"What's in a name? That which we call a rose -by any other name would smell as sweet."
Updated: Jan 10, 2022
This famous line comes from Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare.
As the first blog I officially write, you all can call me 'the grasshopper'. That is the nickname given to my by my mentor and sensei, Robert J Campbell, from Boston, USA.
Uechi Ryu, or the 'Way of Uechi', is just one of the fighting systems created to due with the most complex yet realistic problem among human beings. That problem is called Violence. So it is one of the solutions to end violence, at the stage of physical conflict. This is what it is: Nothing more, nothing less.
It is an empty hand system designed for street violence - which refers to surprise attacks, at very close range. For the history of Uechi Ryu, you can visit http://www.southkungfu.com/history-e.html. which we will not explore further here in this blog.
To use Uechi Ryu in sparring competitions, one must be able to modify the techniques to be successful.. But do remember, this was not the sole purpose that leads to the creation of this system.
In Chinese Martial arts, there was a saying, 'To fight, most importantly you have to have guts, second important being power, Last being your kung fu/fighting techniques'. This is the reason why the system is composed of 3 pillar katas: 'Sanchin' - the 3 battles (for proper body alignment and the usage of proper power generation), , Seisan (13) and Sanseiryu (36). The curriculum consist of 5 other katas developed post World War 2, but the techniques of these 5 are derived from the above 3 forms/katas.
Now there are a lot of interpretations of why the katas is called 13 ( 十三) 36 (三十六). For example, Seisan was previously described as a kata with 13 techniques, or secret techniques from the 13th room of Shaolin (very good story i must say). Since this is my personal blog, i like what my sensei and senpais version, which is more scientific based, and would like to share it here.
13 (Seisan) - refers to doing Sanchin in a cross shape (meaning fighting people in 4 directions in a cross shape). In Chinese, 13 refers to 十三 - and the 十 is the 4 directions. Uechi ryu practitioners should be able to tell, from the embusen of the kata.
36 (Sanseiryu) - Sanchin in 360 degrees (in Chinese the character is 三十六, now try to put 十and 六 together, you get 米 - aka all directions). Thus the kata literally means to 'fight using sanchin in all directions/360 degrees). it is interesting to understand the origin of modern Chinese character, or the ancient Chinese characters are actually pictograms. Apart from the myths and stories, which are all good to hear, one might consider to start looking at the katas, from a technical point of view. In fact, in our interpretation, the name does say it all what the forms are for.
The forms, in other words, are created for shadow boxing, in an oriental way, especially for solo practice. Much like the modern times except for the very few, most martial artists need to work for a living in the old days. Limited time could be left for their training after work. Kata, is therefore designed, in order to allow one able to train a number of things simultaneously, including footwork, proper postures, fighting strategies as well as power projection etc. This is considered an efficient way to hone one's body condition and potential to fight, especially when they have no training partners. The forms are thus created in a way so the practitioners can train the specific muscles as a whole required to fight. Each move of the kata in theory should be able to translate to multiple interpretations according to the ability of the practitioner, given that they truly understand and master the moves. Fighting strategies are embedded within the katas.
Normally, especially men, already knew how to fight when they were at a young age. Thus for good martial artists at that time, naturally, one must have had engaged in fights or at least had some brawling experience in the first place, before some even started to learn martial arts. Learning martial arts, for them in the past, was just a way for them to fight more efficiently, if they were taught well.
Now, there are urban myths that lead people to believe training kata alone diligently, without training sparring/or been in an actual fight ever, could magically grant someone the ability to be a fighter. While i cannot say this is entirely impossible, this is an extremely rare case.
Instead, a practitioner must understand what their original purpose of training a martial art is. And why did they pick the art they are practising in the first place.
If it's for fun, Great!). If you just treat this as a healthy exercise, that is perfectly fine too. But if you want to be able to fight, if you are learning martial art for self defence purposes, you must start to think how to narrow the gap between fantasy and reality. We live in a bizzare world and there are people who can really hurt you. Out of nowhere. A surprise if you are not careful. And people in the street who intend to really hurt you will NEVER fight fair (for example, a gang embush, hit and run like flash mob). If you do not know what to expect in a real fight, or the surprises and terrible consequences a real fight is about, you might want to second think about whether you can really protect yourself against these odds. If you are a BLACK BELT or practitioner of an art for 10+ years, but you never actually get into an actual fight, but would like to know if you can protect yourself, you might want to start by looking into what violence is. You cannot solve a problem if you do not know or even understand what the problem is. Your name, your reputation within your fellow martial arts circle, will not help to protect you from an actual encounter from people who really want to hurt you. At the end, it is whether you have really prepared yourself for these situations.
Getting very good in sparring will enable you to gain ability to fight, however, it does not guarentee your success from surviving street encounters. I have seen a very good fighter in the ring (Muay Thai) got badly injured in a street fight outside a pub. Brain injury. Because he was called names. He could have walked away despite we pulled him back from those people. He thought he could defeat the gang barehanded. He was knocked out by a baseball bat at the end of his head and sustained serious brain injury. The glory days were over. In a ring, there are rules. But in the street, there are no rules. Dirty tactics.
Uechi ryu is just a tool to solve violence when it has escalated to the phase of physical conflict, as a final resort for you to survive. You WILL get injured. You WILL get hurt. If you can walk away from a fight, leave. No second guess. If you are unable to use this tool called uechi ryu/ muay thai/ Goju ryu/ tae kwon do/ Jiujitsu when you are required to use it, then the system is useless to you. And all systems have flaws. The practitioner of that system must be able to be aware of it.
If you still THINK you can walk away after a fight without injuries, you might want to start thinking about where you get this idea from.
My sensei - Robert Campbell, asked me a very interesting question some time ago: if your girlfriend plays tennis with you, do you give a name to the way you play tennis? or your girl friend's? At the end, what works for you, is the most important. A backhand is a backhand, no matter how you do it. If it works, it works. And you, are the one to make it work, not the name of the style or your belt colour. We represent ourselves, and ourselves alone.