Ryu Te

Ryu-te (琉手 “flow of the hand”) is a traditional form of karate from the Ryukyu Islands, which are located southwest of Japan. RyÅ«-te emphasizes effective self-defense; its techniques aim to take control of an opponent while avoiding the use of excessive force that threatens to injure or maim. Neither a sport nor a form of exercise, RyÅ«-te is a method of training the body and mind that can be learned by anyone regardless of age, sex, or strength.

In addition to striking, kicking, and blocking, Ryu-te includes grappling, locking, and escape techniques (tuite jutsu); striking techniques that exploit the body’s weak points to temporarily disable an opponent without injury (kyusho-jitsu); weapons techniques (kobudo); and forms (kata). Practitioners study a wide range of techniques and prudent ways to use force in controlling an attacker.

History of Ryu Te: Taika Seiyu Oyata, the founder of Ryū-te, began his martial arts training at a very early age, as he was exposed to the Okinawan form of sumo through his father, Kana Oyata.

During World War II he received instruction in iaido, kendo, and judo. After the war he began training with Uhugushiku-no-tan-mei, a retired officer of the Okinawan government.

The Uhugushiku family had a reputation for its skill in martial arts and served the Okinawan ruling class for many centuries. Uhugushiku was known as a kakurei bushi (hidden warrior) and taught neither outside of family lines nor those without a direct connection to the warrior class of Okinawa.

Uhugushiku introduced Taika Oyata to Wakinaguri, an elderly gentleman who was a descendant of Chinese emissaries sent to Okinawa when it was a tributary state of China.

These two gentlemen began to teach Taika Oyata the ancient ways of Okinawan and Chinese martial arts. During this time karate was taught openly as a public art. However, what Uhugushiku and Wakinaguri taught were family arts handed down through generations. Neither Uhugushiku nor Wakinaguri had descendants to whom they could pass down their art, and therefore Taika Oyata became the inheritor of this knowledge.

After Uhugushiku and Wakinaguri died, Taika Oyata sought other karate masters to continue his training. He joined several research groups (kenkyūkai) and trained directly with Shigeru Nakamura, founder of Okinawan Kenpo. Under Nakamura-sensei, Taika Oyata learned the 12 basic empty-hand kata that are practiced in Ryū-te today and helped establish Bogu Kumite as the sporting aspect of Okinawan Kenpo.

In 1977 several of Taika Oyata’s senior American students began to organize within the United States. They brought him to Kansas City, Kansas and established the American headquarters. Taika Oyata began to broaden the knowledge of the general martial arts public by introducing the concepts of tuite and kyÅ«sho jutsu that have influenced the way in which karate is taught in the modern day.

In order to credit Okinawa, from 1968 until the late 80’s Taika Oyata called his organization “RyÅ«kyÅ« Kempō” (琉球拳法, “RyÅ«kyÅ« Kempō”) — a generic term often used to describe all forms of karate from Okinawa. In the early 90’s he renamed it “Ryu-te” (琉手, “Ryu-te”), which means “RyÅ«kyÅ« Hand,” or “flowing hand.” These kanji characters were chosen to describe the way in which karate techniques should be performed.

Basic concept of Ryu-te
Taika Oyata stressed several important points regarding the practice of Ryu-te.

  • Close combat: An opponent who is more than four feet away can pull a weapon, so close-in fighting is necessary in empty-hand combat.
  • One-second reaction: One should react to his/her opponent within one second. Subduing an opponent within one second is unnecessary, but one should make his/her move within that time.
  • Effectiveness: When using vital-point techniques (kyÅ«sho jutsu), counterattacks must be effective. A counter must be a valid technique that works on anyone—regardless of size or strength.
  • Morality: One must consider personal ethics when applying techniques on others.
  • Legality: Not only must an application appeal to one’s sense of right and wrong, but it must comply with laws regarding self-defense. This principle necessitates the prudent use of force.
  • Three kinds of attack: There are three ways an enemy can attack— striking, pushing, or grabbing. A comprehensive system of techniques allows one to defend against each of these.

Advanced students of Ryū-te achieve multiple blocks and strikes in a single flowing motion, rather than thinking of blocks, strikes, and locks as separate techniques end-to-end.

Kata: A kata or form is a choreographed pattern of movement, somewhat resembling a dance, that expresses the basic movements of karate. The kata are the alphabets from which the words and sentences of self-defense are constructed. Each movement holds subtle meanings not readily discernible to the untrained eye, and therefore it may be said that a hidden art is contained within the kata.

The 12 kata taught in Ryū-te are called:

  • Naihanchin Shodan
  • Naihanchin Nidan
  • Naihanchin Sandan
  • Tamari Seisan
  • Pinan Shodan
  • Pinan Nidan
  • Pinan Sandan
  • Pinan Yondan
  • Pinan Godan
  • Passai
  • Kusanku
  • Niseishi

Weapons: Ryū-te incorporates kobudo, in that the study of weapons supplements the empty-hand techniques as an integral component of training. Practitioners study the interrelationship between empty-hand movements and weapons techniques, with an emphasis on the value of weapons training in the perfection of empty-hand movement. Weapons include chizikunbo, tanbo, tonfa, jo, bo, eku, and sai.

Physical training: Training aims to improve flexibility, strength, stamina, coordination, and balance by requiring students to push themselves to and stretch beyond their physical limits. Physical training also functions as a means to spiritual attainment (i.e., improved mental and physical discipline, greater vigilance, and increased self-confidence.)

Moral and spiritual discipline: Students are required to learn and live by a basic moral code, expressed in 5 “Dojo Kun” and 10 “Guiding Principles.” The Dojo Kun are:

  1. Strive for good moral character.
  2. Keep an honest and sincere way.
  3. Cultivate perseverance through a will for striving.
  4. Develop a respectful attitude.
  5. Restrain physical ability through spiritual attainment.

The Guiding Principles are:

  1. When entering a dojo or asking to be taught, be free from prejudice and be submissive, so that you will accept the teachings as shown. This will help you to not establish bad habits.
  2. Observe respect toward the Master and superiors. Also, be courteous to fellow students and followers. Strive to develop the virtue of humbleness.
  3. A healthy body can be obtained through constant training. Cultivate the spirit of perseverance.
  4. Strive to be a warrior for the construction of a peaceful and free world through the character building, morality, and spirituality obtained by learning the way of karate.
  5. In daily conduct, do not engage in fights or arguments. Always be prudent.
  6. In actual training, move up from the easy to the difficult, and from the simple to the complicated. More time and hard work will be required for repetitious and continuous training. Never hurry but strive for gradual development, and never engage in senseless or reckless practice.
  7. Become familiar with the use of the makiwara and other training equipment. Train yourself to use your fist or other parts. Be patient and earnestly study the kata or matches. Never aim for hurried success.
  8. It has been said that it takes three years to comprehend a kata. In ancient days, a master studied a single kata for ten years. There is no time limit for kata to be improved. Never be proud, even if much is accomplished. Pride hurts achievement in virtue, as well as technique, and will become like a poison.
  9. Be cautious in training. Do not develop a favorite technique or it may become a weakness. Be careful not to become too theoretical or technical.
  10. Any questions should be freely asked. Always strive to understand what is being taught.