Ansei Ueshiro

Kumite practice should be second to kata practice… using uncontrolled techniques as in tournament fighting… develops bad habits.

Ansei Ueshiro

A pioneer of Shorin-Ryu Karate in the United States, Ansei Ueshiro was one of the first masters to bring Okinawan Karate to the United States. Many top-ranking American Shorin-Ryu instructors can trace their roots back to him.

Ansei Ueshiro was born on 20 April 1933 in Kin, Okinawa. His father Anch Ueshiro was descended from the Bushi who were the warrior class of Okinawa and were similar to the Samurai class of Japan.

Ansei Ueshiro was the nephew of renowned Karate master, Ankichi Arakaki. Growing up he was taught Karate by his father. He also received lessons from Entasu Isaenta and Toguichi Seitoku.

On 7 December 1941 Japan declared war on the United States by a surprise attack on the Naval Base of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

By 1945 the war in the Pacific had been raging for several years. Between 1 April and 22 June 1945, the Battle of Okinawa took place between Japan and the United States. Ansei Ueshiro’s parents were among the many civilians who died during this time. Ueshiro also suffered injuries, losing several fingers on both hands, and severe burns across his body.

Ueshiro managed to survive the tough postwar years. He had been taken in by some relatives. Around 1946 they enrolled him at the original Naha dojo of Shoshine Nagamine, a top student of his uncle, Ankichi Arakaki.

Training every day, Ueshiro overcame his diabilities was soon being recognised for his disciplne, strength, and speed. He excelled in kata and was known to be a ferocious fighter. He also had the opportunity to learn Kobudo from other Okinawan masters. He became an expert in the use of the bo.

It was also during this time that he started coming into contact with American servicemen. Many of the servicemen were stationed in Okinawa during the Korean War. Fascinated by Karate, some of these servicemen had started training in various dojos on the island.

By 1960 Ueshiro had been promoted to 3rd Dan by Nagamine, who was teaching Matsubayashi-Ryu Shorin-Ryu Karate. He eventually became the Chief Instructor of the dojo.

While based in Okinawa an American serviceman, James Wax, started training at Nagamine’s dojo. He eventually became the first American to be promoted to black belt in Matsubayashi-Ryu Shorin-Ryu 1958. He eventually married Nagamine’s niece. At the end of his tour he returned to the United States in 1961. He helped sponsor Uesihro to come to the United States to come to the US.

On 15 September 1962 Ueshiro arrived in the United States to teach Karate. Nagamine had sent him to the United States to spread the style of Matsubayashi-Ryu. Ueshiro became one of the first martial artists to teach Karate in the United States. It should be noted that some Japanese Karate instructors like Tsutomu Ohshima, Hidetaka Nishiyama, and Teruyuki Okazaki we’re already teaching in the United States.

Initially, Ueshiro struggled in America, not speaking much English and being away from his family and the Okinawan culture he had grown up with. Also, he had very little money. However his students soon helped him to settle.

Ueshiro first students included James Wax, and his student Frank Grant. Ueshiro brought a new level of intensity to the training the American students had experienced. His classes were deliberately tough and were intended to eliminate those students not willing to work hard. He challenged his students both mentally and physically, in two hour classes that took place around 3 to 4 days a week.

By the late 1960s-1970s Ueshiro’s family had joined him in the United States. He had also established many schools on the East Coast and Midwest of the United States.

However, disagreements led to Ueshiro leaving the main Matsubayashi-Ryu organisation in 1969. Since arriving in the United States he had been largely responsible for what he taught. He had introduced some new elements into his teaching syllabus. This led to disagreements with the parent organisation which felt that they should have been consulted. He had created the Fukkyugata Sandan Kata, which he had added to his syllabus.

By the 1980s Ueshiro had established Ueshiro Shorin-Ryu Karate USA. Many of his students who had been promoted to black belt were now instructutors teaching their own students. Ueshirohad stepped back from day-to-day teaching.

In 1992 Ueshiro and his students celebrated 30 years of Shorin-Ryu Karate in the United States.

On 7 May 2002, Ansei Ueshiro died in Oceanside, New York, following a stroke. He was aged 69. He was survived by his wife, son, and daughter. He was buried in Locust Valley, New York. His student Robert Scaglione continued running Ueshiro Shorin-Ryu Karate USA.

By the time of his death, Ueshiro had been granted American citizenship. Away from Karate, he established a successful import/export business.

Ansei Ueshiro was the first Okinawan Shorin-Ryu Karate instructor in the United States. His legacy is unsurpassed, with many Shorin-Ryu schools tracing their roots back to him.

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