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Ryu-te 琉手
Ryu-te Logo, ryute-logo.gif
Country of origin Japan Okinawa (Japan)
Creator Seiyu Oyata
Parenthood Uhugushiku, Wakinaguri, Shigeru Nakamura
Ancestor arts To-te, Shuri-te, Naha-te, Tomari-te
Official website http://www.ryute.com
Meaning Ryukyu Hand

Ryu-te (Japanese: 琉手 Hepburn: Ryūte?) is an Okinawan martial art founded by Seiyu Oyata (親田清勇 Oyata Seiyū?).[1] The word Ryu-te is actually an acronym meaning "Ryukyu Hand" with Ryukyu being a reference to the original name of Okinawa prior to it becoming part of Japan.[2] Before 1995, Oyata referred to his style as Ryukyu Kempo,[3][4] but eventually renamed it "Ryu-te" as Ryukyu Kempo was a reference to all styles originating in Okinawa rather than to any one particular style. Ryu-te emphasizes effective self-defense while deliberately minimizing the harm to the opponent[5][6] Its practitioners consider Ryu-te neither a sport nor a form of exercise, but rather a method of training the body and mind for the betterment of mankind.

Technically, Ryu-te is characterized by combining joint manipulation techniques (tuite jutsu)[6][7][8][9][10] with effective strikes to the body's weak points (kyusho jutsu).[9][10][11][12][13] These terms, which have become well known among martial artists, were originally introduced to the United States by Oyata in the early-1980s.[8]

Unlike many styles of martial arts which are derived from publicly taught styles popularized by notable practitioners such as Gichin Funakoshi, Ankō Itosu, Sokon Matsumura and Tode Sakugawa, Ryu-te is principally derived from private, family styles.[1][9] Oyata first learned Okinawan weapons (kobudo) from Uhugushiku, a bushi and retired palace guard. He also studied with Wakinaguri,[1][9][10] whose family was descended from the Chinese families who emigrated to Ryukyu during the Ming Dynasty. Ryu-te is also influenced by Shigeru Nakamura's Okinawan Kenpo, as Oyata was a member of the Okinawa Kenpo Karate Kobudo Federation from the time of Uhugushiku and Wakinaguri's passing until Nakamura's death in 1968.[4][14][15]



Ryukyu Kingdoms of Sanzan era

The word Ryu-te is a concatenation of two kanji:

(Ryū?) is the first character of 琉球 (Ryūkyū?) which is the name originally associated with the islands now known as Okinawa. Oyata chose to use this character in order to honor the Ryukyu Kingdom and the goals of developing a peaceful and productive society.[2] In addition, Ryu can mean "to float", which is intended to provide a description of both how the hands should move during techniques as well as the calm state of the practitioner's mind.[2]

(Te?) is the word for "hand" which refers back to both the part of the body as well as the indigenous Okinawan art of the same name (Te).

Philosophy and Oyata Shin Shu Ho[edit]

The basic philosophy of Ryu-te is one of life protection. This can be seen in Oyata's book Ryu-Te No Michi with his translation of budo (武道 budō?). Budo is commonly translated as "martial way" or "martial art", however, Oyata prefers to translate it as "life protection art". This interpretation stems from an analysis of the first kanji Bu (). From an etymological perspective, it is composed of two kanji: (tomaru?) which means "to stop" and (yari?) which means "spear". Thus the underlying meaning of can be thought of as "to stop fighting" rather than something pertaining to combat.[16][17][18]

This underlying goal of life protection is central to Oyata's idea that martial arts are intended to improve society.[2][5] With that in mind, in 1991 Oyata introduced the concept of "Oyata Shin Shu Ho" (真手法)[19] which embodies this philosophy.

  • – Shin – Truthful
  • – Shu – Hand
  • – Ho – Method

Oyata introduced this expression with the hope that the "true protection spirit possessed by the ancient Ryukyu warriors would be inherited by true modern practitioners".[19] He also explains that the first word, Shin, has several homophones in Japanese and while he chose to use , he had the other meanings in mind as well.[19] The other kanji are:

Keeping all of these ideas in mind, Oyata's intended interpretation of Oyata Shin Shu Ho is "to strive to attain true moral goodness and to express it through one's every action".[19]

To further reinforce the importance of these ideals, in 1994 Oyata began to induct members of his organization into the Oyata Shin Shu Ho group. These are senior members of his organization who Oyata feels embody this idea.[1]


Initial development[edit]

Oyata's first introduction to martial arts came from his father, Kana Oyata,[20] who was an Okinawan champion in Tegumi. During World War II, he was introduced to several martial arts and trained in judo, iaido and kendo after returning to Okinawa after the war ended.[21] Then, shortly after World War II, Oyata met Uhugushiku on a beach in Teruma.[10][21] Uhugushiku was an Okinawan bushi[9][10][21] and was a retired gate guard.[20][22] During this time karate was taught openly as a public art, however, Uhugushiku's art was only taught within his family, handed down through generations.[23] As a result, he initially would not teach Oyata, but upon learning that Oyata was related to Jana Ueekata,[20][24] Uhugushiku agreed to teach him. Uhugushiku was an expert in Okinawan weapons, in particular the bo.[24] He passed on his knowledge of weapons as well as his knowledge of tuite to Oyata.[10][21][22]

Later, Uhugushiku introduced Oyata to his good friend, Wakinaguri.[21] Wakinaguri was also a bushi[9][10] and while of Chinese descent, was 6th generation Okinawan.[10] Wakinaguri taught Oyata his family's style of martial arts (to-te or "Chinese Hand") which included the pressure-point strikes later popularized by Oyata in the United States.[9][10][20][21] Since neither Uhugushiku nor Wakinaguri had children to whom to pass on their arts, Oyata became the inheritor of both.[10][22]

Influence of Okinawan Kenpo[edit]

After Uhugushiku and Wakinaguri died, Oyata sought other karate masters to continue his training. He joined several research groups and trained directly with Shigeru Nakamura, founder of Okinawan Kenpo.[3][14][15] Under Nakamura, Oyata learned 12 basic empty-hand kata that are practiced in Ryu-te today and helped establish Bogu Kumite as the sporting aspect of Okinawan Kenpo.[25]

Introduction to the United States[edit]

In the late 1960s, several Americans servicemen began to train with Oyata and, in 1977, several of Oyata's senior American students (Jim Logue, Albert Geraldi, Bill Wiswell, and Greg Lindquist) began to organize within the United States. They brought Oyata to Kansas City, Kansas and established the "Ryukyu Kempo Association". Then in 1995, since Ryukyu Kempo was a generic term for any forms of karate from Okinawa, he renamed his organization to the "Ryu-te Association".[25]

In the 1980s, Oyata began to broaden the knowledge of the general martial arts public by introducing the concepts of tuite and kyūsho jutsu[11][12] that have influenced the way in which karate is taught in the modern day.[26]

International dissemination[edit]

In 1993, Oyata received a request from Alexander Stanishev asking to establish a presence in Europe. As a result, in 1994 Oyata allowed one of his senior black belts, Peter Ciećwierz, to give a Ryu-te seminar in Poland. This led to the establishment of the Polish Federation of Ryu-te in 1997. Since that time, the association has grown and has hosted seminars every year. In 2011, Oyata, accompanied by several of his senior students, including James D. Logue, Gary Shull and Peter Ciecweirz, traveled to Poland for a seminar and black belt testing.[27] As of March 2013, there were seven Ryu-te dojos in Poland.[28]



Oyata stressed that the kata form the foundation of Okinawan life protection arts as the techniques and most important concepts are contained within.[9][10][22][29] The twelve basic kata taught to Oyata by Nakamura came from a variety of sources, reflecting the different influences on Okinawan Kenpo and, through Nakamura, on Ryu-te. According to Oyata,[29] the source for each kata is listed below:

Source Kata
Hanashiro Chomo Naihanchi Shodan, Naihanchi Nidan, Naihanchi Sandan

Pinan Shodan, Pinan Nidan, Pinan Sandan, Pinan Yondan, Pinan Godan

Kunishi Tomari Seisan


Motobu Choyu Passai
Kentsu Yabu Kusanku


Ryu-te incorporates Okinawan weapons,[7] as the study of weapons supplements the empty-hand techniques as an integral component of training. Practitioners study the interrelationship between empty-hand movements and weapons techniques, with an emphasis on the value of weapons training in the perfection of empty-hand movement. Weapons include bo, jo, eiku, tan bo, tonfa, nunchaku, chizikun bo, sai, nunte bo, manji sai and suruchin.

Physical training[edit]

Training aims to improve flexibility, strength, stamina, coordination, and balance by requiring students to push themselves to and stretch beyond their physical limits. Physical training also functions as a means to spiritual attainment (i.e., improved mental and physical discipline, greater vigilance, and increased self-confidence.)

Moral and spiritual discipline[edit]

Students are required to learn and live by a basic moral code, expressed in five "Dojo Kun" and ten "Guiding Principles." Similar Dojo Kun are used in many Japanese martial arts; the English translation used for the Ryu-te Dojo Kun[30] is:

  1. Strive for good moral character.
  2. Keep an honest and sincere way.
  3. Cultivate perseverance through a will for striving.
  4. Develop a respectful attitude.
  5. Restrain physical ability through spiritual attainment.

The Guiding Principles[30] are:

  1. When entering a dojo or asking to be taught, be free from prejudice and be submissive, so that you will accept the teachings as shown. This will help you to not establish bad habits.
  2. Observe respect toward the Master and superiors. Also, be courteous to fellow students and followers. Strive to develop the virtue of humbleness.
  3. A healthy body can be obtained through constant training. Cultivate the spirit of perseverance.
  4. Strive to be a warrior for the construction of a peaceful and free world through the character building, morality, and spirituality obtained by learning the way of karate.
  5. In daily conduct, do not engage in fights or arguments. Always be prudent.
  6. In actual training, move up from the easy to the difficult, and from the simple to the complicated. More time and hard work will be required for repetitious and continuous training. Never hurry but strive for gradual development, and never engage in senseless or reckless practice.
  7. Become familiar with the use of the makiwara and other training equipment. Train yourself to use your fist or other parts. Be patient and earnestly study the kata or matches. Never aim for hurried success.
  8. It has been said that it takes three years to comprehend a kata. In ancient days, a master studied a single kata for ten years. There is no time limit for kata to be improved. Never be proud, even if much is accomplished. Pride hurts achievement in virtue, as well as technique, and will become like a poison.
  9. Be cautious in training. Do not develop a favorite technique or it may become a weakness. Be careful not to become too theoretical or technical.
  10. Any questions should be freely asked. Always strive to understand what is being taught.


Over the years, several schools and associations have been started by former students of Oyata. Those styles, many of which continue to use the Ryukyu Kempo name have no affiliation with Oyata or with Ryu-te. For example, George Dillman teaches Ryūkyū kempo tomari-te, a style which is somewhat similar to Ryu-te but is not sanctioned by Oyata. Soke Ron Craddock was good friends with Oyata and was heavily influenced by him. His Shinki-Ryu Karate is an offspring of Ryukyu Kempo and utilizes many styles of both Oyata and George Dillman. His karate acadamy website gives thanks and admiration to both men.


  1. ^ a b c d Lindsey, Ronald L. (2011). Okinawa no Bushi no Te: The Hands of the Okinawan Bushi. R.L. Lindsey Enterprises. p. 58. ISBN 9-780615-534121. 
  2. ^ a b c d Oyata, Seiyu (1998). Ryu-Te No Michi: The Way of Ryu Kyu Hands. Oyata Enterprises, Inc. p. 3-3. 
  3. ^ a b Heinze, Thomas (2009). Die Meister des Karate und Kobudo: Teil 1: Vor 1900. Books on Demand. p. 58. ISBN 3-8391-17852. 
  4. ^ a b Habersetzer, Gabrielle; Habersetzer, Roland (2004). Encyclopédie des arts martiaux. Amphora. p. 568. ISBN 978-2851806604. 
  5. ^ a b Verlander, Martha G. (January 1989), "Seiyu Oyata: Karate's "Gentle Destroyer"", American Karate: 30–35 
  6. ^ a b . Logue, Jim (September 1981), "Ryukyu Kempo", Black Belt Magazine: 62–67 
  7. ^ a b Thomas, Steven Glen (August 1987), "What is Ryukyu Kempo", Black Belt Magazine: 23 
  8. ^ a b Miriani, Bob (December 1983), "Karate's Seiyu Oyata Introduces a New Art", Black Belt Magazine: 104–107 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h Billington, Robert (Winter 1993), "Ryukyu Kempo Taika Seiyu Oyata", Dojo Magazine: 24–28 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Gossett, Bill (Fall 1992), "Ryukyu Kempo: Ancient Warrior in a Modern World", Dojo Magazine: 5–6 
  11. ^ a b Beasley, Jerry (2003). Mastering Karate. Human Kinetics. p. 97. ISBN 0-7360-4410-8. 
  12. ^ a b Coleman, Jim (August 1987), "The Death Death Touch of Seiyu Oyata", Black Belt Magazine: 20–24 
  13. ^ Anderson, Dan (2012). American Freestyle Karate: The Master Text. DAMA Publications. p. 233. ISBN 978-14751-66163. 
  14. ^ a b Alexander, George (1992). Okinawa: Island of Karate. Yamazato Publications. p. 72. ISBN 0-9631775-0-8. 
  15. ^ a b McCarthy, Pat (1987). Classical Kata of Okinawan Karate. p. 43. ISBN 0-8975-01136. 
  16. ^ Shintaku, Shiro (Spring 1994), "The True Martial Image in a Modern Society", Dojo Magazine: 38–40 
  17. ^ Oyata, Seiyu (1998). Ryu-Te No Michi: The Way of Ryu Kyu Hands. Oyata Enterprises, Inc. pp. 3–19 – 3–22. 
  18. ^ "Wiktionary entry for budo (武)". Retrieved March 26, 2013. 
  19. ^ a b c d Oyata, Seiyu (1998). Ryu-Te No Michi: The Way of Ryu Kyu Hands. Oyata Enterprises, Inc. pp. 2–20 – 2–22. 
  20. ^ a b c d Lindsey, Ronald L. (2011). Okinawa no Bushi no Te: The Hands of the Okinawan Bushi. R.L. Lindsey Enterprises. p. 57. ISBN 9-780615-534121. 
  21. ^ a b c d e f Franck, Loren (October 1986), "Pressure Point Fighting: Is it Okinawa's Answer to the Death Touch?", Karate Kung-fu Illustrated: 38–43 
  22. ^ a b c d "Seiyu Oyata: Master of the Old Way", Official Karate Special, Winter 1984: 48–52 
  23. ^ Seiyu Oyata Obituary. (June 22, 2012). http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/kansascity/obituary.aspx?pid=158146889
  24. ^ a b Oyata, Seiyu (1998). Ryu-Te No Michi: The Way of Ryu Kyu Hands. Oyata Enterprises, Inc. p. 2-6 - 2-10. 
  25. ^ a b Oyata, Seiyu (1998). Ryu-Te No Michi: The Way of Ryu Kyu Hands. Oyata Enterprises, Inc. pp. 2–15. 
  26. ^ Starr, Phillip (2010). Hidden Hands: Unlocking the Secrets of Traditional Martial Arts Forms. Blue Snake Books. pp. 207–208. ISBN 1-5839-42432. 
  27. ^ "Official Website of the Polish Federation of Ryu-te". Retrieved March 25, 2013. 
  28. ^ "Official Website of the Polish Federation of Ryu-te". Retrieved March 25, 2013. 
  29. ^ a b Oyata, Seiyu (1998). Ryu-Te No Michi: The Way of Ryu Kyu Hands. Oyata Enterprises, Inc. p. 4-19 - 4-21. 
  30. ^ a b "Ryute Footer". Retrieved Marych 25, 2013.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)

Further reading[edit]

  • Stark, Steven (2001). Quest the ancient way: My life experiences with Taika Oyata. S. Stark. 
  • Paetzold, Frank (2003). Wu Shu: Faszination China & asiatieche Kampfkunste. Books On Demand. ISBN 978-3833001826. 
  • Clarke, Christopher M. (2012). Okinawan Karate: A History of Styles and Masters. Clarke's Canyon Pres. ISBN 9-781478-188636. 
  • Shintaku, Shiro (Mar–Apr 1996), "Bridging the Gap", World of Martial Arts: 67 
  • Shintaku, Shiro (Summer 1994), "The Truthful Hand: Keeping the Ancient Ryukyuan Spirit Alive", Dojo Magazine: 26–31 
  • Apsokardu, Matthew (June 25, 2012). "Tribute to Taika Seiyu Oyata". Retrieved March 20, 2013. 
  • Apsokardu, Matthew (June 25, 2010). "Interview with James Logue - Part 1". Retrieved March 20, 2013. 
  • Apsokardu, Matthew (June 25, 2010). "Interview with James Logue - Part 2". Retrieved March 20, 2013. 
  • Steven Fischler; Joel Sucher (July 7, 2000), Martin D. Toub, ed., Martial Arts: The Real Story (Documentary film), First broadcast on The Learning Channel: Pacific Street Films 
  • "U.S. Serial #75106074 (Ryu Te)". U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. June 24, 1997. Retrieved March 20, 2013. 

External links[edit]