STORY OF SEIDOKAN KARATE KOBUDO
By Col Roy J. Hobbs
The April 1984 edition of “Official Karate” magazine carried an article that I had authored on Seidokan history. Since I first opportunity to live in Japan (1980-83), I have learned much more about the history of Seidokan and the many individuals that contributed to its development prompting the revision of that initial article. I fully anticipate that, as years pass and more details become known, it will again become necessary to again update this story. I also grant permission for this article to be used by all Seidokan stylists throughout the world. Please feel free to use it in your training manuals, on your web pages, and as a resource for teaching and explaining Seidokan Karate Kobudo.
The following is the story of Seidokan Karate Kobudo as well as the story of Shian Toma, the founder of Seidokan Karate Kobudo. Shian Toma and others related many details, dates, figures, etc., to me personally. Please note the majority of dates are approximate, as many years have passed since most of these events occurred.
Shian Toma was born on the island of Okinawa in 1929. He first studied Karate at the age of 16 in the city of Osaka, on mainland Japan, where he lived for a year during the Second World War. Upon his return to Okinawa, he began to study from Sokishi Shinjato. Shinjato Sensei studied from the famous Chojun Miyagi (1888-1953), who founded Goju-Ryu, from Tatsuo Shimabuku (1908-1975), the founder of Isshin-Ryu and was a prominent student of Chotoku Kyan (Shorin-Ryu). It is believed Shinjato Sensei studied from others as well, but specifically who is not clear.
Shinjato Sensei taught four kata: Seisan, Sanchin, Chinto, and bo kata. It was from Miyagi that Shinjato learned Sanchin kata, which emphasizes strong breathing technique. Shinjato Sensei, a policeman by profession, studied from Miyagi while he was teaching at the police academy. It is noteworthy that Shian Toma had the opportunity to perform Sanchin kata before Chojun Miyagi, during a training session at the police academy.
Shian Toma related on numerous occasions, that in the early years, there was not the wide differentiation of styles that we know today. Historically, Karate was simply Karate. Another interesting point is, in the early years, most sensei taught only a very small number of kata. In fact, it would not have been unusual, to find a sensei teaching only one kata. But, as there was comparison and sharing of kata, the number grew.
With respect to the small number of kata, it should not be deduced that there was little kata practice. Shian Toma readily admits that he spent over a year learning and practicing Seisan kata before being allowed to go on to Sanchin kata. Perhaps this is one of reason why many of the old Okinawan masters are so strict as to the precise execution of the kata.
Shian Toma went on to study Shorin-Ryu Karate and Kobudo (weaponry) from Seiki Toma. Seiki Toma studied under many notable teachers, among these were Shinsuke Kaneshima (Tozan-Ryu), Shoshin Nagamine (Shorin-Ryu), Zenryo Shimabuku (Shorin-Ryu), and Tatsuo Shimabuku (Shorin-Ryu/Isshin-Ryu). It is from Seiki Toma that Shian Toma learned most of the kata he teaches today. The kata learned from Seiki Toma were Seisan, Anaku, Wansu, Passai, Pinan 1-5, Naihanchi, Passai Sho, Gojushiho, Chinto, Kusanku, Tokumine No Kun, sai kata, and tonfa kata. Seikichi Odo, of Hon Ryukyu Kenpo, is a former student of Seiki Toma as well.
Shian Toma also practices and teaches a kama kata. The story behind how he came to practice this kama kata is very interesting. The story relates that he and a couple of other relatively young karateka went to a famous kobudo teacher who was noted for his kama technique; I believe this teacher to be Matsutaro Ire. Shian Toma related that Ire Sensei was very old at the time and his memory was failing. Ire Sensei died at the age of 92 in 1971. Each time Shian Toma and the others trained with Ire Sensei, the kata changed. As a result the others gave up out of frustration. Shian Toma stuck with it and eventually took the varying versions and synthesized them into a single kata, thus preserving the kama technique of Ire Sensei for all times.
The martial arts political scene of Okinawa has often changed over the years. One change, in the mid sixties, was that the All Japan Karate Association split into a number of factions. Sparring style was the gist of this split. The most widely accepted method of sparring in Japan, was, and still is, the “controlled contact” variety. It was generally felt, by the All Japan Karate Association, that this “controlled contact” sparring should be taught, practiced, and officially sanctioned. One of the main points of contention was the traditional full contact method of sparring utilized on Okinawa. This type of sparring employed the use of body armor similar to that used in Kendo (Japanese fencing). It was quite brutal and knockouts were not uncommon. Since the main goal of the All Japan Karate Association was to integrate the Karate of Okinawa, now officially part of Japan, with the Karate of the main islands of Japan, conflict was bound to arise.
Many, like Shian Toma, were brought up in the “hard” way and felt it was the true Okinawan way. Shian Toma also had the reputation for being a tough, no nonsense karateka, and was well respected for his fighting abilities both inside and outside the dojo. Thus, the split occurred, and the Okinawa Kempo Association was formed, made up of similarly traditional hard and tough sensei.
The Okinawa Kempo Association thrived for several years. Then, in 1968, it officially merged with the All Okinawa Karate and Kobudo Association headed by Seikichi Uehara. Uehara Sensei was, and is currently, the head of the Motobu-Ryu system of Okinawan Bu-Jutsu (martial arts). Motobu-Ryu, or more correctly “Motobu Udun Ti,” is relatively little known outside Okinawa. Sensei Uehara learned his art from Choyu Motobu, the older brother of the renowned Choki Motobu. It was from “Bushi” (warrior) Sokon Matsumura that Choyu Motobu originally learned the techniques, both weaponry and unarmed methods, which eventually became known as Motobu-Ryu. The art is sometimes referred to as “Palace Hand” because of its association with the royal court of the Okinawan kings. To the untrained eye, it resembles Aikido in its unarmed methods. However, the throwing and joint-locking techniques are more similar to Japanese Aiki Ju-Jutsu or Chinese Chin Na. The style’s weaponry includes such things as Chinese broad swords, katana (Japanese long sword), yari (spear), and naginata (halberd).
It was from Uehara Sensei that Shian Toma learned the throwing, joint locking, and Iai waza (quick draw sword techniques) that he often teaches in his classes today. With the inclusion of these techniques, Seidokan became a more total fighting art consisting of punching, striking, kicking, throwing, joint locking, and a variety of weapons. There are now many schools throughout the world teaching this unique art.