Shudokan Karatedo

Shudokan Karatedo

Shudokan Karatedo (“Shudokan Karatedo” may be translated as “The Institute for the Cultivation of the Way of the EmptyHand”) is a composite system encompassing all the major Okinawan styles, as well as certain Chinese systems and Kobujutsu (ancient arts). Shudokan Karatedo is a system known for merging hard and soft techniques. 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 karateka develops both internal and external power, a balance which leads to good health and overall development of the individual.

Walter Todd Sensei (1927- 1999) trained in karate-do under Yoko Takahashi Sensei, a direct disciple of the legendary Kanken Toyama Sensei. 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.

Isao Ichikawa Sensei was  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 Shibu-cho certificate issued No. 26 from Toyama Sensei . 

other training

Todd Sensei also trained extensively in judo, karate and aikido.   Todd Sensei ‘s diverse background in martial arts included 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.

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 started his judo training in 1946. Todd Sensei was also ranked as eighth dan in judo by his teacher Kyuzo Mifune Sensei.

judo, karate, aikido

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 was 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.

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Shudokan Martial Arts Association

Todd Sensei was the founder of the Shudokan Martial Arts Association (SMAA). SMAA is an association consisting of multiple martial arts divisions 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.

"never stop learning in budo..."

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."

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. 

Gary Hu Sensei was also a student of Isao Ichikawa Hanshi, the founder of 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  and the Doshikan versions of the same katas.

There are many karateka studying Shudokan in the United States.  The largest groups of students passing down the Shudokan system are the dojos related to Morris Mack Sensei in the Seattle, Washington  area, Karl Scott III Sensei in the Ann Arbor, Michigan area, and the Okinawan Karate Clubs throughout the US.  We were very fortunate to have Todd Sensei pass down to our Club the katas from Shudokan Karatedo and his great knowledge of Japanese Budo.

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