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Ryu-te (??, Ryu-te?, lit. “flow of the hand” or “Ryukyu hand”) is a traditional form of karate from the Ryukyu Islands, which are located south west of Japan. Ryu-te emphasizes effective self-defense; its techniques aim to take control of an opponent while avoiding the use of excessive force that threatens to injure or maim, neither a sport nor a form of exercise, Ryu-te is a method of training the body and mind.
In addition to striking, kicking, and blocking, Ryu-te includes grappling, locking, and escape techniques (tuite jutsu); striking techniques that exploit the body’s weak points to temporarily disable an opponent without injury (kyusho-jitsu); weapons techniques (kobudo); and forms (kata). Practitioners study a wide range of techniques and prudent ways to use force in controlling an attacker.
Taika Seiyu Oyata, the founder of Ryu-te, was exposed to the Okinawan form of sumo through his father, Kana Oyata and during World War II he received instruction in iaido, kendo, and judo. After the war he began training with Uhugushiku no Tanmei, a retired officer of the Okinawan government.
Uhugushiku was known as a kakurei bushi (hidden warrior) and taught neither outside of family lines nor those without a direct connection to the warrior class of Okinawa. Uhugushiku introduced Taika Oyata to Wakinaguri, an elderly gentleman who was a descendant of Chinese emissaries sent to Okinawa when it was a tributary state of China. These two gentlemen began to teach Taika Oyata the ancient ways of Okinawan and Chinese martial arts. During this time karate was taught openly as a public art. However, what Uhugushiku and Wakinaguri taught were family arts handed down through generations. Neither Uhugushiku nor Wakinaguri had descendants to whom they could pass down their art, and therefore Taika Oyata became the inheritor of this knowledge.
After Uhugushiku and Wakinaguri died, Taika Oyata sought other karate masters to continue his training. He joined several research groups (kenkyukai) and trained directly with Shigeru Nakamura, founder of Okinawan Kenpo. Under Nakamura-sensei, Taika Oyata learned the 12 basic empty-hand kata that are practiced in Ryu-te today and helped establish Bogu Kumite as the sporting aspect of Okinawan Kenpo.
In 1977 several of Taika Oyata’s senior American students began to organize within the United States. They brought him to Kansas City, Kansas and established the American headquarters. Taika Oyata began to broaden the knowledge of the general martial arts public by introducing the concepts of tuite and kyusho jutsu that have influenced the way in which karate is taught in the modern day.
In order to credit Okinawa, from 1968 until the late 80’s Taika Oyata called his organization “Ryukyu Kempo” (?????) — a generic term often used to describe all forms of karate from Okinawa. In the early 90’s he renamed it “Ryu-te” (???), which means “Ryukyu Hand,” or “flowing hand.” These kanji characters were chosen to describe the way in which karate techniques should be performed.
Taika Oyata stressed several important points regarding the practice of Ryu-te.
Advanced students of Ryu-te achieve multiple blocks and strikes in a single flowing motion, rather than thinking of blocks, strikes, and locks as separate techniques end-to-end.
A kata or form is a choreographed pattern of movement, somewhat resembling a dance, that contains the basic movements of karate. The kata are the alphabets from which the words and sentences of self-defense are constructed. Each movement holds subtle meanings not readily discernible to the untrained eye, and therefore it may be said that a hidden art is contained within the kata.
The 13 kata taught in Ryu-te are called:
Ryu-te incorporates kobudo, in that the study of weapons supplements the empty-hand techniques as an integral component of training. Practitioners study the interrelationship between empty-hand movements and weapons techniques, with an emphasis on the value of weapons training in the perfection of empty-hand movement. Weapons include chizikunbo, tanbo, tonfa, nunchaku, kama, jo, bo, nunte bo, eku, sai, and manji sai.