Uechi Ryu Karate







In both culture and martial arts, the customs and mores of India are as strong as their elephants. A land steeped in history and tradition, it is at conflict with itself about its 4000 year old past and its future. The conflict extends to self defense systems practiced in what some call the birthplace of the martial arts. 

K.V. Manoharan published the first karate magazine in India, the Karate Times, and completed construction of the only karate dojo in the state of Kerala, one of a few in all of India. Shihan Dollar was invited to travel to India, in 1997, to inaugurate the dojo and teach Okinawan Uechi ryu karate to the Indian people.



In addition to inaugurating the new dojo in Koodali, Shihan Dollar taught in a few villages in the states of Kerala and Karnataka. Only twenty percent of the people in India live in cities. It is a country of 500,000 villages built of mud or stone huts. Though sixty-five percent of the villages have electricity, indoor plumbing is virtually unknown. I have never felt so far from home as at 6:30 AM in a small village public school room, deep in the heart of wild elephant country, teaching karate.

Traditional karate from the tiny island of Okinawa is experiencing phenomenal growth around the world. The feverish interest in Okinawan karate in India is at contrast with their dying native art Kalarippayattu. Kalarippayattu is believed by some to be the oldest martial art in the world. Buddhist monks developed the art to protect themselves while on mission throughout India, much the same as in China. Kalarippayattu later developed into a military fighting art including weapons. Today it revolves around physical fitness and empty-handed self-defense steeped in ritual and ceremony.



The martial arts of both countries are believed to have been developed by watching the defensive methods of animals. Some contend that Indian monks crossed the highest mountains on earth and introduced their martial arts and religious teaching to China.

Similar to ancient Okinawan karate, Kalarippayattu was kept secret and passed on to select family members. Much of the art of India has been lost because of this sheltering, also like Okinawa.

The indigenous defense system of the past exists in contrast to the interest in the sport-oriented aspects of karate of today. This may be due, in part, to a low crime rate and strong family bonds. The need for daily self-defense is not as strong as perhaps it is in America.

Kerala is located on the Southwest coast of India bordered by the Arabian Sea. It is the part of India for which Columbus was looking when he discovered America. Although it is the most literate state in India, at least half the people I saw daily in many villages wore no shoes or only rubber thongs. I could find little evidence of the concept of recreation or leisure.

The eager and intense expression of the children and adults as we trained together in the international language of karate instilled in me the feeling of a safe haven filled with new friends that will always be there. It is not often in this age that a person can truly be a pioneer. The experience of having people kiss my hand or touch my foot as they waited in the heat to receive my knowledge as their guru was very humbling. The glow in their faces and the heartfelt devotion for me traveling to their country to teach them transcended language and cultural differences. We ere unified as international karate brothers and sisters.

The drawn look of wear on the faces of the people I saw going about difficult daily lives was contrasted by an exuberance and a burning glow in their eyes as they practiced karate. Initially intimidated by my presence, they trained seriously and quietly for many hours each day.

Their ability to absorb corrections and implement change in performance was astonishing. Everyone seemed to possess a clear, calm mind. On the occasions that I was teaching black belts from other styles I was challenged by some of them to determine my validity. Body conditioning and years of karate experience paid off. The black belts of India have a new understanding and respect for the iron body conditioning of Uechi ryu masters.

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