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Kanbun Uechi's Early History
During the 18th and 19th centuries, most of the great Okinawan instructors of martial arts went to China to study. Many of the beautiful, flowing styles taught today bear only a superficial resemblance to the practical fighting forms of that age. The main difference was the attitude involved in imparting and studying martial arts - at the time, one studied to survive! A strongly-practiced technique could easily be responsible for saving one's life in that age of road bandits, brigands, personal vengeance, and violent politics, so students took their training much more seriously. It was not a "hobby"! And so China, being the birthplace of so many great fighting systems, was the best place to go for intensive training.
The other reason was to avoid being drafted into the Japanese Army. Since shortly after Kanbun's birth, Okinawan youths were being forced into military service. This was one way Japoan attempted to ensure the subservience of the next generation of these troublesome, headstrong Okinawan people: Draft the youth into the army and indoctrinate them into Japanese political thought, give them the little power a soldier has, put a few of them in charge of a small village now and again, and they would be subservient to the new Emperor. This attempt to control the Okinawan people did not work as well as planned.
The Okinawans were quite aware of the effort than mainland Japan was exerting to try to centralize their island into the main Japanese political and cultural structure. The Okinawans saw this as an effort to erase their culture and subjugate them, so naturally, they resented and opposed the Japanese government. The Japanese government responded by creating enormous taxes. This lead to a high poverty level on the island. But most of all, the Okinawan people feared that letting Japan have a standing army on their island would lead Japan's enemies to invade their island. His parents abandoned their earlier objections against Kanbun traveling to China in the interest of their son's safety and life.
In March 1897, Kanbun undertook the ten-day excursion across the East China Sea to Fuchow City in Fukien Province. He was accompanied by Tokusaburo Matsuda, a friend of Motobu. The two young refugees, soon to be twenty years old, were uneducated and unfamiliar with the language and ways of China.
Excerpts from "The Secrets of Uechi Ryu Karate and The Mysteries of Okinawa" and "The History of Uechi-Ryu Karate"
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