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Thread: Uechi Ryu, is it Karate?

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    Default Uechi Ryu, is it Karate?

    Hi, I'm a practitioner of Kyokushin Karate and am a lover of the martial way in which I practice, so I enjoy reading about other styles of Karate and I had seen a great video of Uechi Ryu on Youtube and wanted to read about its history. But what I read is that the founder learned a fujian style of kung fu and started teaching it in okinawa and that now it's somehow a style of karate. Is it the same style of kung fu that he learned or is it mixed with karate or did he use traditional okinawan methods of training and then call it karate or what? I don't yet understand how it became karate. I know that all karate has a root in chinese martial arts and kung fu, but it is still different from kung fu in it's present form, even though the same principles are shared. I just am curious about whether or not it actually is karate or kung fu, and if it is karate, how did it make the transition? thanks.
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    Uechi Ryu is Karate. The term Karate[ 唐手]= Chinese hand, which is sometimes translated via Okinawan as 'Tode', or which ever variation of it you've seen.This is the original way of writing Karate. This identifies that the art came from China. In Uechi Ryu's case this was around the time of the first world war. It wasn't until the mid 1930's that the Karate[空手]=Empty hand, version came into use , to deliberately divorce the art from its Chinese origins. -andy
    If you believe in an ideal,you don't own it,it owns you.
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    Yes it's karate. Just any other MA that evolved and came out of Okinawa.
    Tony Urena

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    So what you're saying is that it mixed with karate at one point and they finally called it karate?
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    It's Karate, just like Goju is Karate, that was one of the styles that made up your style of Kyokushin. A man by the name of Ryu Ryu Ko, taught Kanryo Higashionna Whooping Crane, who taught Miyagi Chojun Sensei, and it was called Goju Ryu by Miyagi Sensei.
    Uechi trained kingai Noon, & brought it back to Okinawa, & taught it as Uechi Ryu Karate.
    Shorin Ryu is also based on crane. All Okinawan Karate is based upon some type of Chinese Martial Art.
    When it came to Okinawa, it was called Naha Te, Shuri Te, & Tomari Te, because of the area's it was taught at.
    Later they began naming styles. Shuri Te & Tomari Te became what is known today as Shorin Ryu. The methods taught by Uechi, & kanryo Higashionna (Who taught Miyagi), were called Naha Te. Now, they have their own style names of Uechi Ryu, & Goju Ryu.
    I hope this helps.

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    I think you're trying to make this more complicated than what it is. No matter where the art originated from, it evolved from there in Okinawan thus making it karate.
    All the arts in Okinawa in its infancy evolved either by the practitioners influences or other outside influences.
    Some have closer resemblance to their origins than others, but it's still karate.
    Tony Urena

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    Actually, let's not over simplify this either, besides making it more complicated. Just because it was taught in okinawa doesn't mean that it evolved in Okinawa, and goju ryu is not a pure chinese martial art. Naha te predates goju ryu, which is mixed with naha te. All Karate forms were derived not only from chinese martials arts, that's just part of it, they also implemented the local okinawan disciplines. They were mixed with chinese kungfu, which the martial artist came over from China during cultural exchanges and business deals. They were combined, the okinawan fighting methods and the chinese martial arts, and okinawan traditional training methods were used as well, to make what is known today as Karate. Orignally called Tode, which was chinese hand, translated, but that was because the chinese provided the first fixed system for them to base the rest of their art upon. Shuri te had the local fighting methods of shuri mixed in it, naha te had the local fighting methods of naha in it, and tomari te had the fighting methods of tomari in it. Secrets of breathing, deeper stances, and breaking techniques were taught and the forms were also modified, and techniques were added, along with the Tenshin method, which is a coveted okinawan secret. Shuri te had the most kung fu influence, tomari te had the most okinawan influence, some of the versions being almost purely okinawan, and naha te was very balanced between the two. It is not purely chinese, and if you see them next to the chinese martial arts from whence they originated you will find that they are different, while they hold the same base. If the country where the martial art was taught was the only difference then they wouldn't call it by a different name, now would they? That would be ridiculous, like wing chun taught in america isn't wing chun because americans are learning it? that makes no sense. So, basically if the fujian crane kung fu that uechi learned wasn't modifed in the same way as the others then it is his style of kung fu and not karate, just like bruce lee made jun fan, his style of wing chun. It is not a completely different martial art because he taught it in America. So, this might change one's view. I have never heard of uechi ryu being called naha te, does it emphasize breathing?
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    Quote Originally Posted by brendan V Lanza View Post
    I have never heard of uechi ryu being called naha te, does it emphasize breathing?
    Actually, not that I agree, in most books on the subject Uechi Ryu is clasified under Naha te along with Goju Ryu.
    Joe Stitz

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    never heard of uechi ryu being called naha te, does it emphasize breathing?
    Uechi Sanchin seems to have much "lighter" breathing than Goju versions generally. If people call it Karate it's Karate, sorry but that's pretty much it, most Uechi ryu people call what they do a form of Karate, so there ya go.

    Other than that the question is kind of a semantic one, I suppose you could call it something else, but why bother?
    Zachariah Zinn

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    You know that back in the day they used to call every kind of martial arts in the US Karate, muay thai, kick boxing, they even called tae kwon do korean karate, but that doesn't make them karate. We are beyond the time where the mystery of martial arts has befuddled us. Americans are now well aware of what the asian martial arts are and no longer content to label some thing a generic label. Muay thai is not karate, neither is judo or any other martial art except karate. Every expert who knows the kinds of techniques found, the kinds of experts who live the martial way or observe tournaments for a living, or just plain love watching martial arts know the difference between them. I don't think that because somebody calls something by a name mistakenly that we should all follow that. Call me stubborn, strict, or strange, but I feel that I haemore respect for the art that I practice and understand the meaning behind its history and name. I have nothing against uechi ryu and if it is truly combined with the techniques mentioned then it is karate, if not, then it has been mis named by history, which is fine with me, it has just as much meaning to the practitioners as every other way of life. But I do not like it when people disrespect a style or art by giving it a generic "who cares" and it is all just karate because everybody says so. I find it to not be in sync with what budo requires from an individual's mind. They all called the earth flat, too, you know.
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    Uechi Ryu, by its own history (and the internal evidence of its own texts) is an Okinawan version of late 19th/early 20th century Southern Shaolin. A reasonably generic Fujianese system with a lot of secret society stuff thrown in, if you want to be exact.

    Anyway, the Ryukyuan name for Southern Shaolin (in general) is Shorin-ryu. Why? Pronounce an "L" sound with a Japanese accent, and see what you get. Hence, the name for the Ryukyus, which in Chinese is Loo Choo.

    Meanwhile, during the 18th and 19th centuries, the Ryukyuan name for Chinese martial arts in general was Tang hands, where the character for Tang referred to an old Chinese dynasty and the character te meant "hands." However, the kanji for Tang hands could be (and usually was) pronounced "kara te".

    About 1905, alternative kanji, also pronounced "kara te", were introduced in Okinawa. The alternative replaced the kanji meaning "China" with kanji meaning "empty." Reasons included Japanes nationalism -- the Japanese of those days weren't too impressed with the Chinese. But, at the same time, the name also emphasized character development, unarmed fighting, and so on. Funakoshi went on for several pages in his books on why this came about.

    All of which is a very long way of saying that Uechi Ryu is karate, because karate is the Ryukyuan word for any Okinawan striking system that has roots in Fujianese Southern Shaolin.

    As for Korean karate, well, that's Tang Soo Do. Same kanji as Tang hands/kara te, only this time using a Korean rather than Ryukyuan pronunciation. From a technical standpoint, Tang Soo Do is essentially Japanese university and South Manchurian Railways karate of the 1930s, as modified by the Koreans for their own purposes during the 1940s and 1950s.

    During the 1960s, Tang Soo Do was probably the most common Korean style in the USA. Why? Well, it was the system taught at a major USAF base in Korea, and as such, it got lots of American students (to include Chuck Norris), who in turn brought it back to the USA. In addition, it was one of the most popular styles in New York City.

    What happened? In 1967, US immigration laws changed so that Asians could come to the USA at the rate of 20,000 per year per country rather than the old 80 per year per country. Voila! Taekwondo, which by then had become the official martial art of the Korean government, began to spread into the USA. At the same time, guys of Chuck Norris's generation were beginning to retire from martial arts, and their replacements were often guys who had learned taekwondo instead. Nonetheless, depending on which system you're talking about, "Korean karate" may be a very accurate description of what you're seeing.

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    Cool Inciteful..

    Very interesting Joe, I did not actually know that bit about the tang soo do, but it makes sense considering that it was no too long after the Japanese had left Japan and the US were the occupying forces. My wife is Korean and my daughter, who is coming next month, will be too, half anyway. I live in Korea and speak the basics of the language as well. My teacher is a Korean who studied in Japan, a direct student of Royama kancho (chairman) of the Kyokushin Kan association. Many of Oyama Masutatsu's closest friends and students were Koreans living in Japan at the time (including Oyama himself), My teacher also was a student of Oyama Masutatsu directly depending on the training day. My dojo is one of the last remnants of karate here, it is all tae kwon do almost. I haven't even seen Tang Soo Do here, although I'm sure it's here somewhere. It's all Olympic Tae Kwon Do, though, almost impossible to find Martial Tae Kwon Do, I hear you need to go to North Korea or the States in order to find it now. So, that is a very interesting piece of History for me.

    You have convinced of the authencity of Uechi Ryu, using facts, culture, and History, and you did it marvelously, I really appreciate it, Joe. Thank you for not pulling the whole, "Who cares" with me. Do you have any more info on the secret sociecy background of Uechi Ryu that you mentioned? I would really like to know more.
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    By "secret society", I meant fraternal organizations that served the same purpose in China as the Masons, Elks, Moose, Redmen, Skull and Bones, and so on did (or do) in the USA. Not everybody gets asked to join these organizations, and even if you do get asked, then there are initiation rites, arcane rituals, and funny costumes to master. Moreover, even once in The Group, it turns out that not everyone gets full access to the Inner Sanctum. Sound familiar? Sure it does; lots of martial arts organizations are still organized this way.

    ***

    For an introduction to Chinese training manuals, try Brian Kennedy and Elizabeth Guo, "Chinese Martial Arts Training Manuals" (North Atlantic, 2005).

    For the development of Okinawan karate, try Mark Bishop, "Okinawan Karate: Teachers, Styles, and Secret Techniques" (A. & C. Black, 1989).

    Finally, for a discussion of how taekwondo evolved from karate, see Eric Madis's essay in Green and Svinth, "Martial Arts in the Modern World" (Praeger, 2003).

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    Yes, I know about how Tae Kwon Do evolved from Karate, you can find the info here in Korea, the Tang Soo Do was news to me, though. I had read a wikipedia article that said that Tang Soo Do was basically the same as Tae Kwon Do, but Hong Man Hi registered Tae Kwon Do first, and that Tang Soo Do came about from a contestor, but your explanation sounds a lot more reasonable. Very interesting. You know that most Koreans don't even know this here, everybody thinks that Tae Kwon Do was a martial Art o its own that has been around since before the Japanese came here. This is mostly because of patriotic propaganda spread by word of mouth here, they are very upset about the Japanese occupation and the abuse they and their culture took from it. But Historically it is known by those who studied it, that it came from the karate that was taught here. It was forbidden to teach or practice korean martial arts and to speak the korean language in public. So they had to learn the japanese martial arts, and thus created their own from them. Karate became Tng Soo Do and Tae Kwon Do, while Aikido became Hapkido, and Kendo became Kumdo. Judo is the only japanese martial art that retins its name and wasn't modified in technique to become Koreanized. The only true korean martial arts that survived were Kuk Sool Won, Taekyon, Sireum, Subak (but it is rumored to exist in North Korea, we don't have it in the South) and Te Kung Woo Sool. The other books you mentioned are great and I definately want to check them out. Thanks alot, Joe. I had heard before that there were a few groups, however, that were some Asian Martial secret societies where you had to be asked in order to join and then they would have you do something for them and then once that was completed, initiate you. As to the way so many martial art organizations work, you are right, they do work like secret societies. However, do know of any specific secret societies, like the ones I spoke of, historically?
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    This is an interesting technique, can you talk more about the history of
    this technique?
    "Hero shows you how to solve the problem - yourself. " -- Jet Li
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