13 Jan

A Visit with Uechi Kanbun

Uechi-ryu Karatedo,

1941 Uechi Kanbun (seated) & Shimabukuro Natsuyoshi (standing)

There is an interesting but little known account of Uechi Kanbun’s (上地完文) life in Wakayama prefecture written by Konishi Yasuhiro (小西康裕) (founder of Shindo Jinen-ryu (神道自然流) in his book “Karate-do Johatsu” (空手道上達) (1953, pg. 156). Intensely curious about why his fellow Ryukyuan, Uechi Kanbun, had went to and stayed in Fuzhou for ten years, Mabuni Kenwa (摩文仁賢和) (founder of Shito-ryu (糸東流) traveled to Wakayama prefecture with Konishi. The meeting must have been a fruitful one they later devised a kata called Shimpa (心波 (mind wave) based on some of the Fuzhou  boxing techniques which Uechi Kanbun had showed him. The following is a translation of what Konishi wrote regarding the encounter.

At the start of the Showa era, my sworn friend, the late Mabuni Kenwa and I traveled to Wakayama prefecture to visit the founder of Pangainoon-ryu, Uechi Kanbun to investigate the secrets of Toudi. More than likely Uechi Kanbun too has passed away I think. At any rate, if he is still alive he would be quite old. I distinctly remember his young and powerful students demonstrating Pangainoon-ryu on the dirt floor of his home. It was a very enlightening experience for both Mabuni Kenwa and myself. Unfortunately because Uechi Kanbun had spent most of his younger years living in Southern China, he could not speak Japanese very well. He appeared to have withdrawn from society completely and saw few visitors. My impression of him was that he was a very thoughtful and passionate man and I thought I would have more chances to meet and talk with him. Unfortunately I was only able to meet with him once. Later Mabuni Kenwa and myself created the kata Shimpa from our meeting with Uechi Kanbun.

Uechi Kanbun

Original text in Japanese. Click to enlarge.

I find Konishi’s description of Uechi Kanbun very intriguing. It describes a man very much at peace with himself, almost as if Konishi is describing a spiritual recluse. Uechi lived in a simple earth dwelling, appeared to have very little possessions, saw few visitors and focused on teaching his students his own particular style of Karatedo. For all intents and purposes it appeared that Uechi Kanbun cared little for material things. I today’s world of self-proclaimed “masters” and “experts” plastered all over the internet, I wonder how many of them could follow Uechi Kanbun’s example?