Taika Seiyu Oyata
Born: October 19, 1930 - Henza Island - Okinawa Prefecture - Japan
Death: June 18, 2012 - Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States - Age 81
Taika Seiyu Oyata (親田清勇) was a highly skilled Life Protection artist who became famous for his skills in Tuite and Kyusho jutsu as well as his insightful knowledge of the human body and how to manipulate it. He lived 81 years, with 35 in the Ryukyu Islands of Japan and 35 in the Kansas City Metropolitan area of Missouri, the United States of America.
Taika Oyata brought 14 open hand kata and at least 57 weapons kata with him to the United States with his immigration and that is a core part of the art of OyataTe.
Our lineage is tied to Taika as direct students, we were blessed with living near enough to train directly under him. Below is what we feel is a detailed and accurate account of his life as an artist, from beginning to end.
Birth and Early Years
At one time, there was some debate about his birth year. Some early publications discussed that at the end of WWII most every document on the isle of Okinawa had been destroyed and families were forced to go to the government and have birth records reproduced. As there was nothing to go by, the government pretty much had to take your word for it. The erroneous story was that at this time, Taika's father believed the war could break out again at any time and he had already lost his other sons. He reportedly had Taika's birth documents set so that the birth date was two years higher, making Taika appear by documents as too young to be a soldier should fighting start again. This information was told to his students and the information was added to various documents over the years. When questioned about this later on before his death, he stated that his early students had the dates wrong and that the documentation was later corrected before he moved permanently to the United States. Taika took several steps to right this error in the final years of his life. He explained it to members that trained at his dojo in Independence and at several seminars.
Taika was adamant that he was actually born in 1930 and NOT 1928 as erroneously purported.
Taika had perpetuated the myth early in his career to appear older and even told people while still on Okinawa that he was a Dragon in the Chinese zodiac. If he had been born in 1928 that would put him as a Dragon but if he was born in 1930 he would have been a Horse. When I was given the original writings for Taika's "Te no Michi" book (All in Japanese kanji/kana as well as an English hand written translation), it was discovered that there were many extra pieces of the book that were not included in the final product. One such item was a story about his post war age, placing him with a birth year of 1930. It is unclear why Taika's students that helped him with the English translation of the book changed the passages regarding these dates. It is possible they changed it to coincide with the incorrect erroneous stories passed down in publications from some of Taika's past students. The original writings of the book show that Taika was 15 years old shortly after the war ended. Japan surrendered on August 14, 1945, prior to Taika's birthday making him 14 when the war ended and turning 15 just barely 2 months later. Again, prior to his death Taika went to great lengths to set the record straight, that he was indeed born in 1930. As many former students were not regularly training with him in his final years, or not attending his seminars, the myth of 1928 continues to be perpetuated by people that refuse to honor his dying wish that this be set right. After Taika's death, the Oyata family and this author wrote to Taika's sister, Tomi. Mere weeks before her own death, Tomi, confirmed her brother's age and history as she was the keeper of the family records and had known him her entire life.
Tomi Oyata confirmed that her brother, Seiyu Oyata, was indeed born in 1930 and was indeed a Horse by the zodiac.
Taika Seiyu Oyata was born October 19, 1930
Regrettably, certain students still refuse to believe Taika's own words and as one of the results, his tombstone is incorrectly dated, magazines continue to list the wrong year and people continue to put the wrong dates on social media.
Contrary to popular belief, Taika was not born on Okinawa. Taika was born on the Ryukyu island of Henza (平安座島) and then moved shortly to Kita Daito (北大東島) which is located approximately 250 miles east of the main island of Okinawa. Henza was actually its own small island in 1930 but the land mass between it and Okinawa has been filled in to create a land/bridge and roadway to connect it and Miyagi island to Okinawa. Looking at current/modern maps of the two islands it appears that they are one which was not the case at the time of his birth. He was the youngest son of Kana Oyata who became within one year of Taika's birth, the equivalent of the governor of Kita Daito. This island was small and at the time there was no airport. The only way there was by boat. The only telephone on the island was in his family's house as the governor of the island was the only one that needed contact. There are no beaches on the island and at the time, the only access to the water was by crane. The next closest island was Minami Daito (南大東島) which did have an airport. It was possible to take a flight from Minami Daito to mainland Japan and back, then boat from the Southern island to the Northern island.
(Rounded and Approximated)
Henza, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan
Kita Daito, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan
Hikari City, Yamaguchi & Philippines
Okinawa, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan
Kansas City Metro, USA
Oyata Family Heritage
Taika's family lineage may be traced back to Zana Oyakata, which is very important as this acts as the reason he was later allowed to train with two masters that he met after WWII. 親方 Oyakata is actually a title, not to be confused with the name of Oyata. The first character, Oya, is the same as the first character of Oyata, however that is more a coincidence than anything. Oya means parent and Oyakata can be thought of as a father figure and is so used as that in many Japanese apprenticeships such as a bonsai apprentice. It might even translate as something like coach but it means more than that, hence the family context. In the Ryukyu language it would be pronounced more like Ueekata, so click on the link to learn even more. In 1609, the Shimazu clan of the Satsuma Domain, Japan, invaded the Ryukyu kingdom. After a brief struggle, the Ryukyu king Sho Nei surrendered and the Shimazu took him and roughly one hundred of his officials to Japan. In 1611, the Shimazu forced Sho Nei and his councilors to swear various oaths admitting wrongdoing for the war and pledging allegiance to the Shimazu. Zana Oyakata, one of the king's closest advisors, refused to sign the oaths and was beheaded. The Shimazu changed the family's name to Shinda, which sounds like the word for death, and thus erased the Zana family history. For each Japanese character there are at least two pronunciations of them called the 'On' and 'Kun' readings. 親 can be pronounced Shin with the 'On' reading or Oya with the 'Kun' reading. Both still mean Parent. The phonetic sound of SHIN is also the same as the word for death; however it is a different character 死. Many things in Japanese culture that phonetically sound like death (shinu), are considered unlucky and are avoided. Note: It is common in Japanese for something like shinu, where the words ends in a phonetic that ends with 'u', for the u sound to be more of a breath and not emphasized. Thus Shinu in some areas might sound like shin. Just like, technically counting a fourth count as shi sounds like the verb for death, you will normally hear people use yon instead. Thus you don't ever get the rank of Shi-kyu or shi-dan (death belt). The latter half of the name can be pronounced Da or Ta, the only difference is really a subtle difference in how it is pronounced depending on the previous sound. So after an 'N' sound of Shin it would be softened to DA but after a sound like YA it would be appropriate to be hardened to TA. Thus Shinda changed over time to Oyata. The characters stayed exactly the same; it was only the phonetic sound of the name which lost its unluckiness.
Due to the release of a family lineage chart in the mid 1980's, some people misunderstood a link that was shown to the Ikemiyagushiku family which was listed on the chart. Taika was asked about this a few years before his death and stated that he was related to the Ikemiyagushiku family and was a cousin of Chōjun Ikemiyagushiku. If that name sounds familiar, it is the Okinawan pronunciation of Chōjun Miyagi's last name. He met Chōjun through his training with Uhugushiku no Tan Mei which will be discussed a little later. In a story related to his students during a class around 2008, Taika stated that Uhugushiku no Tan Mei introduced him to Chōjun Miyagi, though he didn't train with Chōjun. Taika stated that at first, Chōjun wouldn't even acknowledge his existence until Uhugushiku informed Chōjun of his lineage and that they were related, though distant cousins. This meeting took place outside Uhugushiku's residence and all they did was discuss karate, no actual training took place.
Though Taika never discussed actually training, he was exposed to Okinawan Sumo, known by the name kakuyukai. His father was a practitioner, and apparently quite the competitor, winning many competitions in his day. His eldest brother Akio trained in the art but Taika did not, though was exposed to it. *(09-30-2014)
Okinawa Sumo is more a cross between Edo Sumo wrestling and Judo. The goal is to toss an opponent onto their back, but unlike Edo Sumo, a heavy gi would typically be worn. It typically takes place on a sandy patch of ground. They start by looping hands into each other’s belts and leaning in. In the first round, each will attempt to throw the opponent onto their back. There are no boundaries though it can be stopped if it appears either is in danger of running off the sand.
Osaka School - 1937-1943
At age three, Taika was sent off to his Aunt's home in or near Osaka (mainland Japan) for school. Taika had mentioned that he was a tad bit 'wild' in his younger years and his parents who already had a full house on a small island sent him to live with his aunt. If he grew up in mainland Osaka, one would know that he would have had some physical training as part of the grade school curriculum in the late 30's to early 40's. Both Judo and Kendo had been part of the normal school curriculum since 1911 in mainland Japan. In 1937, the Second Sino-Japanese war began. In December 1941 Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and entered into conflict with the United States while Taika was in grade school in Osaka. The education system in Japan had become increasingly militaristic as a result. In 1941, the elementary schools were renamed National People's Schools. Here all male students were required to attend Youth Schools mixing vocational and basic military training. Taika told a story about how he would be punished in classes during this time if he spoke any of the Ryukyu language that he had learned from older family members. If he spoke the Ryukyu language they would place a sign on him, hanging off a string around his neck that said BAKA!!!. Baka 馬鹿 means fool, idiot and stupid.
Though not where Taika was being educated, in 1902 on Okinawa, Commissioner of Education Shintaro Ogawa recommended Okinawan Te be included in the physical education of the first middle school located there.
As a child Taika would have had some exposure to Te and other arts. Though I never heard him discuss any exposure at this age, surely it crossed his path at the least.
During the end of World War II, the Japanese were growing quite desperate as their allies caved and their fleet of ships continued to dwindle. The Allies were pressing in closer and closer. During this time period, a desperate plan (one of many) was hatched where someone decided that it would be a good idea to cut a torpedo in half, add a center compartment large enough for one person, and then launch manned suicide torpedos towards the Allied fleet. This weapon sounded pretty good in theory, however was not as effective in real life as they had hoped. It was called Kaiten.
If you read the Kaiten Weapon book pictured left, which is now out of print, you'll see it follows the life of the author as he is conscripted into the program. Copies frequently pop up on various used book sites, ebay and Amazon and it is well worth the read to gain insight into how Taika got there at such a young age. There are a lot of things the Navy was looking for in its weapon pilots. Initially it was volunteer, but later they began hunting for people that met a certain set of criteria. An example of this is sons that were not first born, of larger families. Taika met these criteria as well as others such as being single. He would have been quite young at the time of this conscription, around 14 in the last year of the war. At some point, he was moved into this program. There was a lot of training that these Navy conscripts undertook, it wasn't all torpedo piloting. They underwent conditioning as well as judo, kendo, naginata, yari, and iaido. He also studied sword drawing (iaido) from an old Bushi whose style was Gogai-Ryu. Once trained on the Kaiten, Taika’s family was informed he was killed and his death certificate issued. Prior to fulfilling his mission in his suicide submarine, WWII ended. Had the war lingered much longer, Taika would not be alive today. Members selected for these missions were given the rank of lieutenant at a minimum.
Taika’s three older brothers; Taro, Kiseii and Akio were killed in action. Taika stated that his eldest brother died December 7, 1941, during the battle of Pearl Harbor, flying a plane. I asked what type and Taika said he didn't know. His second oldest brother died during the Second Sino-Japanese war which took place between July 7, 1937 and September 9, 1945. The third oldest brother died during the Battle for Okinawa sometime between April 1, 1945 and June 22, 1945. His name can be found on the Okinawa Peace Memorial Park. From small tidbits of conversations, Taika had stated that his brothers were all quite a bit older than him. He stated that his father had his first son when he was 18 years old and that the oldest boy was probably 15-18 years older than Taika. None of Taika's brothers had children. The Oyata family tomb, which Taika had rebuilt, is near Shuri.
Sometime after WWII (it is unclear if this occurred before he began his training with Uhugushiku or after his instructors passed away) money was tight on Okinawa and Taika found himself diving as a side job. After the war, the U.S. military had towed many military vessels out to sea and sank them. Scrap metal was worth a lot of money and Taika would go out to these locations, dive down, tie a rope to some scrap, and recover the scrap to sell on the island. This was not what most people are familiar with, it wasn't SCUBA where a tank was on your back. This was tethered diving where you were breathing off of a long hose which went all the way to the surface. On one such endeavor, he tied off the metal to the rope. He stated he would tug on the rope and that was the signal for his partner to hoist him and the scrap metal up. Apparently Taika and the attached scrap were pulled up too quickly and Taika got a severe case of the bends, leading to a coma. Taika told me that he was in the coma for nine months, but others state that they were told the recovery time was a year.
U.S. Military Job
After the war ended, Taika returned to the Ryukyu Islands and he landed on the main island of Okinawa with his family. There he found that the U.S. military was looking for a few drivers, locals to aid in the delivery of food and supplies to the smaller islands around Okinawa. The requirements of this were that the islander had a valid driver's license as well as an understanding of the various Ryukyuan languages. Having grown up partially on the smaller islands, and having parents and formerly grandparents that spoke the other languages, he met that requirement as well as had obtained a drivers license. He got the job. This was a very important job as it allowed him access to food and other resources other than just his pay check. This also led to Taika and his father being a bit paranoid in Post-War Okinawa as others knew that he had money and food. It was a dangerous time, as there were a lot of hungry people on the island without either. He told stories of him and his father taking turns staying up all night guarding their food and money in the house because the 'hungry and poor' knew where they lived, and what they had. This would lead him to the need for additional life-protection training.
Taika got the job driving a DUKW around to a group of small islands and delivering food and other resources to them. He would often have 'left over' food and sometimes gas that he would sell or use for his family. While doing this job he ran into an interesting man who was fishing and was noticeably out of character as he was still wearing the bushi style hair, top knot, which had been outlawed many years earlier. This man, Uhugushiku no Tan Mei (1850-1949), Taika discovered, was a former bushi forced out of service during the Meiji Restoration. He was a descendant of a famous bushi named Uhugushiku Kenyu who was better known by his nickname of Uni Uhugushiku. Uni is the Okinawan term for devil. The Uhugushiku family was well known for their kobudo (weapons) skill. Uhugushiku no Tan Mei lived in a house on Teruma Beach close to the ocean. Taika observed him fishing off the shore and after finding out from locals that he was a bushi, decided to attempt to acquire him as an instructor. Taika used the offer of taking him out to fish in deeper waters with the DUKW, to attempt to gain him as an instructor. It took some time to convince him to take him as an instructor as well as explaining his heritage before Uhugushiku agreed. Uhugushiku instructed Taika in his traditional Okinawan weapons.
THE MARTIAL JOURNEY
In 1947, Uhugushiku then introduced Taika to the other bushi class martial artist named Wakinaguri. Wakinaguri no Tan Mei was a sixth generation Okinawan whose family had originally emigrated from China. This new instructor was an expert on vital point strikes (kyusho jutsu). Wakinaguri passed the kata Shi Ho Happo no Te and Shi Ho Miyo no Te to Taika as well as many open hand exercises such as Kumo no Orimono (Spider Web). This instructor's arts were based on Chinese heritage and are a big part of what makes Taika's art a hybrid, and not 'just karate'. Wakinaguri's fluid art was kept hidden for many years and he didn't even talk about him with earlier students as 'it gave him an edge'. Additionally, there was an 'Okinawan Pride' to karate when he was teaching on Okinawa after the war until his immigration into the United States.
Both of Taika's first instructors,Uhugushiku and Wakinaguri, were considered kakurei bushi, hidden warriors. They did not teach karate publicly. Both were prepared to take their knowledge to their graves and only taught Taika based on his families lineage, and in the final years of their lives.
One of the defining features that made Taika Seiyu Oyata's art so different from other practitioners in the Ryukyu Islands was that one of these two main instructors was Okinawan, the other was of Chinese lineage. This is why Taika's art was much more fluid than what most people associate with as Karate.
Both of these instructors made a combined proclamation to Taika called a Nin Te Sho announcing him as their one and only student. The picture at right is a rebrushing of that scroll by Tony K. Skeen so that the original could not be forged. The content, minus the seals, was copied but in a different style of brush work to protect the authenticity of the original. The original document is intact but in poor condition at this time.
Other Karate Instructors (1953-1958)
Uhugushiku died in 1949 leaving Taika as his only student and heir to his style. In 1953, Wakiniaguri died leaving Taika a Nin Tei Sho scroll naming him as the sole inheritor of his style as well. Taika looked for other instructors and peers to further his training. It is difficult to tell who he trained with, when or for how long as often when you could get a small snippet of information from him, that would be it. He would usually say something like, "not important". So the below instructors, for the most part, may of had a tiny influence or even more but it is impossible to tell the extent. He also was part of many research and training groups.
Chibana was one of the instructors that Taika went to early on after both Uhugushiku and Wakinaguri died. Taika told us in a class on 11-09-2011 that he trained with him for about three months until they argued over the Naihanchi kata. Chibana told him that these kata were for fighting on rice paddies which Taika thought was funny and laughed. Apparently this offended Chibana and Taika was asked to leave.
* Update: 2021-07-11
Taika trained briefly with Itoman Uechi (Shito-ryu Kempo Karate-do Kai), most likely Kanei Uechi - 1904-1993. He was referred to as Itoman Uechi as their was another karate-ka of the same name that was more well known at the time of Uechi-Ryu. The Uechi that Taika trained with was originally a student of Kenwa Mabuni and established the Shito-ryu Kempo Karate-do Kai. He was teaching in Osaka by 1935 but had returned to Okinawa in 1950.
During a conversation during training at Taika's dojo, Taika stated that he had trained with several other Karate-ka other than Uhugushiku, Wakinaguri as well as training at Nakaumura's research and training group in Okinawa Kenpo. At the time, students presumed each of these was between the deaths of his two primary instructors and Okinawa Kenpo, however at the time we did not know that his pre-war, primary school location was in Osaka, Japan with his Aunt. At this time Karate had been introduced into primary schools for male youth to train in physical fitness, discipline and indoctrination into military ideals. As Itoman Uechi was in Osaka the same time Taika was as a child, he may have taught Taika then or after Uhu and Waki. I didn't have all the pieces to the puzzle to ask Taika if it was pre or post war instruction at the time though both are quite possible. Taika told me about Itoman during class one day.
Shigeru Nakamura - Okinawan Kenpo (1958-1968)
In and around 1958, Taika began training at Shigeru Nakamura's dojo, in Okinawan Kenpo. Nakamura was known to have studied from instructors like Chomo Hanashiro, Yabu Kentsu, Kanryuo Higashionna as well as Anko Itosu while in attendance in middle school in Shuri, Okinawa. After graduation from the Prefectural Teacher's Training College, Nakamura spent ten years as a student of Shinkichi Kuniyoshi. Kuniyoshi was known for his striking abilities. Mr. Nakamura in his time was known as chiki bushi (punch warrior). Nakamura had a desire to see all Okinawan karate united under one banner. In 1955, he had formed with Zenryo Shimabukuro the Okinawan Kenpo Renmei.
From Mr. Nakamura, Taika learned the twelve basic empty hand kata he taught as the core of his kata curriculum. (Apparently he also learned Sanchin and taught it briefly in his early instructor career, but gave it up as being too hard on the body. He would say, practitioners of Sanchin do not live long, bad for heart.) Nakamura was also a big proponent of bogu kumite, sparring incorporating padded gloves, chest protectors, and modified kendo masks. Taika initially trained a lot in bogu as it was a way to gain notoriety as well as entice the G.I. to train when he began teaching on Okinawa. In later years he did not include bogu in his curriculum as he felt, with its rules, it conflicted with the core fundamentals of his art. For instance, in bogu kumite you cannot kick below the belt which is where Taika taught to kick. It also prevented any grappling, something he was noted for.
Taika eventually opened his own dojo in Makiminato, Urasoe, Okinawa. Many of his students were U.S. servicemen from the local military base. Most of the young servicemen preferred the bogu fighting and competitions and thus much of the early focus in these days was what was popular since this was a primary source of income for Taika.
Seikichi Uehara of Motobu-ryū
Taika also participated in a research group with Seikichi Uehara (b1904-d2004), who eventually inherited the Motobu family system, where they compared tuiti (tuite) and analyzed weapons fighting.
Taika is pictured on January 1, 1964 in the front row, third from the right wearing a sweater that was a gift from a student's wife.
Taika's First Book
Sometime in the mid to late 1950's to early 1960's Taika began to work on a book of techniques. In the early 1960's he had a series of pictures taken by a photographer for this first technique book. Though the book wasn't finished at that time, the photographs and his notes survive and were partially published in 2011 by Lee Richards just prior to Taika's death and this book was shown at Taika's funeral visitation. In 2017 another copy was released and is currently available from RyuTe Supplies. This series of photographs is proof that Taika was teaching Tuite to students during the late 1950's and prior to departure from Nakamura's group.
1964 Godan Portrait
1960's board breaking demo with student Jim Logue.
1966 - Taika, second from left
1964 Okinawa Karate Championship
1967 Karate Do Group
1968 First Place Tournament with Trophy
Taika said the Bogu tournaments were a way to make a name for yourself and also a way to get the servicemen in your area to pay you for lessons. In his early days of teaching, Bogu got him students, even though it had rules contrary to his beliefs in true fighting. He told a story in class about this photo when someone brought it in. He stated that he won this trophy by breaking the rules which he often did. Taika stated that there was one person at the tournament that he believed might be able to beat him. In a tournament such as this, if you broke a rule you got a warning. He stated that he deliberately kicked this person in the leg, below the belt, injuring him. This broke a rule but he only got a warning. That person was not able to continue fighting so lost the match and Taika advanced.
Nishi Nippon Shiai
1967 Kumamoto Gynasium
1968 - Tile Break Portrait
1968 - Tonfa Portrait
In 1968, Taika was brought to Olathe, Kansas for a short visit by Nick Nickelson. This is a suburb of Kansas City where he would permanently immigrate in 1977. There were a few U.S. Servicemen located in the Kansas City Metropolitan area who had served for a time in Okinawa. Nick had trained with Taika on Okinawa in the early 60's. Bob Boggs had also trained with Taika in Okinawa and lived in Olathe. Taika was in town for 2-3 months, staying in Nick's home and teaching out of his home dojo. Without Nick's efforts, most of us in the United States would not have ever been introduced to Taika and he wouldn't have fallen in love with the midwest.
This is where the first known video recording was created with a 16mm camera. Prior to returning to Okinawa, Taika was filmed going through the 12 core foundational kata (though a more sport version than he taught in later years) as well as an early rendition of what was called Renshu Dai Ichi (Exercise 1).
While Taika was in Kansas, Mr. Nakamura's organization became a victim of internal politics and the Okinawan Kenpo Renmei disbanded. Upon his return Taika continued to train many American servicemen for a time. At some point he quit running a dojo in Okinawa and became a small engine mechanic.
After Taika's brief visit to Kansas, some of his students combined resources to open a Martial Arts Equipment store (Ryukyu Imports) in Merriam, Kansas;
Lindquist, Greg (Greg had just met Taika during this visit when Taika himself dropped off a flier for a seminar at the gas station he was working at).
Carl later traveled to Okinawa to secure sources for much of the equipment they began selling in the early days of this new store.
These two photographs are of the outside and inside of Taika's dojo in Okinawa in 1969.
Jim Logue met Taika in January 1969, shortly after Taika returned from his U.S. visit as Jim sought an instructor after landing in Okinawa on December 24, 1968.
1969-1985 - Ryukyu Karate-do Renmei
Taika returned to Okinawa at the end of 1968, and Mr. Nakamura died in January of 1969. Taika then formed the Ryukyu Karate-do Renmei with Seikichi Uehara and Shian Toma. The term "Ryukyu Kempo" was a somewhat generic term for karate used by several others as well. One of the earliest uses of the term Ryukyu Kempo was a 1922 book by Gichin Funakoshi, pre-dating any use of it by the later students in the United States.
In 1973, several of Taika's American students from Kansas, as well as South Carolina and New York, formed The American Federation Of Ryukyu Kempo and Kobudo.
In 1922 Gichin Funakoshi published his first book, and this is currently the first 'written' use of the term Ryukyu Kempo. Thus the name was being used for approximately 50 years before its use immigrated to the United States.
Gichin Funakoshi is the founder of Shotokan Karate-Do. He was one of the Okinawan karate masters who introduced karate to the Japanese mainland in 1922. Funakoshi taught karate at various Japanese universities and became the honorary head of the Japan Karate Association in 1949.
Taika immigrated permanently to the United States, settling in the Kansas City Metropolitan area and eventually residing in Independence, Missouri, just east of Kansas City. He began calling his art Ryukyu Kempo, giving the Ryukyu people credit for the development of karate. According to Taika, the name Ryukyu Kempo itself was a generic term that can describe any Okinawan or Ryukyu island karate. At no point was Ryukyu Kempo trademarked or would there have been an ability for it to have been trademarked, as it was used by others as well as far back as 1922 as previously described well before the vast influx of allied servicemen and the subsequent increase in popularity of bogu. Taika also introduced and popularized the terms tuite jitsu and kyusho jitsu. Tuite, specifically, was a hybrid word of 1/2 Ryukyuan language and 1/2 Japanese language that Taika himself put together. Prior to Taika, nobody used this term in this fashion. The other interesting thing about all these terms is that they were incorrectly spelled by his early students that did not have a good working knowledge of either the Okinawan or Japanese languages. With Taika's thick accent, what should have been kenpo was spelled kempo, and what should of been jutsu became jitsu. If you watch the previously discussed video from his 1968 visit, almost every kata name was spelled incorrectly as well. Many of his U.S. students improperly pronounced and misspelled many words including elongating Tuite as well as placing far too much emphasis on the syllables of Ryukyu (frequently mispronounced like Rye You Cue).
Oyata's Ryukyu Kempo
We often now refer to Oyata's specific form or art during its initial composition until the name departure and/or his death as Oyata's Ryukyu Kempo. Many people who never trained with him have used the name Ryukyu Kempo. Additional parties trained with him briefly then departed, thus did not not stay on the same path as Taika. Though their arts may have root in the Ryukyu Islands and may in part have been influenced by Taika to some degree, their departure from his path, particularly the ones that did not stay with him during the significant growth and outpouring of more detailed principles and philosophies of his final years, are not Oyata's Ryukyu Kempo. An example would be the lack of principles heavily from the Chinese side of the art, Wakinaguri. Another example of a vast difference is remaining focused so much on aspects of the art Taika stressed were merely for commercial or other non Life Protection reasons early in the formation of the organization. Many of these artist refused to let go of things he preached against for years and even spoke about in his final completed book. We are in no way making any claims to other artists skill level or taking away their claims of participation with Taika once long ago. We are just using this phrase to separate the vastly different groups practicing under the same name that Taika walked away from in the early 1990's. Ryukyu Kempo has many varieties, his was unique.
In 1977 Taika, with help from his students, had Choki Motobu's book, Okinawan Kempo translated and began selling them through Ryukyu Imports. These were limited edition works and came complete with a small certificate which resembled a yudansha certificate. These were serialized and the book also had a forward by Taika.
During these early years in the United States, Taika created his second known film. This was a black and white, 16mm film where Taika went with a student, Steven Thomas Cobb, to Fort Osage and performed many techniques. The first part was filmed in front of Fort Osage in Sibley, MO, the second location is not known but believed to be a park at or near the same location.
Fort Osage, Missouri, United States of America
In 1979 Taika published the first version of 'Tuite: Volume 1' which was initially either a mimeographed or Xeroxed at the time and sold. It was only a few pages of sketches of various Tuite techniques from the Naihanchi kata. In 1980, the second printing was done with a heavy stock, yellow cover. This was considered his first complete solo book by many as the 1950's book started in Okinawa had not been finished. This was his first published writing showing how Tuite was hidden there in the kata all along.
NOTE: Even though Taika has passed away, ANY published work by him is still covered under copyright laws. All works of his are still illegal to reproduce in any form, without express permission of his wife and/or Oyata Enterprises, Inc. for 75 years from the date of his death. EVEN if you do not see a copyright symbol. The mere publication of any material binds it to the copyright laws of this country and all countries participating in the Lantham Act as well as other acts. DO NOT POST COPIES OF HIS WORKS.
During a scanning mission at the Oyata family home, the original U.S. Government registration of copyright for this book was located.
In 1979, Taika filmed several weapons techniques, and weapons kata with his students. This is believed to be the third known film to be produced, although it is unclear if this came before or after the Fort Osage film.
In the 1980's, with the advent of fairly cheap camcorders, there were numerous videos filmed and distributed. At least three VHS versions of the 12 basic kata with bunkai, as well as various technique tapes. Initially these were spread via word of mouth and eventually advertised in various martial publications.
During this time period there was a boom in Taika's popularity as he began to be featured in numerous martial magazines and produced many more videos.
1992 RyuTe® Oyata Shin Shu Ho®
Officially, Taika brushed out Oyata Shin Shu Ho on December 31, 1991. He additionally brushed a new association name as Ryukyu Budo Shodai Soke. This was announced in the first newsletter of 1992. In 1992, Taika decided to officially divorce himself from the name Ryukyu Kempo. This generic term was being used by people who had been removed from his organization, those that left due to the changes being implemented by Taika, those who had merely attended a few seminars of his, as well as others that had never trained with him. These other people he had no control of, nor did he believe they were teaching the same things he believed in. Taika also believed that his art had progressed and he was beginning to show more of the Chinese side of the art given to him by Wakinaguri Tan Mei. Gradually throughout the 1990's, Taika began sharing parts of the more fluid half of the art.
Taika officially registered the name RyuTe® Ren Mei which he believed would make this separation evident. The Ryu was the same fist character of Ryukyu, and he still believed his art should honor its origin, the Ryukyu Islands where he was born and met his two primary instructors. Te was simply the character for hand. In his mind, this was like we would call an acronym in English, where he combined words meaning the Hand of the Ryukyu Islands. At the time he had a rather large following and made an early attempt to make a higher tier of practitioners that he would name Oyata Shin Shu Ho®. He initially believed this group would be the ones teaching his art when he passed away, as he was starting to think of his mortality at this time. Little did he know he would live another two decades.
May 1992 - The Oyata Shin Shu Ho mon replaces the Ryukyu Kempo mon on the top of the newsletter and a Registration Mark was applied for.
The 1980's & 1990's began a rigorous tour schedule where Taika travelled the U.S., teaching nearly every weekend in open seminar.
In January 1993 Taika's new Oyata Shin Shu Ho Ryu patch began being shipped out and initially all black belts would wear this patch and all kyu ranks would wear the RyuTe patch. Later this changed once his full plan on the tiers evolved.
November 1997 - Newsletter changed to RyuTe® Reporter. Both RyuTe® and Oyata Shin Shu Ho® trademarks are finally approved by the United States government.
In 1998 Taika published RyuTe® No Michi. This book is full of historical references, information about the various castles of the Ryukyu kingdom, as well as defensive philosophies of Taika.
A NEW BEGINNING
In 2000 Taika had a brush with death with some health issues and a surgery he truly believed he would not survive. Shortly after that there was a significant change in the way he taught, and the amount and type of information that he began giving out. With this change came in inevitable purge as many students left the system as they didn't want to change or they were removed for various reasons. Taika began closing in, not producing any new training videos. He clearly stated that he would rather have 100 good students than 1000 bad ones, and that it was much easier to teach a smaller group than a large organization. He began to emphasize quality over quantity and the art grew exponentially even if the number of students decreased. He mostly closed off his seminars to members, though occasionally guests would be allowed if the right person asked in the right way. The majority of his seminars were decreed, video free. Either no video recorders were allowed or only by certain approved individuals. By 2005 the amount of information coming forth was unbelievably vast. He stressed concepts and principles, knowing that these tools would allow his students to continue to grow after his death. It was during these 12 final years that he began delving more deeply into the Chinese hand of Wakinaguri.
In 2009, having lived another 17 years past the creation of RyuTe® Ren Mei and Oyata Shin Shu Ho®, Taika felt that he wanted to ensure that his legacy carried on and that certain people had a form of proof that he believed in their abilities. He was disenchanted over some of the people whom he had promoted over the years and later was forced to expel. A significant portion of the people awarded Shin Shu Ho were no longer associated with him and he had revoked many of their certificates, as well as acknowledging that there were flaws in the distribution under political means. He wanted to create another way to carry on his legacy.
Over the next year, he worked on the wording and certificate for the Nin Te Shō which was an Official Proclamation of a person's ability. He had received a similarly worded proclamation in 1947 from his instructor. The Nin Te Shō was to be a two part proclamation. One certificate would be a rank and the other a title. The first to receive one of these publicly was Tasshi Jim Logue in 2010 who was destined to inherit the system as Jim was Taika's highest ranking student, continuously training with him from January 1968 until his death at the end of 2011. Regrettably Jim died prior to Taika. Contrary to some opinions and statements, the Nin Te Shō issued are nothing more than a 'pat on the back' for diligence. They were not, nor were they ever intended to be any sort of authorization to issue certifications in Taika's name nor an inheritance of his art. They only proclaim that the receiver had obtained a set skill level at the date of issuance, and most bestowed a rank and title. For the true story and translation, click here. Other Nin Te Shō were given as well.
END OF LIFE
Photograph by Marvin Fankhauser ©2002
Shortly after Tasshi Jim Logue's death, Taika was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. Taika had printed other Nin Te Shō and had discussed a succession plan prior to leaving Independence for a doctors visit in Aberdeen, SD in May of 2012. Regrettably this plan was never finalized publicly, but only with his immediate family. While in Aberdeen he felt some chest pain and went into the hospital where he was subsequently rushed into a surgery. Shortly after surgery, Taika suffered from a small stroke which inevitably became his undoing in the subsequent week. Taika died on June 18, 2012 at the age of 81 years.
Taika's legacy continues on. He had many students scattered throughout the world. Some hold onto his beliefs and teachings, and continue to carry the torch. His teachings will live on.
Lee E. Richards
Co-Founder - OyataTe International
* Lee E. Richards initially assisted Tasshi Logue with Taika's web site as well as continued the endeavor at Taika's behest when Tashhi Logue died. The Oyata family had him update the association web site at the time and he also gathered much documentation from the Oyata family and other sources for many years. He was a close, long time student of Taika as well as having the honor of being a pallbearer at his funeral.