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Uechi-Ryu Karate-Do Kenyukai

For information regarding karate class times and location, please send an e-mail to Rik. Feel free to include a phone contact number as well. Thank you.

What is Uechi-Ryu karate? Uechi-Ryu is an Okinawan martial art named after Master Kanbun Uechi (pronounced way-chee) who was born in Okinawa.  He trained in southern China and later returned to Okinawa to live and teach until he passed away in 1948.

In very general over simplified terms, Uechi-Ryu may be considered to be a close-in style.  As necessary however, the Uechi-Ryu practitioner may cover substantial distance or defend themselves within the confines of a phone booth successfully.  Distance and movement are variables; not fixed constants. Uechi-Ryu utilizes a large variety of soft and hard techniques based on a number of well established and proven principles of defense, counterattack, balance, body motion, breathing, etc.

Is it hard to learn Uechi-Ryu? No and yes.  Within a matter of a few weeks you will notice changes in your ability and body responses.  Positive changes in terms of skill, health, and awareness will continue to manifest as your training proceeds.  As with any other worthwhile endeavor however, it takes time to develop mastery.  If there is a hard part, it is persevering over the months and years to gain the necessary proficiency to become truly adept at this art.

How fit must I be to study Uechi-Ryu? Fitness and health are relative terms.  In general, one should be in reasonably good health to take this on; and of course, the more fit you are the better.   There are minimum performance standards for each rank, but these are achievable to most normal individuals with the desire to do so.   Your motivation and drive are the key determinants of your success.  Your most important progress is gauged against yourself (the toughest opponent you will ever face) and not against the progress of others. 

Will Lostritto Sensei teach all the classes? Yes although I encourage senior students (Sempei) to help junior students (Kohai) under my direction. This is not a large commercial dojo; all ranks train together. Ours is a small club of dedicated students; some of whom have been with the dojo since 1995.

When and where are your classes? Classes are in Rockville, MD in my home dojo which is near Shady Grove Hospital. Classes are held on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings. Please contact Sensei Lostritto for further information and discussion. Because we are a small club and training space and time are limited, only serious prospective students are invited to visit the dojo.

What ages will you take students? Women, men and teens aged 13 years and up are welcome; there is no upper age limit.  Serious prospective students are asked to try the classes for two weeks to see if what we do is right for you.

Do many women study karate? As time goes on, a greater percentage of women are studying karate.  However, the ratio of students is still not close to 50:50 in most dojos.  This is unfortunate for several reasons.  Uechi-Ryu karate is very amenable to folks of lesser stature because brute muscular strength is not the operative mechanism of application in our case.  Rather, correct posture, body movement, technique, and focus are stressed.  A competent Uechi-Ryu practitioner does not need to rely on raw strength.  For the very strong beginner, brute strength may seem like an advantage; however, very soon the individual discovers its disadvantage towards real progress and then will begin to learn correctly.

It is also a sad fact that percentage wise, women are prayed upon more than men.  With regards to physical self-defense for women, Uechi-Ryu is a style that is very useful in that realm of application.  In a larger perspective, the inner development fostered by the practice of Uechi-Ryu (calmer more aware mind, focused ability to center with clarity, projected self-confidence, etc.) is very useful to women as they navigate the subtle and perhaps more insidious attacks wrought by a society that still does not quite deal a level playing field to them.  In other words, the confident, centered and capable woman is not only a lesser target, she is also better equipped to deal with life’s issues on any level.

Will I learn those cool karate moves I see in the movies? No.  Real karate is not about yelling, jumping and spinning all over the place.  That only works in Hollywood.  In a real street situation, Hollywood karate (a.k.a. movie-foo) will get you killed in a heartbeat.  What you can expect to learn in a Uechi-Ryu dojo is realistic technique as part of a curriculum that fosters the holistic development of the body and the mind.

Besides self-defense, what else can I expect to get from studying Uechi-Ryu? Uechi-Ryu is a “way”, proven though centuries of practice and refinement in Asia, to build character, health, self-confidence, agility, personal insight, self-awareness, and a more sensitive awareness of others.  These attributes are useful in all aspects of daily living.

Can I get injured studying Uechi-Ryu? Yes you can, and to be honest, you will probably get the occasional minor injury or bruise.   It is part of the physical journey that goes with karate training.  This applies to any martial art or any contact sport for that for that matter.  However, you are much more likely to get substantially injured playing basketball or volleyball than by training in a healthy dojo environment.  

As the Sensei, it is my job to create a healthy environment where the chance of accidental injury is minimized.  The progression of the intensity of study is designed to be gradual and natural and takes into account the age, level of fitness, and so on of the individual.  The students’ job is to come to class alert and to follow all instructions fully.

Do your students enter tournaments? In its origin, Uechi-Ryu is not a sport style martial art.  The techniques we learn can be lethal and therefore are not amenable to sport matches.  Over training in points style sparring develops habits with poor survival value in real situations.   [As you train, so will you defend yourself.]  There is a place for sparring however; as a tool to experience some approximation of a combat situation with someone who is trying to safely hit you and whom you must safely counter.  This is useful to a point.  In Uechi-Ryu we have supplementary methods to develop realistic training responses in a safe manner.  However, if students do choose to enter tournaments, Sensei will help them prepare for the experience.

How long does it take to earn a Black Belt In Uechi-Ryu? Four years of consistent training is about the average time it takes to earn your first degree Black Belt (Shodan).  However, many factors must be considered such as skill development, maturity and sincerity as an individual, as well as the ability to pass your knowledge on to others in the dojo environment. This rank is considered to mark a new beginning or turning point in your study and is not considered an end point or pinnacle.

I studied another style.  May I transfer my rank to Uechi-Ryu? No.  Uechi-Ryu is different enough from other arts that everyone, despite prior experience, everyone must start at the beginning.  However, your rate of progress may be affected by prior training (usually positively, but in some cases, negatively).

Is this a traditional dojo? The curriculum is traditional in that our dojo is connected to a recognized central system which employs long standing principles of martial and personal development and which have a history of being both effective and healthy for the practitioner.  The traditional curriculum maintains the fundamental systematic approach and balance of the originating system (e.g., kata, self-defense applications, mind-set, etc.) and should provide a near seamless transition to the practice of the art as taught in the founding or home dojo.  In Uechi-Ryu, we appropriately use methods that can be traced back through hundreds of years of Okinawan and Chinese martial arts development.  

The protocol and etiquette structure we use is appropriate to our art and respects both Eastern and Western cultures.  Our protocol is sufficient to provide the necessary class structure to maximize learning, foster mutual respect, and provide for enough historical and cultural training so that my students can travel to any Uechi-Ryu dojo anywhere in the world and fit in seamlessly.  This balance develops students with sound skills and a fundamental appreciation and understanding of martial arts.

A dojo with a traditional curriculum is not necessarily old fashioned.  It is more flexible in the face of modern times than some of the so-called modern methods.  The traditional curriculum has already been refined through previous centuries of cultural change, war, peace, famine and prosperity.  It may seem ironic to some that a good traditional approach is probably the most adaptive and useful way to approach martial arts training in today’s world.

Does your dojo offer any classes besides Uechi-Ryu karate? Yes. We offer optional classes in Kobudo (traditional weapons) as the last hour of the regular Saturday morning class.
Our Kobudo is under Master Gushi’s Rykokaku Organization and includes, non-contact traditional Okinawan weaponry such as the sai, bo, jifa, eku, etc.  In addition to learning weapons techniques for their own sake, weapons study provides  deeper insights into your Uechi-Ryu practice.

The extension of the weapon magnifies both correct and erroneous body movement and is therefore an excellent learning tool for anyone interested in learning to coordinate upper and lower motion to maximize effective power.  Students with a rank of green belt or higher are eligible for this class.

The student also has the opportunity to explore and learn about Ki (or chi) as it relates to all aspects of martial arts; from combat, to self development, to healing (Reiki).

What is your martial arts background? Rik Lostritto studied Kwoi Kan karate-do while in college.  Although his initial period of study was just one year, it provided him with the basic tools of discernment in terms of appropriate martial arts training.  After searching carefully for a style that matched his vision of the martial arts, he began studying with Uechi-Ryu karate under Kyoshi John Spencer in Connecticut in 1985, and has been studying with Spencer Sensei ever since.

Rik founded his Dojo in Maryland in 1995 while continuing to receive support and training from John Spenser.  Rik has trained several highly skilled students in his own right, including several who have reached various dan ranks up to 4th dan. In recognition of the high quality of students Rik has trained, in 2003 Rik was awarded the title of Shihan (Master Instructor, certificate number 16). Rik is currently Rokudan (6th degree dan) Renshi.

Rik also studies Kobudo (weapons) under the auspices of the Rykokaku Kobudo system headed by Master Gushi , and was awarded title of Shidoin (Instructor) in 2004. Rik currently holds the rank of 3rd dan (Sandan) in Kobudo. Rik also expresses his love of woodworking by making traditional custom wooden weapons such as jifa, nunchaku, and tonfa.

Rik is also a Pharmacist and former professor of pharmacy as well as a Reiki Instructor.  He has a long standing interest in the natural herbal and energetic remedies which have been used in Asian martial and healing arts for centuries.

What is the history of Uechi-Ryu? Uechi-Ryu is named after Grandmaster Kanbun Uechi (1877-1948).  Born on Okinawa, he emigrated to China in the late 1800’s to avoid Japanese conscription.  At that time, Okinawans were used by the Japanese army as fodder for their most dangerous battles!  Culturally and ideologically, the Okinawans of that era were very different from their Japanese neighbors.  Some of this distinction persists to this day.

While in China, Kanbun Uechi studied various Chinese styles from a prominent and colorful man named Zhou-Ze-Ho.  To supplement his income, Kanbun Uechi made and sold patent medicines perhaps through roadside shows.  Eventually he opened his own martial arts school in China.  After three years of teaching there he was forced to escape China based on a wrongful death committed by one of his students.  He returned to Okinawa in 1910 and soon married there.  His eldest son Kanei Uechi was born in 1911.

In 1924, the Uechi family moved to Wakayama Japan to find work in the factories there.  While there, Uechi Kanbun taught a style he called Pangainoon (hard WITHIN soft, often erroneously referred to as half hard, half soft).  This student group included Kanei Uechi (1911-1991), Seiryu Shinjo (1929-1981) and Seiko Toyama (still alive as of this 2007 edition).

In 1932, Kanbun Uechi opened a dojo on Okinawa.  Tragically, in 1948 he died prematurely from nephritis in war-ravaged Okinawa.  After his death, the style was officially renamed to Uechi-Ryu in his honor and was then led by his son, Kanei Uechi until his death in 1991.

Shinyu Gushi started his training in Uechi-Ryu over 50 years ago with Saburo Uehara (a direct student of Kanbun Uechi).  He also studied Uechi-Ryu with Seiyu Shinjo (also a direct student of Kanbun Uechi) and Seiko Itokazu.  He studied Kobudo (weapons) with Akamine Shoichi and Seiko Itokazu (Kobudo style mainly Matayoshi based). Uechi-Ryu has no formal Kobudo training as part of the curriculum.  Interested students are free to work with the Kobudo Sensei they prefer.

The Kenyukai Uechi-Ryu organization is led up by Sensei Kiyohide Shinjo, the eldest son of Seiryu Shinjo.  

Seiko Toyama Sensei, who passed in April 2009, was the last living student of Kanbun Uechi.

Currently, Kiyohide Shinjo, and previously, Seiryu Shinjo and Kanei Uechi were the Okinawan teachers of my Sensei, John Spencer (8th Dan or Hachidan as of this edition). Sensei John Spencer has over 45 years of continuous training in Uechi-Ryu.