Martial arts have always intrigued me. As a child I would purchase booklets on judo throws and pressure points, and practice them on friends and family. After playing sports throughout my early years, I sought an activity that could be continued through college and beyond. After observing several karate schools in the Hartford area, I began the study of Uechi-Ryu Karate in March 1971 under Sensei John Spencer. The early years of training were exciting. With many students in their teens and early twenties we were constantly testing our techniques on each other. Though my ultimate goal was to achieve the rank of green belt………I obtained my black belt after 3½ years of intensive study. Also, as a student at UCONN during that time, I trained with students practicing other styles of martial arts. By comparing Uechi Ryu to the other styles, it helped me to gain insight into what I was doing, and also shaped my perspective on the martial arts. It began to appear that a true martial arts system was well thought out, and somehow fit together at a number of different levels. After careful consideration, I decided that gaining proficiency in a true martial arts system was more valuable than having shallow exposure to many styles.
Any legitimate martial art is based on a time-tested system of training. It develops the student in a number of different areas, which eventually get linked together and build upon one another. Some of the more obvious areas are kata, kumite, bunkai, sparring and conditioning. The interaction between soft and hard concepts is difficult to understand without diligent and consistent practice in all of these areas. At an elementary level it provides feedback, and at a more advanced level it begins to establish the inter-relationships. For example, training with the makiwara is far more than just conditioning knuckles. Withstanding a hard pounding is simply the most obvious result of sanchin training. These elements of training provide clues into other, seemingly unrelated areas. This is the foundation for “classical training” which establishes the framework for growth. As the student attempts to link these aspects of training together, it elicits far more questions than there are answers. But as the student seeks to make sense of this, it provides glimpses toward their next level of training…… Though I had heard Uechi Ryu Karate described as the “path of no limit” it took many years of study to truly comprehend the gravity of the phrase. But please be assured that there is no path unless you search for it.
It was a blessing to have stumbled onto Uechi Ryu Karate. To predict that this martial art would have such a profound affect on me could not be foreseen when the journey began. While the ultimate goal is to build an indomitable spirit, I try to stay focused on some of the more granular concepts along the way. First, being very aware keeps you open to learning and growth. Second, having a goal keeps you heading in the right direction. And third, being objective and honest provides a valuable tool to correct the occasional missteps off the path. The instructor and the system can provide the means, but success is very much tied to the will of the student! Mr. Piacentini is Renshi (6th degree black belt) and Shihan (Master Instructor).