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RyuKyu Kobudo
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RyuKyu Kobudo Hozon ShinkoKai

We are affiliated with The Society for the preservation of the ancient Okinawan martial arts headed in the United States and Canada by Kyoshi Devorah Dometrich.  WWW.okinawakobudo.com

Ryukyu kobudo has a long and rich history as a combative art of the villages of the Ryukyu Islands. As a village tradition, history has largely been handed down over the generations via oral traditions. With this in mind, one of the best ways to tell the story of RKHS is through the lives of its senior teachers and practitioners.

The following teachers were instrumental in the development and practice of modern Ryukyu kobudo.

Yabiku Moden Hanshi

Yabiku Moden was born in Shuri and was the eldest son of four children. His father, Yabiku Mayo, was a strict but fair man who demanded much from his children. Because he was such a frail and skinny boy in his youth, Yabiku Moden was nick named "scarecrow" and was often teased and bullied by other children. Like many of his contemporaries, Yabiku Moden resolved to make his body and mind strong and as a result began the study of karatedo under Itosu Sensei and Ryukyu kobudo under various teachers including Tawata, Pechin Sensei and Chinen, Sanda Sensei (Nakamoto, 1983; Alexander, 1991; Bishop, 1996)

After graduating from the Okinawa Prefectural teachers College, he taught at Bito elementary school. Already by this time he had excelled in his karatedo and kobudo training. It was also during this time that he began to teach karatedo and kobudo formally to the local people of Bito. Around 1911, after moving to the Japanese mainland in search for better work, Yabiku founded the Ryukyu Kobujutsu Kenkyu Kai (Ryukyu Kobujutsu Research Association) in order to promote and popularize kobudo throughout Japan (Nakamoto, 1983; Bishop, 1996). Besides his talent in karatedo and kobudo, Yabiku was known as a master story teller and would enthral his students with stories of the old Okinawan Bushi of a by-gone era (Nakamoto,1983).

In his daily life it was said that Yabiku was constantly challenging himself through the study of Budo by always trying to overcome his physical and mental limitations. He is known, for example, to have worn iron geta (clogs) from morning to night in order to strengthen his legs and hips ( Nakamoto, 1983). To strengthen his arms and hands, he would grasp the frame of the ceiling of his home and travel around its perimeter using only his arms (Nakamoto, 1983). On a personal level, Yabiku was said to have been a deeply religious man who did not drink alcohol or smoke and was never heard to say a bad word against anyone (Nakamoto, 1983). Yabiku died on June 23, 1941 at the age of 63.

Taira Shinken Hanshi

Taira Shinken left Okinawa for Tokyo in 1922. While there he would learn karate from Funakoshi and kobudo from Yabiku Moden (1882-1945). In 1942, he returned to the Ryukyu Islands and studied the various Ryukyuan weapons techniques and forms slowly being lost with the passing of each teacher. In 1945, Taira began teaching kobudo in various dojo across Okinawa.

About this time, he also formed the Ryukyu Kobudo Kenkyukai, (The Society for the Research of the Ancient Martial Ways of the Ryukyu Islands) to carry on the teachings of Moden Yabiku and other teachers who had since passed away. During these early days, he researched and developed thirty kata while devising a solid, comprehensive curriculum that would become the foundation of the dojo he opened in 1959 in Naha Shi.  

In 1964, he published Ryukyu Kobudo Taikan (The Encyclopedia of Ryukyu Kobudo); the first comprehensive book about Ryukyu Kobudo written in Japanese. Currently, no official translation is available to the public in any other language.

In failing health in 1970, Taira did not want his life's work to disappear. So, he changed the name of the organization to Ryukyu Kobudo Hozon Shinkokai, awarded Akamine Eisuke his Shihan (full teacher's license) certificate and appointed him the second president of the organization. Later that year, about fifty of his students were at his bedside when, at the age of seventy-three, Taira Shinken died of cancer.

Akamine Eisuke Hanshi

"If I teach you kata, you will forget it tomorrow. But, if I teach you waza, you will have it for a lifetime."

- Akamine Eisuke -

 

Akamine Eisuke was born May 1, 1925 in the last years of the Taisho Era. Until his death on January 13, 1999, he lived in the Nesabu section of Tomigusuku, the small village in southern Okinawa where he was born.

In 1942, at the age of seventeen, he began the study of Yamani-ryu bojutsu (staff art) under Higa Seichiro, Higa Raisuke, Higa Jisanburo and Akamine Yohei (no relation). From his early teachers, Akamine Sensei learned these kata: Soeshi no Kon, Sakugawa no Kon, Shirataru no Kon and Yuniga no Kon.

In 1944, Akamine Sensei married Shizuko. Shortly thereafter, at age nineteen, he was drafted into the Japanese army where he served one year in Taiwan. When he returned to Okinawa, Akamine Sensei resumed vegetable and sugar cane farming and his study of Yamani-ryu bojutsu.

In 1959, Taira Shinken was teaching kobudo in a Goju-ryu karate dojo in Naha, Okinawa. While there, he heard of great bojutsu teachers who lived in the Kakazu section of Tomigusuku village. To satisfy his curiosity, he went to Tomigusuku to study Yamani-ryu bojutsu with Akamine Sensei's teachers. This was the first meeting between Taira Shinken and Akamine Sensei.

One day, Taira was asked to demonstrate tekko (metal knuckles), nunchaku (horse bridle) and sai (truncheon). Akamine Sensei had never seen these weapons before. He was so impressed with Taira's waza that he decided to become his deshi (student).

As Taira's senior student, Akamine Sensei would be in the unique position of watching him organize the various waza into a system that would eventually become Ryukyu Kobudo Hozon Shinkokai.

In addition to building a structured curriculum, Taira was adding a training element that would permeate all Ryukyu Kobudo waza and kata and as a result become part of the signature of this weapons system. Higa Yuchoku was a student of Chibana Chosin and a noted teacher of Ti, the origin of karate. Higa and Taira Shinken were close friends.
As he continued his relentless study, Taira recognized that kobudo, while effective, lacked the explosive power found in Ti. Specifically, it lacked gamanku (hip technique).

Taira's ability to effectively demonstrate gamanku was limited by his rigid, muscular physique and a permanent ankle injury. However, he insisted on it from his students.

So, he asked Higa Yuchoku to help infuse his system of kobudo with gamanku. After Taira's death, Akamine Sensei continued to seek Higa's counsel on the use of gamanku.

In his later years, Taira primarily taught in the garden at Akamine Sensei's home. The torrential rains common in Okinawa often interrupted training. In 1970, at Taira's request, Akamine built a tin roof over the garden and enclosed two sides. Shortly before his death, Taira gathered his students at Akamine Sensei's dojo and distributed certificates of rank. During this ceremony, he also awarded Akamine Sensei the title of shihan (full instructor). Akamine Sensei's shihan license and the certificates of rank issued that day were the first and only kakemono (scrolls) ever issued by Taira Shinken.

After Taira succumbed to cancer in 1970, Akamine Sensei finished the remaining two sides of the dojo with traditional stacking windows to provide ventilation. Once completed, he named the dojo the Shinbukan in honor of his teacher. It is this same dojo that Akamine Sensei's original students came to train.

In the years since, the original building has been replaced by a more modern, three-story building which contains Akamine Sensei's home, dojo and his daughter's koto (string instrument) dojo. Little else has changed. Akamine kept the name, structure and goals of Taira's organization intact.

Akamine Sensei taught waza and kata for all of the nine weapons of Ryukyu Kobudo Hozon Shinkokai:

bo (staff)

sai (iron truncheon)

nunchaku (horse bridle)

kama (sickle)

tekko (metal knuckles)

tsuifa (millstone handle)

eiku (oar)

suruchin (weighted rope)

tinbe (shield and short spear)

 

In addition, Akamine Sensei continued Taira's tradition of research and with the help of his students, brought several kata back from extinction.

By all accounts, Akamine Sensei was a quiet and stern teacher whose primary focus was the development of waza. Within the Okinawan martial arts community, he was known as a teacher's teacher ... someone that teachers came to for a deeper understanding of their own techniques.

With a small dojo and a focus on quality rather than quantity, Akamine Sensei intentionally kept his student roster small. He only had fourteen first generation students.

Takara Sachi Yoshi Kyoshi

Takara Sachi Yoshi Kyoshi was born in Oroku Village, Okinawa. At a very young age, he learned ti from his father. He moved to mainland Japan at the age of sixteen. There he met Sugihara Kenpu and studied Shuri-ti Shorin-ryu karate. Sugihara Sensei's dojo was also a shibu (branch school) of Konishi Yasuhiro of Shinto Shizen-ryu karate. As a result, Takara was exposed to a broad base of waza. After ten years of study, Takara returned to Okinawa.

Seeking to continue his training, Takara became a historian of Ryukyuan busaa. Through his research, he met and trained with many teachers from across the island. This path eventually led him to the Shinbukan and Akamine Sensei in 1975. In addition to RyuKyu Kobudo Hozon Shinkokai, Takara also learned Funakoshi-ryu karate from Akamine. A cheerful and powerful practitioner of an eclectic blend of karate, Takara is a kyoshi nanadan in Ryukyu Kobudo. Today, Takara shares primary teaching responsibilities with Akamine Hiroshi at the Shinbukan.

Inomoto Masaru Kyoshi

Inomoto Masaru was born on May 27, 1938 and raised in Miyazaki Prefecture, Japan. After joining the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force at the age of seventeen, Inomoto began the study of Chito-ryu karate, under founder Doctor Tsuyoshi Chitose.

Taira Shinken conducted several kobudo clinics at Chitose's dojo. Inomoto attended several of these seminars and became quite interested in Ryukyu Kobudo.

However, he would not have the opportunity for regular instruction until some years later when his military career took him to Okinawa in 1973. Knowing he would be staying in Okinawa for six years, Inomoto sought out Taira Shinken. Upon hearing of Taira's death, he sought his successor and found Akamine Eisuke. After explaining his interest, he was accepted as a student.

Today, Inomoto is a kyoshi nanadan (seventh degree black belt) in Ryukyu Kobudo and responsible for its development in Kyushu, Japan. He is also kyudan (ninth degree black belt) in Chito-ryu karate and rokudan in Muso Jikiden Eishin-ryu iaido.  

Devorah Yoshiko Dometrich

Devorah Yoshiko Dometrich began her study of Chito-ryu karatedo at the age of 14 under the instruction of her adopted father Kyoshi William J. Dometrich. In 1966, Dometrich was the first women's national karate champion in the history of the United States, in both Kumite and in Kata. She would regain this title eight years later at the United States Karatedo Federation's national tournament. From 1972 to 1977, she served in the United States Air Force (USAF). In 1974,the Vietnam War and the USAF took Dometrich to Okinawa, Japan as part of the 376 Strategic Air Command.

Here, she met Inomoto Masaru a fellow Chito-ryu karateka who introduced her to Akamine Eisuke Hanshi of Ryukyu Kobudo Hozon Shinkokai. During this fateful year, Dometrich would begin her study of Ryukyu Kobudo under the direct instruction of Akamine Sensei. In addition, she began the study of Muso Jikiden Eishin-ryu iaido under Inomoto Sensei's direct instruction.

From 1974 to 1977, Dometrich spent virtually all of her free time training with either Akamine Sensei or Inomoto Sensei. In 1976, Dometrich earned Grand Champion, Second Place at the First All Okinawan Kobudo Shiai sponsored by Akamine Sensei. By early 1977, Dometrich was awarded the rank of sandan (third degree black belt) in Ryukyu Kobudo and shodan (first degree black belt) in Muso Jikiden Eishin-ryu iaido.

On February 7, 1977, Dometrich was honorably discharged from the USAF and chose to remain in Okinawa to continue her studies for the maximum time permitted by her visa. That spring would prove eventful for Dometrich.

Prior to her return to the United States, Dometrich received her Instructor's Certificate in Ryukyu Kobudo and Akamine Sensei appointed her as head of Ryukyu Kobudo Hozon Shinkokai Beikoku So Honbu (United Stated Headquarters).

Upon her return to the United States, Dometrich began a career as police officer. In addition to her regular patrol duties, she spent 13 years as a police instructor for the Justice Cabinet of Kentucky. Dometrich specialized in accident investigation, hostage negotiations, weaponless defense and firearms instruction (with NRA and FBI certifications). In 1979, she married Paul Herbst, a fellow police officer.

Throughout her career, she diligently studied and taught kobudo, iaido and karatedo while maintaining regular contact with Akamine Sensei. From 1988 to 1998, Dometrich returned to Okinawa six times times to visit and learn from Akamine while training with her kyodai (brothers) at Akamine Sensei's Shinbukan dojo. Each visit lasted three months, the maximum allowed by her visa.

In 1995, she participated in the Taira Shinken Embu Taikai, commemorating the 25th anniversary of Taira Shinken's Death. Dometrich retired from police work in 1996 to follow in the footsteps of Taira Shinken by traveling and teaching Ryukyu kobudo.

In 1997, Akamine Sensei asked her to return to Okinawa to assist him in teaching kobudo at the first Okinawa Karate and Kobudo World Tournaments. This trip would prove to be particularly auspicious.

During this visit Dometrich renewed ties with Shinzato Yoshihiko with whom she had trained at the Shinbukan in the 1970s. Now living and teaching in Lima, Peru; Shinzato is also a student of Onaga Yoshimitsu, teacher of Kobayashi Shorin-ryu karate and ti', the art on which all karate was founded.

Onaga was the senior student of Higa Yuchoku, himself a student of Chibana Chosin and friend to Taira Shinken. It was Higa whom Taira enlisted to bring gamanku (hip technique) to his kobudo. Intrigued by this connection to the lineage of Ryukyu kobudo, Dometrich asked Shinzato for an introduction to Onaga. Shortly after this introduction, Dometrich began her study of ti' under Onaga's direction.

Also during this trip, Akamine awarded Dometrich the rank of kyoshi nanadan (seventh degree black belt). This was the first time such rank was ever conferred on a woman in karatedo or kobudo in Okinawan history.

Before leaving Okinawa, she and Takara Sachi Yoshi assisted Akamine Sensei in resurrecting three lost kata - Chatan Yara no Kon, Yakaa no Sai, and Kyushaku Bo.

On January 13, 1999 Akamine Eisuke Sensei passed away. Okinawa lost a living treasure and Dometrich lost a mentor and teacher. Immediately, she left for Okinawa a seventh time to attend his funeral, support his widow and help determine the future of Ryukyu Kobudo Hozon Shinkokai. During this trip, Onaga Sensei counseled her not to grieve, but to train and teach... as that would be Akamine Sensei's wish for her.

Today, that is precisely what she does. While she regularly conducts classes at the honbu dojo in Cincinnati, Ohio; any given week may find her teaching in one of any number of dojo across the United States and Canada. When she is not teaching, she can be found training at home in her dojo.

Due to his unrelenting focus on technical excellence, Akamine had only fourteen committed deshi (students). Of those fourteen deshi, only a handful remain active.

It is important to note Dometrich was Akamine Sensei's only non-Okinawan, non-Japanese deshi and remains his most direct link outside of Japan or Okinawa. As she plays her part in preparing the next generation of kobudoka, Dometrich is as committed to preserving the legacy of Akamine Eisuke, as he was to his teacher, Taira Shinken.

 

 

 

 

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