The Footprints of Kanbun Uechi

The Footprints of Kanbun Uechi magazine articles

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emattson
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Re: The Footprints of Kanbun Uechi

Post by emattson »

"As a youth his body was honed by farming the rocky soil of Takafuto"

For a long time, I was wondering how nunchucks became popular in martial arts. "Self-Reliance" magazine, spring 2024, has an article written by Everett Lindsey describing ways to grow wheat. After harvesting the wheat, the farmers would use flails to beat wheat lying on the tarp to separate the grain from the straw. A flail looks identical to a nunchuck. Because of Japan's mountainous land, they don't grow much wheat so Kanbun probably never saw a flail growing up. Parts of China has been growing wheat for many centuries; flails may be familiar to them. Perhaps Kanbun saw nunchucks while in China, but he seem to prefer bare-hand fighting.
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Erik

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Seizan
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Re: The Footprints of Kanbun Uechi

Post by Seizan »

Okinawa has grown barley, rice, and soybeans for probably hundreds of years. One reference to rice fields and paddies sets the beginnings of such agriculture around pre-1200 (Mid Shell-Mound Era). The northern part of Okinawa is mountainous but there are many flat open areas where rice paddies exist, and mountainous terraces are used to grow other crops.

https://storage.googleapis.com/hippostc ... 66-800.jpg

The above photo shows the gentle type of "mountainous" terrain of northern Okinawa. Nagahama, next door to Zakimi in Yomitan, is on such a "mountain" (actually a low gentle rise common to Okinawa, sloping upward to probably a few hundred meters above sea level).

Even Ie Jima, which many think of as just being a rock in the ocean, has fields and rich soil, and is known for barley, rice, tobacco (relatively recently), soybeans, and more.

Sumako, whose family is from Nago and northern areas, tells me that wheat and corn are more recent additions to Okinawa's crop harvest, but this still illustrates that northern Okinawan soil is rich and soft enough to grow almost anything.

https://visitokinawajapan.com/travel-in ... -ieisland/

When we think of “mountainous area” we usually think Himalayas, Rocky Mountains, the more severe mountains in areas like Equador, central or southern Europe, or continental Asia, and such. The “mountains” of Okinawa are mostly gentle, more like slopes or hills. There are a few real “mountains” that offer climbing challenges, but not many. Most are just gentle upward slopes. The soil is not mostly just rock.

Since the 1960's or so, wheat especially figures into northern Okinawan cuisine. Wheat flour is used almost exclusively for making Okinawan noodles, which are a staple in the Okinawan diet. Soybeans of course are used to make tofu, the protein-rich soybean curd that is used almost daily in all kinds of cooking. And rice, well...

Kanbun would definitely have seen and possibly used flails to separate barley or rice from the chaff. A working farm family wouldn’t do little or nothing most of the year while waiting on the radish harvest, they would likely help their neighbors and friends who grew other crops, or worked in their own fields with grain crops and other root veggies (radishes, potatoes, various squashes and melons, fruits, berries, tea fields, etc.). Farming families on Okinawa help each other, and receive help with their own crops later, too.

In the Izumi vicinity (Motobu) there are not just mountains, rocks, and harsh land that is hard to grow things on, a severe living eked out of rocky soil that yields little... There are rich flat lands and wide fertile fields for growing grains and root vegetables, and paddies are carved onto slopes and gentler mountainsides. As farmers, I believe the Uechi Family did rather well on their own lands (not making much money, but at least growing crops). Apparently they even grew tobacco (at least since after WW2). Kanbun would likely have seen and worked several kinds of crops and worked with many kinds of farming implements including flails (which likely became nunchaku), kama (blades for cutting down sugar cane and other stalks), and bo (which just means "stick" and was used to carry bundles of stalks, water jugs, etc.) not just spending his youth pulling up radishes...

Working on a farm with all kinds of crops coming into harvest at various times of the year, and helping each other out in a farming community, a farm boy could easily grow to be a very strong young man.

By the way, Kanbun Sensei taught nunchaku technique, as well as sai, bo, and possibly other weapons. This is being researched further. Kanejana Seishin Sensei showed us Kanbun Sensei's nunchaku technique, and while it appears to be extremely simple, it is not easy at all and delivers quite direct and dangerous strikes! I have been practicing it for a few years.

Regards and good health,

Seizan
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emattson
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Re: The Footprints of Kanbun Uechi

Post by emattson »

Great information. Appreciate the correction.

Okinawa Island Guide web site has an interesting article on what they grow.
https://www.oki-islandguide.com/cuisine ... wan-nature

Have confirmed that Okinawan grow a wide variety of crops, including wheat.

In according to Healthline:
The staple foods in a traditional Okinawan diet are:
- Vegetables (58–60%): sweet potato (orange and purple), seaweed, kelp, bamboo shoots, daikon radish, bitter melon, cabbage, carrots, Chinese okra, - pumpkin, and green papaya
- Grains (33%): millet, wheat, rice, and noodles
- Soy foods (5%): tofu, miso, natto, and edamame
- Meat and seafood (1–2%): mostly white fish, seafood, and occasional pork — all cuts, including organs
- Other (1%): alcohol, tea, spices, and dashi (broth)
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ok ... ods-to-eat
Erik

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Re: The Footprints of Kanbun Uechi

Post by Seizan »

Actually, much of my post was extracted from the rough draft of Vol. 4, section titled "Uechi Kanbun’s Farming Environment in his Youth". Included since I posted are extracts from government papers and archeological digs on Okinawa that indicate wheat and other grains have been grown here for many centuries, maybe over a thousand years.

Also included is information about the old Saion Pines surrounding the island's periphery and flood-prone areas on-island, and the tragedy of what became of most of them during WW2. Some still live in the Motobu area.
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Re: The Footprints of Kanbun Uechi

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"Kanbun Uechi grow up surrounded by the beauty of nature and in an atmosphere of spiritual tranquility and peace."

I've spent much time in both the natural environment, deep in the back woods farms and the city. I do admit the peaceful sounds of the forest with watery sound of brooks is wonderful to behold. It's a lot nicer than hearing gangsta rap music, cussing people, and gunshots in the inner city. Still, civilization, with it's creature comfort, is my preference as long as it isn't crowded. Back woods living has many hardships that break people. Funny, looking at modern maps from Google, Takafuto doesn't exists anymore.
Erik

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Seizan
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Re: The Footprints of Kanbun Uechi

Post by Seizan »

Erik,

PM for you...

Seizan
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emattson
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Re: The Footprints of Kanbun Uechi

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"Kanbun Sensei taught nunchaku technique, as well as sai, bo, and possibly other weapons."

I will love to see your completed research on this. I was assuming that Kanbun taught unarmed fighting techniques because Karate, what he taught, is translated into "empty hand".

"It was decided at this meeting that in future, the standardized form of the word karate would be written using the combination of Chinese characters that read, “empty hand.” This was how it was currently being used by ... Kanbun Uechi ... in his book, Karate Kenkyu, published in 1935. (See Classical Fighting Arts magazine Vol. 2 No 11.)"
https://forums.uechi-ryu.com/viewtopic.php?t=22936
(Martial Justice)

True, Kanbun was willing to use anything in hand as a weapon. He once bonked a bandit with a washing bowl.
https://forums.uechi-ryu.com/viewtopic.php?t=22936
(Amazing Technique)
Erik

“Old minds are like old horses; you must exercise them if you wish to keep them in working order.”
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Seizan
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Re: The Footprints of Kanbun Uechi

Post by Seizan »

I would like to make a slight clarification, please.

"It was decided at this meeting that in future, the standardized form of the word karate would be written using the combination of Chinese characters that read, “empty hand.” This was how it was currently being used by ... Kanbun Uechi ... in his book, Karate Kenkyu, published in 1935. (See Classical Fighting Arts magazine Vol. 2 No 11.)"

It might be misunderstood that Kanbun Sensei wrote a book. He did not; in fact, he could not. He could neither read nor write.

Many will not go to the original post cited to find and read the whole quote. It is:

"This was how it was currently being used by Gichin Funakoshi, and Kanbun Uechi, Kenwa Mabuni,(86) in his book, Karate Kenkyu, published in 1935. (See Classical Fighting Arts magazine Vol. 2 No 11.)"

Gichen Funkakoshi wrote the book, not Uechi Kanbun.

About Kanbun Sensei's weapons expertise, he didn't teach whole weapons forms, only the techniques required for defense. Anyone who trained in the old Futenma Dojo back in the 70's and 80's will recall the tokunoma (large alcove next to the family's Shinto shrine in the dojo) was filled with weapons -- bo, nunchaku, tonfa, sai, more... Apparently weapons were not taught to most students, but they had indeed been used -- they were notched, dented, chipped... I might assume that Kanbun Sensei trained Kanei Sensei in their use.

I think they wouldn't be displayed there in the dojo unless they were being used, or had been taught in the past.

And finally -- another really bothersome question:

Has anyone actually held/seen/read the book allegedly written by Tomoyose Ryuyu Sensei?
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Seizan
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Re: The Footprints of Kanbun Uechi

Post by Seizan »

Another question (OK, a set of related questions...):

Does anyone remember when weapons were taught in the Futenma Dojo (other than using them in attacks for bunkai)?

From (year) to (year)?

Or learned some weapons form while training there?

From whom -- Kanei Sensei himself?

And why Kanei Sensei stopped teaching them?

The answers to those, plus info about Ryuyu Sensei's book, should be enough to keep me happy for a little while.

Maybe.

:)
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