Uechi Ryu Karate



World Tournament August 1997


There is nothing new about foreigners traveling to Okinawa, the "birthplace of karate", for exposure to traditional karate and kobudo. However, seventeen-hundred-fifty of them doing it at the same time was a historical first!

That is the number of competitors and coaches who converged on Okinawa in August to participate in the Okinawan Karate and Kobudo World Tournament. The tournament and training seminars, sponsored by the Okinawan Prefectures Government, drew more karate practitioners to Okinawa at the same time than at any other point in the island's history. At a cost of four million dollars, the event exemplified to those who came the unique hospitality that is Okinawa itself.

Twenty students from the Uechi Ryu Kenyukai Shubukan in Antioch, California traveled to Okinawa to experience this karate milestone.

We all looked forward to participating in this great event. Each of us gave 100% of our effort, determination, and abilities with the goal of being competitive at this high level.

But home-court advantage cannot be denied. The Okinawan team captured second and third in most divisions. The sixty-four-person team was selected through qualifying competition months before the tournament. In addition to their individual practice, they practiced twice weekly as a team. There were three or four Okinawan competitors in each division. Every member of the Okinawan team shared the responsibility of representing the host country. The dedication to that responsibility showed in their faces. Kiyohide Shinjo of the Uechi ryu Kenyukai fraternity led the Okinawa team in sparring training. They were prepared!

The top three places in each division received commemorative medals. The top eight received "Best Eight" certificates. All awards were presented in a prestigious ceremony Sunday evening at the conclusion of all competition.

The first day consisted of an opening reception and introduction to the incredible Budokan facilities. An extensive coaches meeting and rules presentation finished the day.

Day two consisted of extraordinary demonstrations by such masters as Shoshin Nagamine and Eiichi Miyazato. These exciting demonstrations were followed by a complete series of seminars in all the major styles of Okinawan karate and Kobudo. Prior to this event an enthusiast had to trek around Okinawa for weeks to witness the diversity and number of ryuhas (dojos) and kaihas (groups) who taught that day under one roof.

The large number of foreign competitors prevented everyone from participating in the opening march and demonstrations. The Antioch Team was to be selected to participate. The country-by-country, Olympic-style procession into the Prefectures Hall of Marital Arts was an experience that will remain in the forefront of the hearts and minds of everyone in attendance. I was thrilled to perform kata before the dignitaries of Okinawa karate and government with members of Kenyukai, Uechi ryu, and Pangainoon groups on the floor at the same time.

The entourage marched into the arena with music and ceremony to start each division. Individual rings departed in unison at the end of their match until all rings had finished. Then new divisions ceremoniously entered and filled the entire floor once more. Twelve hours of elimination rounds on Saturday shaved divisions of up to 265 competitors down to the top sixteen in kata and top eight in kobudo and kumite.

The semifinal and final rounds on Sunday determined the "Best Eight" in each of fourteen divisions. The massive tournament was well organized and punctual, which was very surprising. Absolute preregistration of all competitors by March 31 was a primary reason for such efficiency. All rules were strictly enforced. Individual kata selection for each round had to be turned in at the coaches meeting. One competitor was disqualified three days later for performing a kata other than the one he had listed.

In spite of this efficiency, questionable judging will always exist with such a diversity of nations, each possessing their own particular focus in karate. Overall, however, the judging was fair and safe. While the sparring was intense and definitely world-class, there were no major injuries. This was largely due to protective helmets provided for each competitor. No one would want their face hit as hard as those faceplates were being hit!

Sensei Alan Dollar earned 11th place in Senior Male Kata Division,
missing the "Best Eight" …by thaaat much…

Alice Dollar placed 7th in the Senior Women's Kata division.


Narahiro Shinjo of the Kadena Kenyukai dojo
took a glorious 4th place in Open Kata,
the largest division in the tournament.


An elegant sayonara party followed immediately at the luxurious Loiser Hotel. It was an excellent opportunity for everyone to unwind and say good-bye. The cooperation and sportsmanship displayed by each country in attendance culminated at that final gathering. The work was over and we were no longer competitors.

Win, lose, or draw everyone shared a strong feeling of mutual respect and a sense of having been a part of something monumental! The government and people of Okinawa outdid themselves! No details were spared in this historic undertaking. Traditional Okinawan karate worldwide was immeasurably strengthened by their efforts. This astounding event will be remembered as a magnificent statement of the pride and hospitality of the kind people who live in the "birthplace of karate"….


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