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Title: Ryūei-ryū  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Shitō-ryū, Seisan, Okinawan kobudō, Comparison of karate styles, Okinawan martial arts, Kenko, Ryū Ryū Ko
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Ryuei-ryu (劉衛流 Ryūei-ryū?) is an Okinawan style of karate. It was originally a family style of the Nakaima family of Naha and is now one of the internationally recognized Okinawan karate styles.[1] It is practiced in the United States, Argentina, Venezuela, Europe, and Okinawa.


The originator of the Ryueiryu method was the Okinawan Nakaima Norisato (also known as Kenri). Born December, 1819 into a considerably wealthy family (by the Okinawan standards of the time). He developed a passion for the martial arts at a young age, and was known throughout the village of Kumemura (Kume) as a devoted practitioner of the cultural as well as combative arts.

The area called Kume in Naha was settled by Chinese (often referred to as the "Thirty-six family names") from Fukien (Fukuken, Fukuken-sho), China about 600 years ago. Being born and brought up in the area under deep influence from China for a long time, Norisato was very familiar with Chinese cultural ways and could speak and communicate freely in at least one dialect of the language.

It is known that the last Satsufu-shi (*Chinese ambassadors) were sent to Okinawa in 1866, In 503 years (from 1372 to 1876 when Japan discontinued the relationship with the King Dynasty) about the same number of military officers as ambassadors were sent to Ryukyu.

Reportedly, when Norisato was 18 years old, he heard that the military officers were practicing martial arts every day and visited the practice area. Since no formal dojo existed during this period, Norisato, interested in martial arts, was watching the practice over the fence. Then one of the officers noticed Norisato and the yuchi (general) eventually noticed the potential and talent of the young Norisato.

With the help of a Chinese military envoy to Okinawa who provided the appropriate letter of introduction and one year of preparation, Nakaima left his native Okinawa for China to study the martial arts. At the age of nineteen, The tall, well built Nakaima was accepted as a disciple of the Chinese Master Ru Ru Ko, who at the time was the lead instructor at the Military Academy in Beijing. Alongside Nakaima was good friend Sakiyama Kitoku, who also left Okinawa to study in China, but reportedly returned to the island after a comparatively short time and was not admitted to the same training.

Norisato originally intended to learn Chinese Martial Arts as a method of personal protection, he became heavily influenced by his teacher gradually studying deeply the military subjects required for Chinese military officers. Subjects ranged from complex military strategies to astrology and holistic healing methods, which are still preserved within the system today.

After seven years of diligent study under the master, Nakaima graduated and was awarded his masters teaching degree at, or around the age of twenty six. At this time he was given some secret books. As customary in China, his instructor only trusted his most dedicated pupil with these guarded texts. Contained in these books was a wealth of information on the civil combative traditions of China. Some of these books* were entitled "Bubishi", "Hyoronshi", "Kokutski", "Kenyushin" and "Yojoho" and are only recently being discovered and appreciated by many of the older and more advanced practitioners of the fighting arts of China and Okinawa throughout the world today. Before he returned to his homeland, Nakaima traveled "for training purposes" throughout the Fukien, Canton and Beijing areas of China. There he saw many unique methods of training and embraced many teachings. Additionally, he collected many weapons from the various areas he visited and incorporated them into his personal system of Chinese boxing. Before leaving China, the customary vow of secrecy was taken by Nakaima, who realizing the tense political climate of the day, never broke this solemn oath.

The system that Nakaima devised and learned was taught only to his son Noritada (Kenchu;1856 -1953), but only after making a pledge of secrecy to maintain the great tradition to which he now belonged. Noritada, keeping this oath, only taught his own son Noritaka (Kenko) and grandchildren, who also took the family oath of secrecy. While Nakaima Noritada (Kenchu) had no other students, he was regarded as a master of martial arts by all his contemporaries and was respected by all who knew him.

      NAKAIMA KENCHU (1856–1953)                          NAKAIMA KENKO (1911–1989)

The young Nakaima Noritaka also developed a keen interest in budo, studying other Karate and kobudo styles as well as kendo under popular instructors. However, it was Nakaima Noritaka was the first family member to break the family tradition and at the age of 60, fearing that the family art would be lost, accepted a small group of outside students. These students were all school teachers, who Nakaima felt "possessed the necessary character, education and background to continue the teachings in the proper manner". Nakaima did much to assist with the development of many of today's leaders throughout Okinawa and Japan.

According to numerous senior instructors of various styles that were well acquainted with Nakaima Kenko (including Shorinryu leader Nakazato Shugoro), Nakaima reportedly never taught much Ryueiryu to children apart from his own sons, nor owned a dojo, although he often shared the training hall of Nakamura Shigeru and others. Nakaima was well respected in his region and helped with the organization of the Okinawa Kenpo school, and others. A professional educator and of a higher social status than many of his contemporaries, Nakaima held strong convictions regarding the responsibilities of a martial artist and teacher. This unique background and uncompromising standard set Nakaima apart from many islanders that sought the development of martial arts for financial gain in the wake of the Second World War.

Nakaima Kenko was a well-respected leader in the Okinawan martial arts community and was a key figure in the growth of several organized movements of the late 1950s through the 1960s. He remained an important figure in the development of martial arts on Okinawa until his death in 1989. The current leader of the system is Nakaima Kenji, the 5th generation Soke of the family art and a well accomplished martial arts master in his own right, respected throughout Japan.

Currently, the Nakaima family has disassociated itself from the sport Karate groups and maintains no affiliation, other than supporting the endeavors of previous students of Nakaima. The teachings of the art of Ryueiryu as practiced by the Nakaima family adhere to the code of martial virtue contrasting greatly from the competitive mindset. Karate, as practiced in the Nakaima Family original art is complete physical art form, a wonderful discipline of health as well as a way of life. As such, students of authentic Ryueiryu believe that a real martial artist trained in the tradition should be modest and never brag about his own achievements or proficiency, always keeping in mind the example and directions of our predecessors. A martial artist should be ready to learn from others and strive to learn from every situation in both training and life.

Most written information widely available in the English language about the Ryuei Ryu system is, to a large degree, inaccurate. There are more kata that are contained in the system, various categories of martial strategy and technique, health and wellness practices and other methods that make the system an obviously Chinese based martial arts system, as opposed to a "style" of karate. Adding to the confusion of the published information previously available about the Ryuei Ryu are the writings and video efforts of former world renowned Karate competitor Tsuguo Sakumoto of Japan, both of which only demonstrate a variation of the Karate that he personally learned from Kenko Nakaima, re-arranged for modern sports competition.[dubious ]

Today, legitimate Ryuei Ryu remains a relatively unknown combative system of Chinese origin, with a few of the style's more unique kata being modified for sports competition. This is largely due to the introduction of the art into the sport karate arena during the mid-1980s by several of the students of Nakaima Kenko.

Video of Tsuguo Sakumoto Sensei has no mention of several people who claim to be instructors for the Ryuei Ryu system that are in the US and abroad. Also explains that his Ryuei Ryu is his version, and not the only version.[2]

Current Instructors of Ryueiryu Worldwide:


  • Kinjo
  • Sakumoto
  • Matsuda
  • Oshiro
  • Uezu
  • Tamayose




  • Ramos, José Ramón [6]


Among the kata of Ryuei-ryu are the following karate kaishu kata:

  • Sanchin (サンチン?)
  • Niseishi (ニセーシー?) 二十四歩
  • Sanseirui (サンセールー?)
  • Seiunchin (セーユンチン?)
  • Seisan (セーサン?)
  • Pachu (パーチュー?) 巴球
  • Tensho
  • Kururunfa (クルルンファ?)
  • Suparimpei
  • Ohan (オーハン?)
  • Heiku (ヘイクー?) 黒虎
  • Paiku (パイクー?) 白虎
  • Paiho 1 (パイホー?) 白鶴 1
  • Paiho 2 (パイホー?) 白鶴 2
  • An-nan 安南 1
  • An-nan 安南 2

Other kata & weaponry sets


Ryu Ru Ko was the teacher of Kenri Nakaima, and the main personal bodyguard to the Chinese Emperor during the Qing Dynasty.


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