The past two weeks have been busy times for me. I managed to sneak in a week-long trip to Colorado and Utah with the girlfriend in order to check out some amazing towns and natural landscapes. Upon return I immediately rolled into the IKKF’s 26th Annual Training Gasshuku.
I’d like to highlight a few of the events that took place during those times, especially the ones relevant to martial arts. In the coming weeks I will be creating a series of posts inspired by either my trip or my time at the IKKF Annual Training. Hope you dig it!
Hitting the Rockies
Colorado is a state of great beauty and great microbreweries. The GF and I were certain to partake of both throughout our travels. We flew into Denver and visited the nearby town of Boulder (also known as the Republic of Boulder for it’s uniquely hippie ways). We then embarked on a multiday mission to check out some of the outstanding mountain towns of Colorado and even venture out into Utah to visit Arches National Park.
Our first stop was in Glenwood Springs, where it just so happened two fans of Ikigai Way lived and taught martial arts. Through the magic of the internet we were able to get together and have a drink. Imagine karateka of different styles (I Okinawa Kenpo and they Shotokan) sitting amicably at the same table!?
My thanks to David Light and his student Jamin for reaching out and helping make my visit to Glenwood all the more special.
Arches was the next stop on our tour after we made our way through the mountains, and the sheer size and intensity of the geography there was more than I had ever seen before in my life. Some of the rock structures defied gravity and explanation.
If you ever find yourself out Utah way, try your best to stop in at Arches. Many of the landmarks can be reached by driving, and there is as much or as little hiking as you want in order to get a sense of the place.
After our all-too-brief time in the desert we moved back into the mountains where the lush pine forests of Steamboat Springs awaited us. Interestingly, as we drove past many ranches, I noticed an unusual gateway at the entrance of each one. They consisted of two rudimentary logs sticking upward out of the ground, connected across the top by a third beam. They came in a wide variety of designs and sizes, but each kept the same basic pattern. It struck me that the same symbol was often used in Japan and Okinawa in the form of the Torii Gate:
Certainly the ranch gates are not used to invoke any Shinto rites or rituals, but passing through the gate is significant in both cultures. They both developed the wooden form independently, and I gained a certain amount of pleasure from seeing such a thing spring up unexpectedly by the side of the road.
When we got to the town of Steamboat we visited the Fish Creek Falls. Sadly I didn’t get a chance to do any waterfall meditation as it probably would have killed me.
Ultimately, after our multiday excursion, we came back to Denver and flew home. I had a day’s rest before annual training which gave me a small chance to prepare for the painful and valuable “festivities” to come.
Hitting the Mat
IKKF Annual Training is the yearly gathering created by my instructor to bring together a bevy of highly qualified practitioners of various styles to help expose students to different methods of learning and understanding. Individuals such as Chuck Merriman, Patrick McCarthy, Forrest Morgan, Bill Hayes, and Miguel Ibarra (amongst others) have all shared their knowledge over the years, which has always proven valuable and insightful.
The learning this year was excellent and the training intense. Our school (The Heilman Karate Academy) had three students up for testing, two for shodan and one for sandan, all of whom passed with exceptional skill. I was very pleased by their efforts and results.
The ‘man of the hour’ for the whole event was Jody Paul Sensei, who achieved the rank of 9th Dan in his style of Okinawa Seidokan Motobu Ryu.
Paul Sensei provides a unique glimpse into karate’s old ways as he was one of the first westerners ever to be accepted as a direct student by Seikichi Uehara of Motobu Udun Di, the “palace hand” style of karate. Paul Sensei also studied extensively under Seikichi Odo Sensei and Shian Toma Sensei.
His insights and abilities are truly unique, and it has been a pleasure learning from him over the years.
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MA: Were there many cultural barriers to overcome in order to integrate into Okinawa and dojo life? Any communication difficulties?
JL: At the time I was in Okinawa, it was still under American administration and many of the locals worked on the bases. Most of them could speak English and were used to the Americans. There was a large number of Military and US Civilian workers in Okinawa, so the locals were used to that.
When I first started in the dojo, Sensei didn’t speak much English and some of the Okinawa students didn’t, but as I stated before, several dependent kids were fluent in both languages and there was no problem with communication. After a month of so there, I began to learn a little Japanese and Sensei began to speak English to me directly.
I suppose it was probably more of an advantage, than disadvantage that my first lessons were in Japanese. I had to use my eyes to visually understand what I was being taught rather than having to hear the words and try to watch at the same time.
MA: Could you share an interesting or funny anecdote that reveals a sense of Oyata Sensei that people might not have heard before?
JL: We did several demonstrations while I was stationed in Okinawa and they all included breaking. As I had observed during my first demonstration as emcee, the breaking was a little different than I had witnessed or read about. Boards were broken across the outstretched arm, leg, stomach or back rather than breaking a stack of boards.
Logue Sensei Withstands the Board
Sensei and I were doing a series of demos for a company in Koza that was selling time-shares in Florida to American Servicemen. As part of the presentation, they hired Sensei to do a karate demo a couple of times a week.
So, after class, we’d drive to Koza and he and I would do the demo. Sometimes he asked me to do an empty hand kata or weapons kata. He also threw me around with some self-defense and then we’d do the breaking. He would break a two by two across my out stretched arm, leg, back, and stomach. One particular night, he was breaking one across my right arm. Smack, it didn’t break. He tried again to no avail, then he tried the left arm, my back, my stomach and then my leg, still the board did not give.
His face began to redden in anger and he placed the board against the wall and kicked it only to have it push him back. Without saying word, he walked outside and broke the board across the corner of the building. I believe that I could feel the building shake under the power of this strike.
He walked back in smiling and laughing. “sometimes board no break”. As we drove back to the dojo we laughed about it as he explained, “It’s okay board not break. If it break every time, everybody think fake!”
MA: When you returned to the United States in 1971 and ultimately opened your first dojo in 1973, what kind of challenges did you face at that time? What was the general perception of karate and how did it manifest itself through the students you first attracted?
JL: When I returned from Okinawa, most of the local dojos were either Tae Kwon Do or American Free Style. I wasn’t used to this concept, so I kept to myself. I found a few dojos to visit and was seeking others to spare with bogu; however, this was when the “safety chop/kick” was in vogue and no one was interested in really getting hit.
I noticed there were not very many people doing weapons except for Nunchaku popularized by the Bruce Lee movies. I tried to get some interest in the weapons, but it was so foreign to most everyone that again no one was interested.
On one of my trips back to see my parents, I noticed a dojo advertising Okinawan karate. This turned out to be Ridgely Abele and he invited me to come teach at one of his camps in the mountains of North Carolina. There I was sort of back in my environment where I met many others who trained Okinawan karate. Through these seminars I met others such as Doug Perry Hanshi, Bill Hayes Kyoshi, Phil Koeppel Kyoshi, Kimo Wall Kyoshi and many other influential Okinawan karate practioners.
Doug Perry, Jim Logue, Kimo Wall, Bill Hayes
MA: How did you manage to maintain an active relationship with Oyata Sensei after you came to the states? Was it difficult to continue your learning?
JL: After I returned to the states, I was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas until I got discharged. At that time, I was corresponding with Albert Geraldi, Bill Wiswell and Greg Lindquist as we worked on forming the American Federation of Ryukyu Kempo.
We maintained some contact with Oyata Sensei, but could not train directly with him. From 1972 until 1977 when he returned to the US, training was on my own except for an occasional meeting with the former students mentioned above. When Oyata Sensei was in the States, his students made a 8mm film with all the basic empty hand kata that we used as a guide for our continued training:
When Oyata Sensei returned to the States, he spent a couple of weeks with me refreshing what I had been taught in Okinawa and introducing me to new concepts. My students and I traveled to Kansa, where he lived; staying a couple of weeks each time and he drove to South Carolina a few times for more personal training.
In 1981, I hosted a seminar at my dojo and I invited several friends I had made from other Okinawa systems. This set off a wave of seminars for Oyata Sensei and we also began to hold summer and fall camps.
I’ve managed to train with Sensei at least every three or four months and sometimes more often since he has been to the states. I always go to the summer and fall camps early to get a heads up on the training that will be conducted so that I can better help him teach. I also travel to many of the seminars he does across the US.
MA: Were you surprised when kyusho became such a focal point surrounding Ryu Te? Has it been difficult preserving Oyata’s kyusho while “magic kyusho” (no touch knockouts and things of that nature) continues to gain popularity?
JL: Karate in the US had become stagnate, there was nowhere for it to go. The only emphasis was on the sporting side of karate and it was moving further away from the old ways of life-protection. The introduction of tuite and kyusho jitsu has been good for karate overall, in that it’s sparked a new interest in finding the meaning behind kata other than the kick/punch definition that most have.
Unfortunately, some have found a way to “fool” everyone into false knowledge through “magic” tricks. It hasn’t changed the real meaning of tuite or kyusho jitsu, but has hurt in that people try to associate themselves with Oyata Sensei, saying they learned his “secrets”.
People are really gullible believing that a life-time of study can be learned by attending a few seminars. There is no magic button as people think and those that teach these things are no more than “snake oil” salesmen.
MA: What emphasis is placed on weapons in Ryu Te? Is it seen as a companion to karate, and when is it introduced to students?
JL: Oyata’s first lesson consisted of training with the bo and other weapons. It’s my belief that weapons and empty hand go together. The same principles and concepts apply as far as footwork, angles, shifting and etc. If you watch the way the hands move using the weapon and imagine using only the hands, you can see no difference in empty hand.
Ryute Eku and Nunti
There are differences in how each type of weapon is used. i.e. Bo and eiku are used differently even though they are long weapons. Just as a fork and knife are used different to eat, so are the weapons. Of course, as with any tool, the weapon multiplies the strength and power of a blow.
MA: Ryu Te seems to have a strong contingent in Poland. How did that come about?
JL: One of our members, Petior Ciecwerz (aka, Peter Polander) who lives in Bethesda, MD is from Poland. He was on their national Judo team when they were still under communist control and he also trained in Shotokan. After moving to the US, he sought out Oyata Sensei after hearing about him. He has a small organization in Poland and travels back and forth conducting seminars and camps. Many of the Polish contingencies also travel to the US for training.
MA: What was the impetus for writing “Ryukyu Kempo History and Basics” and what were your goals for this book? Is there a place where readers can purchase your book and Oyata Sensei’s RyuTe no Michi?
JL: One of my students, Robby Collingwood, was attending graduate school at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. He began teaching a college credit course in karate that had to have a text book to get accredited. The book initially was intended for use in this course.
After others in the association learned of the book, they wanted to use it as a basic training manual, so it was published as such. It was never really intended to be a public document although it has become so to some extent.
The “blue book”, as it is often called, is no longer being published for several reasons. The name “Ryukyu Kempo History and Basics” doesn’t reflect the name change to the system, and I have gained much more knowledge and experience since the initial publication. I’m in the process of updating the book as “The Essence of RyuTe – Legacy of Okinawa’s Ancient Warriors.”
MA: It seems as if you have maintained Nakamura Shigeru’s tradition of contact sparring with kendo-inspired bogu gear. What is your sense on the importance of sparring, and why have you chosen to continue the use of the original equipment?
JL: Sparring and pulling punches is like target shooting using blanks. Your technique might be good, but you don’t know if you really hit the target. Likewise, getting hit with a full power blow lets you know, without injury, how it feels to really get hit.
There are limitations to any type of sparring: gear confinement, limiting strikes to ‘point zones’, etc; however, being able to move at full speed without limitation (and reacting to the same) trains the reflexes much better than never being hit or never being able to hit.
I know some say, “We do full contact, but don’t need the protection of the gear. We can take a full power punch or kick.” Over my many years of training, I’ve run across many who say such things. It has been my experience that after they received properly placed kicks or punches; they quickly change their mind about that.
Like kendo is to sword fighting, so is bogu to kumite. No one wants to be cut with a live blade and no one wants their ribs broken from a punch or kick.
MA: If you had to list just a few highlight moments or accomplishments regarding your propagation of karate in the U.S., what would you include?
JL: I think helping Oyata Sensei with his seminars and conducting seminars of my own. It’s surprising how much you learn about what you’re teaching when you have to teach others. Teaching beginners is much different than teaching experienced martial artists. Beginners are a clean slate and you teach from the bottom up. With experienced practitioners, you often have to overcome built-in prejudices in order to get them to overcome preset ideas.
I find you have to be a little more diplomatic and “politically correct” when you teach experienced people. You can’t tell them they are wrong about their approach to a particular technique or they will not listen. You must approach it such that you get your point across and they must decide whether it makes sense to them or not.
I learn as I teach. I watch how people move and how they approach a technique. I’m not trying to learn what they do, but to better understand what I do. I think by sharing these ideas that we all gain further knowledge into that which we study.
I would like to extend a great thank you to Logue Sensei for creating these very thoughtful and meaningful responses.
To learn more from Logue Sensei, check out the project entitled “Tales From the Western Generation”. This book features extended content with Logue Sensei as well as in-depth interviews with other senior karateka.
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It’s my pleasure to present an interview with Jim Logue of the Ryu Te style of Okinawa Karate. Logue Sensei is the senior student of Taika Seiyu Oyata and has achieved the rank of 9th Dan in Ryu Te and Oyata’s family art known as Oyata Shin Shu Ho.
In 1969 Logue Sensei was stationed on Okinawa in preperation for the Vietnam War. It was during that turbulent time that he met his instructor, the now world renowned Seiyu Oyata. From Oyata, Logue Sensei would eventually learn a deep and complex form of life protection that encapsulates striking, joint locking, and vital point striking.
Oyata was known throughout Okinawa and eventually the world as an extraordinarily tough fighter, and is often attributed for bringing about awareness of kyusho (vital/pressure point karate) in the United States. Logue Sensei has been tasked since the early 70s with maintaining and spreading Oyata’s highly respected Ryu Te style.
The following is an interview regarding Logue Sensei’s training, style, and ideas surrounding martial arts.
MA: Could you discuss your earliest experiences with martial arts? What were your first motivations to study?
JL: In my early teens, I was in the boy scouts and a new scout master, George Lawson, came into our troop and introduced us to judo and boxing. George was a former marine and held a black belt in judo. I trained with him, mostly as an uke, for about two years. I often helped him out when he taught other teenage groups. He was a large frame man and it was easier for the participants to throw me around than him.
A childhood friend, Gary Shull, had been accosted by older teens when he was a pre-teen and his mother asked if I could help him overcome this trauma. So, I introduced him to what I knew and we began to seek any kind of martial arts knowledge that we could. Our sources were limited, so we found books and an occasional student who would help us out. However, most of what we did, we did on our own.
MA: I understand that in 1969 you were stationed in Makiminato, Okinawa. Could you describe a little bit about your military background and how it brought you to the island?
JL: On July 3, 1968, I was inducted into the United States Army. This was at the height of the Vietnam War and everything was geared toward support of that. After completing basic and advanced training, I received orders for Okinawa. This was a bit unusual because most of the troops were sent to Vietnam or to Germany.
To me, this was an act of fate. I truly wanted to find some place to learn martial arts and now I was being sent to the birth place of karate. 90% of all those completing advanced training at Fort Jackson, SC were sent to Germany or Vietnam. In my class, we had two that went to Korea and 4 of us went to Okinawa.
I arrived in Okinawa on December 24,1968 and was stationed at the 2nd Logistics Command, the largest supply depot for the Army in the pacific theater. The US Air Force also had the largest air base in support of Vietnam at Kadena where B52 bombers flew their missions to Vietnam daily. The Marines were located mostly in the Northern part of the island except for Futenma Marine Station located just north of Makiminato.
At the time I was stationed in Okinawa, it was still under American administration and the overall command of the local government was under the US commissioner. All monetary exchange was in US dollars and the road system, electricity was just as it was in the US.
MA: Did you study at multiple schools on Okinawa or did you find Seiyu Oyata Sensei right away? What was your first meeting with Oyata like?
JL: After arriving in Okinawa, I immediately set out to find a dojo. The base where I worked was just about Naha, Okinawa’s capital. By cab, it only took 15 or 20 minutes to get down town, so I began my search there.
I first came across Nagamine, Shoshin’s dojo in Naha. I stopped in for a visit, but even though by today’s standards it wasn’t that far away, my meager Army salary didn’t afford me enough money to pay for cabs to and from the dojo.
Nakazato, Shugoro’s dojo located in Aji was a little closer to the base, but I had brought my wife, Sherry over and we were living on the opposite side of the base. Again, the expense of the cab rides precluded me from training there.
During lunch break at work, I went outside to play catch with some of the local workers who all loved baseball, I noticed a fellow serviceman practicing a kata. I asked him where he was training, hoping that we could perhaps share the cab fare. He explained that he walked from the base to the dojo and pointed into the direction that I lived.
I met him that night and he took me to Oyata Sensei’s dojo. As it turned out, the dojo was in the village next to where I was living. The dojo was literally two blocks away!
The small cinder block building could have been easily overlooked except for a sign in front of the dojo. Of course it was written in Japanese, but I easily recognized the characters for karate.
Logue Sensei in front of Oyata’s Oki Dojo
The class consisted of several other GIs, some dependent teenagers and some Okinawan students. I was approached by the dependent teenagers, who were part Okinawan and part American. They were fluent in both Japanese and English. Oyata sensei spoke to me through them.
I was invited to come in and sit to watch a class. After a few minutes, I asked about the fees and class schedule. As explained to me, classes were every day, seven days a week. I could come every day or as often as I would like for a fee of six dollars a month. I could not get my wallet out fast enough to pay my first dues.
My first class, the next day, consisted of standing in a horse stance doing a blocking and punching drill. Oyata Sensei had one of his Okinawan black belt students teach me. Neither of us could communicate verbally since I didn’t speak Japanese and he didn’t speak English. I had to visually follow his instruction.
This type of instruction continued for several weeks and then I was introduced to Bogu Kumite. I was much taller than anyone else in the dojo, so I was chosen by all of the Okinawans to spare. Of course, I didn’t fair too well against them, but I was learning a lot through this experience.
After about a month of training, I was told there would be a demonstration on the base where I worked. Through the translator, I was told to emcee the demonstration since I didn’t have enough experience to be a part of the demo. This seemed really strange to me as there were many with much more experience that would do a much better job.
As the dojo practiced for the demo, Oyata Sensei began to explain to me in broken English and through his translators what he wanted me to explain during the demo. He also instructed me to buy and wear a brown belt during the demo. He didn’t think a white belt would be well-received as a spokesman for the dojo.
The next day after the demo was as different as night and day for me. Suddenly, Oyata sensei was talking to me directly, no longer using the translators and he also began teaching me directly. I guess this must have been some sort of test and that I had done well enough for him to trust me.
MA: When you started your training was Oyata Sensei still a member of the Okinawa Kenpo Renmei? Could you describe how that affiliation transitioned into the creation of Ryukyu Kempo, which in turn turned into Ryu Te?
JL: Oyata sensei was brought to the US by a former student in the beginning of 1968. During this time, he was still affiliated with the Okinawa Kenpo Renmei. While he was here, internal politics from younger students caused a rift among the seniors and them. When Oyata sensei returned to Okinawa after six months in the US, most of the seniors, except for Odo Sensei had left the Okinawa Kenpo Renmei.
Oyata Sensei, Toma, Shian Sensei formed an alliance with Uehara, Seikichi Sensei, forming the Ryukyu Karate-do League. When I began training in February 1969, Oyata Sensei was no longer a member with Nakamuras Sensei. Shortly after I began training at Oyata’s dojo, Nakamura Sensei passed away.
In 1977, several of Oyata’s sensei’s American students, Albert Geraldi, Bill Wiswell, Greg Lindquist and I formed the American Federation of Ryukyu Kempo and brought Oyata Sensei back to the United States where he decided to live.
Nakamura Sensei had wanted all Okinawan karate to be united under one banner and give Okinawa credit for karate. This dream continued with Oyata Sensei as he called his art Ryukyu Kempo; however in the middle 1980’s after he had introduced tuite and kyusho jitsu to te general martial arts public, others tried to ride his coat tails and began using Ryukyu Kempo as the name of their art also.
Nakamura Shigeru and Taika Oyata Reviewing Students
Since Ryukyu Kempo is really a generic term for Karate, Oyata Sensei could do nothing about others using this name, so he decided to combine the words Ryukyu Karate or Ryukyu Te into an acronym of sorts effecting the same dream of giving Okinawa full credit for karate, thus he formed the term RyuTe.
Advised by his students to prevent someone else from stealing the name, he formally had the RyuTe name, kanji and patch designed registered as a trademark. This proved to be a wise move as there has been several occasions where others tried to use this term in association with what they were teaching. They were advised through legal counsel that they were in violation of federal trademark laws and were subject to fines or worse.
MA: It is recorded that Oyata Sensei studied with two very unique individuals: Uhugushuku Tan Mei and Wakinaguri Tan Mei. Could you describe that training?
JL: After WWII, Oyata sensei worked for the US Army delivering food and supplies to the outer islands on the east coast of Okinawa. He traveled to six different islands using an amphibious vehicle visiting an island each day. His route took him through the seaside town of Teruma where he noticed an old man groveling for fish in small pockets of the coral reef during low tide. This man was very unusual because he still wore a warrior’s top knot.
After asking some of the local villagers, Oyata sensei found that this was Uhugushiku, a retired warrior whose family had a long relation to the nobility of Okinawa. Since his job was dangerous, he thought that maybe, this man could teach him some martial arts that he could use should he be robbed of his supplies. Although he had received martial arts training in the military, there was no in-depth study.
He befriended Uhugushiku by offering to take him to the deeper waters in his amphibious vehicle to catch bigger fish. After learning that Oyata Sensei’s ancestors were also from the warrior class, Uhugushiku agreed to teach him.
Oyata Sensei – an Imposing Figure
The Uhugushiku family was noted for their skills in weapons and Oyata’s sensei’s first lessons consisted of learning the bo. He eventually learned many weapons from Uhugushiku in addition the the bo; sai, kama, nunchaku, jo, Tonfa, chizikun bo, tan bo, manji sai, surichin and nunti bo. He was taught kata, concepts and fighting techniques. There were also discussions about history, language and culture so the he could better understand the arts of life-protection.
Uhugushiku also introduced Oyata Sensei to Wakinaguri, a large man of Chinese decent. Wakinaguri’s family dates back to the original 36 families sent to Okinawa as emissaries. Wakinaguri was the 6th generation to receive his family art and having no immediate family, he agreed to teach the young Oyata.
Lessons with Wakinaguri consisted of concepts and principles rather than repetition of drills. He learned how to make technique more effective and how to use this knowledge to read kata and decipher the code hidden within. As part of his training, Uhugushiku introduced him to the family scroll, much like the bubishi, but in greater detail. This scroll is more than 20 feet in length and contains 100’s of pictures depicting many techniques and concepts. Just before Wakinaguri’s death, Oyata sensei was presented with a copy of this scroll that he continues to use today for continued study.
MA: What was your training like on Okinawa? Could you describe some of the conditions and methods used (for example: focus on kata, hojo undo, sparring, kyusho, etc). Was most of the training done on base or in the dojo?
JL: The training in Okinawa was a mix of a lot of things. First, there were drills aimed at teaching proper defensive covers, then came kata training. A heavy kick bag was used for kicking and punching mostly used in the bogu matches. There was makiwara training and occasional exercise to develop strength and speed. Every day training included bogu fighting. Usually, before the night was over, you fought everyone in the dojo.
Sometimes, after most of the class left, I was asked by Sensei to stay a little longer. He worked with me privately on weapons fighting and finer points of kata. I wasn’t sure if he was treating me special or that he just needed someone to practice his techniques.
At least once a month on the weekends, we’d travel to other dojos or they would come to ours for bogu fighting. It became a highlight of training for those of us who liked that sort of thing. We also held belt tests in conjunction with Toma Sensei’s dojo and would travel to Koza to his dojo. There, Uehara Sensei, Toma Sensei and Oyata Sensei all sat on the testing board. We were called individually to perform a kata or two and then paired for bogu.
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