Toyama-Kai Karate

The First Branch of Toyama-kai Karate in the United States.

A Few Thoughts on Martial Education Through Training Karate:

“As we wake or sleep, we grow strong, or we grow weak, and at last a crisis arises, to show us what we have become.”


Grand Master Kanken Toyama

The following are two versions of the life of Grand Master Kanken Toyama, whose karate teachings influenced so many instructors and students studying martial arts today. The first is directly from Mikio Tanaka, his highest-ranking successor, which is short and concise, while the second and more detailed version was compiled by Takeo Hayashi – 5th Dan, a student of Mr. Tanaka for over 35 years.

Born on 24th September 1888, the 21st year of Meiji Era, in the Castle Town of Shuri, Okinawa, he trained Karate since childhood under the grand masters such as ITOSU, HIGAONNA, ITARASHIKI as well as his Bo Jutsu and Sai Jutsu by OGUSUKU, TANA, and CHIBANA. 

In 1924, he moved to Taiwan and trained under CHIN Bussai of Taihoku, and RIN Kendo of Taichu to study Chinese Kenpo of Nan Ken Hoku Tai. He then moved to Tokyo in 1930 to established his Karate Dojo, Shudokan.

He died in November 1966, at the age of 78.

Kanken Toyama, the late great martial arts grandmaster, was born in Shuri, Okinawa the 21st year of Meiji on 24 September, 1888. His given name was Kanken Oyadomari and he was born into a noble family.
Toyama Kanken began his formal training in karate-do under Master Itarashiki in 1897. Later, he apprenticed himself to Anko Itosu, who then became his primary teacher and inspirational guide. He continued studying under Itosu until the master’s death in 1915.

A school teacher by profession, Toyama’s chosen field was the instruction of karate-do. In 1907 Toyama was named Shihan-dai (assistant) to Itosu at the Okinawa Teacher’s College in Shuri City, and in 1914 he held a high office at the Shuri First Elementary School. Toyama was one of only two students to be granted the title of Shihanshi (protege); Funakoshi Ginchin was the other to receive this title from Itosu. 

In 1924 Toyama Kanken moved his family to Taiwan where he taught elementary school and studied related systems of Chinese Ch’uan Fa ( kempo/kwan-bop ), which included Taku (Hakuda in Japanese language ), Makaitan, Rutaobai, and Ubo. Taku is one of central China’s Hotsupu (northern school) Ch’uan Fa and is further classified as Neikung Ch’uan Fa (Shorei Kempo), that is, an internal method. Makaitan and Rutaobai, which the techniques of nukite (spear hand) came, and Ubo, all belong to the Nampa (southern school) Ch’uan Fa and are external methods or Waikung Ch’uan Fa (Shorei Kempo). These later three styles hail primarily from Taiwan and Fukuden, China. Toyama sensei was also known to have studied and taught Tai Chi Ch’uan Fa. Koyasu sensei studied t’ai chi from Toyama.

Early in 1930 Toyama moved again from Taiwan to mainland Japan and on 20 March 1930 he opened his first dojo in Tokyo. He called his dojo Shudokan meaning “The Hall for the Study of the Way” (in this case the karate-way). Toyama sensei did not claim to originate a new style, system or school of thought, nor did he combine the different styles he had learned. Those who studied under him basically learned Itosu’s Shorin Ryu and the related ch’uan fa.
Toyama Kanken, now a Dai Shihan, founded the All Japan Karate-Do Federation (AJKF) in 1946. There is some evidence that the AJKF actually got its start in 1930’s, however the federation did not evolve into a full-fledged organization until it was officially documented and sanctioned in 1946. By establishing an organization such as the AJKF, Toyama’s intention was to unify the karates of Japan and Okinawa into one governing organization, providing a forum for the exchange of ideas and techniques. The federation became an authority for rank homologation and advancement issuing rank certification, and also created a forum for competition. This competition group later pioneered full-contact sparring which used modified ken-do protective equipment (bogu). The AJKF was successful in attracting importantly outside notable people such as Dr. Tsuyoshi Chitose, founder of Chito Ryu Karate-Do. Dr. Chitose served in several senior positions in the federation including president and vice-president.

Toyama’s specialties in karate-do were strong gripping methods (Useishi No Kata and the Aku Ryoku Ho) of Itosu and Itarashiki and similar Chinese methods of finger and hand strengthening. He was the author of books Karate-do Taihokan and Karate-do. In 1949 Toyama was awarded a special title of honor by the Governor of Okinawa, Mr. Shikioku Koshin. Aside from learning Shorin-Ryu from Itosu, Toyama studied and mastered other styles of karate from other notable masters of Naha-te and Tomari-te which also included Okinawan Kobu-do. (weapons) A few of his other teachers were Aragaki, Azato, Chibana, Oshiro, Tana, and Yabu.

Although Toyama Kanken produced many capable instructors trained in his Shudokan style, he really did not view the Shu Do Kan as a style of karate-do, merely a place for training. Consequently, he did not appoint a successor or Shudokan style head to succeed him and as a result the Toyama system fragmented after his death in 1966. However in 1995, Hiroshi Hatoyama, Kanken Toyama ‘s son and heir to his legacy and family crest (seal), officially named Tanaka as successor and promoted him to the highest title possible in the world of karate – Hanshi – 10th degree red belt.

After Toyama sensei’s death other senior students established their own styles: Grand Master Mikio Tanaka – 10th dan, was the only student to use Toyama’s name in his dojo, starting Toyama-kai. Master Onishi, a senior student, founded Koei Kan Ryu in 1952. Toshi Hanaue maintained the original Shudokan; Ichikawa Isao continued Doshinkan Ryu (The Heart of the Way Style) in 1969; Michio Koyasu founded Soryu (The All or Complete Style) in 1967. Another notable student was Byong In Yoon- the only Korean listed in Toyama’s book, the 1959 “AJKF/ Shu Do Kan register” as a 5th Dan Shihan located in Toyama’s book. Byong In Yoon disappeared during the Korean war in the 1950’s only to resurface in North Korea in 1995’s. Two of his students went on to found two of Korea’s most important Kwans. Lee Nam-suk founded the Changmookwan (Hall for the Propagation of Military Training) and Park Chull-hee founded the Kang Duk Won (Training Hall for the Teaching of Virtue). Mr. Yoko Takahashi later opened up Yoshin-kan Dojo where Bob Hollinger received his first black belt in Oyama, Tochigi Prefecture, as well as Nakayama Sensei who has had a successful dojo in Saitama Prefecture.

nd appears when the user clicks on the section title. Input relevant information about its title using paragraphs or bullet points. Accordions can enhance the user experience when utilized effectively. They allow users to choose what they want to read and disregard the rest. Accordions are often utilized for frequently asked questions (FAQs).


Judan Hanshi of Okinawa Seito Karate-Do
10th Degree Black Belt and Master Instructor of Traditional Okinawan Karate Do
Unofficial successor to Kanken Toyama; presented 10th Dan by Hiroshi Hatoyama, son of Kanken Toyama, for dedicating his life to sharing Toyama-ryu Karate and for cultivating men and women of strength and character.

Mikio Tanaka was born on January 28, 1942 in Koyama in Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo.

Mr. Tanaka worked for Nikon Corporation, the famous Japanese camera and optical lens corporation, after finishing his education at Minato Technical School in March 1960. He retired from Nikon in 2002, at the age of 60.

Tanaka’s karate career started in 1958, (the year Bob Hollinger was born) at the age of 16, when Toyama Kanken allowed him to enter his Shudo-Kan Dojo. Tanaka had had to wait three long years before he became a student of Toyama, though, as Tanaka’s father had not approved of him undertaking karate and worried about the dangers and unknowns of Karate.

Less than two years after his initiation into the Shudo-Kan Dojo, he earned Shodan (1st degree black belt) on March 10, 1960 from Kanken Toyama. He continued his training there, and on April 1, 1965, Toyama honored him with a Shihan diploma (teaching license of Karate with 5th degree black belt). Tanaka continued training and teaching others under Toyama’s instruction until November 24, 1966, when Toyama died at the age of 78. Toyama’s only son, Hiroshi Hatoyama, succeeded directorship of the Dojo and became second-generation principal of the Shudo-Kan Dojo. Tanaka, then Rokudan Shihan (6th degree black belt instructor) continued to train many students for Hatoyama as the principal teacher at the Shudo-Kan Dojo. Tanaka was honored with 8th Degree – Hanshi (Master Instructor license with 8th degree red belt) in 1976, and Judan Hanshi (Grand Master with 10th Degree Red Belt) in 1995 from Hatoyama.

17 years after the passing of Toyama Kanken, Hatoyama decided to close the Shudo-Kan Dojo in March 1983. Tanaka then decided to establish his own school of Karate, Toyama-kai, named after his teacher and located his Dojo in Shinagawa Ward of Tokyo on April 13, 1983. He has taught since then well over 200 students, both young and old, from all walks of life in Japan as well as from abroad. At his Dojo, Tanaka always stresses the importance of his master’s teachings, including, among other points of focus, the preservation of the traditional techniques and Kata he learned from Toyama.

Tanaka’s preferred and often-practiced Katas are the Pinan set 1-5, Naifanchi katas 1-3, Chinto, Chibana Kushan-ku, Passai Dai and Goryu Gojushiho. He believes in the idea that peace, not force, should prevail in the world, and his motto after dedicating over 52 years of his life to the art of Budo and karate, is that the most important secret lies hidden in the continuation of the training itself, so simply, continue training and learning.



Toyama-kai Karate USA has been teaching this traditional style of karate in America exactly how it is and has been taught by the Japanese Karate Master Instructors. It is TRADITIONAL OKINAWA KARATE TOYAMA STYLE. 

Classes are led by Bob Hollinger, and have been going strong since 1999, first in San Luis Obispo, CA, then since 2021 in different places throughout the Lehigh Valley. Hanshi Hollinger and his two daughters, Rina, and Misa, who have been training Toyama karate since they were 5, are the highest ranked, followed by Black Belts Alex & Aiko Price, Paulo Pereira, Brett Jenkins, and David Pisano.

 This is a traditional but strong and powerful karate style with large, circular movements, and does not focus on full-contact sparring or MMA style fighting and sports style scoring. It stresses the defensive nature of Karate. As with many more traditional karate styles taught in Japan, it is not a sport but a martial art, and no scoring system is used or competitions held.

STUDENTS are invited to train only after an interview process with only some students being allowed to join the group.


Toyama Karate Classes

Monday & Thursday @ 6:30 PM

All Students $50/mo.

Karate Uniforms ~$30

Cetronia Fire Hall
18 S Scenic Street
Allentown, PA

(610) – 737 – 3185