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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 Ryū-te is a shortened form of Ryūkyūte (琉球手 "Ryūkyū hand"). Ryukyu is the original name of Okinawa prior to it becoming part of Japan.[2] Before 1995, Oyata referred to his style as Ryukyu Kempo (琉球拳法),[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.

Ryu-te 琉手
Ryu-te Logo, ryute-logo.gif
Country of originJapan Okinawa, Japan
CreatorSeiyu Oyata
ParenthoodUhugushiku, Wakinaguri, Shigeru Nakamura
Ancestor artsTo-te, Shuri-te, Naha-te, Tomari-te
Official websitehttp://www.ryute.com
MeaningRyukyu Hand

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 karate and other Asian 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 HoEdit

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 (hoko) which means "spear". Thus the underlying meaning of can be thought of as "to stop fighting" rather than something pertaining to combat.[16][17]

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)[18] 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".[18] 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.[18] 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".[18]

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 developmentEdit

Oyata's first introduction to martial arts came from his father, Kana Oyata,[19] who was a champion in OKinawan Wrestling or 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.[20] Then, shortly after World War II, Oyata met Uhugushiku on a beach in Teruma.[10][20] Uhugushiku was an Okinawan bushi[9][10][20] and was a retired gate guard.[19][21] 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.[22] As a result, he initially would not teach Oyata, but upon learning that Oyata was related to Jana Ueekata,[19][23] Uhugushiku agreed to teach him. Uhugushiku was an expert in Okinawan weapons, in particular the bo.[23] He passed on his knowledge of weapons as well as his knowledge of tuite to Oyata.[10][20][21]

Later, Uhugushiku introduced Oyata to his good friend, Wakinaguri.[20] 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][19][20] Since neither Uhugushiku nor Wakinaguri had children to whom to pass on their arts, Oyata became the inheritor of both.[10][21]

Influence of Okinawan KenpoEdit

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.[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.[24]

Introduction to the United StatesEdit

In the late 1960s, several Americans servicemen began to train with Oyata and, in 1977, several of Oyata's senior American students (Jim Logue, 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 became a generic term for any forms of karate from Okinawa, he renamed his organization to the "Ryu-te Association".[24]

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.[25]

International disseminationEdit

At the present time (2015), there are no schools affiliated with Oyata's Ryu-Te Association outside of the North American Continent.[26]


Open Hand KataEdit

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][21][27] 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,[27] 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

Weapons KataEdit

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, kama, and suruchin.

Below is a partial list of weapons kata included in Oyata's art[28]

Weapon Kata
Rokushaku Bo

(6' staff)

  • Kihon
  • Nidan Bo
  • Tsuji (Shushi) No Kun
  • Tsukumi No Kun
  • Sakugawa No Kun Sho
  • Sakugawa No Kun Nidansaku
Goshaku Bo

(5' staff)

Yamachino No Kun

(4' staff)

  • Kihon
  • Tsuji (Shushi) No Jo
  • Tsukumi No Jo
  • Sakugawa No Jo Sho
  • Sakugawa No Jo Nidansaku
  • Jissen

(Boat oar)

  • Matsumura Eku Sho
  • Matsumura Eku Dai
  • Matsumora Eku

Nunte (Bo with manji sai tip)

Nunte No Kata

Tanbo (2' staff)

  • Kihon
  • Kuzushi Sho
  • Kuzushi Dai
  • Jissen
  • Kihon (Matayoshi No Tonfa Ni)
  • Kuzushi Sho
  • Kuzushi Dai


  • Kihon
  • Kuzushi Sho
  • Kuzushi Dai
  • Kuniyoshi No Sai*
  • Uhugushiku No Sai
Manji sai
  • Kuzushi Sho
  • Kuzushi Dai
  • Kihon
  • Jyu Gata

(Hand staff)

  • Chizikunbo No Kata
  • Kata 2

Physical trainingEdit

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 disciplineEdit

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[29] 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[29]

The Dojo Kokoroe (Principles) were originally from Nakamura and not Taika. Though these are good tenets to live by, Taika felt you should memorize his motto; 'Strive to attain true moral goodness, and express it through one's every action.' The following articles were written so that those who seek the way of karate will always be aware of their guiding principles.

  1. When asking to be taught, be submissive and free from prejudice, accept the teachings as shown. In this way, you will not establish your own peculiarities or bad habits.
  2. Be polite and obedient to the master and other superiors. Be courteous among fellow students and followers. You must strive to develop humbleness.
  3. Cultivate a spirit of perseverance, you will develop a healthy body if you have strength of mind and train fearlessly.
  4. Strive to be a warrior for the construction of a peaceful and free world by using the character building, morality and spirituality contained in the way of karate.
  5. In daily conduct, do not encourage fights or arguments.
  6. Move from easy to difficult, and from simple to complicated. More time is required to train longer and harder as you progress. Do not hurry or engage in senseless or reckless practice. Develop gradually.
  7. Become familiar with the use of the makiwara and other training equipment. Train yourself to use your fists, body and positions. Be patient and study earnestly the kata and matches. Do not aim for hurried success.
  8. In the past, a single kata was studied for three years. A long time ago a particular master analyzed a single kata for ten years. Do not think you have mastered a kata and become proud of your success. Pride will lead you to hurt your achievement in virtue and technique. Thus pride can be like a poison to the world.
  9. Take care not to develop only your favorite technique, neglecting others, because that will leave a weakness in your defense. Be cautious about becoming too theoretical or technical because these too are weaknesses.
  10. Ask questions freely of the master or superior because you must strive to understand what you are learning.


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 the Ryu-te association. For example, George Dillman teaches Ryūkyū kempo tomari-te, a style which is somewhat similar to Ryu-te, but the techniques are taught differently, and it is not sanctioned by Oyata nor any of his affiliated schools.


  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 978-0-615-53412-1.
  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 3-8391-1785-2.
  4. ^ a b Habersetzer, Gabrielle; Habersetzer, Roland (2004). Encyclopédie des arts martiaux. Amphora. p. 568. ISBN 978-2-85180-660-4.
  5. ^ a b Verlander, Martha G. (January 1989), "Seiyu Oyata: Karate's "Gentle Destroyer"", American Karate, pp. 30–35
  6. ^ a b . Logue, Jim (September 1981), "Ryukyu Kempo", Black Belt Magazine, pp. 62–67
  7. ^ a b Thomas, Steven Glen (August 1987), "What is Ryukyu Kempo", Black Belt Magazine, p. 23
  8. ^ a b Miriani, Bob (December 1983), "Karate's Seiyu Oyata Introduces a New Art", Black Belt Magazine, pp. 104–107
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h Billington, Robert (Winter 1993), "Ryukyu Kempo Taika Seiyu Oyata", Dojo Magazine, pp. 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, pp. 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, pp. 20–24
  13. ^ Anderson, Dan (2012). American Freestyle Karate: The Master Text. DAMA Publications. p. 233. ISBN 978-1-4751-6616-3.
  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 0-89750-113-6.
  16. ^ Shintaku, Shiro (Spring 1994), "The True Martial Image in a Modern Society", Dojo Magazine, pp. 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. ^ 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.
  19. ^ 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 978-0-615-53412-1.
  20. ^ 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, pp. 38–43
  21. ^ a b c d "Seiyu Oyata: Master of the Old Way", Official Karate Special, pp. 48–52, Winter 1984
  22. ^ Seiyu Oyata Obituary. (June 22, 2012). http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/kansascity/obituary.aspx?pid=158146889
  23. ^ a b Oyata, Seiyu (1998). Ryu-Te No Michi: The Way of Ryu Kyu Hands. Oyata Enterprises, Inc. pp. 2-6–2-10.
  24. ^ a b Oyata, Seiyu (1998). Ryu-Te No Michi: The Way of Ryu Kyu Hands. Oyata Enterprises, Inc. pp. 2–15.
  25. ^ Starr, Phillip (2010). Hidden Hands: Unlocking the Secrets of Traditional Martial Arts Forms. Blue Snake Books. pp. 207–208. ISBN 1-58394-243-2.
  26. ^ "Official Ryu-Te Dojos". Retrieved March 31, 2015.
  27. ^ a b Oyata, Seiyu (1998). Ryu-Te No Michi: The Way of Ryu Kyu Hands. Oyata Enterprises, Inc. pp. 4-19–4-21.
  28. ^ Atkins, Mike (2011). "Kata - Amarillo Kempo Karate". Amarillo Kempo Karate. Retrieved 2019-05-27.
  29. ^ a b "Ryute Footer". Retrieved March 25, 2013.

Further readingEdit

  • Clarke, Christopher M. (2012). Okinawan Karate: A History of Styles and Masters. Clarke's Canyon Pres. ISBN 978-1-4781-8863-6.
  • Shintaku, Shiro (Mar–Apr 1996), "Bridging the Gap", World of Martial Arts, p. 67
  • Shintaku, Shiro (Summer 1994), "The Truthful Hand: Keeping the Ancient Ryukyuan Spirit Alive", Dojo Magazine, pp. 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 linksEdit