Recognized within the martial arts community as one of the most effective forms of self defense, Uechi Ryu (pronounced "way-chee-roo") incorporates both hard and soft styles. Uechi's use of a circular blocking approach is unique in Japanese karate, and allows students to re-direct an opponents energy against them. When combined with Uechi's simple yet effective techniques, students develop powerful and practical self defense skills.
The history of Uechiryu began in Okinawa on May 5th, 1877, with the birth of the founder Kanbun Uechi. In 1897, Kanbun left Okinawa for China. He arrived in Fuchow City, Fukien Province and began his martial arts training. For the next ten years, he studied under the guidance of a Chinese Monk and Tea Merchant we know as Shushiwa. Shushiwa taught a southern Chinese martial art referred to as Pongainoon ("half hard, half soft").
In 1907, Shushiwa encouraged Kanbun to open his own school. He eventually did in Nansoe, a day’s journey from Fuchow. Kanbun was credited with being the first Okinawan to operate a school in China. The school ran successfully for three years, until one of his students killed a neighbor in self-defense in a dispute over an irrigation matter. The incident affected Kanbun to the point that he closed his school and returned to Okinawa. There he married, settled down as a farmer, and vowed never to teach again.
In 1924 Kanbun Uechi, along with many other Okinawans, left his home and went to Japan for stable employment. He arrived in Wakayama and worked as a janitor. It was here that he met a younger Okinawan Ryuyu Tomoyose. It was through this friendship that Kanbun agreed to begin teaching in a limited capacity.
It was here that the co-founder of this style, Kanei Uechi (Son of Kanbun) began his martial arts practice. After ten years, he returned to Okinawa. Like his father, he married an Okinawan (named Shige) and kept his martial arts practice from becoming public knowledge.
Some time later Ryuko Tomoyose, son of Ryuyu, approached Kanei and following the advice of his father, did everything he could to convince Kanei to begin teaching in Okinawa. Kanei resisted until Ryuko and several fellow farmers built a dojo for Kanei. Kanei and Ryuko stayed together for many decades and became the best of friends. A friendship which continued until Kanei Uechi died in 1991.
Ryuko Tomoyose has a long list of amazing accomplishments. In addition to becoming one of the highest ranking living marial artists in Okinawa, he was also given the title of National Living Treasure of Japan. He was also fluent in English. In 1956, with the permission of Kanei Uechi, he began teaching the first non-Okinawans Uechi Ryu karate.
There have been several well known non-Okinawan students. Two examples are the late Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, and George Mattson, who would become the first American to be promoted to Shodan (First Degree Black Belt). In 1958, Ryuko Tomoyose gave George Mattson two instructions for returning to the United States: write a book, and teach Uechi Ryu.
George Mattson began teaching at the YMCA in Boston, one of the first Karate Schools in the U.S., and it grew into the famous “Mattson Academy of Karate”. In 1963, George Mattson published his first book, “The Way of Karate”. This was the first hardcover publication of martial arts ever written in English.
In 1967, Ed Huff began his study of Uechi Ryu under the tutelage of George Mattson. In the early 90’s, Ed Huff began his own Uechi Ryu Karate School in the North End of Boston. In the mid 90's John Scully began his studies under Ed Huff.