Uechi Ryu: Forming Habits

I feel like this week has a theme. I know I talked about practicing in general concerning the ukulele and art. Now I’d like to delve further into the martial arts I currently study. I suppose to start out, I should address what it’s called and where it originates from.

Kanbu Uechi

Kanbun Uechi is an Okinawan native who fled to China to escape Japanese military conscription. He was in China for a total of thirteen years. He studied a Kung Fu system called “Pangai-noon” under a Chinese master called Zhou Zihe (Shu Shiwa in Japanese). There’s a lot of debate about how he met Shu Shiwa and other details, but it’s interesting to read about theories. The history behind an artform explains a lot about how and why it was formed. Pangai-noon means half hard, half soft.

During the last three years of his time in China, Uechi ran his own dojo. As the stories go, apparently, one of Kanbun’s Chinese students killed a neighbor during a dispute over land irrigation. He swore to never teach again and returned to Okinawa.

There’s a lot of details I’m glossing over, but eventually, Ryuyu Tomoyose, a co-worker of Uechi, would convince Kanbun to teach him ways of defending himself against different attacks. Uechi eventually opened the “Pangai-Noon Karate Academy”.


Kanei Uechi

Uechi Ryu is principally based on the movements of three animals: the Tiger, the Dragon, and the Crane. Sanchin, Seisan, and Sanseiru are the three katas that originate from Pangai-noon.

After Kanbun passed, the style was renamed to Uechi Ryu. Kanbun’s son, Kanei would continue his father’s work in the martial arts. Kanei, along with Kanbun’s Senior students, created Kanshiwa, Kanshu, Seichin, Seiryu, and Kanchin to help bridge the gap between the original three kata.

Oof, so now that we’ve delved through that epic saga. Here’s a bit of my own personal history regarding martial arts. I took Tai Kwan Do back in Middle School and High School. I studied under Master Young Seon Seo, a 9th degree black belt. The school he had in my hometown is no longer open, but it seems as though his son has opened a few schools of his own.

Hopefully, next time I’m able to search through my storage unit, I’ll be able to find some of the records from back then. I have a number of belts, medals, and other items that I kept. There’s something nostalgic about looking back.

Grand Master Young Seon Seo

Forgive the glare on the photograph! And the fuzz. A lot of these were sent to me via text message from my mother. I can’t help but cringe as I look at my younger self. The first picture (from left to right) was in 1996, likely? I was a green belt back then. Looking at the photos, it’s no wonder I have trouble keeping my elbows in now. The next two photos were when I was a black belt. Likely 1997 or 1998. Exact timelines are difficult, but I do recall having most of my hair cut off the summer before high school.

Two decades later and I definitely envy my younger self. I was so flexible back then! If you don’t keep up with something, you definitely lose it.

For Uechi Ryu, my current Sensei is Bob Noel of Knoxville Uechi Ryu. We’ve been studying under him for nearly two years now. My SO and I are currently at the rank of Rokkyu. Doing this martial arts as a family has been a good way for my SO and I to stay active together as well as with his daughter. Throughout the week, we typically also visit Sensei Mike McGee (Uechi Ryu) and Sensei Darren Gilbert (Isshin Ryu) for additional training.

I’ve found that Uechi Ryu has a lot of the mental and spiritual aspects that have helped me during my DBT therapy and practice. Mushin in Japanese is a mental state. Zen and Daoist practitioners attempt to reach this state, as well as artists and trained martial artists. The term is shortened from mushin no shin (無心の心), a Zen expression meaning the mind without mind and is also referred to as the state of “no-mindness”. It’s strange because you don’t want this sort of thing happening during DBT.

In DBT you want to be conscious and aware of what you are doing in the moment. Although the two things seem like polar opposites on the surface, I honestly think they do take a page from each other’s books. Before you can reach a state of Mushin in martial arts, you have to practice something enough that you gain the muscle memory. During Kata, you concentrate on your body, your breathing, and what you’re doing in that exact moment. You don’t think about what’s about to come next.

Eventually, once you’ve gone through things on repetition, you’re body is able to flow through it without as much effort. I feel like it’s the same in DBT. If you practice certain skills and train yourself to react in better ways towards negative emotions, it’ll eventually become second nature for you as well. I know that I’ve personally had better relationships with people in my life since I started DBT because I can communicate my thoughts and emotions better. In the past, I would let my emotions control me.

I can’t say that I’m perfect at doing that yet, but like all things, it takes time, effort, and practice to accomplish your goals. I’ve included a video of Sensei Bob Noel walking through one of our drills called Kyu Kumite. It’s supposed to be a two person drill, but life doesn’t always provide us with someone to train with so practicing it alone helps prepare us.

My Atelier Whootique Youtube is going to be primarily for DBT and art related matters while the Okinawa Observer is Uechi Ryu and Ishhin Ryu martial arts. I don’t know as much about the origin of Isshin Ryu, I’ll have to do some research.

Thank you for following along in this brief history lesson! As always, your presence here is appreciated. ❤️

Published by Erin Seto

Southern Peach 🍑, in her 30’s - Artist 🎨 + Bibliophile 📚 + Geek 🎮 + Nerd 👓 + Animal-Lover 🐾 + Bipolar Disorder 💢 x Anxiety 😨 x PTSD 💣÷ DBT Therapy ✨ + Mental Health Matters 🧠 = ME 👩🏽

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