The following is one of a series of articles published in the Okinawa Times in 1961 that featured the main teachers of Karatedo. This article features Uechi Kanei sensei, son of Uechi-ryu founder Uechi Kanbun. In the coming weeks I will post the rest. If you would like to use or quote the article, I would appreciate it if you please site the source or post a link to it. Please do not cut and paste it verbatim.
Polishing My Sport
Uechi Kanei (age 50) (Karate)
Making good people: Karate that a person is proud of
Born Meiji 44 (1911), in Motobu village. Graduated from Wakayama commercial high school in Showa 13 (1938). Head of the Uechi-ryu Shubukan. Taught by his father From the age of 20 .
My father learned Karate in Fuzhou from a teacher named Shu Shabu(1) for a total of 10 years. When I was 18 years old, my father opened a dojo in Wakayama. From that time on I formally began to learn Karate from my father. When I was 28 years old I finally decided to open a dojo in Osaka’s Nishishiro ward. One event which occurred while I was teaching in Osaka was an Okinawa sumo tournament. During the tournament I did a special performance of Karate. Near the end of the demonstration, a large man named Akamine approached me to test my Karate. Akamine weighed about 105 kg and could break seven boards with his fist.
He asked if he could strike me five times in the solar plexus, but the tournament director refused. I replied that I didn’t mind and Akamine, holding nothing back, punched. Akamine’s punch was powerful. It cut my skin and I started to bleed. The audience became alarmed at the sight of me bleeding, but the punch itself did not affect me. I thought Akamine had had enough and decided to bring the demonstration to an end.
One of the officials, Mabuni sensei (2), praised me by saying I had obviously trained very hard. I can’t express how happy I felt after the demonstration. I vividly remember the following day my picture was in both the Asahi and Mainichi newspapers; with posters for that particular issue also being hung in Tokyo station and Osaka’s Umeda station. Also after the demonstration many people came to the hotel where I was staying to see if I was alright. They thought I might have suffered some ill effects after being on the receiving end of Akamine’s punch, but were amazed to see that I was perfectly fine.
Later on, the famous Karate master Miyagi Chojun (3) asked me to show him kata. Miyagi sensei watched intently as I performed five kata. After the performance Miyagi sensei also praised me by saying that there were few even in China who could perform kata like the way I had. When I was 31, I returned to Okinawa and began farming and teaching Karate to junior high school students.
Opening the Shubukan
After war, the Shubukan was opened in Futenma. Presently there are 81 students as well as 30 students who get together to receive instruction in Koza (4). I teach as best I can, but young people today do not have what it takes. There are many who practice for a while, but half way through drop out. If you really think you want to learn Karate, you first have to really love Karate. I farm during the day and teach at night from 8:00 to 11:00. Every morning I wake up early and never get enough sleep, but I never think of giving up. That’s how much I love karate, so I don’t regard it as something harsh.
Miyagi Chojun sensei told me once, “Training is like hot water. If you stop in your first year the water will become cold and it will take two years to heat it back up.” I would like young people who are interested in learning Karate to have the same feeling for the dojo as they would returning to their own home. Training half-hearted won’t build a Karate person of good character. Karate is not something so simple as to teach only fighting. Through the spirit of budo, Karate aims to build people of good character. It is important for seniors to be respected and juniors to be treated with kindness. Practicing only the physical aspect is putting Karate to ill use. I want everyone to learn proper orthodox Karate; a Karate that is beautiful and that they can be proud of.
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1 There are no kanji listed for the name Shu Shabu. Instead it is written in katakana, one of the phonetic scripts used in Japanese primarily for foreign words.
2 Uechi Kanei is referring to Mabuni Kenwa (1888-1953), founder of Shito-ryu, who was active in the Kansai area promoting Karate.
3 Miyagi Chojun (1888-1952) was the founder of Goju-ryu and direct student of Higashionna Kanryo (1850-1915).
4 Later renamed Okinawa city.