History of Seidokan Karate Kobudo
By Col Roy J. Hobbs

This is the story of Seidokan Karate Kobudo. It is also, as naturally follows, the story of Shian Toma, Soke (founder/head of family) of the Okinawan Seidokan System. This story, along with its many details, dates, figures etc., was related to me personally by Soke Toma. It should be noted that the majority of the dates are approximate, since many years have transpired between most of the events described here.

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, in mainland Japan, where he lived for a year during the war years. Upon his return to Okinawa, he began to study from his Sensei (teacher) of over twenty years, Sokishi Shinjato. Master Shinjato had studied from the famous Chojun Miyagi (1888-1953), who founded the Goju-Ryu system. He also studied from Tatsuo Shimabuku (passed away in 1975), the founder of Isshin Ryu, and many others throughout the island of Okinawa.

Soke Toma has related to me on numerous occasions, that in the early years, there was not the wide differentiation of styles that we know today. In those days, Okinawan Karate was simply Okinawan Karate. Another interestingly related aspect was that, in the early years, most Sensei taught only a very small number of kata. In fact, it would not have been unusual, then, to find a Sensei teaching only one kata. But, over time, as there was comparison and exchange of kata, the number grew.

Master Shinjato taught four kata:


It was from Grandmaster Miyagi that Sensei Shinjato had learned the Sanchin kata, which emphasises strong internal breathing. Master Shinjato, who was a policeman by profession, had studied from Miyagi-san while he was teaching at the Police School in Okinawa. A noteworthy happening occurred when Soke Toma had the opportunity to perform the Sanchin kata before Chojun Miyagi, during one of the training sessions at the Police School.

With respect to the previously mentioned small number of kata, it should not be deduced that this made for little kata practice. Soke Toma readily admits that he spent over a year learning and practising the Seisan kata before being allowed to go on to the Sanchin kata. Perhaps this is part of the reason why most of the old Okinawan masters are so strict as to the precise execution of the kata.

During the early sixties, Soke Toma became associated with the All Japan Karate Association, then under the strict guidance of Grandmaster Zenryo Shimabuku. Shimabuku had been a student of the famous Chotoku Kyan (1870-1945) who is generally recognised as the founder of the Shobayashi branch of Shorin Ryu. Grandmaster Kyan's other notable students were Eizo Shimabuku (the present head of Shobayashi Shobayashi Shorin Ryu) and Shoshin Nagamine (founder of the Matsubayashi branch of Shorin Ryu). Grandmaster Zenryo Shimabuku passed away in 1970.

From Grandmaster Shimabuku, Soke Toma learned the majority of his kata repertoire that he now practices and teaches. These include:


These, plus Chinto and the Bo kata, brought Toma's group into the mainstream of what has become known as Shorin-Ryu karate.

In the mid Sixties, there was a significant split within the All Japan Karate Association. The main point of contention was the traditional full contact method of sparring utilised in Okinawa. This type of sparring involved the use of body armour similar to that used in Kendo (Japanese Fencing). It was quite brutal, and knock outs were not uncommon.

Since The All Japan Karate Association had as its main goal integrating the karate of Okinawa, now officially part of Japan, with the karate of Japan, conflict was bound to arise. The most widely accepted method of sparring in Japan, was, and still is , the "no contact" variety. It was generally felt, by The All Japan Karate Association that this "no contact" sparring should be taught, practised and officially sanctioned.

Many, like Soke Toma, were brought up in the "hard" methods and felt, also, that it was the true Okinawan way. Soke Toma also had the reputation for being a tough, no nonsense karate man, and was well respected for his fighting abilities both inside and outside of the dojo. Thus, the split occurred, and The Okinawan Kempo Association was formed, made up of similarly traditional hard and tough Sensei.

The Okinawan Kempo Association thrived for several years. Then, in 1968, it officially merged with the All Okinawa Karate and Kobudo Association headed by Grandmaster Seikichi Uehara. Grandmaster Uehara was, and still is, the head of the Motobu-Ryu system of Bu-jutsu (Martial Arts). The Motobu Ryu system is a little known Okinawan Martial Art that strongly resembled the old fighting methods of the Japanese Samurai. To the untrained eye, it resembles Aikido in its unarmed methods. However, the throwing and joint-locking techniques of Motobu-Ryu are most similar to the ancient Aiki-Ju-Jutsu of Japan.

Grandmaster Uehara learned his art from Choyu Motobu, the older brother of the renowned Choki motobu. It was from "Bushi" (Warrior) Sokon Matsumura that Grandmaster Choyu Motobu originally learned those techniques, both weapons and unarmed methods, th at eventually became known as Motobu Ryu. Motobu Ryu is also referred to, by some, as "Go-Ten-Te" which literally means Palace Hand. This is because the art was strongly associated with the Okinawan kings for centuries.

It should be noted that the weaponry of Grandmaster Uehara's Motobu Ryu include those normally found in the traditional Japanese Bu-Jutsu systems. These weapons include, but are not limited to:


Thus, as previously mentioned, Motobu-Ryu Bu-Jutsu is an art in line with the Japanese Samurai tradition. From Grandmaster Uehara, Soke Toma learned the intricate throwing, joint-locking, and Iai waza (quick draw sword techniques) that are now incorporated into Seidokan. With the inclusion of these techniques, Seidokan became a "total" fighting art that included the kicking, punching and blocking techniques of Karate; the throwing and joint-locking techniques of Aiki-Ju-Jutsu; the traditional weaponry of Okinawa; and the sword techniques of the Samurai. It is a most unusual art requiring open minded students with strength, flexibility, and dexterity.

There are now many schools throughout Okinawa/Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom, Africa, Norway, Italy and Greece teaching this complex art created by a remarkable man, Shian Toma.

This article, with slight changes, appeared in the April 1984 edition of Official Karate magazine