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Shudokan (???, Shudokan?), literally “the hall for the study of the [karate] way,” is a school of karate developed by Kanken Toyama (1888 – 1966). Characteristics of Shudokan karate include large circular motions with an emphasis on covering and its own unique kata.
It should not be confused with Shodokan, a school of Aikido descended from Yoshinkan, founded by Edwin Stratton.
Toyama’s karate training began at the age of nine in 1897 with Itarashiki, although he studied with Yasutsune Itosu for 18 years, until the latter’s death in 1915. In 1907 Toyama was appointed “shihandai” (assistant master) to Itosu at the Okinawa Teacher’s College, and he and Gichin Funakoshi, who later developed Shotokan karate, were the only two students to be granted the title of shihanshi (protégé). Some people believe that Kanken Toyama outranked Gichin Funakoshi, who did not have the rank of shihandai.
In 1924 Toyama moved his family to Taiwan where he taught in an elementary school and studied Chinese Ch’uan Fa, which included Taku, Makaitan, Rutaobai, and Ubo. In early 1930 he returned to Japan and on March 20, 1930, he opened his first dojo in Tokyo. He named his dojo Shu Do Kan meaning “the hall for the study of the karate way.” Toyama taught what he had learnt from Itosu and the Ch’uan Fa and did not claim to have originated a new style of karate. In 1946, Toyama founded the All Japan Karate-Do Federation (AJKF) with the intention of unifying the various forms of karate of Japan and Okinawa under one governing organization.
As Toyama did not view the Shu Do Kan as a distinct style of karate, but merely a place for training, he did not appoint a successor. Thus, the organization he founded fragmented after his death in 1966, although his student Toshi Hanaue maintained the original Shu Do Kan. A few other schools based on Toyama’s teachings still exist such as Doshinkan. Today, a minimal overseeing of the Toyama lineage of Karate is done by Kanken Toyama’s son, Ha Toyama.
Shudokan karate today is essentially a compound system, including Kobudo (i.e. “ancient art,” referring to the specialized weapons practice of traditional Okinawan karate) and Shorin-Ryu (also known as Itosu-ha). Many other principles from other styles have found their way into Shudokan as it was Toyama’s wish that Shudokan not stagnate, that it should grow in efficiency and flourish.
Many current practitioners of Shudokan Karate would concur that Toyama’s wish for Shudokan is still being upheld. In the United States the art of Shudokan Karate is being taught, however different in some ways, by the American Shudokan Association (ASA) under the leadership of Morris Mack of Yakima, Washington. The ASA, with over 15,000 members in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States, was founded by Walter Todd and Morris Mack in the 1980s. Walter Todd was a student under Yoko Takahashi who was a direct student of Kanken Toyama. Later, Kanken Toyama appointed Walter Todd as Shibu-cho (Branch Director) for the U.S., authorizing him to rank students in Shudokan (Toyama-Style) karate and direct the development of Shudokan in America. After Toyama’s passing, his son, Ha Toyama, approved Todd’s rank of eighth dan.
Walter Todd died at the age of 72 on November 26, 1999. His legacy will continue, as will Kanken Toyama’s, through the students and practitioners of this flourishing style of Karate.
Of the nine schools, or Kwan’s (Kan) that merged to form Taekwondo, four of those schools have lineages that trace back to Toyama Sensei through two Korean men who trained in Japan while Korea was under Japanese occupation. These two men were Yon Kwai Byeong, and Yoon Byung In. They both trained with Toyama Sensei and are both listed in his student role books as “Shihan.” Both these men taught a mixture of Toyama Sensei’s methods along with the Chuan Fa they learned in Manchuria. The first Kwan (Kan) where they worked as teachers was the Jidokwan. Later, the Chang Moo Kwan, Han Moo Kwan and Kang Duk Won branched off from the first Kwan.[unreliable source?]