Grand Masters

Our Grand Masters

Kenpo Grand Masters

These Kenpo Masters are part of our lineage.


Master Nakamura (1894-1969)

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).

Kentsu Yabu

Kentsu Yabu

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.

Master Nakamura and Students

Master Nakamura and His Students

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.


Kenpo Family Tree

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.


Seiyu Oyata 親田清勇,(1928-2012)

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.


Seikichi Odo(1926-2002)

Seikichi Odo was born in Okinawa in 1926 and passed away on 24 March, 2002. His name meant "world walker" in Japanese. Of samurai descent, he was small in stature and introverted as a boy, making him the target of much teasing and practical jokes by older boys. When he was 9 years old, Mr. Odo started training in Judo; but, was not satisfied with it.

At age 13, he met Koho Kuba of Kawasald, Okinawa; and, started learning the art of Okinawa-te. By 20, Master Odo had begun the study of Okinawan Kobudo; an endeavor that would continue throughout his life. He fell in love with the weapons arts, and studied them tenaciously. As he grew older, he realized the importance of preserving them; so, future generations could appreciate them and the old ways. Over the years, Grandmaster Odo's instructors included many of the leading lights of Okinawan Kobujutsu. Names, to us, such as, Mitsuo Kakazu, Kenko Nakaima, Shimpo Matayoshi, and, Seike Toma are, to Master Odo, treasured Sensei. Mr. Odo began to study Okinawa Kenpo and Kobudo under Grandmaster Shigero Nakamura when he was 23. While Mr. Odo studied kobudo, with Mitsuo Kakazu, as well as, karate and kobudo with Seike Toma [senior student of Chotoku Kyan (1880-1945)]; he still considers Master Nakamura as his primary instructor and mentor.

There came a point during his long association with Master Nakamura, that, Nakamura, Sensei, asked Master Odo to incorporate the kobudo training with Mr. Nakamura's own karate teachings. During the last few years of Mr. Nakamura's life, Master Odo began to undertake the teaching responsibilities of the dojo.

After Master Nakamura's death in 1969, the "Okinawa Kenpo Renmei", appointed Master Odo as Headmaster of Okinawa Kenpo Karate. As Master of Okinawa Kenpo, Mr. Odo was also installed as President of the "All Okinawa Kenpo Karate-do League". Shortly afterwards, Master Odo officially added the weapons to the Okinawa Kenpo system, with the result being what we now know as "Okinawa Kenpo Karate-Kobudo".

In the mid-1970's Master Odo created the "Okinawa Kenpo Karate Kobudo Association", renamed in 1983 to, the "Okinawa Kenpo Karate Kobudo Federation". Grandmaster Odo was ranked as 9th Dan in both Karate and Kobujutsu, and was considered one of the top weapons practitioners in the world. In 1998, Master Odo renamed the "Okinawa Kenpo Karate Kobudo Federation" the "Ryukyu Hon Kenpo Kobujutsu Federation", and changed the name of the arts taught by him to "Ryukyu Hon Kenpo Kobujutsu".