This history is to be used as a guideline of Ryukyu
Kempo. The forward history includes accounts of my own studies and
information from texts. Please use this information for your further
studies. This is not to be taken as a contest of who-knows-what.
Take in and enjoy.
Michael P. Andrews, Chief
Andrews Karate Institute
Brief History of Ryukyu Kempo
In 1393, [an economical and cultural] Chinese
mission was established in Naha’s Kuninda district, where the Thirty-Six
Families settled. This was important because it established how the
Chinese fighting arts were first systematically transmitted into Okinawa¹,
which was known as the Great Liu Chiu in Chinese. It is also
noteworthy that there was the first recorded contact with the Chinese was
during the Sui Dynasty in 607 A.D. The settlement at Kume has been
referred to as Okinawa’s “window to Chinese culture.” It has been
historically noted that Chinese martial arts were introduced to Okinawa by
the Thirty-Six Families. Okinawan Pechin (Ryukyu Samurai or
Okinawan Samurai) had a rudimentary form of unarmed hand-to-hand combat that
included striking, kicking, elementary grappling, and escape maneuvers that
allowed them to subdue adversaries even when disarmed.
In Okinawan society the people were divided into ten
classes: Princes, Aji, Oyakata, Pechin, Satunushi-Pechin, Chikudun,
Satunushi, Saka Satunushi, Chikudun Zashiki and Niya.
Princes are the royal kings, brothers, and uncles who were generally district
chieftains. The Aji were feudal lords. Oyakata were
upper Samurai, Pechin and Satunushi-Pechin were middle-class
Samurai. The other classes were sons and brothers of upper and middle Shizoku
(keimochi, or privileged classes). The Niya were
The roots of karate are perhaps as old as man;
therefore, it is difficult to trace the exact origins. Much of the
karate we have today was handed down by word of mouth and surrounded by secrecy.
As with most feudal states, the sons of the warrior class and upper class
officials received martial arts training; however, only the first son was
allowed to take his father’s place. Although the second and succeeding
sons had to accept lower positions, the martial arts training they had
received was still a part of their heritage. This led to the spread of
karate through the both the Bushi and common class as these offspring and Pechin
from fallen castles lived outside of the castles. The intervention by
Japan in 1609 began with the invasion of the Satsuma Clan, a Samurai province
in Southern Japan. Although trade and governmental affairs were
controlled by the Shimazu Clan, the Okinawans still retained a loose form of
government; however, military or martial arts training had to go underground.
Early in Okinawan history, the Chinese referred to
the Okinawan islands as Liu Chiu and the fighting methods as Liu
Chiu Ti (Hand of Ryukyu). Okinawans have referred to their fighting
methods as Te, Ti, or Bushi Te. Te and Ti
refer to the "use of the hand" and Bushi Te refers to
"warrior’s hand." Modern karate is a blend of Chinese and
Okinawan ideas developing out of three regions of Okinawa that developed
distinct styles: Naha, Shuri, and Tomari.
Naha-Te, through the merchant class, developed around the city of
Naha, the trade center of the Ryukyu Islands. As a result of trade with
China, Naha-Te received much Chinese influence. This influence can be
seen in the more fluid, circular movements and emphasis on the health aspects
practitioners were of warrior or aristocratic descent, since Shuri was the
seat of the government. Although the fighting techniques in Shuri-Te
were less influenced by Chinese karate; the philosophy and spirituality that
developed were from Chinese ideas. Part of a warrior's education was the
in the port town of Tomari, a fishing village in southern regions of
Okinawa. The techniques are more direct and emphasize power and
strength. Because of the location as a seaport, there were many fights and
tests of techniques. Former Bushi and their dependents who lived here
were called upon to test their skills almost daily.
In 1507 a weapons ban was
instituted by King Sho Shin, which led to an increased need by landowners for
an effective means of defending themselves and their property. In
February of 1609 the Satsuma (the southern Samurai clan of Japan) invaded
Okinawa. The campaign lasted from February to May. Some may
wonder how a country of Pechin can be overrun in three months, but we
must remember that there was an initial weapons ban two hundreds years prior
to 1609. The original weapons ban was in 1409. Okinawa was
conquered in merely three months not because of the weapon bans, but because
the King had ordered that there was to be no resistance among his
people. This ideology still has its roots in today's politics of
Okinawa’s strong belief in life preservation. One example is that there
are military bases allowed on Okinawa’s soil but nuclear weapons are barred.
During Okinawa’s 270-year
military occupation, eclectic fighting traditions evolved, some of which
applied the principles of self-defense to a myriad of domestic
implements. It was largely because of this phenomenon that Kobudo
evolved. Evidently while studying in Japan, some of Okinawan Pechin
were schooled in Jigen-Ryu Ken-Jutsu (a very aggressive combat methodology of
the Satsuma Samurai) and, in so doing, affected the evolution of Okinawa’s
indigenous fighting methods upon returning to their homeland. The art
of the Bo (six-foot staff) of Toudi Sakugawa, Chikudun-Pechin Kanga,
and Chikudun-Pechin Tsuken Koura (1776-1882) did not surface
until after they returned to Okinawa from studying in Satsuma. Among
the many Pechin to make the journey from the Ryukyu Kingdom to Satsuma
during the later part of the Nineteenth Century was Chikudun-Pechin Matsumura
Sokon. Perhaps better known as Bushi Matsumura, he came to be known as
the Miyamoto Musashi of the Ryukyu Kingdom. In many ways, Matsumura is
considered the great-grandfather of the karate movement that surfaced in and
around Shuri. Matsumura first learned the native Okinawan fighting
traditions under the watchful eye of Toudi Sakugawa and later, while serving
as a security agent for three consecutive Ryukyuan kings, studied in both
Fujian and Satsuma.
(Sport), Ryukyu Kempo (Life Protection)
The word “karate” is known by almost all Americans,
which translates to (as Americans understand it) kicks and chops. Not
much of the word karate is associated with the art self-preservation, which
originated in Okinawa, based on indigenous Okinawan fighting methods.
What people need to realize is that karate is the modern incarnation of an
older art called Ryukyu Kempo to-de Jitsu.
Karate is a modified, popular version of Ryukyu
Kempo. The reformation of Ken-Jutsu to Kendo, Jujitsu to Judo, and
Ryukyu Kempo to Karate. This transformation eliminated deadly striking
techniques and adopted rules for safe competition. Techniques in kata,
or forms, were altered, making them more aesthetic and expansive. The
modern art can be used with effectiveness in self-defense, but it is
primarily designed for self-development and sport. This is not a bad
thing. Karate in its present form is a safe and beneficial practice for
millions around the world.
Karate practitioners must know that karate in its
present form was altered to be safe for grade school children in 1922.
In the 1960’s and late 70’s the percentage of practitioners was 100%
adults. In recent years the percentage has leaned toward almost 100%
children. This is because the explanation or dissemination of kata were
Everywhere there were striking applications, blocks
put in place for safety. Most karate schools today teach how to
block. There are no blocks in karate.
The classical art of Ryukyu Kempo is an art that was
taught prior to entering the school system in Okinawa in 1922. The art
preserved the method of angle and direction of how to strike different areas
of the human body.
At Andrews Karate Institute we
teach the art of Ryukyu Kempo (life protection art), as we believe this is
important for society today. Some of the reasons as to why this art is
valuable include: the right to protect oneself from harm, and the right to
protect family and loved ones.
As people today and those who
cannot protect themselves are targeted for mistreatment, especially children
and the elderly, the art of Ryukyu Kempo becomes extremely important.
The art of Ryukyu Kempo’s
foundation lies within understanding the human body from the psychological to
The Physical - All
men are equal, but where that equality ends is size and strength. The
common denominator between all people is the nervous system. Ryukyu
Kempo relies on knowledge of the nervous system and is not based on size or
strength (as is the foundation of other styles of karate, whether intended or
not), but in application of technique. The human body has lungs, a
spleen, liver, gall bladder, stomach, kidneys, bladder, intestines, and a
heart. How these organs communicate is through the nervous system. The
nervous system is the only way to enter pain directly into the human body.
The pain signal is given highest priority, therefore the understanding on how
to exploit the nervous system to create pain which causes compliance, is the
fundamental foundation of Ryukyu Kempo. Pressure points are the only
way to gain access to the nervous system. The knowledge of accessing the
nervous system in this manner is contained within the kata of Ryukyu Kempo.
Note that in modern karate, the main benefits are
touted towards health and relaxation and that you may learn self-defense,
whereas the main focus of Ryukyu Kempo is self-defense, and the side
benefits are health and relaxation because you know how to defend yourself.
Ryukyu Kempo remains aligned to
the basic root of Okinawa’s fighting system, shedding modern concepts of
sport fighting for the practical aspects of self-defense. Ryukyu Kempo
represents the fighting spirit of the Okinawan warrior and their concepts for
application of technique. Ryukyu Kempo is the old way of Karate; it is
not a sport, but a way of life that can be applied as a guide to better
living and understanding.
Ryukyu Kempo continues to teach karate’s ideals as
they have always been taught. Emphasis is focused on makiwara training,
fighting full contact using bogu gear (bogu kumite), kata training,
Tuite, Kyusho-Jitsu and Kobudo. These are of utmost importance and
special detail is given to teaching these techniques so that they will never
be forgotten, even though the Bushi class no longer exists.³
of Ryukyu Kempo (Kobudo)
Originally, Ryukyu Kempo Kobudo existed for the sole
purpose of self-defense in direct response to various practical necessities.
Professional security escorts of the day (Ryukyuan bodyguards) needed to be
well-versed in combative technologies. A combative technology of the
day would have been, for example, choice of wood used for wooden weapons
(i.e. weapons made from teakwood could not be cut through by the period’s
bladed weapons). Note that today's purpose of Okinawan Kobudo is to enhance
the empty hand techniques.
Definition of Ryukyuan
bodyguards’ weapons training included: position of the grip (high for sport,
low for combat, as pertains to the Nunchaku), tai sabaki (footwork),
specific method of contact with the forearm instead of the ribcage or outside
of the arm as is mostly taught (as pertains to the Bo), and specific
knowledge of anatomical structures for bladed weapons. The professional
adaptation from traditional bladed weapons (which were banned) were made into
everyday implements such as the Bo and Sai. Okinawan masters traveled
to Japan to study a specific style of Ken-Jutsu and reflected its techniques
back to the Bo, which was allowed for use by the Pechin.
History of Andrews Karate Institute
Sensei Mike Mamos (5th Dan, Shorin-Ryu)
Sensei Ken Mayhan (1st Dan, Taekwondo)
Shihan Peter Bernath (7th Dan, Aikido)
Grandmaster Ed Lake (8th Dan, Ryukyu Kempo)
Grandmaster George A. Dillman (9th Dan, Ryukyu
Professor Helen Chao (Professor of
Grandmaster Jack Hogan (9th Dan, Ryukyu Kempo)
Sensei Rick Dermo (3rd Dan, Kendo)
Sensei Roy Robinson (5th Dan, Uechi-Ryu)
This is a list of the incredible teachers still have great influence in my
martial arts studies (in order of study):