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Talking about the secret martial art of the Ryukyu royal family

Karate and Culture

The reason why I was taught Motobu Udundī 1

Translated by Motobu Naoki
From Uehara Seikichi, "Talking about the secret martial art of the Ryukyu royal family" April 4, 1992
Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule today to listen to my talk. What I am about to tell you are some anecdotes I heard from Motobu Chōyū Sensei of the Motobu Udun and some of the techniques he taught me directly. This will be the first time I will be speaking in front of such a large number of people, and I'm sure there will be many things that you have not heard before.

Today's theme is "Talking about the secret martial art of the Ryukyu royal family." My Sensei was Motobu Chōyū Sensei of the Motobu Udun. This person in this photo is Aji-ganashī-mē (His Royal Highness) of the Motobu Udun.
People like the then-famous Miyagi Chōjun Sensei and Kyan Chōtoku Sensei also clearly referred to Motobu Chōyū Sensei as "Aji-ganashī-mē (Your Highness)."
Motobu Chōyū Sensei, or Aji-ganashī-mē, was a member of the royal family. After the King, the next to the King is Udun -- Udun means the King's brothers or children -- These people (and their direct descendants) are called Udun.
The Udun usually disappeared in three generations (by losing their royal status), but in the case of the Motobu Udun, they lasted eleven generations until the abolition of the Ryukyu Kingdom and the establishment of Okinawa Prefecture (1879) (note 1). In this sense, you can see how the Motobu Udun had a deep connection with the King. In the pamphlet we distributed, the genealogy of the successive kings and the Motobu Udun is described.
At the time I became a disciple of Aji-ganashī-mē, he was living in the town of Tsuji. At the time, Chōyū Sensei was about 60 years old. When teaching, he often told me that (Motobu) Udundī was a royal martial art, and that since it was a martial art handed down only to the eldest son of the Motobu Udun, it should not be used in front of others, nor should it be shown to others. I had been told this for exactly ten years after I became a disciple.
Furthermore, I had always been told that Udundī is only a (hand, art) used for (national) warfare, that the royal family has no used for private fight, and that the royal is only a used for warfare, so it should not be used in front of others under any circumstances (for private fight) (note 2).
You may be wondering why Chōyū Sensei taught this Isshi Sōden (a martial art handed down only to the eldest son of the Motobu family) to me, who has no bloodline. As a matter of fact, Chōyū Sensei, or Aji-ganashī-mē, had three children. His eldest son is Chōmei, his second son is Chōmo, and his third son is Chōshun.
From left: Motobu Chōmei, Motobu Chōmo and Motobu Chōshun.
The reason why I was able to learn this art from Chōyū Sensei was that these three sons had moved to the mainland and none of them were in Okinawa; Chōyū Sensei was already old and even if he wanted to leave this art behind, he could not because his sons were not in Okinawa. Just when Chōyū Sensei was in such distress, in July, when I was twelve years old, I became Sensei's disciple.
Therefore, the art of Chōyū Sensei was not taught for one individual, me. Rather, it was intended to be taught (through me) to his son, his lineage, so that he could pass it on (to his descendants). In that sense, I was able to be taught.

Note 1: Strictly speaking, if the successive heads of an Udun did not have achievements, that Udun lost its royal status in seven generations.
Note 2: An additional clause (1635) in the Buke shohatto (the Laws for the Military Houses, 1615) issued by the Tokugawa shogunate prohibited the daimyō (feudal lords) from engaging in private fights. Since Ryukyu was ruled by the Satsuma domain, Motobu Chōyu was probably mindful that private fights by the royal family could become an international problem.
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