Origins of Uechi-Ryu

Uechi-Ryu (way-chee-roo) is a traditional Okinawan style of karate brought from China to Okinawa by Kanbun Uechi (1877-1948) in the early 1900's. It's roots are centuries old and it is based on the original style named Pangai-Noon (pwan-gay-noon) which means half hard half soft. Kanbun learned Pangai-Noon in China after fleeing his homeland of Okinawa at the age of 19 to avoid Japanese military conscription. There he studied at the Central Temple in the Fukien Province of China under the famous teacher Chou-tzu-ho. The system, which has gone by the name "Glare in the Eyes with Fast Hands" is based on the movements of the dragon, tiger and crane. Kanbun eventually returned to Okinawa in 1910 although he later moved to Japan in 1924 where he eventually began teaching karate again.

Upon the death of Kanbun Uechi, his son Kanei (1911-1991), who had also become a famous instructor, renamed the style Uechi-Ryu (style of Uechi) in honor of his father. Kanei taught the style originally in Japan but later moved to Okinawa in 1942 to teach at the Futenma City Dojo. Kanei Uechi also contributed to the development of the style. To the original style (consisting of the kata Sanchin, Seisan, Sanseirui, arm-rubbing/arm pounding called kotikitae, and Chinese medicine), Kanei Uechi added five new kata (Kanshiwa, Kanshu, Seichin, Seirui, and Kanchin), the beginning exercises called Hojo Undo, and various kumite forms, mainly yakusoku kumite (Kyu Kumite, Dan Kumite, and the bunkai for Kanshiwa and Seisan). One of his more famous students is George Mattson, who has authored several books on Uechi-Ryu.

Kanei died in 1991, and now his son, Kanmei, is the senior family member of the style in Okinawa. Uechi-Ryu Karate is characterized by circular blocking movements, a wide variety of hand and arm strikes, and low kicks at waist level and lower. Emphasis is placed on moving from the body center and maintaining a “square on” position to opponents. Advanced students learn to strike and block with the same movement. Because of the circular nature of many of the movements, with practice, people of all sizes and strength levels can be successful at Uechi-Ryu Karate Do. Emphasis is placed on achieving a balance of mind, body and spirit to gain proficiency in this martial art. This striving for balance becomes ingrained in students who claim they find benefits is all aspects of life.

Uechi-Ryu in the United States

Uechi-Ryu karate was brought to the United States in 1958 by George Mattson who established his school in the Boston area. He is now the senior Uechi-Ryu representative in the U.S. and holds the rank of 9th degree black belt. Over the years Mr. Mattson has been sensei (teacher) to many people who have gone on to become instructors and operate their own schools. They have spread out throughout the U.S., and Canada making Uechi-Ryu a very popular style of karate. Sensei Mattson publishes an on-line magazine called "Eastern Arts" that includes information on Uechi-Ryu from all over the world, discussion forums, and a Uechi-ryu on-line store. You can reach the magazine at

Uechi-Ryu at Karate Do

Karate Do opened in September 2001 and is operated by Patricia Saunders. In addition to teaching martial arts classes she participates in the activities of the I.U.K.F. (International Uechi-Ryu Karate Federation) and officiates at tournaments. Sensei Saunders taught children's classes with Sensei Steve DiOrio in Westwood for three years prior to founding Karate Do. In addition to being a certified instructor by the International Uechi-Ryu Karate Federation (I.U.K.F.) Sensei Saunders is also certified by the American Council on Martial Arts (A.C.M.A.). The ACMA certification program is held under the auspices of the prestigious Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research and the National Association of Professional Martial Artists (NAPMA). ACMA certified schools develop their curriculum to be in tune with students mental and physical developmental stages, use safe and effective training methods, design classes with proper warm-up, calisthenics, flexibility exercises, martial arts training, and cool down. ACMA trained instructors understand the psychological aspects of learning and use positive motivational techniques in their classes.

Check out Sensei Saunders performing Sanchin kata!