While an entire dissertation might better illuminate the obscurity surrounding this phenomenon, a simple explanation tells us that such differences came about largely due to Kobudo unfolding alongside modern karate. In the same way that old-school Okinawan karate conformed to the powerful forces of Japanese-ness, so too was modern Kobudo similarly influenced. Introduced to the mainland of pre-war Japan during an era of radical military escalation, the original practice & purpose of Karate & Kobudo took on characteristics uniquely Japanese and have, for the most part, remained that way.
While the actual evolution of Yamane-ryu bojutsu remains the subject of intense curiosity we do know that the origins of this unique clan-style can be traced back through Chinen Pechin (c. 1846-1928). From the village of Samukawa in the old castle district of Shuri, Chinen Sanda was born the son of a Pechin class Kemochi during the later part of Okinawa’s old Ryukyu Kingdom. Also known Chinen Pechin, or Yamane no Chinen [as Taira Shinken described him in his 1964 Encyclopedia of Kobudo], the youth was schooled in Uchinadi by his uncle, Chinen Sanjin Andaya Pechin (1797-1881,) also known as Aburaiya Yamagusuku.
In spite of his proficiency with several kinds of bojutsu, Chinen most favored the traditions of Sakugawa and Shikiyanaka, but is probably best remembered for being a brilliant innovator. In an effort to help facilitate the teaching of fundamental technique, Chinen ingeniously developed three unique exercises that he called Shuji, Yonekawa and Shirotaru. He passed away at the ripe old age of 82 leaving behind him a rich & unique legacy.
Among Chinen’s most prominent students were Yabiku Moden, Higa Raisuke, Higa Seiichiro, Higa Ginsaburo, Akamine Yohei, Maeshiro Chotoku, his own grandson Masami and his most prominent disciple Oshiro (Ogusuku) Chojo. Mr. McCarthy’s teacher, Kinjo Hiroshi, was a direct student under Master Oshiro Chojo.
Given the name Yamane-ryu by Chinen Masami (1898-1976,) the grandson of Chinen Sanda, the term actually brings together three separate Chinese ideograms: 1. “Yama,” meaning “mountain;” 2. “Ne,” meaning “foundation or root;” and 3. ” Ryu,” meaning, “stream.” The term was simply intended to describe the locale in Shuri’s Samukawa village from whence Chinen’s tradition came.
Despite the widespread attention Yabiku Moden attracted (largely because of the popularity his student Taira Shinken) Oshiro Chojo (1887-1935) was the most visible proponent of Chinen Sanda during his day. Every year on 11 August, the people of Chinen Village used to gather to commemorate the life of Bushi Shikiyanaka [1780-1841.]
Bushi Shikiyanaka was a well known retainer of Governor Soeishi who had made a notable reputation for himself as a virtuous man with remarkable fighting skills in Soeishi family-style bojutsu. The legacy of this expert was handed down through a series of ritualized (bo) exercises posthumously named Chinen Shikiyanaka no kon. One jikideshi (direct student) of Chinen Sanda who gained widespread notoriety for the way in which he performed these exercises was Oshiro Chojo. In fact, so skillful was Oshiro in the techniques of Bushi Shikiyanaka that the people of Chinen village always petitioned him to perform on August 11th in honor of the great Master. Oshiro is especially remembered for his performance of the Shikiyanaka bo style before the Emperor’s family in 1924. Like many Uchinadi teachers before him, so too did Master Oshiro teach his art through ritualized sequences and associated drills that linked fundamental technique to corresponding defensive themes.Identified by its signature characteristics, Yamane-ryu bojutsu employs swift but powerful circular motion, a distinct pattern of twisting thrusts, vibrant body dynamics and pliable footwork. Some are of the opinion that the method is closely connected to So-jutsu, the art of spearman-ship. However, its pliable manner is consistent with the old-school Chinese-based Uchinadi once practiced during Okinawa’s old Ryukyu Kingdom. Classically speaking, Yamane-ryu refers to five kata; Shuji, Sakugawa, Chinen Shikiyanaka, Shirotaru and Yonekawa. Recently, however, highly motivated Kobudo enthusiasts are beginning to apply the principles of Yamane-ryu to their own Kobudo traditions in an effort to improve its pliability and enhance its overall effectiveness.
As a tertiary-level teacher of fighting arts, Mr. McCarthy was challenged to systematize a simplistic way through which to best impart these infinite principles without losing the essence of Oshiro’s teachings. A well-published writer, author of the best selling book entitled Bubishi [Bible of Karate/Ancient Manual of Combat] and an internationally sought after seminar instructor, McCarthy has spent years studying & systematizing a simple yet effective way through which to teach this method. Our Yamane-ryu DVD (the first in a series that we intend to produce) culminates his efforts. While we believe that educational videos can never replace good old-fashion hands-on instruction, it’s surely the next best thing.
If there is any truth to the theory that Uchinadi was never a systematized coherent tradition but rather a body of defensive principles passed down through ritualized composite drills, then this DVD is a testament to that hypothesis.
Excerpts from forthcoming Yamane Ryu book…
“Once an obscure and little-known tradition, Yamane-ryu has grown into an international phenomenon thanks largely to its uniqueness and public acceptance. Characterized by its fluid motion, unique footwork and hip rotation, and dynamic power, the tradition stands alone as a hallmark in the annals of kobudo history. Evolving from the teachings of Chinen Sanda, who fostered many disciples, his valuable lessons have been handed down by only a select few and this vanguard publication clearly illuminates the shrouded passage through which it has journeyed. Yamane-ryu was first popularized in the west by the talented students of Kishaba Chogi, who had learned bojutsu from Chinen Masami, the grandson of Chinen Sanda. Yet, in spite of this, its immense popularity has also given rise to rumors surrounding its lineage and legacy. This situation demands nothing short of a definitive explanation of the tradition and its many lineages.
This book does that and much more. In addition, the recent popularity of Yamane-ryu has also spurred many to explore the alternative sources from which the tradition has been handed down to our times. One such lineage is that of Oshiro Chojo, arguably the most visible students of Chinen Sanda. In fact, it was Oshiro’s bojutsu that was included in Miki Jisaburo’s 1930 classic, Kenpo Gaisetsu, which contained the first ever published technical record of Ryukyu Kobudo featuring the traditions of Shuji, Sakugawa and Shirotaru. Indeed, it is also the bojutsu of Oshiro Chojo that forms the basis for the Yamane-ryu found within these pages. It can be said that the Yamane-ryu tradition continues to grow and evolve, as practitioners find that they can adapt the principles, body dynamics and flow of Yamane-ryu technique to any bojutsu kata, and to any of the other Ryukyu Kobudo weapons, too.
Perhaps it may even be more correct to say that Yamane-ryu is compelling all Ryukyu Kobudo to go back to its roots, from a rigid tradition heavily influenced by modern karate to one that is reclaiming its fluidity and powerful application practices. Quoting McCarthy Hanshi, “I am absolutely certain that this is far more in line with the spirit and aims of the original pioneers then it is with today’s overblown emphasis placed upon incongruous practices and the conceit associated with one’s “style” being the ONE & ONLY CORRECT WAY!” In either case Yamane-ryu, a tradition once in fear of vanishing all together, has resurfaced and is here to stay. This publication is a journey into this tradition.“
“My teacher, Oshiro Chojo (1887-1935) was a senior student of Yamaneryu Kobudo founder Chinen Sanda (1842-1925). On October 12, 1934, I participated in a demonstration before Prince Fushinomiya Hiroyasu (1875-1946), at which Oshiro Chojo was the guest speaker. I believe that was one of the highlights of my teacher’s, and my own, karate career. On that, I believe that this publication is also a fitting tribute to my teacher and I am grateful to Mr. McCarthy for undertaking this project. Although it may seem easy for a Japanese person to correctly understand the Japanese culture, it is actually very difficult. It is even harder for the Japanese to fully understand a foreign culture. In the same way, there are also difficulties in trying to get a non-Japanese person to understand the intricacies of the Japanese culture. I pray from the bottom of my heart that Yamaneryu Kobudo will be read far and wide, throughout the world.“
“It is with great enthusiasm that I write this for the publication Yamane-ryu Kobudo, by my friend and world-renowned karate researcher, Patrick McCarthy. I know of no foreign martial artist who loves Ryukyu as much as Mr. McCarthy, nor of any enthusiast who has researched the Ryukyuan martial arts to the depth that he has. His understanding of Ryukyu karate is beyond comparison. He is also someone who I have no reservations in calling one of the premier researchers of Ryukyu karate today. He travels the world, spreading the true essence of Ryukyu karate and kobujutsu to all who will listen. In fact, this is his life’s work, and his contributions to the art are innumerable. I have not met a foreign enthusiast who takes more pride in Ryukyu karate than Mr. McCarthy does. I believe that every reader will be able to immediately recognize the importance of this book. It truly is a publication that looks toward Okinawan culture to discover the spirit and the originality of the martial arts that lie hidden within.”
* Note – Our school/style is NOT connected in any way to other Yamane/Yamanni groups; our lineage is quite simple: Chinen Sanda [1846-1928], Oshiro Chojo [1887-1935], Kinjo Hiroshi [1919-], Patrick McCarthy [1954-]. McCarthy Sensei originally studied under Richard Kim [1917-2001] of the Zen Bei Butokukai before relocating to Japan where he learned directly under Kinjo Hiroshi. He’s also studied directly under Inoue Motokatsu [1918-1993], and enjoyed brief study opportunities with Kuniba Shiyogo [1935-1982], Akamine Eisuke [1925-1998], Nakamoto Masahiro , Hayashi Teruo [1924-2004], Shimabuku Eizo , Matayoshi Shimpo [1922-1997] and Sakagami Ryusho [1915-1993].
More to come …