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Hanshi Kanken Toyama

History of Shudokan

With the advent of Gichin Funakoshi's introduction of Okinawan Karate-Do to Japan in the early 1920's, the popularity of karate began to grow. Soon, other Okinawan masters began to travel to Japan to proliferate their arts. Once such man was Kanken Toyama, whose Okinawan name was Kanken Oyadamari. A school teacher by profession, Toyama's chosen avocation was the instruction of karate. He started his karate training at the age of 9 with a master named Itarashiki. His major teacher was the famous Itosu Yasutsune, with whom Toyama studied for 18 years. In 1907 Toyama became Itosu's assistant at Shuri dojo. Toyama became one of only two of Itosu's students to be granted the title of "Shihanchi", or protégé, of Itosu's O kuge (innermost secrets). Aside from learning Shorin-ryu from Itosu, Toyama studied and mastered their styles of karate from other notable master of Naha-te and Tomari-te, which included weapons arts.
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A few of his other teachers were, Aragaki, Azato. Chibana, Higaona, Oshiro, and Tana. Toyama's interest in martial arts was not limited to karate. He was considered an expert swordsman, as well. While on a six year assignment to teach elementary school in Japanese occupied Taiwan (1924- 1930), he studied Chinese martial arts with masters Chen Fong Tai in Taipei and Lim Fun Fong in Taichung. In 1895 the Dai Nippon Butokukai (Greater Japan Martial Virtue Society) was established by the Japanese government (Japanese Ministry of Education) to regulate all forms of Japanese Budo. The Dai Nippon Butokukai recognized Sensei Toyama’s unique training and mastership of all forms of Okinawan Karate-do, and in 1937 gave him an exclusive license to promote to any rank (Dan) or teacher’s title (Shogo), regardless of the type of Karate-do the promoted individual practiced. He was the only Karate-do teacher in Japan or Okinawa to ever be given this kind of license.
Toyama's first dojo was opened in Tokyo in 1930, and he quickly became famous for his Aka Ryoku (strong gripping methods of Itosu and Itarashiki). Some of the foremost Okinawan and Japanese Karate-do masters, who formed their own styles, received their 8th 9th or 10th Dan degrees or their teacher’s titles of Shihan or Hanshi from Kanken Toyama. For example, Sensei Eizo Shimabukuro, one of the most respected teachers of Shorin-ryu Karatedo in Okinawa, received his Judan (10th degree) from Toyama, as did Sensei Kanki Izumigawa, the founder of one of the largest systems of Goju-ryu Karatedo in Japan. The name of Toyama's school was Shudokan, which means "Institute for the cultivation of the way." Today, this term refers not only to his school, but also to his system. Shudokan karate is a composite system, encompassing Kobutjutsu (Ancient art, referring to the specialized weapons practice of Okinawan karate). There are also kata (formal exercises) that are unique to Shudokan karate. Shurite, sometimes known as Shorin-ryu, or Itosu-ha is a component of Shudokan karate. Its kata represent light, quick motions and a variety of power sources.
The main curriculum at Toyama’s dojo was Itosu’s Shuri-te type of training, sometimes called Itosu-ha (Itosu lineage) by historians. Most students did not learn the Naha-te, Tomari-te or Shina Kempo (Chinese Chuan-fa) unless that was their original training, and they came to Toyama to further their training in that form. Between 1930 and 1966, Sensei Toyama raised nearly 100 students to the Shihan level, and a few to the Hanshi level. Most were taught the Itosu-ha. The Naha-te system's forms, sometimes known as Goju-ryu, Shorie-ryu, or Higashiona- ha, represent strong rooted motions with an emphasis on internal breathing power sources include both hard, and soft. The Tomari-te style is generally considered an extinct system except in a few composite systems such as Shudokan. Tomari-te is characterized by the speed of the Shorin-ryu and the strength of the Naha-te, and also included its own soft type of power. Tomari-te included some tight yet sophisticated motions; and in appearance it is both graceful and noble. The aspect of weapons in Shudokan adds to its versatility and practicality. Weapons have also affected the empty hand forms in that the motions tend to be larger, often drawing a number of intersecting circles, with different parts of the body moving on different planes at the same time.
Shudokan is characterized by large circular motions with an emphasis on covering. The practice of extension of the motions develops power and physique. Deep narrow stances give the ability to change directions quickly. Soft power is taught along with sophisticated applications, which included throws, blocks, and chokes. Because of the balance between hard and soft power, this system promotes good heath. Shudokan, because of its physical character, has developed its own unique kata. One set of forms that were developed within the system is the Kyoku forms. There are seven kata in this group, starting with the very basic techniques, and building into long complex form, in a set progression. Originally taught only at the Hombu Dojo (Headquarters School), even the most basic of these kata were reserved for members who held a third degree black belt or higher. These forms were developed to represent the fighting techniques of the system and were considered secret.
Another unique set of forms created by Shudokan are; Sonshin, Kakashin, and Choshin. These forms are used to develop and concentrate the potential of an individual. As an educator, Toyama believed his system should not stagnate. This intention was built into the system to allow for its continued growth of both the individual and style. This account is edited information that has been provided by Hanshi Walter Todd (the American Shudokan Association), and the East Asian Cultural Institute.
Masters of Karate in Tokyo (1930’s) (From Left) Toyama Kanken, Ohtsuka Hironori, Shimoda Takeshi, Funakoshi Gchin, Motobu Choki, Mabuni Kenwa, Nakasone Genwa and Taira Shinken.