As I dwelled on this I began to recall an interview that came out of another famous martial artist, Shito Ryu founder Kenwa Mabuni, visiting Kanbun's dojo in Wakayama. It was originally published by Mabuni in 1934, however Mario McKenna wrote an article entitled "Uechi Ryu Karate Do" that was published in
in 2002 (Issue 22, pages 27-29) and includes a transcript of at least part of the interview as well as other information.
Record of the Mabuni Kenwa meeting with Uechi Kanbun
My student Dave Austin gave me a copy of Dragon Times Volume 22. In it there is an article on Uechi Ryu by Mario McKenna.
It is an article on the history of Uechi Ryu that includes a number of interesting items such as when the name changed. I had mainly heard it had been renamed to honour Uechi Kanbun Sensei after his death (1948) but this is incorrect. Uechi Kanbun renamed the style Uechi Ryu himself in 1940.
In this interview he hear that he was considering the change.
This article quotes “The Story of Chinese Chu’an-fa” by Kenwa Mabuni (originally published in Karate Kenkyu, 1934 pg. 92-93.):
Kenwa Mabuni (with translation(?) and footnotes by Mario McKenna) wrote:
My student and I were traveling on business. On the last day, we visited Higashi Kawagan-machi in Wakayama city. On the way there the first thing I noticed was a signboard on the left. It read, Pangainuun-ryu Toudi Master; Uechi Kanbun, Instructor.
At the age of 20, Uechi had traveled to China and trained in pure Chinese style chu’an-fa for more than 13 years and returned an expert. I was impressed by the sign board which was in the Chinese style. Before our business was concluded, we quickly paid a call to Uechi’s dojo to discuss chu’an-fa. We talked about many different things, but fortunately near the end of the conversation we were able to discuss Chinese chu’an-fa. The outline of that discussion is written below.
Mabuni: Sensei, in China is chu’an-fa still active as it was?
Uechi: It was extremely active when I went there, and might still be now.
Mabuni: Do Chinese immediately teach people chu’an-fa once they are asked to do so?
Uechi: Yes they do teach, however the student and teacher swear an oath and only after 23 days does teaching begin.
Mabuni: Why is this done?
Uechi: Those who wish to practice chu’an-fa first go to the chu’an-fa master’s house and ask tuition. If the teacher consents, the group then confers, builds a dojo for the teacher and brings him there. In the dojo various rituals are carried out to the dojo god. Then, the students and teacher take an oath. In the beginning there is no spiritual training and kata is taught. During this time one states one, two, three, four or five years of commitment to practice under a teacher. To become an excellent teacher takes 15 years or more, but to become a poor one takes 1 year or perhaps 6 months.
When opening a dojo, the most worrying things is dojo yaburi (footnote: people who issue a challenge to the dojo). Usually it consists of two or three thugs who come to the dojo and challenge the teacher to a fight. If the teacher loses the match, the challengers take that months fees. So, if you are not confident in your abilities you had better not open a dojo.
Mabuni: They seem like barbarians, don’t they?
Uechi: There is no reasoning with them. Also, another interesting thing is when you become an expert you can demonstrate kata on the road or in front of a crowd. If there is a more proficient expert among the people passing by, he will stop and give you some instruction.
Mabuni: This is different from how Japanese train.
Uechi: That’s right.
Mabuni: Which is stronger with Chinese, the fist or the tips of the fingers?
Uechi: Japanese have stronger fists, but Chinese have strong finger tips.
Mabuni: What methods do they use to make their finger tips stronger?
Uechi: First sand is placed in a box and you practice thrusting the finger tips into it. When you get used to that, you then replace the sand with larger objects such as beans and practice thrusting with your finger tips, then you will start to get stronger. In China, if kata is performed with the fists it is called Taiso (footnote: Uechi is referring to Great Ancestor Fist Boxing), but if kata is performed with the finger tips it is called Rakkan (footnote: Uechi is referring to Arahat Boxing also know as Monk Fist Boxing.)
Mabuni: Sensei, your style is called Pangainuun in Chinese, what does this mean?
Uechi: It means that the chu’an-fa kata are extremely quick. Lately instead of calling the style Pangainuun, I have been thinking a little that it might be better writing it Uechi-ryu.
Mabuni: Thank you for talking to with me. Good bye.
The article also quotes Patrick McCarthy on information about Zhou Zhihe (1874-1926 Shu Shiwa in Japanese).
His teachers were Li Zhaobei and Ke Xidi. He studied a variety of arts: Duck, Ox, Dog, Monkey, Tiger, Singing Crane. Other students were Jin [Censored]ian, Wang Didi, and Zhou Zhengqun.
But, as always, the history is very cloudy. One report had Uechi Kanbun entering the Fuzhou central Buddist temple where Shu Shiwa was the 36th generation head of the temple. Only one small problem: “according to research conducted by the Uechi-Ryu Karate –Do Association several years ago, there was no such temple.”
I will quote a final footnote from the article:
Mario McKenna wrote:
“It should be noted that in all likelihood Pangainuun does not refer to a specific style of chu’an-fa (Chinese Boxing). Instead, it more than likely refers to the mixture of training methods from Fujian that Uechi Kanbun combined to make his system of karate. In fact, Pangainuun refers to principles common to all martial arts. These include: koho (Jap. Hard method), juho (Jap. Flexible method) and hankoho (Jap. Half hard method). Examples of koho include: Tiger boxing, and Lion boxing. Examples of juho includes: Dog boxing, and Monkey boxing, and examples of hankoho include: White Crane boxing. Please see Mabuni Kenwa’s “Kobo Goshin-justu, Karate Kenpo (app34) pg. 19-20 for a complete description.
Just some interesting notes to ponder and it should be noted that the footnotes are just the author of the articles speculations.
Mabuni is said to have been inspired by his discussion with Uechi Kanbun in his creation of Shimpa Kata.
I just reread the entire McKenna article, it is pretty well done and provides some interesting info on the early history of Uechi Ryu, and in typical
fashion has several pictures. I wish I had the memory to recall reading this stuff, and not have to rediscover it every ten years! I guess I need to go back through my article collection and see what other gems I have forgotten.
Regarding Mabuni creating the kata Shimpa after meeting Uechi, that was discussed a bit on here ten years ago: