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: Logue Sensei, 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.
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.
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.
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.
Continue to Part 2…