The late great martial arts grandmaster, Kanken Toyama,
was born in Shuri, Okinawa on the 21st year of Meiji, September 24,
1888. His given name was Kanken Oyadamari and he born into to a noble
In 1897 Toyama Kanken began his formal training in karate-do
under Master Itarashiki. Later, he apprenticed himself
to Anko Itosu, who then became his primary teacher and was his inspirational
guide. He continued studying under Itosu until Itosu's death
Toyama was a school teacher by profession, and his chosen
field of instruction was karate-do. In 1907 Toyama was named
Shihandai (assistant) to Itosu at the Okinawa Teacher's College
in Shuri City, and in 1914 he held a high office at the Shuri First
Elementary School. Toyama was one of only two students to be granted
the title of Shihanshi (protege); Gichin Funakoshi was the other
to receive this title from Itosu.
In 1924 Toyama Kanken moved his family to Taiwan
where he taught elementary school and studied related systems of
Chinese Ch'uan Fa ( kempo/kwan-bop ). This included Taku (Hakuda
in Japanese language ), Makaitan, Rutaobai, and Ubo. Taku is one
of central China's Hotsupu (northern school) Ch'uan Fa and is further
classified as Neikung Ch'uan Fa (Shorei Kempo), that is, an internal
method. Makaitan and Rutaobai, which the techniques of nukite (spear
hand) came, and Ubo, all belong to the Nampa (southern school)
Ch'uan Fa and are external methods or Waikung Ch'uan Fa (Shorei
Kempo). These later three styles hail primarily from Taiwan and
Fukuden, China. Toyama sensei was also known to have studied and
taught Tai Chi Ch'uan Fa. Koyasu sensei studied t'ai chi from Toyama.
Early in 1930 Toyama moved again from Taiwan to
mainland Japan and on 20 March 1930 he opened his first dojo in
Tokyo. He called his dojo Shu Do Kan meaning "The Hall for
the Study of the Way" (in this case the karate-way). Toyama
sensei did not claim to originate a new style, system or school
of thought, nor did he combine the different styles he had learned.
Those who studied under him basically learned Itosu's
Shorin Ryu and the related ch'uan fa.
In 1946, Toyama Kanken, now a Dai Shihan, founded the All
Japan Karate-Do Federation (AJKF). There is some evidence
that the AJKF actually got its start in 1930's, however the federation
evolved into a full fledged organization when it was officially
documented and sanctioned in 1946. Toyama's intention when establishing the AJKF organization was to unify the karates of
Japan and Okinawa into one governing organization, providing a
forum for the exchange of ideas and technique. The federation became
an authority for rank approval and advancement issuing rank
certification, and also created a forum for competition. This competition
group later pioneered full contact sparring which used modified
ken-do protective equipment or bogu. The AJKF was successful in
attracting important notable people from outside the organization such as Dr. Tsuyoshi
Chitose, the founder of Chito Ryu Karate-Do. Dr. Chitose served
in several senior positions in the federation including president
Toyama's specialties in karate-do were strong
gripping methods (Useishi No Kata and the Aku Ryoku Ho) of Itosu
and Itarashiki and similar Chinese methods of finger and hand strengthening.
He was the author of books Karate-do Taihokan and Karate-do. In
1949 Toyama was awarded a special title of honor by the Governor
of Okinawa, Mr. Shikioku Koshin. Aside from learning Shorin-Ryu
from Itosu, Toyama studied and mastered other styles of karate
from other notable masters of Naha-te and Tomari-te which also
included Okinawan Kobu-do. A few of his other teachers were Aragaki,
Azato, Chibana, Oshiro, Tana, and Yabu.
It is also thought that when the Korean (Ch'uan
fa) master, Yoon Byung-In came to train at his gymnasium, he also
studied Northern Manchurian Kwan-bop with him. It is alleged that
Toyama Kanken said that he and Yoon Byung-In should share techniques.
Later Yoon Byung-In returned to Korea as a shihan of the Shudokan
and taught that style there.
Although Toyama Kanken produced many capable instructors
trained in his Shudokan style, he really did not view the Shu Do
Kan as a style of karate-do, merely a place for training. Consequently,
he did appoint a successor or Shudokan style head to succeed him
and as a result the Toyama system fragmented after his death in
In 1952, Master Onishi, a senior student, founded Koei
Kan Ryu. Political differences in the national
Japanese politics caused Toyama to give him permission and full blessing
to proceed on his own. It is not clear why he did this as he departed
long before his teacher died and was apparently deprived of a very
close relationship with Toyama.
After Toyama sensei's death other senior students
established their own styles. Toshi Hanaue maintained the original
Shu Do Kan. Ichikawa Iso founded Do Shin Kan Ryu (The Heart of
the Way Style) in 1969. Michio Koyasu founded Soryu (The All or
Complete Style) in 1967. Another notable student was Byong In Yoon-
the only Korean listed in Toyama's book, the 1959 "AJKF/ Shu
Do Kan register" as a 5th Dan Shihan.
Byong In Yoon disappeared during the Korean war in the 1950's only
to resurface in North Korea in 1995's. Two of his students went
on to found two of Korea's most important Kwans. Lee Nam-suk founded
the Changmookwan meaning Hall for the Propagation of Military Training and Park Chull-hee founded the Kang Duk Won , meaning Training Hall for
the Teaching of Virtue.