Kenpo Grand Masters


Master Nakamura (1894-1979) was born and raised in the City of Nago. He first started learning Okinawan karate as a pupil at the Icchu Middle School, in the Capitol City of Okinawa, Shuri. Karate had just been introduced to the educational system. His instructors included some of the most famous teachers in Okinawan history: Higashionna, Kanryo; Yabu, Kentsu; and Hanashiro, Chomo.The school itself was visited every so often by Shishu (Itosu), Anko (Yasutsune). After graduating, Master Nakamura returned to Nago, where he continued training under Kunioshi, Shinkichi, the successor to the legendary "Bushi" Sakiyama from Naha. Master Nakamura made it a habit to seek out the best teachers to learn from. Motobu, Choki was one of them. Mr. Nakamura taught from his backyard dojo in Nago. In 1953 Mr. Nakamura changed the name of what he was teaching from Naha-te to Okinawa Kenpo Karate.

Grandmaster 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".

Taika Seiyu Oyata was D'veed Natan's primary instructor. As such, his principles and ideas formed most of D'veed Natan Sensei's outlook on "martial arts" and their applications. Mr. Oyata's heritage dates back to before the 1600's. His family are descendents 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 expressed 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 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.

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, Taika Seiyu Oyata has constantly analyzed the kata and the human body. Due to his studies with Master Uehara, he developed his own style of tuite that wasn't dependent on strength; but, rather, execution of technique.

Grandmaster D'veed Natan (納騰 徳維,大師範) was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. He started his martial arts training while attending Missouri Military Academy in Mexico, Missouri, in 1959, when he was eleven years old. Later, as part of the United States Armed Forces (Army) stationed in Seoul, Korea, Kyo Seng Chou was his instructor in Tang Soo Do (唐手道), Soo Bahk Do, Moo Duk Kwan with the Korean Taekwondo Association (KTA). The training was three hours a day, six days a week for eighteen months. In 1966, now 18, he received his Shodan (初段) in Shin Shin Jujutsu from Grandmaster Wilson; and Shodan (初段) from the KTA. In 1967, at age 19, he received his 2nd Dan (二段) Black Belts and a license to teach from the KTA.

While a science major (Geology/Biology) attending the University of Missouri Kansas City, D'veed began learning and teaching 'Chinese' Kenpo Karate. Soon, he was employed full time as manager for Traco International, a large international chain of Kenpo schools. By the time Choon Lee arrived in 1974, Natan, Sensei was deep into 'Chinese' Kenpo and made a conscious decision to remain involved with the "Chinese" Kenpo system of self defense instead of returning to Taekwondo. In 1975, he opened his own full time professional dojo. In 1976, he was appointed chairman of region 5 for AAU Karate and received a Shodan (初段) in the Okinawan Kenpo weapons system of Seikichi Odo from Master Bill Marron.

In 1976, Oyata, Sensei came to the United States. D'veed was waiting for him when he arrived from the airport. Master Oyata gave D'veed's Dojo the name, Ryukenkan, or Academy of Ryukyu Kempo*. D'veed became Master Oyata's first 'transfer' student. Having successfully made the jump from one system to a radically different one, earlier; D'veed had no trouble adjusting to the instruction of Oyata, Sensei. For ten years, D'veed, daily, learned and practiced Master Oyata's Ryukyu Kempo*. From three times a week to almost daily, he was in contact with Oyata-san. Not a week passed that he didn't learn, personally, from Oyata, Sensei; private lessons, in small group classes, or in personal conversations. In 1977, Master Oyata conferred upon him a Shihan Menjo (師範 免状). D'veed had been participating in open 'point' competitions since 1969; but, he withdrew from 'point' kumite, and concentrated, instead, on bogu kumite, which he had been practicing since 1972.

*Ironically, Master Oyata's instructor, Saikou Shihan(最高 師範) Shigeru Nakamura, spelled Kenpo correctly in his English transliterations. An early film taken in 1968, shows Master Oyata doing Kata in Kansas. A makeshift title spells Kenpo correctly at this time. Later, Master Oyata's students spelled the name as it is pronounced; due, to lack of familiarity with Japanese grammar. Master Oyata doesn't care to correct it and, now, it has been too long in usage to change.

By 1979, D'veed's style had changed so much that it no longer bore any resemblance to his teachings of just a few years earlier. In August 1979 he captured the Heavyweight Championship in bogu kumite, defending his title until his retirement in 1981. Before retiring, he spent five months teaching in Israel, introducing Ryukyu Kenpo here.

Oyata, Sensei promoted D'veed to Renshi and 6th Dan Black Belt in 1984. At this time, D'veed started traveling with Master Oyata across the United States, giving seminars and interviews with him. He represented Master Oyata in Europe and the middle east.

Due to orchestrated political machinations, D'veed was forced out of Master Oyata's organization. Keeping with the tradition of Karate masters before him, when circumstances made it impossible to continue training with his teachers, D'veed struck out on his own. In 1987 Master Natan moved to Israel. There, he combined and modified (over a fifteen year period) what he knew into Lanten (Lantian)(藍天) Ryukyu (Liuqiu)(琉球) Kenpo (Quanfa)(拳法) Kobujutsu (古武術). The training with Master Oyata was the key to this process. Saikou Shihan Seikichi Uehara's, ideas and principles, as taught to D'veed through Master Oyata, transformed the old 'Chinese' Kenpo Karate techniques (and understanding of their kata) into something new and totally different.

D'veed Natan, Hanshi received his 9th Dan (九段 - Kudan) Red Belt in Lanten Ryukyu Kenpo Kobujutsu from the Ryukyu Kenpo Karate Kobudo Rengokai in 2002, an 8th Dan (八段 - Hachidan) Red Belt in Ryukyu Kenpo from Midori Yama Budokai in 1996, a 6th Dan (六段 - Rokudan) Black Belt in Shin Shin Jujutsu (新進 柔術) from Grandmaster Leo D. Wilson in 1996, 6th Dan (六段 - Rokudan) Black Belt in Ryukyu Kempo and Kobudo from Taika Seiyu Oyata in 1984; 5th Dan (五段 - Godan) Black Belt in Okinawan Kobudo from 8th Dan Master Bill Marron in 1996; 5th Dan (五段 - Godan) Black Belt in Hapkido from 8th Dan Grandmaster Gunter Bauer. He is the retired undefeated heavyweight champion of the United States, and former #1 world rated heavyweight fighter in bogu kumite. He is the Headmaster (大師範) of the Ryukyu Kenpo Kobujutsu Kai (琉球 拳法 古武術 会); and, the Chief Technical Officer of the Ryukyu Kenpo Karate Kobudo Rengokai (琉球 拳法 空手 古武道 連合会), both internationally recognized organizations with branches in Israel and the United States. He is: the Israeli Representative for the World Martial Arts Society, headquartered in Helsingborg, Sweden; and Kempo International; and, Senior Advisor for Kempo International, in Lund, Sweden. He teaches at the Ryukenkan (琉拳館)(Academy of Ryukyu Kenpo) in Jerusalem, Israel. Saikou Shihan Natan (徳維,最高 師範) attended the Coach's Course (Course Mei'amen) at the Israeli Sports College, Wingate Institute, and is a licensed martial arts instructor with the Ministry of Education in Israel.

Professional memberships

Korean Tae Kwon Do Association. Seoul, Korea. 1966 – present. Midori Yama Budokai. Las Vegas, Nevada. USA. 1966 – present. Amateur Athletic Association of the United States of America. Chairman Region Five AAU Karate. 1976 – 1978. Ryukyu Karate Do Renmei. Okinawa, Japan. 1978 – 1986. Zenkoku Ryukyu Kenpo Karate Kobudo Rengokai. Renshi. Independence, Missouri. USA. 1984 – 1986. Ryukyu Kenpo Karate Kobudo Rengokai. Chief Technical Officer. Leawood, Kansas. USA. 1986 – present. Ryukyu Kenpo Kobujutsu Kai. Headmaster. Jerusalem, Israel. 1989 – present. World Martial Arts Society. Helsingborg, Sweden. Lifetime Member. Standards Board (2001 – 2005). Israeli Representative. 2001 – present. Kempo International. Lund, Sweden. Lifetime Member. Senior Advisor, Israeli Representative. 2003 – present