3. The Mystery of Pan Gai Noon (A)

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3. The Mystery of Pan Gai Noon (A)

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By Graham Noble

What was he teaching? Well, essentially it consisted of the three kata, Sanchin, Seisan, and Sanseiru, but it was a style which looked quite different from the mainstream karate schools of the day. Uechi’s kata were all based on the Sanchin stance and unusually they contained no use of seiken, the forefist thrust which was regarded as the basis of Okinawan karate. The kata did include ipponken, (one knuckle fist) thrusts, an occasional backfist, and elbow strikes, but otherwise almost all the hand techniques were done with the open hand, the striking points being the fingers and also the thumb, which in Uechi Ryu is pressed against the palm with the strike delivered like a palm heel thrust. Uechi’s kata also contained none of the basic forearm blocks of other styles, the predominant defensive techniques being quick, open-handed parries.

As Lawrence Tan observed some years back in an article for “Inside Kung Fu” (June 1977) Uechi Ryu is an anomaly among karate styles. For this reason, he noted, many other karate stylists are puzzled when observing Uechi Ryu forms being performed. Where, he asked, are the strongly focussed angular high, middle and low blocks common to karate? Where are the deep leaning and horse stances present in so many movements in typical karate? “Instead of angular blocks, Uechi blocking Is predominantly circular. The mawashi uke (wa-uke, round block) precedes almost every attack in the forms. Instead of many horse and leaning stances, almost all Uechi techniques are delivered from what appears to be an awkward pigeon-toed, shoulder-width stance called the sanchin stance.” Even the sound of practice is not the same in Uechi Ryu “because strong strikes are followed by elegant circular blocks. Here, with flowing hand patterns between movements, there is a whooshing sound as the circular techniques are made.” (Tan, by the way, was writing about the modern, more stylised Uechi Ryu technique, which may look rather different from Kanbum Uechi’s original karate).

Tan observed also that in the Uechi Sanchin stance the chest is “slightly concave with the back slightly hunched over”, similar to the stance used in some Southern Chinese styles. He noted that Uechi Ryu is considered to be a Chinese-based style, but apparently he found the task of tracing its origins in China very problematic: he could not identify it with any specific South Chinese style he was aware of. He also commented that the Uechi kata do not have the characteristic hand salutation found at the beginning of Chinese forms, although he speculated that a possible remnant of that exists in the Uechi closed gate position where the left hand is wrapped round the clenched right fist.

When he taught in Wakayama Uechi called his first public dojo the Pangainoon Ryu Karate Jutsu Kenkyujo (Pangainoon Style Karate Research Group), thus explicitly naming the style he taught as Pangainoon. There is a 1934 (or 1936, the date is unclear) photograph of Uechi and students outside the dojo and the on the dojo signboard “Pangainoon” is written, not in Chinese characters, but in katakana, the Japanese system of phonetic symbols used to write words from other languages. The meaning of the name therefore could not be understood from the script. It’s significant that when Kenwa Mabuni visited Kanbum Uechi at the Wakayama dojo in the early 1930s he had to ask Uechi the meaning of Pangainoon. Uechi replied: “It means that the kempo kata are done very fast” – which contrasts with the current accepted meaning of “Half Hard Soft.” Nowadays Pangainoon is written with the Chinese characters for “half hard soft”, but this was quite a late translation of the name: according to an interview with Ryuyu Tomoyose’s son Ryuko, (“Classical Fighting Arts” No. 41) Uechi practitioners did not know the Chinese characters for Pangainoon until the 1966 visit to Taiwan by Kanei Uechi, Tomoyose, and others. On that occasion, apparently, an old Chinese man said that their (Uechi) style was Pangainoon and he wrote the characters down for the Okinawans. Perhaps the conversation was initiated by the Uechi people asking about Pangainon, with the Chinese experts then trying to work out a best fit for the name. It’s questionable whether that old man actually recognised Uechi Ryu as a specific Chinese style called “Pangainoon”.

It is always said, incidentally, that Kanbum Uechi was fluent in Chinese. John D. Mills (1985) stated that during his thirteen year stay in Fuzhou Kanbum became “fluent and literate in Chinese.” But if he could read and write Chinese, how was it that he didn’t seem to know the Chinese characters for his own style, or for the teacher he had studied with for so many years? Presumably he couldn’t read Chinese at all, and the fact that the Uechi people had to ask the meaning of Pangainoon from Chinese teachers in Taiwan in 1966 - forty years or so after Kanbum Uechi began teaching the style - seems very strange: it suggests that Kanbum himself never explained the meaning of the name to his own students. They couldn’t have been aware either of Kenwa Mabuni’s 1930s memoir of his meeting with Kanbum Uechi, and Uechi’s explanation that Pangainoon meant “very fast kempo kata.” If Pangainoon actually meant “Half hard soft”, why would Uechi say something completely different to Mabuni?

Since Kanbum Uechi called the system he was teaching Pangainoon it was naturally assumed that this had been the name of the style he had learned in Fujian, but in fact, despite a lot of effort being put into the search, no trace of a Chinese style called Pangainoon has ever been found. Lawrence Tan noted that “No style called Pangainoon can be found in Hong Kong, Taiwan or Singapore.” Tan did not mention Fujian Province itself because when he wrote his article mainland China was a closed society and there was almost no current information on the martial arts practised in Fujian. In the following years, however, the mainland was opened up to some extent and much more information became available. Additionally, in the 1980s the Chinese authorities in Fujian tried the best they could to find traces of Uechi Ryu’s origins in Southern China – but still nothing could be found of a style called Pangainoon, or “Half hard soft.” In the face of this failure subsequent Uechi historians have proposed that “Pangainoon” therefore referred to the characteristics of the style Kanbum Uechi learned in China, rather than its actual name. George Mattson was told (“Uechi Ryu Karate Do”, 1974) that Kanbum Uechi’s teacher had supposedly written a manuscript on his style especially for Uechi. This manuscript, which included the history of Pangainoon, names of past masters, the philosophy of the style and information on Chinese medicine was to be passed to his son Kanei, but it was destroyed in the post-war years, soon after Kanbum’s death. It doesn’t seem that anyone had actually read this manuscript, or even seen it; maybe this was just another one of those stories of lost books, and the manuscript never existed.

Bob Campbell, the well-known Uechi Ryu teacher, then based in Hong Kong, commented on the word or phrase “Pwangainoon” on the Uech-Ryu. Com forums in 2012, (the thread “Hello Pwangainoon”). He noted that “There is no word, group of words, (which) sounds like the words Pwangainoon in the Cantonese Language, nor in Fukinese or Toisanese”, and that he had yet to find “any historical records that there was a style, from China, known as Pwangainoon and so stated by someone Chinese.” He concluded: “Until someone better read than myself, comes forward with historical documentation, from Chinese scholars, that a style of Chinese martial arts, called Pwangainoon, did exist, in China, in the late 1800's, (then) I must reserve my opinions to doubt there was such a style bearing this name, Pwangainoon.” Campbell did note, however, that “there is an Ethnic Chinese Group known as the Hakka people. . . In Hong Kong, we have a very large, very visible community of Hakka speaking people. . . I have, through my research and talking to local Hakka people in Hong Kong, including some research credited to my friend and student, George Chaplin, discovered that the word Pwangainoon, was known or was familiar to, Hakka speaking people. . . . In Hakka, Pwangainoon means, ‘Attack Hard, Retreat Quick.’” – which corresponds more to Uechi’s statement that Pangainoon means “the kata are done very fast” than the usually accepted meaning of “half hard soft”. It’s intriguing . . . but what does it mean, if anything?

Aparently, Kanbum Uechi talked very little about his experiences and training in China, and that makes any historical analysis very difficult, almost impossible in fact. When he did talk about his time in China, with Kenwa Mabuni for example, when Mabuni and Yasuhiro Konishi visited him in Wakayama, he seemed to speak only in generalities and not about specific styles, techniques, masters or events. He told Mabuni that kempo was very active while he was there, that when a master agreed to take a student both take an oath after rituals are carried out to the dojo gods, that often there were dojo challenges, and that the Chinese had strong finger techniques while the Japanese (Okinawans) preferred the fist. He explained that the Chinese trained their fingertips by thrusting the fingers into some sand put in a box and then as the student became used to that the sand was replaced by larger objects such as beans . . . but that was also a training method known and used in Okinawa, and in fact the idea that Chinese kempo emphasized the use of finger strikes was a commonplace in Okinawan karate. It is mentioned in the 1915 series of memorial articles on Ankoh Itosu; by Chojun Miyagi in his “Karate Gaisetsu”; by Chotoku Kyan in Miki and Takada’s “Kempo Gaisetsu”; in a 1921 Japanese magazine article on karate by Gogai Sasaki, and in several other places. So actually, Uechi was here reflecting an Okinawan view of Chinese kempo. During their conversation he may have said more than Mabuni reported, but from what we have, Uechi was really telling us almost nothing about Chinese styles or training methods, or what he had learned or seen during his thirteen-years-long stay in Fujian. According to Ryuko Tomoyose (“Classical Fighting Arts” No. 41) Kanbum had said that training in China was done behind closed doors and often at night, but again, that sounds like a memory of old Okinawa rather than China.

Interestingly, there is no evidence that Uechi used any Chinese terms in his teaching. Chinese styles usually give names to the individual movements in the forms, (Tai Chi is the best known example of this) but in his instruction Uechi never seemed to name techniques in this way, and although Chinese systems use a variety of weapons, he didn’t seem to have learned or taught any weapons either. There is a rare reference in a Seiko Toyama interview (“Karate Bushido”, March 1996) where Toyama talks of Uechi using “a special weapon, the yonshaku-bo, a sort of nunchaku . . . . he had brought that weapon from China, where it had served to defend against animals, especially wolves.” This however is the only mention of Kanbum Uechi ever practising with a weapon. Nor did Kanbum teach any of the two-man sparring exercises that are common to all Chinese styles, although again there is an isolated reference by George Mattson, who recalled that Ryuko Tomoyose told him in 1957 that “Kanbum talked about practicing a special form of free fighting in China, which he did not teach to the students. This free fighting was more of a drill than what we do today.” What the truth of these stories is, we can’t say. It is quite possible that Kanbum Uechi knew more than he taught, but what that other material might have been, and why he chose not to teach it, are complete mysteries.

Fujian has many styles of ch’uan-fa (kempo): Crane, Tiger, Dragon, Dog, Lion, Five Ancestor, Great Ancestor, Arhat, and so on, but none of these style names would ever come up in the stories passed down in Uechi Ryu, although the style is often described as the art of the Dragon, Tiger and Crane, and this may reflect a memory of Fujian. Of course, back at the turn of the 19th century the style-spread in Fujian may have been quite different from what it is now, but the lack of detail is a real problem. We rarely hear about this now, but in his “Uechi Ryu Karate Do” (1974) George Mattson made several references to a Fujian style called KIngai. For example (p87): “According to Kanbum Uechi two of the most popular styles in Southern China were Kingai and Pangainoon. According to Kanbum, the Sanchin kata in both were very similar.” Kanbum’s son, Kanei, also mentioned Kingai to Mattson several times and in fact he specifically identified it as Okinawan Goju Ryu, or at least the forerunner to it. The identification of “Kingai” with Goju Ryu was quite persistent, though. In an interview with Ryuko Tomoyose (“Classical Fighting Arts” No. 41, 2010) Tomoysoe was asked about KIngai Ryu and he replied simply that “Kingai means Goju Ryu. KIngai is just the old way of saying it. When Uechi Sensei saw Goju Ryu kata he would say ‘That’s Kingai.’ We didn’t know, but he saw it in China, of course.”

In his 1974 book (p9) Mattson also mentioned “Mr. Gokenken, a Chinese tea merchant and student of Kingai (a form of karate similar to Okinawan Goju-ryu).” Gokenken was actually the well-known Gokenki and he was almost certainly a practitioner of Fujian White Crane, which is quite different to Okinawan Goju Ryu. This history is completely mixed up, but in any case, there is no record of a Fujian style called Kingai, and the term seems to have been used very loosely. Nor can we find the Goju Ryu kata, or even anything close to them, among Southern Chinese styles. So for Kanbum Uechi to (allegedly) say that he had seen the Goju Ryu kata in China (as Kingai style forms) is problematic. It sounds like he was either being misquoted, or never actually said it, or he wasn’t being wholly truthful.

Bunichi Ishikawa, in his chapter on Kanbum Uechi, wrote that “Chinese Kempo consists of seven ryuha (styles); Shorinji Kenpo, Pangainoon, Kingai, Nunfuwa, Kenfuwa, Yawara, Hofu.” Apart from Shorinji Kempo (Shaolin-tsu Ch’uan – Shaolin Temple Boxing) and Hofu (Pai Hao, White Crane) the names of the styles are written in katakana: that is, Ishikawa didn’t know the Chinese characters for the other styles, including Pangainoon and Kingai, supposedly two of the major systems in Fujian. Such was the Okinawan ignorance about Fujian styles as late as the 1970s. Did the Okinawans karate community really know what it was talking about?

In his first book, the 1963 “Way of Karate”, George Mattson wrote that Kanbum Uechi had taken the best of three styles that he had learned in China to put together his own system. However, after further study Mattson came to regard that story as an error. In a letter to Harry Cook of 1 August 1973, he wrote: “Regarding the names and styles of Kanbum Uechi’s teachers. Kanbum studied a system called Kingai which his son told me is now known as Gojuryu on Okinawa. He also studied some Shaolin, which is better known today as Shorinryu or Shotokan. The third style and the one which Kanbum finally worked ten years with is called Pwan-gay-noon. Kanbum’s teacher was called Shushiwa. In ‘The Way of Karate’ I wrote that Kanbum took the best of the three systems. This was a mistake. Actually he brought back to Okinawa only the Pwan-gay-noon system which was renamed Uechi ryu by Kanbum’s students upon Kanbum’s death in 1947.”

An interesting thing about George Mattson’s letter, incidentally, is that schools of Chinese boxing (kempo, or kung fu) were described solely in terms of the main styles of Okinawan karate: Shorin Ryu, Goju Ryu and Uechi Ryu; actually, there is no information given about Chinese systems themselves. By that time, of course, Okinawan karate had been cut off from direct knowledge of Chinese boxing for a century or so, but it still seems noteworthy that the leaders of Uechi Ryu had no knowledge at all of the main Southern Chinese styles, or in fact of any Chinese styles.

When researching this history I looked through many books and magazines on Chinese ch’uan-fa (kempo), both in Chinese and English, and went through hours of footage of Fujian styles and I couldn’t find any trace of the Uechi Ryu forms. What is intriguing is that very occasionally you see a movement that momentarily reminds you of Uechi Ryu, but then there is nothing resembling an Uechi kata sequence, let alone a whole form.

Trying to trace the Uechi Ryu kata in China seems like a hopeless cause, and yet it’s quite easy to get the feeling that this school of karate has links with Fujian styles. That feeling is strongest in the Uechi forms shown in the mid-1960s footage of kata practice at the Wakayama dojo. George Mattson was there when this footage was taken, and he recalled many years later that this was probably an older form of Uechi Ryu, which may have been closer to the style’s original Chinese roots. In the Summer 1997 edition of “Bugeisha” magazine, Mattson wrote that “Overall the Wakayama style looked more like Wing Chun than Okinawan Uechi ryu, from the stances to the hand positions.” That comparison is a little misleading because the kata, technique by technique, were still the Uechi Ryu forms, (and definitely not Wing Chun forms), but the way of performing them seemed to have that characteristic Southern Chinese appearance of short stances, the back slightly hunched up with the arms kept close to the body, a lot of open-handed techniques, and relatively few kicks, kept short and used in conjunction with the hands. The tempo of the performance, too, was very fast, with the techniques almost running into one another, and that is another characteristic that these kata performances seemed to share with some Fujian styles – and with Uechi’s statement that the kata are done “very fast.” In modern Uechi Ryu the kata performance is more measured and separated more into the individual movements, and interestingly this was commented on by a Southern Chinese teacher at Mattson’s 1994 summer camps, (“Bugeisha” magazine, March 1997): “You break the movements up into small segments to teach,” he said, “but it appears that you are still breaking the movements up when you perform at full speed!”

As Uechi Ryu became established as a significant karate school its practitioners must have begun to wonder about its Chinese origins and in 1965 a group including Kanei Uechi, Ryuko Tomoyose, George Mattson and Charles Earle made a research visit to Taiwan to study Chinese styles and hopefully establish a direct historical link with Uechi Ryu. That was not an unreasonable objective because after the Communist takeover of the mainland in 1949 many Chinese had fled to Taiwan. Those refugees included many boxers, some of whom brought with them Fujian styles. In 1966 it was only sixty years or so since Kanbum Uechi had been in China, so it seemed plausible that some memory of him, or his teacher, may have lingered among these experts. Maybe the original kata could even be found.

There was a brief report of this Taiwan visit, which was part of a larger martial arts tour of Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Okinawa, in “Universal Judo Karate Martial Arts Magazine”, (Vol 1 No. 5, 1965). It read:

“Fireworks greeted Mattson’s party on a mild night in Taiwan. There George, Mr. Uechi, Mr. Tomoyose and Charles Earle saw 34 demonstrations of Chinese Karate styles. ‘The fireworks were in the sky,’ Mattson said. ‘In the gym we were impressed by the calm and graceful spirit of the kata, especially those performed by the older men – some in the 60s.’

“It was a special event – the first time Karate in Taiwan had ever been filmed so extensively by visitors. In turn, the visiting Americans, Mattson and Charles Earle, Chief Instructor of the Mattson Academy in Providence, performed the basic kata in the Uechi Ryu style. Their performance was much applauded by the Chinese present. Many of the masters present came from the Fukien Province of old China, and were familiar with the style. After the demonstration, much time was spent by all discussing Karate as practiced in Okinawa and Taiwan. The heads of the various schools plan a trip to Okinawa soon to repay Mr. Uechi’s visit.”

In terms of historical research, nothing really came of the trip, but that series of demonstrations given by the various Chinese experts was filmed, and it must have been quite confusing for the Okinawans: there were many forms shown, but they were from both Northern and Southern systems, and given karatemen’s then lack of knowledge of Chinese styles, the variety of schools and forms shown must have been somewhat bewildering. There were what appear to be performances of styles from Fujian, White Crane and others, but there was nothing resembling any of the three Uechi kata, and there was none of the usual Uechi Ryu technique: none of the numerous Sanchin stances or wa-uke (circular blocks), for example. It must have been a fascinating trip - and actually, these films are terrific archival material on 1960s Taiwan kung-fu - but from the point of view of clarifying Uechi history it must have been a disappointment: nothing was found, really. According to George Mattson, (“Bugeisha”, March 1997) at one of the meetings they had with the Chinese martial artists, an old man said he recognised the Uechi Ryu movements, adding that he had heard about an Okinawan who had once trained in China. Ryuko Tomoyose’s recollection of this in 1984 was that “In 1966 when we made the trip to Taiwan I asked a very old man in Taiwan and he mentioned us our style Pangainoon and he mentioned us that this style came from Fukien province and he mentioned our style must belong to Shushiwa Sensei. Ever since, we took - we just assumed that Shushiwa Sensei must be Kanbum Uechi’s teacher, and from that day we were trying to find out who Shushiwa was, from whom he had studied, but we couldn’t get any information about him.”

But memory over such a long period cannot be trusted, especially where unfamiliar forms are involved, and that old man’s comments may actually not have amounted to much. One result of the 1966 Taiwan trip, though, was that the Uechi group believed they had established the name of Kanbum Uechi’s teacher as “Shushiwa” – even though Kanbum Uechi himself, apparently, had referred to his teacher as Shushabu. Kanei Uechi must have been given the characters for Shushiwa because he used them in his 1974 letter to Harry Cook. The characters Kanei used read Chou Tzu Ho in Mandarin. The Uechi group also believed that they had been able to establish the Chinese characters for Pangainoon – supposedly “Half hard soft” - which had previously been unknown.

But “Shushiwa” was a modified, modern rendering of the name of Kanbum Uechi’s teacher. In one of his blogs (January 21, 2014) Mario McKenna translated an article on Kanbum Uechis’s son, Kanei, which had appeared in “The Okinawa Times” in 1961. Kanei told the paper that “My father learned Karate in Fuzhou from a teacher named Shu Shabu for a total of 10 years,” and Mario noted that “Shushabu” was written in katakana. That is, again, the Chinese characters for Kanbum Uechi’s teacher were completely unknown. In his time studying on Okinawa George Mattson also understood that Kanbum Uechi’s teacher had been called Shushabu and apparently that was reflected in the name of the 1950s kata Konchabu, which was a combination of Kanbum and Shushabu. Some time after the Taiwan trip the kata was renamed Kanshiwa, (Kanbum and Shushiwa). But then, if Kanbum had referred to his teacher as “Shushabu”, was it really right to change that name to “Shushiwa”, or did that just set everyone off on another false trail?

No connection between Kanbum Uechi and Fujian boxing seems to have been established on the Taiwan visit, but regarding the name of Uechi’s teacher, I guess the Uechi group would have asked about Shushabu, but without any success. However, the Chinese, wanting to help, may have come up with something close to the name: Shushiwa. Some older experts may even have remembered an actual expert, Shushiwa, although there seems to have been no recollection on anyone’s part that an Okinawan called Kanbum Uechi had been his student. Personally, I think the evidence that Kanbum Uechi’s teacher was named Shushiwa, or Chou Tzu Ho, is very thin, almost non-existent in fact - but this identification had an important effect on subsequent searches for the origin of Uechi Ryu.

When Shigeru Takamiyagi published his Uechi Ryu historical research in the 1977 “Okinawa Karate Do, Rekishi to Giho”, mainland China remained closed and his research was necessarily restricted. This was a tremendous book, but it seems to contain a lot of padding and speculation and the historical section on Kanbum Uechi’s time and training in China is disappointing: almost no new factual material was added, and there was a lack of detailed information on the Southern, Fujian styles of kempo, (chuan-fa). For all of Takamiyagi’s efforts, I don’t think the study of Uechi Ryu’s Chinese origins moved much further with this book. In a letter to “Black Belt” magazine, George Chaplin wrote: “The Uechi organisation book states that all attempts to determine which style Kanbum Uechi studied in China from Chou Tze Ho came to nothing. The book guesses it could have been called pangainoon because it was this name that Uechi chose for his first dojo. The term ‘half-hard-soft’ was suggested by a Chinese wushu teacher, but the pronunciation ‘half-hard-soft’ in Chinese (bang ying ruan) is difficult to reconcile with pangainoon.”

A few years later, though, things began to change as China opened up, and its martial arts styles began to become more accessible. In the early 1980s the Uechi Association began to make contacts with Fujian, renewing their enquiries about the Chinese boxing teacher Chou Tzu Ho. It seemed that any knowledge of Shushabu/Shushiwa and Pangainoon had passed from existence, but the Chinese authorities had been doing their own historical research and in the early 1980s they were able to announce that Kanbum Uechi’s teacher Chou Tzu Ho – Shushiwa – had been identified. He had lived from 1874 to 1926 and had been a master of Tiger Boxing, (Hu Ch’uan).

The first published mention of this seems to have been in the March 1984 edition of the mainland martial arts magazine “Wu Lin”, in an article, “Fuzhou’s Chou Tzu Ho and Japan’s Uechi Ryu Karate Do”, by Li Yi Duan, the Vice-Chairman of the Fuzhou Wu Shu (Martial Arts) Association. A translation by Marty Dow was soon published in ”Fighting Arts Newsline, the Official Publication of the non-profit New England Martial Arts Center, Brockton, Massachusetts”, in its May/June 1984 issue, and a slightly edited version of the translation was later included as Appendix C to George Mattson’s 1988 “Black Belt Test Guide.”

The article stated that that in November 1982 the Fuzhou Wushu Association wrote to the Uechi Ryu Karate Do Association in Ginowan, Okinawa, to relay “the inspiring news that, through the deep and widespread efforts by wushu workers and enthusiasts of Fuzhou City over a long time, the mission we mutually wished to accomplish – the task of locating Master Zhou Zi He (Chou Tzu Ho) – had been accomplished. This letter represented a new chapter in the history of the traditional friendship between the people and martial arts communities of Fuzhou and Ginowan (Okinawa) as well as the traditional friendship between the people of China and Japan.

“In March 1981 the Uechi Ryu Karate Do Association tour delegation, led by delegation chairman Ryuko Tomoyose and delegation vice-chairman Kanmei Uechi, (Kanei Uechi’s son), came to Fuzhou for a visit. In the midst of the warm and friendly atmosphere the Chinese and Okinawan martial arts groups conducted discussions, demonstrating and exchanging views on wushu. During the meeting Ryuko Tomoyose said with great feeling: ‘We have come to visit our family and our ancestors. On this trip to China, we have gone nowhere else; we have come only to Fuzhou City, the place of origins of our karate do.’ The Uechi group explicitly recognised Chou Tzu Ho as their ancestor and expressed the hope that the Fuzhou Association could help research the history of Chou Tzu Ho, with the intent of using this information in Okinawan archives.

“According to our Okinawan friends in 1897 Kanbum Uechi happened to meet Chou Tzu Ho in Fuzhou. Uechi taught what he had learned and the style spread throughout Okinawa to become the Uechi Ryu Karate Do of today.”

The article went on to say that a demonstration of Uechi Ryu forms led the Fuzhou experts to think that this was a style from Southern Fujian. The passage of almost a hundred years presented problems, but nonetheless research was conducted by both the Provincial and Fuzhou martial arts associations to try and find any traces of Chou Tzu Ho.

The article continued: “Old master Wang Sheng of Fuzhou Plum Blossom Fist, himself almost one hundred years old, was interviewed. He said that when young he had seen Zhou Zi-He, who dressed like a Taoist, but he knew no more than that. Chen Xiu Ru, a well-known boxer of Arhat Fist, said he had heard of Zhou Zi He, whose home was somewhere around Nangang. A total of over thirty people were interviewed. Someone said that Zhou Zi He was from a wealthy family, that he had studied boxing as a young man and often passed through the Xianfu palace area of Fuzhou, where he was called ‘Kuan Kuan’.

“One by one, a place at a time, everyone persevered relentlessly, for the sake of the traditional friendship of China and Okinawa. By chance it was heard that eighty five year old wushu enthusiast Lin Yang Yun was next door neighbour and good friends with Zhou Zi He’s son in law, Wang Jiao Gung. Everyone jumped for joy at the news. On October 25th, the Wushu Association sent an interviewer. As hoped, it was learned that as a young man Lin Yang Yun often went to Zhou Zi He’s home, which he knew well. It was thereby determined that Zhou Zi He was from the Zhitian area of Nanyu.

“In early November the Wushu Association again sent an interviewer, together with a Minhou County athletic representative, to travel to the Zhitian (production) brigade, Nanyu, (people’s commune). There they finally located Zhou Zi Hi’s grandson Zhou Yi Sha, found out everything about Zhou Zi Hi, and visited his former residence and practice hall. Finally we could relax. The mission asked of us by our Okinawan friends was accomplished and the friendship of China and Okinawa, as handed down by our ancestors, was developed even further.

“Zhou Zi He, self-styled Yong Kuan (Eternal Vastness) also called Xunshan Daozhe (the Xun Mountain Taoist) was born in 1874. His father Zhou Han Pu was from a wealthy family of the town of Nanyu. As a youth Zhou Zi He studied under well-known proponent of Southern Shaolin Fist, Zhou Bei of Yangtai County. He was naturally bright, a dedicated student and under Zhou Bei’s guidance he gradually became well versed in the various martial pursuits.

“Subsequently renowned teacher He Xi Di of Shandong province passed through Nanyu. Zhou’s father knew of his great skill, so he invited him to his home, erected a training hall, and directed Zhou Zi He to study under him.

“Again, through the tutelage of an accomplished teacher, Zhou ZI Hi persevered in his practice, polishing his skill. In particular he became well known for his iron palm. He once demonstrated his iron palm skill in front of the Liusha Restauarant in Nanyu and awed all who were present. It is said that he could stick his arm out to the sides and dangle two people in mid-air, each by the finger of one hand. He could also toss several hundred pound objects a considerable distance.

“He was proficient in several kinds of boxing, particularly Tiger Fist. This is one of the Five Fists of Fujian – Dragon, Tiger, Leopard, Snake and Crane.

“Zhou Zi He often wore Taoist robes. He dressed plainly and was an affable person. He was also a poet, calligrapher and painter. Many store signs were written by him at that time. He died age fifty two in 1926.”

The article also noted that Uechi Ryu champions had won the All Japan karate Championships every year since 1976, (this should be the All Okinawan Championships), that the style had evolved into a strong force in the All Japan Karate Federation, and that Uechi Ryu karate had spread world wide.

Li Yi Duan’s article stressed several times that the research on Chou Tzu Ho demonstrated the depth of the friendship between China and Okinawa, so clearly the exercise to find Chou was being used by the Chinese authorities as a small-scale political bridge-building exercise between China and Japan, two nations which had had a very troubled history throughout the Century. The political background to the search was referred to in Simon Lailey’s interview with George Mattson in “Traditional Karate”, June 1993. Mattson explained that: “Essentially the Chinese martial arts are government sanctioned and therefore when we requested information concerning Master Kanbum Uechi’s training in Fuzhou, the research was conducted by the government, and with no attempt at all to contact any of the real Wu Shu masters. As a result the degree of support was limited to sketchy information which, like most Government reports, was partially accurate but more than likely filled with voids.

“My visit to Fuzhou City, where I met with a delegation of martial artists together with the Organisation ‘Heads’ was quite disappointing because a lot of these persons were no more than political appointees who were there to sanitize the information before it even got to us.” . . . . This does not sound like impartial, historically unbiased research, but more a process with a wholly political objective. From the point of view of the Chinese officials heading the research it would have been just another Party task to be carried out and it would have been important for them to succeed in finding a historical Chou Tzu Ho, but I don’t think it would have concerned them too much whether the Chou they found really had been the teacher of Kanbum Uechi, or had any connection with Uechi at all: the important thing was that they had done what had been asked of them.

It’s interesting that the “Wu Lin” article did not include any research which actually tied Kanbum Uechi in with Zhou/Chou: although a lot of research had been carried out it seems that the Chinese martial artists could find no trace of Kanbum Uechi himself in Fujian. Bearing in mind the timescales involved, that is not surprising, but it does mean that no direct connection between Uechi Ryu and the teacher identified as Chou Tzu Ho had actually been established. It may also be telling that on none of the Uechi Association visits to China, nor during all the subsequent research by the Chinese themselves, could any trace of Pangainoon be found.

It had always been assumed that Kanbum Uechi’s teacher had been a lot older than Uechi. For example, in that old tiger-killing story retold by George Mattson in “The Way of Karate” he is described as being much older than Uechi. As Mattson tells the story, the villagers asked Uechi’s teacher to kill the tiger, but as “Mr. Uechi believed that the teacher was too old to attempt such a feat, he volunteered himself for the job. When Mr. Uechi said that he would go alone to slay the tiger, the teacher said that the task would require two men and he too would go. That night they set out to deal with the tiger.” Leaving aside the inherent improbability of the story, the point is that Kanbum Uechi’s teacher was always assumed to be quite old; so it must have come as a surprise to find that the Chou Tzu Ho found by the Chinese authorities was actually only three years older than Uechi himself. If the two men met in 1900 then Chou would have been just twenty six when he began teaching Uechi.

The short biography of Chou Tzu Ho stated that he learned South Shaolin (this could be anything) from Zhou Be and Shandong style boxing from He Xi De. It then states that Chou was a master of several styles, particularly Tiger Boxing (Hu Ch’uan), though it isn’t specific about who he learned this style from. In any case, it was assumed that, as Tiger style was Chou’s speciality, this was the method he had taught Kanbum Uechi. Incidentally, if Chou was a master of Iron Palm, a famous technique of Chinese boxing, then evidently he didn’t pass this skill on to Uechi. The stories that Chou could hold two people out at arm’s length by one finger, and throw an object of several hundred pounds (How much? Three hundred pounds? Four hundred?) a considerable distance are ridiculous.

In 1984 Kanei Uechi, the head of Okinawan Uechi Ryu, visited Fuzhou with Ryuko Tomoyose, George Mattson and others. They were met by the city’s Deputy Mayor, so it was quite a significant visit and it served to confirm the findings of the Chinese researchers that they had found the legendary Chou Tzu-ho. In 1985 the Fuzhou People’s Publishing House put out a book “Hu Ch’uan” – Tiger Fist, or Tiger Style Boxing – by Wei Zheng Qi and others, which included frontispieces showing photographs of Zhou Zi He/Chou Tzu Ho and Kanei Uechi. It also included a copy of a June, 1983 letter from Toshio Higa, the secretary of the Uechi Association, to Wei about his ongoing research on “Shushiwa and his ‘Tiger Style Ken’ (fist).” Higa was replying to a letter he had received in April, and told Wei that “We all feel anxious to see the results of Sensei’s efforts which will surely clarify the origins of Uechi Ryu Bujutsu, and which will be a historic study indeed. I reported about this at the (Uechi) board meeting in May. All of our directors expressed gratitude toward Sensei’s efforts and cooperation on this matter.” “Hu Ch’uan” also contained short, two-page appendices (pages 246 to 249) on Uechi Ryu’s supposed relationship with Chou Tzu Ho and Tiger Boxing – this was pulled from Okinawan, not Chinese, source material - and on Chou Tzu Ho. With this book, then, Tiger Boxing was explicitly identified as the style practised by Chou and studied by Kanbum Uechi in China. The photograph of Chou Tzu Ho/ Zhou Zi He discovered during the Chinese research started to appear in many Uechi dojos.

But all this historical research doesn’t make sense for a basic reason - Tiger Fist is not Uechi Ryu: in fact it is a completely different style. The 1985 “Hu Ch’uan” gives a comprehensive treatment of the system over two hundred and fifty pages, with hundreds of drawings illustrating the forms of the style, movement by movement. There is a Sanchin form, but although it shares a general Fujian family resemblance it is different from the Uechi version. The “Sanseru” (San Shi Liu Shou – Thirty Six Hands) form is completely different from the Uechi Sanseru in embusen, stances, sequences and techniques. There is no Seisan (Shih San). Other Tiger style forms shown include the Four Gates, Five Fundamentals, Eight Trigrams, and Water Trigram, none of which appear in Uechi Ryu, or look anything like Uechi Ryu. Interestingly, there is also a “Suparimpei” form (“One Hundred and Eight Styles”) but again, the content looks totally unrelated to Uechi Ryu technique. In the whole two hundred and fifty pages there are just a handful of techniques, maybe three or four, which show similarities to Uechi Ryu, but this is more of a general commonality of Fujian kempo rather than any direct relationship between styles. There are occasional similar hand positions, but overall the techniques, sequences, stances and form of body movement are quite different to Uechi Ryu . . . although, and this is an example of how the search for Uechi Ryu’s origins is so frustrating, there is an arm-pounding sequence on pages 231 to 235 which looks similar to the Uechi exercise.

Simon Lailey, an industrious researcher of Okinawan karate and Southern Chinese chuan-fa, made several trips to China in the 1990s to study the Fujian styles and research their relationship with Okinawan karate, (Goju Ryu mainly). One of the styles he studied quite intensively, was Tiger Boxing. I met Simon in April 1995 soon after he had returned from one of his Fujian trips and he kindly allowed me to tape several of the Tiger forms: Yi-bai-lin-ba-bu (108 steps, “Suparimpei”); San-shi-liu (36, “Sanseru”), and Gan-rou-chan, or Fu-pao-ch’uan (Tiger and Leopard form). Simon told me that the Sanseru he showed me was actually the third of three Sanseru forms, Tiger Coming Down the Mountain. This was really good material, but again, having looked through the tape numerous times, I cannot see any link at all between the forms Simon showed me and Uechi Ryu: again, the stances, movement, techniques and forms are very different. There is also internet footage of Tiger style, which reinforces this view, and what it all means is that the purported historical link between Chou Tzu Ho, Tiger Style and Uechi Ryu cannot be demonstrated in any way. In my view, it is a false history, and with it the Fujian research Uechi Ryu’s quest for its origins in China effectively reached a dead end.

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Re: 3. The Mystery of Pan Gai Noon (A)

Post by emattson »

"he could stick his arm out to the sides and dangle two people in mid-air"

Wonder if Zhou ZI bent his arms in a sanchin style to lift heavy weights while demonstrating iron palm. Leo, in class, taught us that people can lift a lot more with arms bent than straight.
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Re: 3. The Mystery of Pan Gai Noon (A)

Post by Seizan »

It is said that he could stick his arm out to the sides and dangle two people in mid-air, each by the finger of one hand. He could also toss several hundred pound objects a considerable distance.

If I may, I would like to clarify this...

Quotes from BBRD Vol. 3:

Zhou Zihe was reported to have performed a finger jammed in the door feat, but his feat of lifting two adult men with index fingers alone was an exaggerated retelling of a performance by his student Baotang, who lifted two young children with his index fingers.

Lifting a 200-400 pound wukeshi (military examination stone). In many of the short biographies of Zhou Zihe, it is said he could lift such a heavy stone weight and toss it easily. Some accounts say several meters/yards, others say several feet. Lifting and holding it at all was incredibly difficult.

Zhou Zihe could lift the military examination stone weights, and heave them away (probably) a few feet. Maybe that was "a considerable distance"?

Photos of these examination stones can be found in Vol. 3 and in the upcoming Vol. 4.

I do my best to clarify and made sense in my writings, and I provide my source material. Quite a lot of what has been passed for on for decades as "history" is actually fantasy, exaggerations, and folk-tales taken as being factual. As in newspapers, tabloids, and advertisements, sensationalizing sells the product. However, the source material is quite factual and tells a rather more commonplace story. Dull or "just plain human" is not interesting, even if it is truthful. Too many people WANT to believe there is some deep, great mystery, and tend to ignore a mundane but true history. Knowing that Kanbun pursued a humdrum daily routine, doing exercises and training assignments that seem dull and boring, day after day, and living the really normal life of a student of martial arts among many other such students, is just not exciting to read (or tell). Greatly embellishing to make Kanbun's life into a "Hero Story" not only attracts more students but makes a storyteller quite happy and self-satisfied with all the rapt attention he gets...

Good communications with the Zhou and Guo Families helped uncover a lot. Much was misunderstood and exaggerated or sensationalized by "interviewers" back in the 1980's and onward. Information was withheld because some visitors did not observe proper manners or protocols in dealing with their Chinese hosts. Surprising (and perhaps dull-sounding) but absolutely sensible and logical facts have been uncovered.

By the way, it would be nice if someone could publicly clarify why we see the term "prostitute" attached to the name of Zhou Zihe ("Chou Tzu prostitute") so often. It must have a very specific meaning concerning translation of Chinese into English but it carries a negative connotation that can easily offend. I find it in none of my original Chinese texts, Chinese-English translations, or my interview material from Mr. Zhou and others.
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Re: 3. The Mystery of Pan Gai Noon (A)

Post by Seizan »

Interestingly, there is no evidence that Uechi used any Chinese terms in his teaching. Chinese styles usually give names to the individual movements in the forms, (Tai Chi is the best known example of this) but in his instruction Uechi never seemed to name techniques in this way, and although Chinese systems use a variety of weapons, he didn’t seem to have learned or taught any weapons either. There is a rare reference in a Seiko Toyama interview (“Karate Bushido”, March 1996) where Toyama talks of Uechi using “a special weapon, the yonshaku-bo, a sort of nunchaku . . . . he had brought that weapon from China, where it had served to defend against animals, especially wolves.” This however is the only mention of Kanbum Uechi ever practising with a weapon.
Persistent research and a lot of happily-given help resulted in rather extensive treatment of these subjects. Most is already in previous volumes, with more to come in vol. 4, but in short:

Kanbun did not read, speak or write Chinese at all (he barely spoke Japanese). He remembered a few Chinese terms which, after years of separation from the Chinese sources, became rather distorted and extremely difficult to trace as far as original pronunciatons and meanings. Add his speech impediment to that, and you have some really poorly-spoken Chinese! However, many today prefer to believe the poorly-pronunced and distorted Chinese is perfect and represents an earlier form or style of speaking, which it does not. It was just badly-remembered and badly-spoken Chinese, possibly Mandarin.

Pan gai nun is a common term used extensively today in China. Examples in previous volumes.

Yonshaku-bo is just "four-foot staff" and was not a sort of nunchaku. Kanbun regularly traveled with a 4-foot staff of some heavy, tough wood, for use as a protective weapon and to hold his traveling bag. He also carried nunchaku. One story has him weilding a staff in one hand and nunchaku in the other.

He taught weapons, but not forms ("kata"). He taught bo, nunchaku, sai, and it appears he taught tonfa but this is unsure. I asked Toyama Sensei about teaching me weapons, and he just said he didn't have time to teach weapons, he wanted to teach UechiRyu as fully as possible in his Golden Years. What he didn't tell us was the true reason why -- he was terminally ill and didn't want to waste time on weapons. He had many weapons hanging in the dojo that he never seemed to use (some were home-made). There are photos of the same weapons selection in the Futenma Dojo (photos taken prior to the late 1970's). They were owned by the dojo and were apparently well-used since the wooden ones were notched and dented quite a lot.

Kanbun Sensei taught only individual techniques for these weapons, not full forms, much as a self-defense expert would teach individual techniques, not a full codified system.

Kanejana Seishin Sensei showed us the simple but extremely difficult nunchaku technique taught by Kanbun Sensei, and it is preserved in the Nagahama Dojo.

~~~~~

Edited for spelling and a bit of grammar (I was in a hurry to take my son to his work),

ADDED: Kanejana Sensei told us that Kanbun Sensei taught only individual techniques because it was felt those were really all that was needed for protection. Students in Wakayama and the Ie Jima Dojo were required to have a pair of nunchaku, and the routine was to train the technique until it was time for kata, bunkai, conditioning, and/or jiyu kobo review with Kanbun Sensei. Often, students made their own nunchaku, sometimes just two pieces of wood roped together, as well as the other weapons being home-made (except for sai). The effectiveness of the technique did not depend on commercial-style weaponry. Students also used makiwara (not the same kind of makiwara we see today) between weapons training and work with Kanbun Sensei.
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Re: 3. The Mystery of Pan Gai Noon (A)

Post by grahamnoble »

Seizan - Thanks for all the comments. Re the Chou Tzu-prostitute - yes, very odd but I think there is a simple explanation. Generally throughout the essay I used the Wade Giles method of romanisation (I can't read Chinese, just know a few characters). That is old fashioned now but was the main system when I started to take an interest in martial arts history. As you will know, under this method Uechi's teacher is rendered "Chou Tzu-ho", which is what I used throughout the essay. 'Prostitute' was nowhere in the manuscript. I can only think that some computer quirk has taken ho as "ho", the short form of "whore" and then rendered this as "prostitute". Unfortunate, but hopefully it can be corrected. Regards.
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Re: 3. The Mystery of Pan Gai Noon (A)

Post by Seizan »

Good morning (on Okinawa). I found that out when I was about to post more about this, then discovered that the filter on these forums (and possibly others) changes the H+o to "prostitute" to keep things "PG-13".

It would be nice if this particular 2-letter combination could be an exception. Rather distracting (and maybe insulting to some Chinese) to read something ridiculous like "Chou Tzu prostitute"...

Maybe replace the name with "Chou Tzuho"?

(Edited for clarification.)
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Re: 3. The Mystery of Pan Gai Noon (A)

Post by Seizan »

So -- on these forums, Santa Claus says "Ho Ho Ho!"...?
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Re: 3. The Mystery of Pan Gai Noon (A)

Post by grahamnoble »

Hmmm, I've just realised that it's done the same thing in my reply. "Chou Tzuho" sounds a good idea, I'll check it out. Regards.
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Re: 3. The Mystery of Pan Gai Noon (A)

Post by emattson »

On the word censoring setting of this forum software, I had it change the word "ho" to "prostitute". Ho is a derogatory, very offensive, American slang word for prostitute. But I didn't realize that many Chinese have "Ho" as their last name. Removed the censoring change for "Ho" and fixed all the incorrect translation. Thanks for your correction.
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Re: 3. The Mystery of Pan Gai Noon (A)

Post by grahamnoble »

Erik - Thanks for the change, appreciated.
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Re: 3. The Mystery of Pan Gai Noon (A)

Post by emattson »

"As Lawrence Tan observed some years back ..."

It's possible that this is the same man who published the "TanDao for Evolving Martial Artists" web site. Unfortunately, it's not secure.
http://www.tandao.com/
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