were Kanei Uechi's senior classmates.  Entering at the same time was Shuei Sakihama.  Following Ryuyu Tomoyose as the most powerful person in the dojo came Genmei Uezato and then Saburo Uehara.  All of these first and senior students were great pioneers in popularizing Uechiryu KarateDo.[81]

      Responding to pressure from his senior students, Kanbun changed his policy and opened the dojo doors to anyone who wanted to join.  So, in April 1932, the 6 year span of the Shataku dojo period ended.  Kanbun opened[82] the much larger dojo at Wakayami-shi, Tebira, Kyo Dori 1-1 (also known as Showa Dori).  He was almost 55 years old.  The Pan-gai-nun Ryu Karate Jutsu Kenkyu-jo at Heiwa Road, Wakayama was now open to the public.  Anyone who came was welcomed.  The survival of the fittest was the only law applied to all pupils,[83] and it was natural to see many drop-outs.  The training was exceptionally hard as Kanbun was still haunted by the memories of the farmers death all those years earlier.  This insured only the most determined students survival.

      Not only was Kanbun Uechi one of the first Okinawans to teach in Japan, but his Shataku and Tebira dojo's were the only places in Japan where original Chinese Kenpo was taught.  Nothing was easy for the students.  Initially they had to learn everything by studying Kanbun's movements in silence for the Master rarely spoke a word in the dojo.  His tutelage under Shushabu had been very slow and precise, a traditional method of training which Kanbun retained to ensure that students would consider their kata and discover for themselves the hidden applications and meanings.

      So, Kanbun Uechi, resigned from the company and operated a small general store while paying close attention to the instruction of traditional Chinese Ch'uan-fa.  He sold medicines and Chinese curios.  As a general rule, with the exceptions of holidays, training during the Shataku and Tebira dojo periods was limited to the evenings only.  In special cases, private instruction in the daytime was also done.  The previously mentioned Kaei Akamine and Susumu Tamamura were the first people to receive individual coaching.[84]

       Kanei Uechi worked in the daytime at the Hiromaru Industry Joint Stock Company and in the evening, together with his seniors, he received strict guidance from his father Kanbun.  Practice time was from the workshop's closing hour (usually 5:00 P.M.) until 7:00 P.M. and from 8:00 P.M. until 11:00 PM.  In addition, on holidays (in those days, 2 holidays a month was common) no practice, however a third workout was not uncommon at 5:00 A.M. for about a 40 minute workout before going to work.  The training method centered around kata, kote kitae, and Jiyu kumite.  Pan-gai-nun had only 3 kata's: Sanchin, Seisan, and Sanseiryu.  These 3 katas are the nucleus of the present day Uechiryu.[85]  Master Kanbun also referred to the system as "Min-chin-chu-ryu" meaning "speed-with-glare-way" but only as a description, not as a name[86] (Pan-gai-nun had been the fastest of the then seven popular Chinese styles).[87]  The Tebira dojo was later moved to a nearby location and still operates today.[88]



[63] Mattson (pg. 9)

[64] Breyette (pg. 3)

[65] Breyette (pg. 3)

[66] Mattson (pg. 9)

[67] Meyer (pg. 439)

[68] Breyette (pg. 3)

[69] Mattson (pg. 9)

[70] Mattson (pg. 9)

[71] Mattson (pg. 9)

[72] Mattson (pg. 9)

[73] Breyette (pg. 4)

[74] Breyette (pg. 4)

[75] Breyette (pg. 4)

[76] Mattson (pg. 11)

[77] Mahar (pg. 451-452)

[78] Breyette (pg. 5)

[79] Mahar (pg. 465)

[80] Mahar (pg. 452, 453, 454)

[81] Mahar (pg. 452, 453, 454)

[82] Mahar (pg. 455)

[83] Mahar (pg. 455)

[84] Mahar (pg. 456, 457)

[85] Mahar (pg. 456, 464, 465)

[86] Mattson (pg. 307)

[87] Bishop (pg. 46)

[88] Breyette (pg. 5)



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