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Black Belt tests for Norwell Karate and our affiliated dojo students are offered twice a year, in May and November, with board members comprised of highly ranked instructors from these member dojos listed below. First degree black belt candidates must be 16 years of age, to assure the level of maturity and responsibility concomitant with achieving this rank. Our black belt diplomas are issued from Okinawa Karate Do Association in Okinawa, Japan.

Affiliated Massachusetts Dojos

Under the late Jack Summers, 10th Dan
Institute of Okinawan Karate,
Quincy, MA

 

History of Uechi-Ryu/Shohei Ryu Karate

(Prounounced “way chee rue” and “Sho hey rue”)

If curiosity is a thirst for knowledge and opportunity is a situation favoring some purpose, we can say that Uechi-Ryu Karate would not exist today without one man taking advantage of an opportunity to satisfy his curiosity. In late nineteenth century Japan, there was an edict by then Emperor Meiji that required conscripted military service by every able bodied male in order to form a prosperous nation with a strong army. That edict created a very real fear amongst Okinawans. The proximity of their islands to China made them fearful of attack and, in addition, Okinawans felt no real loyalty to the Meiji Government. The islands, a former kingdom in its own right, had been put under Japanese protection in 1872 and named Ryukyu Province; then abruptly changed into a prefecture of Japan called Okinawa Prefecture. This action essentially made Okinawa a part of Japan.

In 1897, nineteen year old Kanbun Uechi—a son of daikon radish farmers—was due to be conscripted into the Japanese military. Kanbun was a simple young man who enjoyed the tranquility of his peaceful island nation and practicing traditional Okinawan martial arts techniques and bojutsu—the art of fighting with a staff. A combination of nationalism for the Ryukyu Islands, coupled with real fear of having to serve in the Japanese military, sent Kanbun to the Fujian Province in China. The move presented him with an opportunity to satisfy his curiosity for martial arts while allowing him to ease his conscience for avoiding military service.

Upon arrival in Fujian, Kanbun Uechi met a young Taoist priest named Shu Shiwa—he was a master of a style of Chinese boxing called Pangai-noon. Pangai-noon techniques implemented hard strikes and soft blocks which immediately sparked young Kanbun's interest. After some time, Shu Shiwa agreed to take an eager Kanbun on as his student.

Kanbun Uechi turned out to be a diligent and honorable disciple who not only studied Pangai-noon, but extended his knowledge of traditional healing arts by adding to his repertoire with techniques practiced by the Shu Shiwa family. After ten years, Kanbun was declared to have mastered the art enough to open his own school in the province of Nansoue, China. He taught there for three years before eventually returning to Okinawa in 1910 after an incident which resulted in the death of a man who was accidentally killed by one of his Pangai-noon students who misapplied a technique. Kanbun, who felt a deep sense of responsibility for the death, vowed never to practice the art again.

After his return to Japan, Kanbun took up his family's farming tradition and married. His first son, Kanei, was born in 1911 followed by three other children—a son, Kansai, and two daughters, Tsuru and Kamai. He lived a quiet life, but circumstances in 1924 led him to seek employment on mainland Japan in the prefecture of Wakayama. It was there that another transplant from Okinawa named Tomoyose Ryuyu asked Kanbun to teach him some basic self-defense moves. Taken aback by his skill, Tomoyose suggested that he open up his own dojo. Tomoyose's faith was enough to restore Kanbun's confidence as an instructor and, once again, he began teaching Pangai-noon-ryu Karate Do—as it came to be called in Japan.

In 1927, Uechi Sensei established his own dojo and was joined by his sixteen year old son, Kanei, along with Tomoyose Ryuyu. The dojo soon became wildly successful and the art was renamed “Uechi Ryu Karate-Jutsu” in 1940. Kanbun continued teaching in Wakayama until 1946. He returned to Okinawa where he practiced his art until his death from complications of nephritis in 1948.

Meanwhile, Kanei Uechi became a master of Uechi-Ryu in his own right and started his own dojo in Osaka, Japan. He eventually returned to Okinawa in 1942 to establish a dojo at home. He began tweaking the Pangai-noon techniques in order to establish an ordered system of karate that was easier for students to employ. The first three original katas—sanchin, seisan, and sanseiryu—continued to be taught; but five more bridging katas were subsequently added: kanshiwa, kanshu, seichin, seiryu, and kanshin.. He also incorporated kumites and bunkai drills so that students would be able to apply their karate techniques safely with others. With the addition of junbi-undo (warm-up exercises) and hojo-undo (fundamental drills) to start off each class, Kanei Uechi Sensei was able to revolutionize karate so that the techniques were more accessible by the public. He renamed the system, “Uechi-Ryu Karate-Do.”

In the 1950's, after US military bases were established in post-World War II Okinawa, Kanei Uechi began teaching US Servicemen Uechi-Ryu Karate. It didn't take long for the art to become popular amongst the servicemen and, in the summer of 1958, an American student of Kanei Uechi named George Mattson introduced Uechi-Ryu to Americans when he taught his first class at the YMCA in Boston. Uechi-ryu Karate Do quickly gained popularity in the United States and has continued to grow ever since.

Meanwhile in Okinawa, following the death of Kanei Uechi in 1991, some fractioning occurred within the Uechi Ryu Karate organization in Okinawa, and in 1995, the Board of Directors of the Okinawa Karate Do Association created a new school, (ryuha) and officially named it Shohei Ryu, referring to a blending of the old and the new. Norwell Karate and its associated local dojos are under Sensei Jack Summers and are recognized by this Okinawa affiliation.

Headquarters: Okinawa Karate Do Association, Okinawa, Japan
http://www.okikukaihq.jp/eng/html/about/intro.html