Andrew Peterson, (3rd Degree Black Belt). Uechi-Ryu Bio for Andrew Peterson
My current rank is Sandan Uechi-Ryu. I started studying karate in high school several decades ago when one of the freshmen started a karate club. Our instructor was a Shodan in Shotokan who was also a Methuen MA police officer. When I went to college one of the upper classmen was teaching Goju-Ryu. He was also a Shodan, and in his spare time a bouncer in some of the tougher bars in Western Pennsylvania. He was a very tough instructor, and if nothing else we learned to fight. Here I earned my green belt. At that time (mid 70’s) there was not the emphasis on rank as there is today, you simply studied and once you where good enough your teacher would test you, and if you passed you got the next color belt. There were only four colors, white, green, brown and black, no stripes, and no interim steps.
About this time I got my younger brother interested in karate, and when he asked our mother if he could study, she took him to the only school in town, a Uechi-Ryu school affiliated with George Mattson. This was before the mass proliferation of Korean style karate schools we have today, so there was very little choice as to where to study. While I was away in college, my brother progressed up the ranks, and I would come home for the summer and study Uechi. At that time I had the experience of having my younger brother a higher rank, and teaching me the katas and techniques. While at the Scituate dojo, I also earned a Gokyu, green belt, in Uechi-Ryu.
My brother progressed to advanced brown belt, and was teaching many of the children’s classes. Unfortunately, when he went away to school, they lost not just my brother, but some of the other teachers as well, so the school closed. Our choice then became to find another Uechi school. This is when we found Victor Moulton, or Moutli as he was known. So every evening when we were home we would take the drive up to either Quincy or Weymouth to where he was teaching. After graduating college, I was then able to study full time, receiving my Shodan from him in the fall of 1980.
Unfortunately he had to close the school due to personal reasons, and I began a long hiatus from martial arts studies. I got married, went to grad school, we had a son, moved away from the South Shore (of Massachusetts) and found ourselves in Central MA, south of Worcester. When my son started the sixth grade he was picked on by one or two older boys, and my wife decided maybe he needs to learn to defend himself, so she enrolled him in a Kempo school in Webster, the next town. While observing class, I realized two things, one how much I missed working out, and two, that I could teach as well or better than the instructor in the Kempo School. I contacted George Matson, and found a place to start training again. I was fortunate to be referred to Fedele Cacia’s school in Natick. At that time Fedele had won the Uechi World championship in Dan Kumite the previous three years in a row. So I knew I was in a good school. The other benefit I had was to be invited to George’s “Wednesday Night” classes at Fedele’s school. This was an excellent opportunity to grow with and be challenged by some of the best Uechi practitioners in New England. This prepared me for passing my Nidan test in May of 1999.
At this time I was teaching in Oxford and the local Vo-Tech school in the Adult education program. In 2000, my wife was transfered to Lancaster PA, and we had to leave Massachusetts. Where upon I came to the Collegeville School. Last May in 2003, I passed the test for Sandan.
I have also studied Kyoshu with George Dilman, and Evan Pantazi, basic knife fighting with Rafi Dederian, and Bo with Steven Drehobl.
Dorothy Reitman,(1st Degree Back Belt) My name is Dorothy Reitman. I first learned about Uechi Ryu Karate when I enrolled my granddaughter Michelle in Karate in the middle of Oct. 1999. She was getting hit and pushed while waiting for the bus, she needed to learn self defense.
I started studying Karate January 2000 and joined Michelle. We both worked hard for our yellow belts. Michelle stopped and I kept going. I have studied some weapons. I started to learn Modern Arnis (stick fighting) and a stick kata from Mike Antecki and Sai fighting from Steve Drehobl.
I achieved my Shodan or 1st degree black belt June 6th, 2003. You are taught that Karate is mind, body and spirit and it most definitely is. I have learned so much about myself. You do a lot of self exploration and I would never have done this on my own without Karate encouraging this process of self learning.
I have met some wonderful people while learning Karate. These people are willing to teach you everything they know and help you with anything you need to know. These people are beautiful and I have learned so much from them. I wrote an article and I had help from David Elkins who only wanted to see me ahieve.
Tom Damiani, (1st Degree Black Belt) Started Practicing Uechi 4-5 yrs ago. When I was little, I watched the Kung Fu TV show. Since then I have always had some type of interest in Karate. I knew a kid in high school who used to play around and show me how “cool” he was by taking Karate but I never did anything about it. Years later, I watched the Karate kid movies and still think that movies with karate in them were kind of cool. I always had an interest and a curiosity but like many people in the world, I never did anything about it.
One day my wife Jessica and I were chatting about doing some type of exercise program together. We though it might be fun and healthy of course. We were driving by the Uechi Ryu Karate Academy and she MADE me turn into the parking lot. The Sensei was there with the door open so she jumped out of the car to get some information. He came out to the car and shook my hand to make the introduction. As with many things in my life, I didn’t really care about getting off my butt to try something new and different. Thought it was easier to appease her by stopping in then to come up with an excuse as to why “I can’t do this”. She got the info and we took it home. Not sure how we got into the dojo from there except I was suddenly there and getting fitted for a Gi. It was definitely not something I would have initiated on my own so I have my wife to thank for getting me started.
From the first night, I thought it was cool. I was so naive that I never realized that there were different types of Karate. I guess I never thought about it. I thought that what you saw on TV was karate. It turned out that the kind of Karate I always wanted to do and had interests in was Uechi. Or should I say, some type of Okinawain (Karate Kid), Chinese (Kung FU) style. Of course I had no clue then and even today I wonder how much I really understand its origins.
Once I got going, I couldn’t get enough. I thought about it all the time. Practiced circle blocks on my steering wheel while driving, walked with my toes pointing in (which really hurt by the way), pushed doors open with wrists blocks and jabbed everything in site. I must have looked crazy but I didn’t care. I was so into it. Jessica and I made efforts to practice in the living room together. If you have ever seen my living room you would understand how difficult that could be. After about two months Jessica and I both passed our tests and got our yellow belts. It was a really cool time. Shortly after that Jessica hurt her back and had to give it up for a while. Unfortunately she never got herself back into it, but I went full speed ahead.
Years later, I passed the test for my black belt.
All during the workouts with Sensei Drehobl and Sensei Peterson, they often spoke about how “not to fight”. That was a concept that was kind of hard to grasp in some ways. Looking back, I now realize that having your mind in touch with your body and spirit can be more advantageous than being strong and knowledgeable about fighting. Many situations arise in life that require clear thinking more than a hard fist. Most times the way you win a fight is to not fight at all.
We occasionally run self-defense seminars for adult women of all ages. These seminars concentrate on how to avoid hairy situations and how to get out of a jam if one should arise, more than how to knock someone out with one punch. We of course, showed them a few helpful jabs to give their attacker something to think about which everyone always enjoys. Helping with the seminars taught me what it really means to be involved with the martial arts. The feeling of helping people takes on a whole new dimension when you can tell that they understood what you are saying and their whole body language changes. Many women would come into the seminar scared of what they might learn. Most leave with their head held high, laughing and enjoying themselves. It is amazing what a little self-confidence will do for a person.
In the years I have studied Uechi Ryu Karate, I have not won any trophies or rewards, except for patches and such for helping with this that or the other. I have however, been rewarded in many ways. Rewards come in many shapes and sizes.
Helping children learn the martial arts is a blast in itself. Kids are like sponges and so much fun. Teach them right, and they can grow to be good teachers themselves. When a kid looks at me with eyes wide open, you can see “when the light comes on” and they got it. 10 minutes later they are showing one of their friends what I showed them and you can see the excitement because they understand what they are saying. What a great feeling! When I got pulled on the side by a parent thanking me for spending the extra time with their child, I felt like a king. Rewarded? You bet cha. I never thought I would ever make a difference in someone’s life. Now I know that it can be possible.
Uechi Ryu Karate and the Martial Arts have given me more confidence, excitement, pleasure, hard work and rewards than I would have ever imagined possible.
Ron Bywaters,(1st Degree Back Belt). Why I Began and Continue Studying Uechi Ryu.
I’d have to say there are probably a large number of contributing factors as to why I began studying Uechi Ryu Karate Do. As I age I have reached the conclusion that we as people are the sum total of our genetic makeup and our life experiences. For this reason, even what may seem like bad decisions or unpleasant experiences still contribute to who we are today. I believe it is best to accept our identity and as mature intelligent people make positive decision that affect who we will be tomorrow. This may a slight bit philosophical but I believe my decision to begin studying a Martial Arts started long before I physically took the first step.
Having spent the majority of my youth in the seventies, I watch my fair share of Kung Fu movies as a child. As such, I had always had a fascination with the agility of the people in the movies and their ability to effortlessly defend themselves. As with most children, as I matured, I began to realize there was a marked difference between the movies and reality. I still appreciated, that although the movies were larger than life, the actors still had abilities beyond those of the average person.
From what I’ve seen most young boys have a fascination with the Martial Arts and never pursue any formal training, so obviously this was not the lone factor in my decision. I believe another part of the equation was the fact that as a child, I encountered more than my fair share of being bullied. Although I was almost always the youngest member of my class, by the time I reached fourth or fifth grade I was one of the biggest. This coupled with the fact that I was extremely even-tempered, somewhat over weight and rather un-athletic made me an easy target. I believe it was at this point that I began to consider studying Karate. I never pursued it; as I was intimidated and felt I would not be successful in my attempt to study. It’s somewhat ironic that one of the things about the martial arts that interested me also discouraged me.
It wasn’t until the end of seventh grade that the bullying was reduced to a level encountered by the average adolescent. This occurred after a brief altercation followed by a four-day suspension from school for fighting. I was hardly someone to fear, but I had ceased to be a sure bet for an easy target.
Things gradually improved through Junior High and High School. Hardly athletic, I played soccer in eleventh and twelfth grade and my general coordination and fitness had improved some. By the time I reached college, I developed an interest in weight training and exercise. This interest has stuck with me, but by the time I reached my early thirties I had developed some nagging aches and pains from the continued stress from performing the same exercises.
By the time I reached 34, I had decided to cut back on the weight training some. Spending fewer hours in the gym and the fact that my wife and I were separated at the time, left me with a surplus of free time. I had always had an interest and felt it would be prudent to improve my abilities to defend my family and myself. Furthermore I wasn’t getting any younger, so I figured it was now or never. I have since discovered your never too old to start the journey of studying a martial art. If you start later in life you may simply have to follow a slightly different path.
I had taken the first step and decided I was going to study a martial art. Never being one to pursue something without any forethought, the decision was now what martial art to study. I had known people in school who had studied Japanese styles of Karate. I realize now it’s an unfair judgment, but they had an arrogance that at the time turned me off to that type of Martial Art. For this reason, I began my search with the intention of studying a style of Kung Fu.
The search started with determining what styles were available in my geographical area. I had also talked my then 12-year-old daughter in to possibly studying. We visited several schools in the area and ultimately chose to study Uechi Ryu. Some of my reasons for this choice were that it had a reputation as a practical and affective style with it’s roots little more than a hundred years removed from a Southern China style of Kung Fu It doesn’t require one to be a proficient gymnast or have above average flexibility, and can be studied even as one ages. Thus we began studying in January of 2001.
After 2-1/2 years of training, I earned my Shodan (Black Belt) in June of 2003. It was always my understanding that this was the do all and end all of Karate. After 3-1/2 years of training, I have since learned, that I have only scratched the surface. There is always more to learn as well as room for improvement. In addition to the normal classes, I have attended three Seminars conducted by Sensei Thompson. I also found the time to study Yammani Ryu Bo Jutsu (6 ft staff) for a year, prior to some changes at work and increased family demands. At this time, I continue to study with my daughter trying to maintain a balance between Family, Job and my training.