With the advent of Gichin
Funakoshi's introduction of Okinawan Karate 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. One 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 protege, of Itosu's O kuge
Aside from learning Shorin-ryu from
Itosu, Toyama studied and mastered their styles of karate from
other notable masters of Naha-te and Tomari-te, which included
weapons arts. A few of his other teachers were, Aragaki, Azato.
Chibana, Higaonna, 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.
Given this diverse martial arts background, the
Japanese government soon recognized Toyama's prowess, and awarded
him the right to promote to any rank in any style of Okinawan karate.
An official gave Toyama the title of master instructor. 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).
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 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. 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. Today, the
basic Kyoku forms are taught only to brown belt student, and the
longer more complex forms are still taught only to black belts.
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 Shihan Walter Todd (the American Shudokan
Association), and the East Asian Cultural Institute.