UMD MARTIAL ARTS CLUB
OF the Mesabi Martial Arts Dojo
The history of Ueshiro Bayashi Shorin Ryu
|Training||Originally, the martial arts masters of the Ryu-Kyu Islands drew on any and all sources they came into contact with, including Chinese monks, Asian pirates, Japanese and Korean travelers and certainly many others whose contact was never recorded. Karate was a living, evolving art and the Okinawans had no compunction on modifying and advancing their training based on new techniques, technologies and new fighting strategies.
A lack of written records has led to some uncertainty regarding historical events and facts for karate in Okinawa. During the hundreds of years that the Japanese occupied Okinawa, Japanese officials and Samurai destroyed any records they found of karate and executed anyone caught practicing it. Then, during WWII, most of the few remaining written records of Shorin-Ryu Karate were destroyed. However, we still have a little information regarding martial arts in Okinawa and most historians would agree on the following important overview of facts:
1. Okinawa, an island chain geographically situated between China and Japan, has strong influences from both cultures, thereby borrowing martial art philosophy, technique and training methods from the two outside societies. China, Korea and Japan were, for centuries, involved in a tug of war to conquer and overrule Okinawa, an important stop-over point for seaborne commerce and trading ships from the surrounding countries.
2. The influence of India is also evident in Okinawa. In the sixth century A.D., an Indian monk named Bodhidharma (Daruma in Japanese) was born into a warrior caste. He became a skilled martial artist. He left India and traveled over the Himalayas into China to teach Buddhism there. He settled at the Shaolin (Shorin in Japanese) Temple monastery. His teachings included Buddhism philosophy, meditation, and even more importantly physical striking with the hands and feet and body shifting, all which are the precursors to Okinawan karate's budding traditions.
3. Korea, Tibet, Laos, Cambodia and numerous other Asian island cultures throughout the centuries have also had considerable effect on Okinawa. This effect was due to the pilgrimages of priests and the activities of pirates of mixed racial background who dominated the seas surrounding Okinawa during the Ming dynasty (1368-1643).
4. Okinawa suffered a history of weapons bans placed upon them by the following:
- In the 1420's, the Okinawan King Hashi from Chuzan and First Sho Dynasty, outlawed possession of weapons by the people.
- In 1469, King Sho-En, of the Second Okinawan Sho Dynasty, also outlawed possession of weapons by the people. He placed the ban to please China's royalty and governmental court and also to protect himself and the throne from his enemies.
- Then, during the Sho-Shin reign,1477-1527, and further during 1527 to 1609, Okinawa was left to itself, more or less, by Asia which was torn by war and by Japan which was in a state of anarchy. During this time period, karate enjoyed a great burst of development throughout the Ryu-Kyu islands.
- This ended in 1609. From 1609 to1879, Japan's Satsuma clan reinstated the ban on arms including the ban of ceremonial swords. Japan occupied and ruled over Okinawa during this time period, allowing China some dictate in the Okinawan political system which was ruled by Japan. Japan did tolerate and there did exist, undisturbed for three centuries, a succession of puppet-like Okinawan kings and royal courts. However the Japanese soldiers, like most any occupying force had little respect for the indigenous Okinawans, their homes or their peaceful way of life.
-In 1879, Meiji Period, the abdication of the Okinawan King Sho Thi resulted in Japan completely controlling the government. China withdrew from efficacy and arbitrary interference of the Japanese control of Okinawa. The United States tried to influence this political system, but to no avail. Japan and Okinawa become synonymous from 1879 until present time. Japan remains the authoritative ruler.
5. The Ryukyu Islands, in their development of a weaponless fighting art, incorporated the martial ideas of the various cultures into karate. The Okinawans also developed combat techniques with farm implements as impromptu weapons and used them often, along with karate to protect themselves and their families from invaders. They combined the knowledge of their own martial heritage with the methods they learned from the Chinese and others.
6. Okinawan karate from the late 1800's up to the present time is a matter of record and it is more openly practiced and documented in this century. As a result of the described outside influences of cross-pollination of foreign cultural ideas and martial arts exposure, the Okinawans were destined to incorporate and propagate the best techniques and fighting methods from the others and into their own te. The secret practice of karate made it even more mystical to the Okinawan practitioners who dedicated themselves to the constant improvement of these skills. The fundamental precepts of karate and other martial arts, Gan/Soku/Tanden/Riki are worthy of dissecting and exploring especially from the point of view of the ancient Okinawan karate fundamentals and their contribution to our present day quest for perfection in our training.
7. Unfortunately, the sense of mysticism has caused many to believe that Okinawan karate has been perfected. That it is no longer in need of collaborative study, adaptation and modification to fit into an ever-changing world. Ueshiro-Bayashi Ryu Karate does not hold to this school of thought. In the tradition of all the old masters, we seek to discover any and all components that will further the fighting skills of our students, just as the ancient masters did.