My Background In The Ryukyu Martial Arts

A lot of people email me asking about my background in the martial arts. I wrote this to answer these inquiries. It is not comprehensive but it should serve the purpose.

My karate background is mainly in the Suidi (Shuri-te) [首里手] derived systems. I started karate training in 1982. In 1984 I began training in Oyata Seiyu shinshi’s Ryukyu Kempo [琉球拳法] under Hayek shinshi. I trained under Hayek shinshi for more than a decade.

Around 1992 I began training in Matsumura Kenpo [松村拳法] (an art largely derived from Matsumura Seito Shorin ryu [松村正統少林流]).

Kuda shinshi, Soken shinshi, and Shima shinshi (Kobukan opening 1972)

Matsumura Kenpo was founded by Kuda Yuichi shinshi who was one of Soken Hohan shinshi’s senior students. While this style is largely based on Soken shinshi’s teachings, the style is influenced by Nakamura Shigeru Shinshi’s Okinawa Kenpo [沖縄拳法] and the Udundi [御殿手] (the grappling style of the Okinawan royalty) of Uehara Seikichi shinshi and Higa Seitoku shinshi.

Soken shinshi’s style of Shorin ryu is known for its use of Okinawan ki [気] exercises which are considered especially important in the Hakutsuru [白鶴] and Chinto [チントー] katas. Some of my kiko [気功] work was based on methods learned from Matsumura Shorin ryu teachers.
I also trained in Toma Shian shinshi’s Seidokan [正道館] for a couple years, This style is known for openly teaching Okinawan Tuidi (toide) [取手]. Tuidi is the Okinawan Aikijujutsu-like grappling method found in both Karate and Udundi.

Around 1988 or 1989 I saw a demonstration of the “dynamic tension” Sanchin [三戦] style of Okinawan “Iron Shirt”. Impressed by this demonstration, I started cross training in Higaonna Morio shinshi's Goju ryu [剛柔流]. Sanchin training was my real introduction to serious Okinawan kiko training.  After learning to do Okinawan “Iron Shirt” the Goju-ryu way, I began investigating the differences between kiko as taught in Goju ryu and as taught in Shorin ryu.

The approaches are very similar, with the main differences being that Goju uses what is sometimes called the “wind-path” variant of Shosyuten kiko [小周天気功] and a lot of “dynamic tension”. Shorin ryu uses the more standard version of shoshyuten kiko and emphasizes “connective tension” (gyame [ギャメ]) instead of “dynamic tension”. Rather than the hardened musculature of “dynamic tension”, Shorin ryu more emphasizes a springy feeling (ie not hardened) expansive tension sometimes described as “muchi” [餅] in the Okinawan language. Those were the major differences. I eventually gave up doing "dynamic tension" methods all together because the softer form of kiko worked equally well and was probably better for one's health (but took slightly longer). So my kiko work was based both on Goju ryu and Shorin ryu, but was heavily slanted towards the softer Shorin methods.

I also took the trouble to obtain copies of texts on Ekkin kiko [易筋気功]  and Senzui kiko [洗髓気功] which I carefully studied. These documents helped me get a better picture of the comprehensive nature of Okinawan kiko methods and filled in a number of blanks in my understanding.

Unfortunately, some portions of these texts are hard to understand and I hope to have the opportunity to analyze these texts with a senior Okinawan teacher at some point in the future (perhaps Hokama Tetsuhiro shinshi).

Much of my joint-locking (tuidi) and vital-point techniques (called "chibudi" [チブディ] in the Okinawan language, also known as kyushojutsu [急所術] in Japanese) comes from Oyata Seiyu shinshi. Another large portion of my tuidi/chibudi comes from Kuda Yuichi shinshi, and to a much lesser extent Kise Fusei shinshi, both of whom learned from Soken Hohan shinshi. I also learned a lot of tuidi (toide) from Toma shinshi’s Seidokan.

Kuda shinshi and Oyata shinshi celebrating New-Years with Nakamura shinshi in 1968

Interestingly, Oyata shinshi, Kuda shinshi, Toma shinshi, and Kise shinshi all trained in Udundi under Uehara Seikichi shinshi as well as studying Okinawa Kenpo under Nakamura Shigeru shinshi.
In addition to the Suidi/Udundi derived tuidi of the above teachers, I incorporated some of the chibudi and tuidi/gyaku-te [逆手] I learned is from Higaonna shinshi’s Goju-ryu.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Chris Thomas shinshi (an excellent  teacher of Okinawan Isshin ryu [一心流] and Ryukyu Kempo) from whom I learned many techniques and a great deal of technical information on vital points. Far more importantly, I learned from Thomas shinshi's highly effective method of teaching and his remarkable ability explain complex concepts in an accessible manner. Thanks to him, I learned to express ideas with which I was intimately familiar but found difficult to articulate coherently and succinctly (which is to say I stole as much of his teaching style as I was able).


  1. Ryan:

    Love this video on Okinawan Karate.
    do you have anymore instructional dvds or youtube presentations?

  2. Sorry I never saw this before today. Yes I have a youtube channel where I share videos (old and new) on Okinawan karate:

  3. Most training in these area require extensive training of body biometrics and neuromuscular concepts as it can result in extreme injury
    These should not be randomly practiced on people

  4. Do you have any Kiko seminars coming up in 2017 near the Raleigh/Durham area or where you are at