These Kenpo Masters are part of our lineage.
Master Shigeru Nakamura was born on January 20, 1894 in Nago City. His father was a close friend of Anko Itosu's most senior student, Kentsu Yabu (1866-1937).
Nakamura's father wanted his son to have the finest education possible. He sent Shigeru away to the prestigious First National Okinawan Junior High School in Shuri. For five years Shigeru followed his father's wishes to become educated and, also devote himself to the study of karate. The Karate teacher at First National was Chomo Hanashiro (1869-1945) who was regarded as one of Itosu's greatest students (Itosu's other famous pupils consisted of, Gichin Funakoshi (1863-1957), Chotoku Kyan(1870-1945), Moden Yabiku, Kenwa Mabuni, and many others). In fact, it was none other than Itosu himself who appointed Hanashiro to the prestigious position of teaching the students at First National. In addition to Master Hanashiro, Anko Itosu and Kentsu Yabu came to the school once a week to teach the students karate. Nakamura was indeed very fortunate to be able to study under three of the greatest karateka in history. He took full advantage of this opportunity, using his great
nagumasa, spirit of perseverance, to master karate-do at an extraordinary pace.
Upon his graduation and return to Nago, his dedication and aspiration for karate grew even stronger. He learned that Shinkichi Kunioshi, successor to the late Sakiyama, had moved to Nago. He asked Kunioshi to help him further his karate training. Kunioshi was so taken by Nakamura's determination to learn that he decided to pass on his secrets of Chinese Kenpo to him. Nakamura began a hard, disciplined practice under Kunioshi that would continue for about ten years. Nakamura's basic skills were firmly ingrained from his First National days. His mental and physical capabilities expanded at an unbelievable rate, enabling him to master Kunioshi's teachings.
At the age of 75, Kunioshi passed away. Nakamura was deeply saddened by this. He swore to honor his great teacher and made a commitment to follow in Kunioshi's footsteps and spread the art of karate-do. Thus, Nakamura established the first Okinawa Kenpo Karate dojo in Nago City. By this time, Nakamura had developed the same powerful fist as Kunioshi who had been known as
The Iron Fist Warrior. This reputation spread throughout many villages, and, consequently many students came to Master Nakamura for lessons.
At that time, all Karate teachers in Okinawa were teaching kata but neglected to teach free style fighting because they felt it was too dangerous. Nakamura valued the importance of jiyu-Kumite (free style fighting) as well as kata. He openly stated to the Okinawan public that jiyu-kumite, was the actual application of kata, therefore, no jiyu-kimite, no karate. He invented protective equipment which consisted of a modified kendo mask, chest protector and gloves. Using this protective equipment, Nakamura was able to teach
bogu-tsuke kumite (full contact fighting with protective gear). This was the first time in the history of karate that students could practice their fighting techniques at full power and full speed without worry of serious injury. This method of fighting was considered very important to Master Nakamura. He criticized the method of non-contact fighting as being impracticable and ineffective. Although he received much criticism from other old-fashioned schools, his method became more widely accepted with the passage of time.
By the 1960's, the merits and values of bogu-tauke kumite were acknowledged by many karate associations and dojo, as well as high school and college karate clubs. Many karate tournaments adopted Master Nakamura's method. Karate had also become quite popular in Japan at this time. The Japanese criticized the Okinawans for not placing enough emphasis on kumite. These allegations insulted Master Nakamura. He sent his students to compete in major tournaments throughout Japan. His students consistently became top winners, showing their skills and spirit. They showed the Japanese that Okinawan karate was not merely
dance karate as the Japanese described it but was indeed quite formidable.
Having accomplished almost everything he set out to do, Master Nakamura still had one goal left, to unify all styles of karate. It made him very sad to see that karate schools were not in agreement with one another. They were hostile and jealous of each other, not respecting each other's styles. There was constant argument about which style had the best method and skill. Nakamura openly criticized the other sensei for their destructive egos. He held meetings to try to unite and form one powerful organization which would include all the styles in Okinawa. Unfortunately, at the age of 75, he passed away before he could see his dream come true.
On January 21, 1969, Mr. Shigeru Nakamura, the Grand Master of the Okinawan Kenpo Karate-Do Association, passed away in his hometown of Nago City, Okinawa. He was a man of extraordinary character and karate talent. His entire life was devoted to the pursuit of the way of Okinawan Karate-Do. His death represented a tremendous loss to all, and particularly to the world of karate. He will always be remembered for his many contributions to the development of Okinawan Karate.
Master Seiyu Oyata was born on Oct. 19, 1928 in Kita- Daito of the Ryukyu Islands, located 200 miles east of Okinawa, Japan. He was J.D. Natan's primary instructor. As such, his principles and ideas formed most of Natan Sensei's outlook on "martial arts" and their applications. Mr. Oyata's heritage dates back to before the 1600's. His family are descendants of Zana, Uekata (Oyakata, a title, in Japanese). Zana, Uekata was an advisor to the Emperor of Okinawa before, and during, the invasion of Okinawa by the Satsuma Clan, in 1609. For honorably resisting the take over of the Okinawan Government and debasement of the Royal Family by the Japanese, he was summarily executed. In order to prevent further resistance, the Japanese ordered the Zana family to change their name to "Shinda", which sounds like the word for death in Japanese. The Chinese kanji for Shinda can, also, be read as "Oya", meaning "parents", and "ta", meaning "field". Years later, the family name was changed to Ikemiyagusku; and, eventually, became Oyata.
Mr. Oyata's father was the middleweight Sumo champion of all Okinawa. When he was young, he, and the rest of the Sumo team, challenged all comers in Okinawa. Kana Oyata was the strongest man on the team and won the competition for the island. Mr. Oyata was the fourth son of Kana Oyata and the youngest. His three brothers Taro, Kiseii and Akio were killed in the second World War. He, also, fought during the war and was commissioned a lieutenant in the Japanese Navy. If the Japanese forces had held back the American forces a bit longer, Mr. Oyata would have died in combat. He had been trained as a suicide torpedo operator. As luck would have it, he was captured and interred, in the Philippines, by the US Marines; just before he was due to embark on his mission. His death certificate had already been sent to his family. As a part of his training in the Navy, he learned Japanese martial arts. These included; Judo, kendo, naginata, yari, and Iaido.
After the war, at age 17, Mr. Oyata began working delivering food and supplies to war refugees. His work took him to the port town of Teruma where he met a very large man wearing the old "Bushi" top knot hair style. He was Mr. Uhugushuku, a former Bushi, who had been in the service of the Okinawan Emperor. Uhugushuku no Tanmei was about 93 years old at the time of their meeting. Because of Mr. Oyata's "Royal" connection, through his ancestry, Master Uhugushuku allowed him to study with him.
The Uhugushuku family has a long history of service to the Okinawan Emperors. The most famous was Kenyu "Uni" Uhugushuku. The Uhugushuku family is famous for their karate and kobujutsu techniques. Though, the 6' bo and 4' jo were the family's specialty, they had intimate knowledge and great skill with all of the weapons; and, empty hand techniques. Mr. Oyata became Mr. Uhugushuku's personal student and trained with him daily. He considered Mr. Oyata a family member, calling him "Mago" (which is Okinawan for grandson) and taught him not as a regular student; but, as a family member.
Mr. Uhugushuku emphasized the importance of kata training as a way to learn and practice tuite and kyusho technique. He gave Mr. Oyata problems and ideas to discover hidden meanings in the kata. Because of his ability, Mr. Oyata was introduced to a friend of Mr. Uhugushuku's, Wakinaguri no Tanmei. Mr. Wakinaguri specialized in striking techniques called kyusho jutsu. When Mr. Oyata met him, he noticed that all the fingers on Mr. Wakinaguri's hands were the same length. This was due to training, since the age of four, by thrusting his fingers into pumice sand. Mr. Wakinaguri taught how to discover the body's weak points and vital areas as well as how to strike them.
With this knowledge he began to research kata and to discover their hidden meanings. Mr. Uhugushuku's family awarded Mr. Oyata with a Menkyo Kaiden; naming him as the sole heir to the Uhugushuku family system of karate and kobudo.
After the deaths of Mr. Uhugushuku and Mr. Wakinaguri, Mr. Oyata was accepted as an instructor/student in Master Shigeru Nakamura's Okinawa Kenpo because of his studies with Uhugushuku no Tanmei. From Master Nakamura, Mr. Oyata learned the twelve empty hand kata he now teaches. He became, also, a student of Master Seikichi Uehara (Motobu Udun Ti) learning Mr. Uehara's tuite and weapon theories.
Master Oyata's reputation, and position, was not established on Okinawa for his great kata performance, or, skill with weapons, nor, for his proficiency and knowledge of Tuite; but, was a result of his school, consecutively winning the Bogu Tournaments, year after year, held on Okinawa. This reputation was additionally enhanced by him coming in first place in the All Japan, All Okinawa Bogu Tournament conducted in Japan in 1967, Albert Geraldi.
In 1968, after returning from teaching in the United States, Mr. Oyata found himself embroiled in internal politics and was forced to leave Mr. Nakamura's Okinawa Kenpo Renmei. He founded the Ryukyu Karate-do Renmei with Seikichi Uehara as Saiko Shihan (Supreme Instructor). He moved to the United States in 1976, at the request of his students. He currently calls the system he created "Oyata Shin Shu Ho" and uses "RyuTe®" as his trademark. His home is in Independence, Missouri, just outside of Kansas City.
Through the years, Master Seiyu Oyata has constantly analyzed the kata and the human body. Due to his studies with Master Seikichi Uehara, he developed his own style of tuite that wasn't dependent on strength; but, rather, execution of technique.
Seiyu Oyata, of Independence, MO, died Monday, June 18, 2012, at Avera St. Luke's Hospital, in Aberdeen, SD. Oyata had recently been diagnosed with bile duct cancer. He was 83 years old.
Jon David (D'veed) Natan, Shuseki Shihan (納騰 徳維), 10th Dan (十段 - Judan) Red Belt in Ryukyu Kenpo Kobujutsu was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. He started his martial arts training while attending Missouri Military Academy in Mexico, Missouri, in 1959, when he was eleven years old. Later, as part of the United States Armed Forces (Army) stationed in Seoul, Korea, Kyo Seng Chou was his instructor in Tang Soo Do (唐手道), Soo Bahk Do, Moo Duk Kwan with the Korean Taekwondo Association (KTA). The training was three hours a day, six days a week for eighteen months. Speaking of his training in Korea, he states,
When I was allowed into regular class, I was in the back of the class. I couldn't see what the front row was doing! Suddenly, everyone turned around, and I was the first row! Everyone was chasing me, passing me, and seemed to be insulted that I was SO bad! We fought every night. It was six months before I finally fought someone to a draw! At the end of a year, however, I was in the number one position; and Mr Chou started taking me to other places to get beat up! 1966, now 18, he received his Shodan (初段) in Shin Shin Jujutsu from Grandmaster Wilson; and Shodan (初段) from the KTA. In 1967, at age 19, he received his 2nd Dan (二段) Black Belts and a license to teach from the KTA.
While a science major (Geology/Biology) attending the University of Missouri Kansas City, J.D. Natan began learning and teaching 'Chinese' Kenpo Karate. Soon, he was employed full time as manager for Traco International, a large international chain of Kenpo schools. In 1975, he opened his own full time professional dojo. In 1976, he was appointed chairman of region 5 for AAU Karate and received a Shodan (初段) in the Okinawan Kenpo weapons system of Seikichi Odo from Master Bill Marron.
In 1976, Oyata, Sensei came to the United States. Jon David was waiting for him when he arrived from the airport. Master Oyata gave Jon David's Dojo the name, Ryukenkan, or Academy of Ryukyu Kempo*. J.D. became Master Oyata's first 'transfer' student. Having successfully made the jump from one system to a radically different one, earlier; J.D. had no trouble adjusting to the instruction of Oyata, Sensei. For ten years, Jon David, daily, learned and practiced Master Oyata's Ryukyu Kempo*. From three times a week to almost daily, he was in contact with Oyata-san. Not a week passed that he didn't learn, personally, from Oyata, Sensei; private lessons, in small group classes, or in personal conversations. In 1977, Master Oyata conferred upon him a Shihan Menjo (師範 免状). J.D. Natan had been participating in open 'point' competitions since 1969; but, he withdrew from 'point' kumite and concentrated, instead, on bogu kumite, which he had been practicing since 1972.
* Ironically, Master Oyata's instructor, Saikou Shihan (最高 師範) Shigeru Nakamura, spelled Kenpo correctly in his English transliterations. An early film taken in 1968, shows Master Oyata doing Kata in Kansas. A makeshift title spells Kenpo correctly at this time. Later, Master Oyata's students spelled the name as it is pronounced; due, to lack of familiarity with Japanese grammar. Master Oyata didn't care to correct it and it has been too long in usage, now, to change.
By 1979, J.D. Natan's style had changed so much that it no longer bore any resemblance to his teachings of just a few years earlier. In August 1979 he captured the Heavyweight Championship in bogu kumite, defending his title until his retirement in 1981. Before retiring, he spent five months teaching in Israel, introducing Ryukyu Kenpo there. Oyata, Sensei promoted J.D. to Renshi and 6th Dan Black Belt in 1984. At this time, he started traveling with Master Oyata across the United States, giving seminars and interviews with him. He represented Master Oyata in Europe and the middle east.
Keeping with the tradition of Karate masters before him, when circumstances made it impossible to continue training with their teachers, J.D. struck out on his own. In 1987 he moved to Israel. There, he combined and modified (over a fifteen year period) what he knew into Ryukyu (Liuqiu)(琉球) Kenpo (Quanfa)(拳法) Kobujutsu (古武術). Saikou Shihan Seikichi Uehara's, ideas and principles, as taught to J.D. through Master Oyata, transformed the old 'Chinese' Kenpo Karate techniques (and understanding of their kata) into something new and totally different. His knowledge of kata breakdown and practical application is unsurpassed in Israel; elevating it from "kindergarten" to "university" and post doc levels.
Jon D. Natan, Hanshi received his 10th Dan (十段 - Judan) Red Belt in Ryukyu Kenpo Kobujutsu from the Ryukyu Kenpo Karate Kobudo Rengokai in 2006, an 8th Dan (八段 - Hachidan) Red Belt in Ryukyu Kenpo from Midori Yama Budokai in 1996, a 6th Dan (六段 - Rokudan) Black Belt in Shin Shin Jujutsu (新進 柔術) from Grandmaster Leo D. Wilson in 1996, 6th Dan (六段 - Rokudan) Black Belt in Ryukyu Kempo and Kobudo from Taika Seiyu Oyata in 1984; 5th Dan (五段 - Godan) Black Belt in Okinawan Kobudo from 8th Dan Master Bill Marron in 1996; 5th Dan (五段 - Godan) Black Belt in Hapkido from 8th Dan Grandmaster Gunter Bauer. In addition, he is the retired undefeated heavyweight champion of the United States, and former #1 world rated heavyweight fighter in (Full Contact) bogu kumite. He is the Shuseki Shihan (首席 師範) of the Ryukyu Kenpo Kobujutsu Kai (琉球 拳法 古武術 会); and, the Chief Technical Officer of the Ryukyu Kenpo Karate Kobudo Rengokai (琉球 拳法 唐手 古武道 連合会), both internationally recognized organizations with branches in Israel, England, Bulgaria, and the United States. He currently teaches Hóngxiāng (Red Village) Liūchū Qūanfa (紅鄉 琉球 拳法) in Private and Semi-private classes (054-686-9228). J.D. Natan attended the Coach's Course (Course Mei'amen) at the Israeli Sports College, Wingate Institute, and is a licensed martial arts instructor [dated 1967] with the Ministry of Education in Israel.