History of Motobu Udundi: 1955-1965 (1)

Enrolled in about Showa 30

Matsuda Umeichi

・I was born in Showa 4 (1929) and I run Matsuda Lumber. I enrolled around the year Showa 30 (1955). I first met Uehara sensei through work. At the time I was suffering from a stomach ulcer, so I asked Uehara sensei, "Sensei, is there any way for me to get better?" He replied, "Why don't you come train at my place?" To which I said, "Sensei, please give me a health course," and enrolled in his school.


・Uehara sensei's training was done in his bar and in neighborhood cemeteries. At first, I would put on something boxing gloves and practice fielding sensei's flurry of strikes. He said we should not kick because it would cause injuries, so we did not practice kicks. We continued this kind of practice for some time. I was not taught how to use a weapon during this time.


・There were a few students above me, but they had emigrated to South America. There was also one student from Naha, and one extremely thin student. At that time, Uehara sensei did not let just anyone in; he selected students. While he was in the Philippines, he had apparently had two students, but both were drafted by the Army and killed in action.


・I was not initially taught any standard forms. Later I learned Sho Sanchin (Shō Sanchin) kata, and was one of the demonstrators of this style at the first Kakure Bushi, or "hidden martial arts master," Demonstration in Showa 36 (1961). As Uehara sensei had been in the Phillipines before the war, he was not very well known in Okinawa at that time.


・One day, a man carrying a bo staff showed up at Uehara sensei's door, and the two sparred with staffs. Uehara sensei easily subdued the man with his staff and won the match. The man never came back. I think that was about Showa 38 (1963).


・In Showa 39 (1964), around the time of the Tokyo Olympics, I built a dojo for Uehara sensei using raw materials obtained cheaply from the U.S. Army. It was about 50 square meters. I also went to see the Tokyo Olympics.


・In the second half of the Showa 30's (1955 - 1965), many teachers came to Uehara sensei's dojo to practice karate. I once went to "A" sensei's place as an attendant to Uehara sensei. He had paid him a visit having heard of "A" sensei's fame as a skilled master. The two talked about various things, and actually stood and tried out various techniques. In those days, ability was proved not by explaining verbally but by actually performing techniques; however, Master "A" did not really answer Uehara sensei's questions, and so his art did not seem as deeply mastered as it could have been. In addition, I once went with Uehara sensei to visit "B" sensei. This man had studied under Motobu Choyu sensei before Uehara sensei, as so considering him his senior, Uehara sensei visited him as a courtesy call. However, upon actually meeting him, it came to light that he had not actually studied under Choyu sensei for very long. Uehara sensei, looking disappointed, said "It would seem that "B" sensei does not know the way of Choyu sensei well."


・Tsuha Komei sensei (1919 - 1966), master of Okinawa Kenpo, had come from Nago and practiced under Uehara sensei with enthusiasm. However, he was killed in a car accident on his way home from sparring practice. I had been to Tsuha sensei's house once with Uehara sensei.


・Between the age of 14 to 15, Uehara sensei had already attained a good skill in Motobu Udundi, having trained under Motobu Choyu sensei. From that time, he met many various masters as Choyu sensei's messenger.  In the postwar period would often remark, completely knowingly, "That's so-and-so sensei's fighting style," upon seeing another master's karate style.


・The stance in Udundi is with your heel raised, but I was taught that it's easiest to move if you keep your heel just a paper's width off the ground. I was taught that raising your heel too much actually makes it more difficult to move.


・Sometimes, after early-morning practice or something, I would go straight to sensei's house for breakfast. Uehara sensei really was an amazing teacher. No matter how much I practiced he always had another technique to teach; I thought his well of techniques would never dry up. I studied under him for about 10 years.


・He often told me stories of his days before the war. It seems he had also sometimes fought with students of other schools. Take ashes with you when you go out for your nightly stroll. If you are attacked, throw the ashes and escape. Uehara sensei told me that Choyu sensei had said that.


・The martial arts of Uehara sensei were not meant for showing off. We practiced without trying to look good, just standing normally instead. Making a good show was not part of his style, and so to the spectator it may not have looked particularly polished. His style was really about actual combat. There were no set matches or prearranged sequences; it was all actual fighting.


・There was a man named Shimabukuro in the Philippines at the same time as Uehara sensei, he told me. He possessed immense strength. I think he was in the first Kakure Bushi Demonstration, too. Uehara sensei would take the challenge of any who came to his dojo. Not once did he ever lose.


(Interviewed on May 27th and June 4th, 2007)