History of Seidokan Karate Kobudo & Toide
By Boulahfa Mimoun Sensei (8th Dan)
Bienvenido a la Asoc. Nac. SAKURA TAKE KAN
Shian Toma Sensei was born on November 26, 1929 under the astrological sign of Sagittarius. He is married, has five children, and is a grandfather. Toma Sensei's son holds the rank of 6th Dan in Kendo and is a member of the Okinawan Kendo Team, having been on numerous occasions the Okinawan Kendo Champion. He continues his profession as a police officer. Toma Sensei had his first dojo in the city of Awase. Later he moved his dojo to Koza (currently Okinawa City) where it has been for a long time, near the local US Air Force Base at Kadena where sensei worked as a bus driver. He established his dojo outside of Gate 2 just two blocks to the left. It originally started out as a restaurant but when it did not work out well it was converted into the Seidokan Hombu Dojo which lasted until approximately 1994. Toma Sensei lived upstairs above the dojo.
Nearby still is the dojo of Toguchi Sensei of (Shorei-kan) Goju, which then (1987) was located in Goya in a military zone until it was later transferred into a top floor building closer to Kadena Air Base near Gate 2. The dojo is still operated, as it was then, by Kuba Sensei. Toma Sensei retired from his job in 1989. He belongs to a generation of Instructors who hold to the old ways (methods) of teaching. He speaks very little and does not transmit his knowledge with ease. In this respect, he is like the Masters of old. After training with him and asking him questions about his instructors or other items of curiosity he would never answer. However, on more than one occasion after class at night during the early morning hours he would say "Ask all that you want there is no problem." And this is what I have continued doing over the years.
Of Nakamura Shigero Sensei he would tell me, "When he taught at the gym it was not a problem but when you began to train Karate with him he would have others say upon inquiry of his whereabouts that he was out to lunch or he was at the gym". I hope I understood correctly, as he seemed to imply he wanted us to keep others away from him. Toma Sensei would also tell me that Nakamura Shigero Sensei never performed "dachi wazas" (or formal stances). But we'll talk more about Nakamura Sensei another time. Of Hohan Soken Sensei he would tell me with great pride how one day he was able to disarm his BO from him with a block he was working on.
Toma Shian Sensei began his martial arts training at the age of 16 in the city of Osaka Japan where he lived for approximately a year during the Second World War. Upon his return to Okinawa, he began to study under the direction of his classmate and friend Sokin Shinjato Sensei, who of all his friends the most qualified to teach. Shinjato Sensei was a student of the famous Miyagi Choju Sensei (1888 - 1953) who was the founder of Goju Ryu. He was also a student of Tatsuo Shimabukuro Sensei, who passed away in 1975, the founder of Isshin Ryu, as well as having studied with various other Okinawan instructors. Toma Sensei tells on numerous occasions that in the beginning stages of Karate there were not so many styles or systems like those that we have today. In those days, it was all called Okinawan Karate.
Another interesting aspect of Karate is in the beginning is that the majority of the instructors only knew a small number of katas. In fact, it was not unusual to find an instructor who only taught one kata. However, as they made comparisons and revisions to the katas, the numbers of katas grew. Shinjato Sensei taught the following katas: Seisan, Sanchin and a Bo kata. It was from Grandmaster Miyagi Sensei that Shinjato Sensei learned Sanchin, which emphasizes hard internal breathing. This Sanchin differs from today's Sanchin in its breathing as well as its movements of the hands. Shinjato Sensei, who was a police officer by profession, studied directly under Grandmaster Miyagi Sensei while he taught at the Okinawan Police Academy.
One incident occurred when Toma Shian Sensei had the opportunity of demonstrating Sanchin kata before Grandmaster Miyagi Sensei during a training session at the Police Academy. We should not confuse Shinzato Jinan Sensei who represented Miyagi Sensei in Japan in the first demonstration of Karate that took place and that which later would promote the name of Goju Ryu. Regarding the reduced number of katas, we should not presume that they did not practice much on kata. Toma Sensei admits and comments that he dedicated an entire year to learning and practicing of the kata Seisan before he could begin his study of Sanchin. Perhaps this is why the ancient instructors in Okinawa were so strict in the practice of kata.
Through out the 60's, Toma Shian Sensei associated himself with the All Japan Karate Association (A.J.K.A). At this time he was a student of Toma Seiki Sensei, and his training partners during this time period were Seikichi Odo Sensei and Kise Fusei Sensei, among others. Seiki Toma also was a student of the Great Grandmaster Shimabukuro Zenryo Sensei. I had once had an interview with Shimabukuro Eizo Sensei, 10 Dan Grandmaster and brother of Shimabukuro Tatsuo Sensei, founder of Isshin Ryu Karate. Both were students of Kyan Chotoku Sensei. I had the opportunity to ask about Toma Seiki Sensei and he (Eizo) told me that he had introduced him to Shimabukuro Zenryo Sensei, a student of Kyan Chotoku Sensei.
Kyan Sensei was nicked named as CHAN MIN (1870 - 1945) (translators note: Also pronounced Chan Migwa. Chan - the Chinese pronunciation of Kyan. Migwa - this means "Monkey Chan", referring to his abilities). He told me that Kyan Sensei was very skilled at climbing trees and jumping from one to another, hanging by his feet with his head downward so he could defend himself against potential enemies. These techniques Eizo Sensei mastered to perfection as photos of him show.
Okinawa has always had a robust plant life but now, because of the population expansion, is losing much of its growth, as is sadly occurring in other parts of the world. Eizo Sensei was the youngest ever awarded 10th Dan in Okinawa having achieved this feat at the young age of 36. The karate style of Kyan Sensei is generally known as Kobayashi Ryu, a branch of Shorin Ryu. Other students of Kyan Sensei were: Shimabukuro Eizo Sensei - Director of Kobayashi Shorin Ryu, Nagamine Shoshin Sensei - founder of the Matsubayashi Branch of Shorin Ryu, Nakazato Joen Sensei and Arakaki Ankichi Sensei. Great Grandmaster Shimabukuro Zenryo Sensei died in 1969.
Toma Shian Sensei learned the majority of his katas from Toma Seiki Sensei, which he still practices and teaches today. These katas are Seisan, Wansu, Anaku, Passai Dai, Passai Sho, Pinan (1-5), Naihanchi, Chinto, Gojushiho, Kushanku, Sai kata and the Tonfa kata. The Seidokan Kama kata, as Toma Shian Sensei related it to me, was learned from an elderly gentleman who each time would demonstrate it and teach it differently so that after a period of time he was able to finish learning it in an unorthodox manner. This was all that Toma Shian Sensei has shared concerning Shorin Ryu.
During the 60's, there were some significant discrepancies in the All Japan Karate Association. The point of controversy was the traditional method of full contact kumite utilized in Okinawa. This type of kumite in Okinawa used body armor much similar to that used in Kendo (Japanese fencing). It was less brutal combat than Kendo and the knockouts from combat were more frequent. "Though not as brutal as kendo - Okinawan Kumite was brutal enough that it required body armour as compared to the A.J.K.A. kumite standards, which were non-contact based. Though not as frequent as in Kendo, knockouts were a common occurrence in Okinawan Kumite."
Since the A.J.K.A. was the first to integrate Okinawan Karate with Japanese Karate, conflicts arose between the various instructors of Okinawa, which called their own martial arts more appropriately "Ti", "te", or even Kenpo. The popular method of kumite used in Japan and still used today is non-contact. Generally, this was the accepted method of the A.J.K.A. for kumite that was taught, practiced, and officially authorized. Many opted, like Toma Shian Sensei, for the older method of hard contact kumite. These instructors felt that this was the true way of Okinawan karate. Toma Sensei had a good reputation of being a strong karate-ka and a strong fighter both in and out of the dojo. The discrepancy was also in regard to the name of Karate - which they wanted to call Kenpo, playing with the kanji in Okinawan common usage. They pushed for the ownership of what was uniquely their own. Because of this, they broke away from AJKA. Desiring to return to the old methods, they broke away from the A.K.J.A. and formed the Okinawan Kenpo Association headed by Nakamura Shigero Sensei and Shimabukuro Zenryo Sensei. Nakamura Sensei was the first chief instructor and the second president of the Association.
The Okinawan Kenpo Association grew and flourished for several years and then dissipated with the death of the founding two instructors. In 1969 the most famous and sought out instructors on Okinawa were members of the Association, some of whom at that time had other organizations of their own, such as those of Soken Hohan Sensei, Kina Sensei, Uehara Seikichi Sensei, Toma Seiki, Higa Seitoku Sensei, Ueichi Kanei Sensei and many others. Still today the school directed by its founder Nakamura Shigeru Sensei bears name of Okinawa Kenpo Karate which has nothing do with the previous organization except for the use of the word Kenpo. It was during this period while the majority of the instructors were under the same organization that it produced the majority of the exchanges of techniques and the opportunity for many of them to work with other instructors and to change instructors and schools.
During this period, Toma Shian Sensei (1967) entered into the membership of the All Okinawa Karate Kobudo Association headed by Grandmaster Uehara Seikichi Sensei. Uehara Sensei continues to head up the Motobu Ryu system. The name Motobu Ryu had to be changed from its prior name to Motobu Udundi Kobujutsu, since the first name had been registered by the son of Choki Motobu and by which the style of Motobu Choki Sensei is known. Motobu Chosei Sensei, the son of Motobu Choki, is the student of Uehara Sensei and currently the vice president of Motobu Udundi. Motobu Udundi is very little known martial art of Okinawa, which strongly resembles the old method of fighting utilized by the Japanese Samurai. It resembles Aikido in its unarmed methods, though defenses are more linear.
The throws and locks/joint manipulations of Motobu Udundi are more similar to the ancient aikijujitsu of Japan, to draw a comparison. As far as the punches and kicks, the similarities to karate are very scant since blocks don't exist, or are avoided in any case. There are no set stances and everything is done while walking. There are also no katas, although the instructors did know katas from other systems, such as Motu di Ichi, Ufuken etc. The majority of the basic katas were created by Uehara Seikichi Sensei because of the need of evolution more than for the pure teaching purposes. In respect to weapons training there is a strong influence from China.
Uehara Sensei learned his art from Motobu Choyu Sensei, the older brother of the aforementioned Motobu Choki Sensei. Motobu Choyu Sensei learned his techniques from Bushi "Warrior" Sokon Matsumura Sensei. Originally, these techniques with and without weapons were introduced in our day as Motobu Udundi. Motobu Udundi is also known by some as Go-ten-Te, which literally translates as Palace Hand. This was because Motobu Udundi has had a long relationship with the Okinawan Kings over the centuries. I should point out that the weapons used by Uehara Sensei included those weapons normally found in traditional Japanese Bu-Jutsu Schools. These weapons include the Katana (sword), Yari (spear), and the Naginata (halberd). Therefore, Motobu-Udundi Kobujutsu and Bu-Jutsu are historical arts along the lines of Japanese Samurai tradition. Also utilized are the traditional Okinawan weapons such as the Sai, Tonfa, Nunchaku, and the Kama, etc. From China the Ryoba, Banto, the Yamaraji etc. From Uehara Sensei, Toma Shian Sensei learned the aforementioned throws and locks, the usage of a large arsenal of weapons, and Iai-Jutsu (the art of unsheathing the sword).
Today, all these varied techniques are still incorporated in Seidokan. With the inclusion of all these techniques, Seidokan has become a complete fighting art, which includes Karate, Toide, Kobudo and the techniques of the Katana (Iai). It is an art that requires of the student an open, strong, flexible and patient mind. Seidokan according to Toma Shian Sensei himself is a "JU" (soft) style. The transitional jumps to the various stances such as the Neko Ashi Dachi, or the rapid movement from one position to another demonstrate that one must practice the style as like if they were small, agile and fast. Remember that Kyan Chotoku Sensei was a small person.
Today there are many schools located throughout the world: Spain, Great Britain, Greece, New Zealand, Columbia, Norway, Belgium, Zambia, Zimbabwe, etc. Besides, Okinawa, Japan, and the United States which all teach this complete Martial Arts created by a man named Shian Toma.
I first met Toma Sensei in the United States in Philadelphia thanks to the introduction and recommendation of my friend and fellow practitioner Jerry Hobbs. In this country, the annual convention with all the members of the system was being held. I met Jerry Hobbs in Greece in 1984 during some international championships. We both performed numerous demonstrations. I assisted him in his demonstration as his uke and he assisted me in the execution of the Judo Kata, Itsutsu no Kata. It was Jerry Hobbs that was responsible for giving me all the basic knowledge of Seidokan, for which I truly thank him with these few lines. It was an intense week during which we lived at Bob Teller Sensei's (7th Dan) home, the event organizer. The last days, after the demonstrations and the farewell dinner, we retired to our rooms at the Holiday Inn. I say this because normally in the United States, Gatherings or Championships are celebrated at the banquet halls of this type of hotel, which for me this was something totally new. Returning to the story, while I was in my room, Sensei sent an invitation for me to come to his room for some drinks, which I took to mean my acceptance as a student by Toma Shian Sensei. Later we continued our seeing each other once or twice a year sharing many hours of training and conversation.
Editorial Note: This article, originally written in Spanish by Mimoun Sensei was translated under the collaboration of Miguel Jurna Sensei and Eddy Shumacher Sensei . Both are active practitioners of Seidokan Karate who have attempted to translate this article keeping with the original intention of the author. Wording was rearranged as necessary (or inserted) for grammar, clarity and the original intent of the author. Mimoun Sensei was consulted at various levels of the translation to insure the accuracy of the contents was kept. Okinawan names are written in the Okinawan format. The original document can be found and read in Spanish at http://www.aucal.edu/instituciones/sakuratakekan/escuelas/seidokan/index.htm
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