Ambassador of Uechi-ryu style in France, 8dan and professor at Carrières-sur-Seine from 1986, Yukinobu Shimabukuro discusses his karate school, born of a different era and at the same time similar, and delivers a wise lesson on the fundamentals of simplicity and sharing.

What are the origins of Uechi-ryu ?
In 1897, Uechi Kambun, founder of this style, secretly fled China, dans province of Fujian. The reason ? He wants to avoid compulsory military service. A conscription, at the time, was very scared young men because of its hardness. Death could be the end and Okinawa, his island, did not feel concerned by Japanese politics. He was twenty years. There were so strong commercial relations between China, Japan and Okinawa. He left everything and boarded a boat to travel to Fujian, just in front. Over there, he will meet Zhou Zhie - called Shu Shiwa in Japanese -, a master of Chinese boxing, school student pangainoon, (which means "both soft and hard", Editor's note), inspired style Buddhist and Taoist precepts. Matured by an education that will last thirteen years, Uechi Kambun will return to Okinawa 1910, then go to Japan 1924 to work, and give, after several years, his name to this style of karate, based on a desire to ensure its security in the newspaper that we knew then, while remaining discreet. There was no question of creating a practical framework, to lock in an unreal space, a dojo apart from the world. This fighting art was in their lives, in natural everyday, but it was also necessary to avoid the show of force, not attract attention or comments. The secret was important. Japan of the early twentieth century was not the China of the late nineteenth, but it was not safer.


Starting this story, then what are the technical specifications of your style ?
The Uechi-ryu is defined first by a rather high position, much more than Shotokan or Shito-ryu example. For us, daily posture should be the working base, because it is that we make spontaneously. It is therefore often higher than those of other styles. Shu Shiwa traveled extensively throughout China including the roads were unsafe, with these robbers, these evil people of all kinds. So he learned techniques to ward off sudden attacks, starting from its natural posture. Then, our style favors the open hand, as for shoken (punch with the phalanx of the index output) and also because it facilitates the entry of the opponent. Finally, it uses a lot of very circular motion. The principle of the centrifugal force is fundamental, for example the characteristics blockages style, which help to deflect quickly, dropping or wear powerful key. Certainly, a circular blocking with open hand is difficult to achieve. Probably more complicated when compared to the Shotokan. More, once again, this is related to the need to stick to the realistic situation, this could happen in their life and maybe in ours. It attacks me unpredictably, maybe more, I will hide, I avoid the blow and the trap does not remain fixed, while turning. With the shoken, typical strokes of this style are the nukite (hand in spades) and shomen geri (strikes with toes). There too, that is specific to this notion of unarmed defense.


"The wolf pack in life, Tiger for independence. I find that I am both the two. »

this natural, how do we manage ?
Natural, it is not so simple in fact. He passes to me by two strong ideas : that, Firstly, that exercise training should have an equal place in technical training. And on the other hand, that through a common drive, if possible daily that karate can make us strong and confident. The "simplicity" is the price. Your ability becomes, for that would have to use, a natural control, spontaneous, impensée, so it is embedded in a body "prepared" for this purpose. Conditions before yesterday and yesterday are no longer quite the same, but nothing has fundamentally changed. The Uechi-ryu was effective on the dangerous roads of China and Japan for years 20. If properly taught, it will be just as on a subway platform at 21and century.

And you, how do you teach ?
This is the maxim Shin Gi Tai that guided my life and karate teacher of the style.
Shin ? It is forging both his mind and his heart. By reading a lot of books, listening to masters or more officers, reflecting itself in practice.
Gi ? It is the daily training to acquire the technical. When I started karate in Ryukyu University with Seiko Toyama, one of the first students of Uechi Kambun, we had five or six workouts a week, that lasted for hours. More, it was pretty violent and often I hurt everywhere ! In France, we can not do that. This is why it is necessary to optimize practice time : I always work my students two by two, Undecided on attacks in advance, by insisting on the accuracy and efficiency as goals. The fundamentals ? The nudged, for punches and knee, for kicking.
Or ? It is strengthening the body. This is fundamental. Without a strong body, prepare, solid you can not achieve the goal. Moreover, at my age, I would say that the maxim should rather be Tai Gi Shin ! (laughs) For having a body alert, the cure is fundamental if I still want to show the right way. Look Mochizuki Hiroo : to the 81 years and is very fit. This is a fine example.


How he has karate is part of your daily, as it was part of everyday masters ?
My family and I have experienced many lives between France and Japan. After two years as a teacher in Martinique (1971-1973), I met my wife, we settled in Lille where I taught karate for three years. Then we went to live in Tokyo for eight years (1976-1984) before returning to France for, Eure then in Carrières-sur-Seine where I offers courses for 1986. When I look back on this course, these life experiences, some difficult, chapters of a family life he had written as a blank page, from scratch, that's what I remember : Karate has always been able to help me, guide me, comfort me in times like these. Life changed probably, but it is hard sometimes. In Tokyo, when I could not find work, I thought constantly : "You have supported the training of Seiko Toyama, you can endure it ! ». Karate, by the qualities he develops you, courtesy, respect, self control, has this ability to help you cope, to persuade you that you have the capacity, that you will require you what it takes to get out of a bad situation. But what you give karate, it is also the feeling of not being alone. One of the great strengths of our martial art is to develop a cooperative spirit, strong links between us, affective, Cultural I will never forget the help spontaneously given by my students Lille, in 1973, to help me get my residence permit. This spontaneous assistance, born ties had woven us karate, is one of the greatest gifts I offered our martial art teacher in my life.

Interview by Thomas Rouquette / Sen No Sen
Original article published on