In the above photograph one can see Uechi Kanbun. On the far right is a sign, which is explained below the image.
Most characters on the plate are Japanese Kanji, so characters that have a specific meaning. So it is clear from the sign that the teacher (Kiyoshi) Uechi Kanbun teaches karate (Jutsu=martial arts) in this training hall (Kenkyusho). At the right edge is the kanji “Ryu” which can be translated as “style”. This means that the characters above tells us the name of style. However, these characters are no kanji, like all other characters, but so-called Katakana. These characters have no literal meaning, but are a syllabary. Katakana are often used to transfer foreign words in the Japanese writing. The katakana on the sign are pronounced “Pangainuun” (german pronunciation, in english “Pangainoon”). The style therefore bears this name. The meaning of the word is unclear.
At least one other source exists regarding the term “Pangainuun”. In 1934, in the Japanese Journal “Research on the Empty Hand” was published an article in which a meeting with Uechi Kanbun is described. The author of the essay is called “Student Mabuni” and may be Mabuni Kenwa, the later founder of the Karate style Shito-Ryu. In this paper, the style “Pangainuun” is also mentioned. It is written once “パンガヰヌーン” (like the sign above) and once “パンガヰヌゥン”. As “ヌ” is pronounced “nu” (english: “no”), “ー” is an extension of the preceding vowel (the “u”; english “o”), and “ゥ” is also “u” (english: “o”) pronounced, the other notation does not lead to another writing. A typo on the sign is therefore very unlikely.
The vast majority of Uechika assume that Pangainuun means “semi-hard – semi-soft”. This is from a similarity of the words “pan” with “han” (Japanese for “half”), “gai” with “kowai” (Japanese for “hard”) and “nuun” (english: “noon”) with “nan” (Japanese for “soft” ) derived. Against this view is the fact that the sign was probably written by a person who could write the Japanese Kanji. If there is really a similarity as described above, then this person would certainly have understood the meaning of the words “Pangainuun”. But in this case there would have been no need for writing the name of style in katakana. Instead, the person would have used the kanji “半硬软” (which is Japanese for “semi-hard and soft”, pronounced as “hankonan”). An it is a fact that for a long time it was unclear what “Pangainuun” means. Therefore the alleged similarity can not exist. Since Uechi Kanbun spoke no Japanese, but was fluent in a Chinese language, there is a strong evidence that “Pangainuun” is a word from a Chinese language.
Interestingly, in the above-mentioned article of 1934 it is reported, that Uechi Kanbun was asked, what “Pangainuun” means. Uechi Kanbuns answer should have been: “exceptional fast”. In today’s Chinese language “quickly” can be translated with 快. This is pronounced something like “kuai” or “kai”. This could be the “gai” of “Pangainuun”. However, there is no explanation for the components “pan” and “nuun” because the word “extraordinary” can not be translated in a way that it corresponds to the pronunciation of these constituents.
As the Uechi Ryu Karate seams similar to martial arts styles of the Chinese minority Hakka the word “Pangainuun” could also come from the language of the Hakka.
In summary it can be stated that the view that Pangainuun means “semi-hard – semi-soft”, is not convincing or not sufficiently substantiated. A more convincing another view exists not yet.