About Motobu Udundi
Motobu udundi is an Okinawan martial art from the time of the Ryukyu Kingdom. It was once referred to as ushu-ganashi-mē no bugei, or "his majesty's martial art." The current name comes from the fact that it was passed down through the noble Motobu family of the udun rank, with the di coming from ti, meaning bujutsu--martial art--in Ryukyuan. Motobu udundi is considered a "general" martial art in that it makes use of punching and kicking striking techniques, joint locking and throwing techniques known as tuiti, and a variety of weapons.
In the time of the Ryukyu Kingdom, it was taught only in the confines of the palace and the secrets of the art were received only by the heirs of the Motobu Udun. They would begin their training in udundi from the age of six, and would generally continue until their coming of age at 15.
Following the Meiji reforms of 1871, the art was retained only by the 11th Motobu Udun, Motobu Choyu sensei. With the fall in fortunes of the noble families upon the dissolution of the Ryukyu Kingdom in 1879, his sons all went to the Japanese mainland, putting the succession of udundi into peril. Choyu sensei had a talented student named Uehara Seikichi, and determined to use Uehara to transmit his family’s art to his second son, Chomo sensei, who had gone to live in Wakayama on the Japanese mainland. The young Uehara fulfilled his master’s expectations and in 1924 traveled to Wakayama to teach Chomo sensei what he had learned from his father, thereby ensuring continuation of udundi within the Motobu family.
However, Chomo sensei was killed in the bombing of Osaka in 1945 and transmission of udundi was once more in danger. In 1947, Uehara sensei returned to Okinawa from the Philippines, where he had spent the war. Because of his traumatic experiences there, he gave up bujutsu for a time. Eventually, he was approached by people who had heard rumors of his exploits in the Philippines and slowly began instructing again. In 1961, he named his style Motobu-ryu in honor of his master and began instruction in earnest.
During this time, Uehara sensei heeded his master’s injunction not to teach udundi to anyone outside of the Motobu family. While he did teach tuiti to some shihan, to other students he only taught karate using udundi-style strikes and kicks. However, not wanting udundi to be lost with himself, in 1970 he opened the secret arts he had learned to the public, changing the name of his school to Motobu Udundi and establishing the Motobu Udundi Kobujutsu Kyokai with himself as its head.
Over time, the number of his students increased, but he remembered that he had not fulfilled his promise to Choyu sensei to teach Motobu udundi within the Motobu family. Actually, Uehara sensei had approached members of the Motobu family a number of times and some had even come to his dōjō for training, but they either did not continue or did not make progress in their training.
However, in 1976, Uehara sensei went to Kobe and met Motobu Choki sensei’s son Chosei sensei for the first time, telling Chosei sensei of his intention to return Motobu Udundi to the Motobu family. Chosei sensei was impressed with Uehara sensei’s skill, and--to add to his father’s Nihon Denryu Heihou Motobu Kenpo--inherited his uncle’s Motobu Udundi.
In 1984, Motobu Udundi Kobujutsu Kyokai became affiliated with Nihon Kobudo Kyokai, making the art available on the main islands of Japan. Then in 2003, at the celebration in honor of Uehara sensei’s 99th birthday, Uehara sensei transferred the title of sōke to Chosei sensei, fulfilling the promise he had made to his master some 80 years before.