Walter Todd Sensei (1927 - 1999)
On November 26, 1999, the Shudokan Martial Arts Association lost its President and founder. Walter Todd Sensei, eighth dan, has passed on. He was 72 years old, and his wife Eve and two children who survived him.
While Todd Sensei had not operated a dojo for some time, he continued to teach seminars, and he remained actively involved in the Japanese martial ways until the end of his life. Despite advanced age, and in spite of suffering from injuries and illness for many years, he never reached a point in his life where he could no longer teach.
Walter Todd's martial arts career spanned over 50 years, and he although he generally avoided the limelight, he was featured in numerous martial arts magazines. Walter E. Todd Sensei began training in budo, the traditional martial arts of Japan, in 1945, while stationed in Tokyo with the American military. He married a Japanese woman, and lived in Japan off-and-on throughout the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. Todd Sensei studied under many illustrious teachers including Mifune Kyuzo Sensei, judan (tenth-degree black belt), and Abe Ichiro Sensei, eighth dan, at the Kodokan Judo Institute. Mifune Sensei, a legendary figure, was the last living holder of the tenth dan awarded by Kano Jigoro Sensei, the founder of judo. He accepted Walter Todd as his personal student. In 1948, Todd Sensei became the first foreign student of Otsuka Hironori Sensei, founder of Wado Ryu karatedo and tenth dan. Later, in 1954, Todd Sensei trained under Obata Isao Sensei and other Japanese experts in Shotokan karatedo. Obata Sensei was a direct student of Funakoshi Gichin Sensei, founder of Shotokan karate and the person responsible for bringing karate to Japan from Okinawa. Funakoshi Sensei is commonly regarded as the "Father of Japanese Karate," and Funakoshi Sensei approved Todd Sensei's black belt certificate, making him the first foreigner in history to obtain a dan rank in Shotokan karatedo.
After returning to the USA, Todd Sensei trained in karate-do under Takahashi Yoko Sensei, a direct disciple of the legendary Toyama Kanken Sensei (pictured to the right). Toyama Sensei, the founder of his own celebrated system of karate, eventually appointed Walter Todd as Shibu-cho (Branch Director) for the U.S., giving him complete authority to rank students in Toyama-style karate and direct the development of karate in America. After Toyama Sensei's death, his son approved Todd Sensei's rank of eighth dan.
Todd Sensei later began aikido under two world famous instructors--Tomiki Kenji Sensei, founder of Tomiki aikido, and Tohei Koichi Sensei, the only man to ever receive a tenth dan certificate in aikido directly from the art's originator Ueshiba Morihei Sensei. In fact, Ueshiba Sensei personally approved and signed Walter Todd's first and second dan certificates. Todd Sensei later received a sixth dan in aikido from the celebrated Kokusai Budoin of Tokyo. In June of 1993, the Kokusai Budoin, which was founded in 1952 by leading masters of various forms of budo, issued Todd Sensei an eighth dan in judo. Even in Japan, ranks above fourth dan are difficult to achieve, and it is extremely rare to find a foreigner ranked sixth dan or higher. The Kokusai Budoin is one of few groups in history to be authorized to issue rank certificates by Japan's Imperial Family, it has branches in dozens of countries, and is known to be rather conservative in nature.
Despite battling back from a near fatal automobile accident several years ago, and surgery to install two artificial hips, Walter Todd Sensei, a rugged, solidly built senior citizen, continued to teach and subdue young opponents literally one-third his age. His supporters saw him as "a living testament to the power of perseverance and the vitalizing capacity of authentic budo."
In addition to being a Senior Advisor to the Kokusai Budoin's USA branch, Todd Sensei was the founder of the Shudokan Martial Arts Association (SMAA). SMAA is an association consisting of multiple martial arts divisions, and as the result Todd Sensei left no specific person as a successor although Morris Mack Sensei in the Washington state area had the largest following of Shudokan students in the country and there is a large following under Karl Scott III Sensei in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Also the Okinawan Karate Club of Dallas and the dojos affiliated with it in San Francisco, Latana, Frisco and Atlanta, have a large group of karateka studying Shudokan karatedo as well.
About Shudokan Karatedo and Todd Sensei
Todd Sensei has trained extensively in judo, karate and aikido. Todd Sensei 's diverse background in martial arts includes being the first foreign student of Wado Ryu under Hironari Otskua Sensei, in 1948, and one of the art's first Western black belts. Otsuka Sensei was former assistant instructor to Okinawan master and Shotokan founder Gichin Funokoshi Sensei. Otsuka Sensei later founded his own system called Wado Ryu. (OKCD's Donna Mullett Sensei also received her Shodan in Wado Ryu while she was in Japan).
In 1950 Todd Sensei set up a special martial arts teacher training program which evolved into a tour of the U.S. involving Japanese experts in judo, karatedo and aikido. During the tour, Todd Sensei had the good fortune to train with and assist Isao Obata Sensei, Hidetaka Nishiyama Sensei, and Toshihio Kamata Sensei, all high-ranking instructors of Shotokan Karatedo. At that time the senior teacher of Shotokan, Obata Sensei, was so impressed with Todd Sensei's karatedo skills that he arranged for Funakoshi Sensei to issue Todd Sensei a first dan. Obata Sensei later wrote to Todd Sensei to tell him that he was the first foreigner to receive a black belt in Shotokan karatedo.
Todd Sensei later trained under Yoko Takahashi Sensei, a direct student of the creator of Shudokan karatedo, a system known for merging hard and soft techniques; Kanken Toyama; and Isao Ichikawa Sensei, also a high-ranking student of Toyama Sensei's and the founder of Doshinkan karatedo. Shortly after World War II, Toyama Sensei and other headmasters created the All Japan Karatedo Federation, which helped to unify the art and assisted with the development of the modern karate-do ranking system. Toyama Sensei was officially recognized by the Japanese Ministry of Education to grant any rank in the art of karate. Todd Sensei received his shibucho certificate issued No. 26 from Toyama Sensei . Number 25 had been issued to Eizo Shimabukuro O'Sensei. Toyama Sensei indicated to Todd Sensei that his document placed him in charge of his own branch of the AJKF and in charge of all ranking for karatedo in the US, and gave him authority to lead his own martial arts association. Following Toyama Sensei 's death, his son later approved Todd Sensei for the rank of hachidan, or eighth dan black belt.
Shudokan Karatedo ("Shudokan Karatedo" may be translated as "The Institute for the Cultivation of the Way of the Empty hand".) is a composite system encompassing all the major Okinawan styles, as well as certain Chinese systems and Kobujutsu (ancient arts). There are also kata unique to Shudokan, which are characterized by large, circular motions with an emphasis on covering motions. The practice of long extension of motion develops power and physique. The Shudokan practioner develops both internal and external power, a balance which leads to good health and overall development of the individual.
Todd Sensei started his judo training in 1946. Todd Sensei is also ranked as eighth dan in judo by his teacher Kyuzo Mifune Sensei. As U.S. Regional Director for the Kokusai Budoin, he is the group's highest ranking Judoka.
From judo to karate, Todd Sensei's impressive accomplishments in Japanese Budo did not end there. He was also introduced to Aikido by Kenji Tomiki Sensei, a high-level authority in Judo, as well as a direct student of Morihei Ueshiba Sensei, creator of Aikido. Later Todd Sensei became a student of Koichi Tohei Sensei. Tohei Sensei is the only person to have formally received a tenth dan directly from Ueshiba Sensei, and is the person responsible for bringing Aikido to America in the 1950's. Todd Sensei 's first and second dan certificates were personally signed and approved by Ueshiba Sensei. Todd Sensei taught Aikido in various areas throughout the US, and is regarded as one of the art's early pioneers. He later received the high rank of sixth-dan black belt from the Kokusai Budoin, making him one of the highest ranking non-Japanese Aikido instructors in the world.
Todd Sensei taught that balance is the most important quality in the martial arts. He would say "Without balance, you cannot move properly. Without balance, you cannot have a strong stance, and without a strong stance as a foundation, you cannot throw effective kicks or punches. Balance is the most important thing for any martial artist.".
Todd Sensei shuffled across the floor and taught all three martial arts (Todd Sensei survived a head-on collision with a drunk driver and recovered from two badly shattered legs). He taught that you just need to know the few principles of the martial arts and you can make up thousands of techniques.
Even with all these accomplishments in judo, karate and aikido, Todd Sensei's training in Japanese Budo was still not complete. Todd Sensei once stated, "We never stop learning in Budo until we decide that we have achieved a state of perfection. Budo is based on the laws of nature, and like nature, its study is infinite. I hope I can help the public to more deeply understand that Budo is not simply self-protection, but actually a means of cultivating the mind, body, and spirit. I am trying to accomplish this process of education through my activities in the Kokusai Budoin and the Shudokan Budo-Kai."
Shudokan Karatedo and Okinawan Karate Club of Dallas
Todd Sensei was Dr. Herbert Wong Sensei 's first karate instructor. Garrick ("Gary") Hu Sensei and Karl Scott III Sensei were introduced to Todd Sensei and the martial arts he taught through Wong Sensei. Through Hu Sensei and Scott Sensei, Christensen Sensei and Smoger Sensei were introduced to Todd Sensei Over the years, Todd Sensei directly trained Smoger Sensei and visited OKCD on a regular basis. Smoger Sensei holds the rank of Godan directly given to her by Todd Sensei. A few years after Todd Sensei's death, Mrs. Todd sent Smoger Sensei her Rokudan certificate that Todd Sensei had not yet given her but had in his safe. In 2004, she was awarded 7th dan in Shudokan Karate by the Todd family at the expressed wishes of the late Shibucho Walter Todd. It was Todd Sensei's wish that if Smoger Sensei and her dojo were still practicing Shudokan karatedo five years after his death, that she should be in charge of Shudokan karatedo in her area and she and her dojo would not report to any other Shudokan Shibuchos that Todd Sensei appointed since OKCD was directly under Todd Sensei for so many years. At that same time, Morris Mack Sensei and Karl Scott III, were awarded their Shibucho certificates from the Todd Family also. Todd Sensei passed down to our Club the katas from Shudokan Karatedo and his great knowledge of Japanese Budo.
Gary Hu Sensei was also a student of Isao Ichikawa Hanshi, the founder of Doshinkan karatedo. Ichikawa Sensei was a high ranking student of Toyama Sensei. Ichikawa Sensei named his style of karatedo Doshinkan karatedo. Smoger Sensei learned many on the Doshinkan katas first from Hu Sensei and then eventually she learned the Shudokan katas from Todd Sensei which explains why OKCD knows some of the Shudokan versions and the Doshikan versions of the same katas.
In the fall of 2006 at Okinawan Karate Fall Training, OKCD had the pleasure of training with Christian Bellina Sensei from Austria where we studied Shudokan katas together.
OKCD got Shudokan certificates from Mrs. Eve Todd, the wife of the late Walter Todd Sensei. We did this to assist Mrs.Todd financially since the death of her husband, to honor Todd Sensei and to carry on Shudokan karatedo. Mrs. Todd passed away January 28, 2017.