History of Motobu Udundi: 1955 - 1965 (4)

Yasuda Hidenori

・I was born in 1940, and I am a former instructor of Hakkō-ryū. I first studied Hakkō-ryū here (on the Japan mainland), and then I traveled with Okuyama Ryūhō (founder of Hakkō-ryū) to Okinawa as an instructor in 1962. In the seminars, I taught Uehara Seikichi sensei. Of the people I taught, only one simply would not be tripped up by the techniques; that person was Uehara sensei.

・When Uehara sensei came to my Hakkō-ryū class, he had already mastered counter techniques. He would turn the tables, or counter every move I'd use against him. It was as if he knew every weak point of the techniques I was using.

・When it was time to return home, Uehara sensei and the other trainees came all the way to the airport to see us off. Then, Uehara sensei came to my side and whispered, "Do not take Okinawa karate lightly. If you have an interest in learning karate, then train first and then return home." As I was young and carefree at the time, I replied "If you would teach me, I will gladly do it." I decided to stay in Okinawa and trained at Uehara sensei's dojo for two months. I grew to love his personality.

・The "dojo" was not actually a dojo. The practice grounds were on the beach and sites of turtle-back tombs, or in lumber dealer Matsuda Umeichi's 6-jo (9m2) vacant lot.

・As I studied with Uehara sensei, I thought for the first time about how such a great teacher had come to my class on purpose, and I was surprised. At that time I felt that, Ah! He is not a typical person.

Uehara Seikichi and Onaga Taketoshi, Cape Manzamo, Okinawa, 1963
Uehara Seikichi and Onaga Taketoshi, Cape Manzamo, Okinawa, 1963

・At the time, I was around 20 and Uehara sensei was about 60. I thought that Uehara sensei was a sensation. No matter how much I imitated him I could not replicate his expertise. During training he would say, "stand there, face this way and come at me," and though I would strike I was not a good opponent. It was like I was being treated like a child. Okinawan locking techniques are very quick. With the same speed as punching or kicking, one executes a joint lock. Besides Hakkō-ryū I had practiced aikido in college, but mainland locking techniques generally involve grasping your opponent's hand and then performing the move; Okinawan locks are performed the moment you and your opponent pass each other. Uehara sensei certainly did not create joint locks from the techniques I had taught him.


・I learned Aikido at Asia University. I studied for two years after learning Hakkō-ryū. My impression of Hakkō-ryū and aikido was that, ah, they're the same, and actually, all of the techniques of Hakkō-ryū are present in aikido. The only difference is that Hakkō-ryū puts emphasis on not using strength. Also, you are given shodan (first grade) in Hakkō-ryū after ten days of training; in aikido, you finally receive shodan after two years. The time it takes to receive shodan is completely different.

・Uehara sensei's speed was undeniable. It was as if he grabbed his opponent's hand and executed a lock technique in the same instant. Hakkō-ryū and aikido are not like that.

・Anyway, I was beaten black and blue during training. However, after training I enjoyed catching eels on the coast and elsewhere. I say eels, but these were two-meters long and looked like sea serpents. I also trained with Onaga Taketoshi; I taught him Hakkō-ryū, and he taught me karate. It was very enjoyable. These really are my treasured memories.

Right-to-left: Higa Seitoku, Kaneshima Shinsuke, Uehara Seikichi, Tsuha Komei, Onaga Taketoshi, Yasuda Hidenori, Shinzato Osamu, and Higa Kiyohiko (Exhibition of Okinawa products, Kumamoto, 1963)
Right-to-left: Higa Seitoku, Kaneshima Shinsuke, Uehara Seikichi, Tsuha Komei, Onaga Taketoshi, Yasuda Hidenori, Shinzato Osamu, and Higa Kiyohiko (Exhibition of Okinawa products, Kumamoto, 1963)

・When Uehara sensei and the rest came to Kumamoto to demonstrate in an exhibition of Okinawa products (in 1963), I went with them and showed them around Kagoshima, Kumamoto, and Hakata.

・I believe the first person to study Hakkō-ryū in Okinawa was S sensei. I also met Kaneshima Shinsuke sensei while in Okinawa. The Okinawans were very proud. Okuyama sensei was the type of person to treat you like a student even if you attended the seminar just once, and the Okinawans were strongly repelled by that. The Okinawans thought that quitting the class was saying "I am not your student anymore."

・The same problems cropped up in Fukuoka. A famous s-style jujitsu sensei was in Fukuoka, and he came when we opened a school there. At the seminars if you paid money you could study teacher techniques, so this sensei decided to try it out. He paid and received his instructor license. However, Okuyama sensei's attitude was that joining his class made you his student. But when he tried that with the other sensei participating in his seminar, they said that "just joining your class does not make us your students." Because of that, there were many problems between him and this jujitsu sensei. There were many troubles besides this while I was enrolled in the Hakkō-ryū school. I disliked these troubles and I decided not to practice Hakkō-ryū anymore.

・Uehara sensei said, "It's my duty to bring this art back to the Motobu line."

・I'm 66 years old now. Last year I collapsed from a cerebral hemorrhage, and now I'm in rehabilitation. Thanks to studying karate all those years ago I am physically strong, and now I’m on the road to recovery. I can finally walk again.

(Interviewed on May 30th, 2007 and April 15th, 2009)