Uechi-ryu is one of the main styles of Okinawan karate. Literally translated it means Uechi style, its name coming from its founder Kanbun Uechi (1877-1948). At 19, Kanbun Uechi went to Fuzhou City in China to study martial arts. He studied a style known as Pangai-noon and after 13 years returned to Okinawa. Many years later he began teaching Pangai-noon karate in Japan, and in 1940 the style was renamed as Uechi-ryu karate jutsu. Kanbun Uechi’s son Kanei Uechi (1911-1991) was the second generation of the style. His grandson Kanmei Uechi (1941-2015) was the third generation. And today his great-grandsons Kanji Uechi and Sadanao Uechi continue the Uechi-ryu legacy. Motobu is the hometown of Uechi-ryu’s founder Kanbun Uechi. A couple of years ago a statue of the Kanbun Uechi was built in the Yaedake Sakura no Mori, Cherry Blossom Park, in Motobu Town. Motobu is also where we now live, so Kanbun Uechi often overlooks us as we picnic in the park 🙂
Currently editing the second video in the documentary series Sensei: Masters of Okinawan Karate. It is a fascinating interview with 10th dan Uechi-ryu master Yoshitsune Senaga. Hopefully we’ll have it online by Monday February 18th. Here’s a draft of the first couple of minutes to see what we’re working on. This is just an iPhone video of the screen, which should stop any confusion that this is the finished product. And here’s the ending sequence so far. If you are interested in helping making this video series possible, please get in touch with me by email or facebook. In this second video we will be able to list sponsors and supporters who have reached out to us before Sunday February 17th. Hopefully we’ll keep adding more sponsors and supporters over time, and these names will be added to the list at the end of future episodes in the series. As of February 13th, 2019 our sponsors and supporters are: Series Sponsors Ceazar Borkowski – Northern Karate Schools Marguerite “Peggy” Hess Reece Cummings – Cummings Karate …
On November 30th, I had the honor to photograph and shoot some video of Yoshitsune Senaga, 10th dan Uechi ryu karate at his dojo in Tomigusku, Okinawa. He is the 82nd sensei to be photographed for the Karate Masters Portrait Project. 81 year old Senaga sensei also studies kobudo, and was willing to show us his techniques with the sai. Interestingly he showed how the pair of sai that he used would ring like tuning forks when hit. He explained that this was because these sai were made from metal that was once used in a temple bell in Nara. After taking portraits for the project, I recorded a quick interview with Senaga sensei, then finally we got some selfies of the group, and little Jasmine once again stole the show. The video, the second in the series we are working on, will be translated and hopefully appear online in the coming weeks. This is an exciting new addition to the project, and we are currently thinking about how we can take this video …
Dell Hamby is the 77th Karate Master to be photographed for the Karate Masters Portrait Project. He is 6th dan Uechi-ryu Karate and 6th dan Ryukyu Kobudo Shimbukan. Originally from Switzerland, he now lives, teaches and trains in Okinawa. He studies Uechi-ryu under Yoshitsune Senaga (who we will be photographing in the coming weeks) and Ryukyu Kobudo under Hiroshi Akamine. He was one of four masters who took part in the Okinawa World Tournament Promotion Tour earlier in the year, and is one of the kobudo judges when the tournament is held next week. It was a pleasure to photograph Dell, a real gentleman and a great ambassador for Okinawan karate. The project has been on hold for the past year as we welcomed Jasmine to our family, but as things settle down we’ve been able to start things up again. My goal is to release the second volume in the series in time for the Tokyo Olympics in the summer of 2020. All images taken with the Pentax 645Z and the 90mm lens. Lighting from …
Hatsuko Machida 町田 初子 is ranked 6th dan in Uechi-ryu karate 上地流 空手. She teaches at the Ageda Women’s Dojo which is unique in Okinawa for offering women only karate classes. She explained that many of her students had not been allowed to study karate when they were young so now embrace the opportunity to do so. Many of the ladies are over 50 with the oldest still training at 78. Machida-san was a student of Takamiyagi Shigeru (1935-2014) who encouraged her to set up her own dojo and help spread karate to more women. Machida sensei’s class also uses the nigiri gamae (握りえ構え) ceramic jars that strengthen their grip and forearms. After shooting in the dojo we took a short walk to the local park to get a shot of Machida sensei training outside. All images shot with the Pentax 645Z with the 90mm lens (indoors) and the 25mm lens (outdoors). Lighting with the Profoto D2 (indoors) and Profoto B1 (outdoors) with a Softlight Reflector.
On Monday evening I photographed Shintoku Takara, 10th dan Okinawa Uechi-ryu Karatedo Kyokai. At 86 years old Takara sensei is one of the elder statesmen of Okinawa karate. We met at the family dojo in Kitanakagusku, but on finding out we live in Motobu he was excited to tell us how their family was from Bise Village just a couple of kilometers from our home. One interesting bit of trivia about Takara sensei is that he was one of the Uechi-ryu masters who taught F1 champion Nigel Mansell in Okinawa . Mansell received his shodan certificate in 1994 (1st dan black belt). We photographed Takara sensei along with his son Kazuya Shintoku, and his grandson Uechi Takenori. This is the first time for us to photograph three generations of karateka together.
Tsuneo Shimabukuro, 9th-dan Uechi-ryu Karate and 9th-dan Ryukyu Kobudo. Photographed as part of the Karate Masters Portrait Project on September 16th, 2015. Photographed using the Pentax 645Z, 90mm lens, Profoto 7a generator with pro-head in a white softlight reflector.
Tsutomo Nakahodo 10th dan Shohei-ryu (Uechi-ryu). Photographed at the Naha Budokan Sept 1st 2014. Nakahodo sensei is the 58th Okinawan karate master I have photographed, it’s been a busy few years!
After taking the studio images against the black background for the Karate Masters Portrait Project, I asked Shinjo sensei if we could walk down to the beach and get a few location portraits. I unplugged, then packed up the Profoto 7a generator and pro head I’d used in the dojo, and grabbed the new Profoto B1 battery powered head and the beauty dish. Set ambient exposure for the desired background then light up the subject with the flash. On location lighting with a bit of punch 🙂
Narihiro Shinjo, Uechi Ryu karate master, and younger brother of Kiyohide Shinjo. He has won the kata section of karate championships so many times, James and I are having trouble working out the exact number. Just like his brother he is fast, conditioned beyond belief, and very very strong. He is also a lovely man, and has great control, which is a relief when a foot that could probably pass through concrete flies towards your camera.