Ryukyu Kempo Lineage
The lineage of the United Ryukyu Kempo Alliance carries the value of the wisdom that has been entrusted to us. The history of the Ryukyu people demonstrates a strong need for the protection of family, village, and country. We are the protectors of all that is good in true karate and we honor the experiences, trials, and errors of the masters who went before us. We too can learn from the adversity they faced. Our character is molded by adversity and our lineage demonstrates a path that we can follow as a clear guide. Our lineage began in a different era, but the truth in karate has proven to be consistent throughout the ages.
Ryukyu Kempo comes from the island that is now known as Okinawa, Japan. The term Ryukyu refers to the name of the island and its people prior to the Japanese Invasion in the 15th century. The term Kempo translates to "fist way." So Ryukyu Kempo means the fist way of the Ryukyu people.
1733 - 1815
Tode Sakugawa, also known as Kanga Sakugawa and Sakugawa Satunushi, was an Okinawan martial arts master and major contributor to the development of “Te”, the precursor to modern karate.
In 1750, Sakugawa began his training as a student of an Okinawan monk, Peichin Takahara. After six years of training, Takahara suggested that Sakugawa train under Kusanku, a Chinese master. Sakugawa spent six years training with Kusanku, and began to spread what he learned to Okinawa in 1762.
He became such an expert that people gave the nickname “Tōde” Sakugawa (“Chinese Hand” Sakugawa). His most famous student, Bushi Matsumura, went on to develop the Shuri-te, which later developed into the Shōrin-ryū style of karate.
The Dojo Kun used by our Alliance was created by Sakugawa, and several of our kobudo forms bear his name also.
1860 - 1937
A prominent Shōrin-ryū master, Kentsu Yabu was known for his fighting ability.
It is said that he never lost a fight, beating even the great Choki Motobu in a famous
challenge match. Yabu began his Karate training under Sokon “Bushi” Matsumura and
later continued under Matsumura’s top student, Yasutsune Itosu. His classmates under these two teachers included such future masters as Chomo Hanashiro, Gichin Funakoshi, and Chotoku Kyan. Yabu was one of the first ever to teach Karate in the Okinawa school system (under Itosu’s supervision) and, in 1927, traveled to Hawaii where he taught Karate for almost a year before returning to Okinawa.
During the Sino-Japanese war (1894-95), Yabu fought on the Chinese mainland as a sergeant in the Japanese army. From this experience came his ferocious fighting style as well as the nickname “The Sergeant” which remained with him for the rest of his life. Though Yabu was never defeated, he never hurt an opponent except in war. Among his students was Shigeru Nakamura, founder of Okinawa Kempo.
1865 - 1927
Choyu Motobu, the first-born son of a ranking lord and a descendant of the Ryukyu King Sho Shitsu (reigned 1648-1669), was trained in Goten-Te (palace hand), the secret martial art of the royal family which had been handed down within the Motobu family from father to first-born son for eleven generations. It was a soft art incorporating many throws and grappling techniques and lacking formal stances, blocks, and katas.
Born in Shuri, Choyu Motobu served as a martial arts instructor to the last of the Okinawan kings, Sho Tai, who reigned from 1848 until 1879 when the Japanese deposed the Ryukyu imperial family. Choyu’s own first-born son had died early, and his second-born had no interest in preserving the art, so, with the end of the Okinawan royal lineage, Choyu broke with tradition and taught his system to a family outsider, Seikichi Uehara, who named it Motobu-ryu.
1871 - 1944
Choki Motobu is perhaps the most controversial of all the great Karate masters. He first
gained notoriety as a bully and a braggart, and though in later life he adopted a more
humble attitude, he was never able to outlive his earlier reputation.
Like his brother Choyu, Choki Motobu was born in Shuri, but, being his father’s third son, was never taught the family’s martial arts system. Instead, he picked up the basics of Te by peeking through dojo fences and trained himself on the makiwara. He lifted rocks to develop strength and earned the nickname “Saru” (monkey) for his exceptional leaping ability. He also practiced fighting by brawling in the streets every night with anyone who’d accommodate him. Though he briefly trained with Itosu and Kosaku Matsumora, his over-aggressiveness caused both associations to be short-lived.
Late in life, Choki underwent a profound change in attitude. Seeking the true meaning of Karate-do, he dedicated himself to a serious study of kata under Yabu Kentsu, one of the few men who’d ever beaten him in fighting.
Choki’s favorite kata was Naihanchi which he claimed was the only kata required for a mastery of Karate. He remains best known for his kumite however, and, up until his death, other masters sent their students to him specifically to learn his free-fighting techniques.
Choki Motobu’s famous students include Shoshin Nagamine, founder of Matsu Bayashi-ryu; Shigeru Nakamura, founder of Okinawan Kempo; and Tatsuo Shimabuku, founder of Isshin-ryu.
1889 - 1952
Hanashiro Chomo was born in 1869 and at an early age began training with the man many consider to be the greatest of all Tote masters, Matsumura Sokon (1809-1901), well known as “Bushi” Matsumura. Matsumura was quite an old man at the time and Hanashiro was primarily a student of one of Matsumura’s senior students, Itosu Anko (1830-1915). Itosu shaped modern karate as much as any other person in history and spearheaded a movement to bring Tote into the Okinawan school system around the turn of the century. Hanashiro remained with Itosu, and acted as an assistant instructor for him up until his death in 1915. From early in the 20th century, Hanashiro taught gymnastics at a junior high school in Shuri (Okinawa’s capital) which gave him an excellent opportunity to aid Itosu in the introduction of Tote into the school system.
In the 1920’s, Hanashiro Chomo was one of the most highly regarded karate masters in Okinawa, this was acknowledged even by other masters.
1894 - 1979
Founder of Okinawa Kempo, Shigeru Nakamura was a living legend and one of Okinawa’s all time great Karate masters.
Born in the northern town of Nago, Nakamura learned the basics of Te from his father who, unfortunately, died when Shigeru was only ten. He then trained under his uncle and his uncle’s good friend, Choki Motobu. From Motobu, Nakamura learned free fighting and the kata Naihanchi.
Nakamura studied under Kentsu Yabu and Chomo Hanashiro, two of Itosu’s students, at the Prefectural Number One School, and, upon entering the Prefectural Teachers’ Training College, was able to study with Itosu himself.
Eventually, Nakamura opened his own dojo, simply calling his style Okinawa-te as he disliked the idea of Karate being divided into separate styles. Later, in an attempt to unite all Okinawan Karate and raise its status to that of Japanese kendo and judo, he formed the Okinawa Kempo Association and served as its president. Though the association disbanded upon Nakamura’s death, his students retained the name Okinawa Kempo for their style.
1928 - 2012
Seiyu Oyata studied with many great masters before immigrating to the United States. Oyata was a student of Shigeru Nakamura from whom he learned the empty hand kata which are taught in Ryukyu Kempo today.
Oyata studied with two other great masters, those being Uhugushiku and Wakinaguri. Little is known about these men other than they passed on the traditions of Ryukyu no Te (Ryukyu Hands) and Ryukyu Kobudo (Ryukyu weapons) to Oyata.
While Oyata was not the first person to use the name Ryukyu Kempo to describe his teachings, he was the first person to introduce the term into the world of modern martial arts.
Oyata went on to further refine his particular methods of Ryukyu Kempo and named his way Oyata Shin Shu Ho which translates as the “Oyata Truthful Hands Method”. Very few people have been certified as representatives of Oyata Shin Shu Ho.
Seiyu Oyata passed away on the 18th of June 2012.
Allan Amor is the founder of the United Ryukyu Kempo Alliance and one of few people who can truly claim to have been a long term, close personal student of Seiyu Oyata. Amor Kaicho (Kaicho is a title which translates as "Head of Organization") believes in teaching Ryukyu Kempo as it was taught to him my Mr. Oyata.
With an approach of "One Heart at a Time," Amor Kaicho constantly works to build the United Ryukyu Kempo Alliance into an organization of people who work to support each other and grow together through the common study of Ryukyu Kempo Karate.