Beikoku Shidokan lineage

The Lineage of Beikoku Shidokan Shorin Ryu Karate (Kobayshi)

We are extremely proud of our Shidokan Karate pedigree or lineage. The more I talk with and meet other martial artists the more I realize how fortunate we are to practice Self Defense Karate with Sensei Seikichi Iha. Many martial artists speak in awe of their instructor, or instructor’s instructor, who traveled to Japan and studied with a real Okinawan instructor for a week or two. I can only nod my head in amazed recognition of what we have in our lineage and what they are missing. When I visit other non-Shidokan Dojos I am humbly reminded that if it were not for Sensei Iha I would be doing the same type of stuff they do and believe that I was doing effective and realistic karate.

I won’t discuss people who I meet who tell me their instructor’s instructor was a student of Iha (people I don’t know and have never heard of) or how they attended one of his seminars at one time. Sometimes you see people claiming to be Iha students as they have the Beikoku Shidokan patch but on their left chest where we have the Shidokan Kanji, instead of the left shoulder.

Beikoku Shidokan lineage
Beikoku Shidokan lineage

We trace our lineage back to Sokon Matsamura, the recognized source of all traditional karate worldwide regardless of being American, Japanese or Korean Karate. If someone uses the term Karate odds are they can trace their lineage back to Matsamura, if they can trace their lineage. I always ask about Karate styles and lineage and most people give me a blank, stunned look and ask “Whaddya mean? It is karrady.”

One of Matsamura’s senior students Anko Itosu taught four of the people in our lineage. Itosu taught the world renown Choki Motobu, Miyahira’s famous uncle Anbun Takuda and the teacher known as the last Karate Samurai, Chosin Chibana. Itsou also taught Sensei Iha’s first instructor Shinpan (Shiroma) Gusukuma.

Chibana designated Miyahira as his successor. He had studied with Miyahira longer than any other student.

When Gusukuma died Sensei Iha then began training in Katsuya Miyahira’s dojo.

When I visit most non-Shidokan karate schools I thank God I was fortunate to meet Sensei Iha over 40 years ago and he accepted me as his student after putting me through what I realize now were a few intense trials of my character. Sensei teaches us kata, partner drills, kumite and bunkai. This is unheard of in most schools as they teach kata, maybe one-step partner drills, and sparring. Most karate and martial arts school have little to no self defense focus as their focus is on winning a tournament trophy or sparring match. We don’t spar more often in Shidokan because after getting beat up performing kumite and bunkai there isn’t a whole lot left to learn from sparring.

Our goal isn’t to win a trophy! Our goal is to arrive home safely after an unexpected violent encounter. We train to Not Lose! We don’t necessarily have to win.

One interesting note: Patrick McCarthy is recognized as the Western World’s foremost Karate Historian and Researcher. He founded Koryu Uchinadi (KU), an open self defense school and organization, after being unable to get answers to “why do we do this?” from Okinawan Karate Masters. He studied and lived in Okinawa, Japan, and China, too. I often marvel at how many of his KU applications are similar to Iha’s Beikoku Shidokan applications. In my conversations with Mr. McCarthy I discovered that Sensei Iha’s first instructor, Shinpan (Shiroma) Gusakuma, was also the instructor of Patrick McCarthy’s teacher, Hiroshi Kinjo. Talk about apples not falling far from the trees.

Thanks for reading!

Robert Roberto Curtis

Beikoku Shidokan Shorin Ryu Karate, 8th Dan, Kyoshi

Virginia Okinawan Karate Dojo, 6416 Grovedale Dr., Alexandria, VA 22310

Essential Teachings of Shidokan Karate

Essential Teachings of Shidokan Karatedo

The following are some essential teachings of our Shidokan heritage from Choshin Chibana, Shinpan Gusukuma, Katsuya Miyahira, and Seikichi Iha.

Choshin Chibana:

Don’t show (off) your abilities or intention. Be modest in behavior (kenkyo) and natural in
movement (shizentai).

Meaning: True karateka do not announce themselves, but remain in a modest state of continual and natural readiness that is neither exhausting through tension nor apparent to others. Through proper body control (sabaki: balance, breathing, muscle tension, facial expression), their karate is only seen or felt at the critical moment. This has the double meaning of neither showing off in a proud manner nor making unnecessary movements in actual applications.

Sensei said the idea of “not showing what you know” is like a person holding 2-gallon jars — one empty, one full and heavy, with the difference between their weights not revealed by how they are held. Similarly, karate should ideally be unobservable until the moment it is necessary to use. “The capable hawk hides its talons.”

Shinpan Gusukuma:

No ‘over-motion’ (wabadi), only natural (shizen) motion.

Meaning: Excessive movement (wabadi, “over motion”) will not work in application. It will be too late and is easily overcome. Natural movement is always “just enough,” like catching or
throwing a ball. Realize, too, that shizentai (natural body position, as at the start of kata) is a
stance of patience. It is the perfect outward expression of an inward disposition for a martial
artist, for a human being. Injuries, misunderstandings, personal obligations and long periods of stagnation are critical to our development. Each struggle refines our character into that of a
martial artist to produce martial virtue (butoku). Accept difficulties as normal stepping-stones in your training. Be patient in your practice. “Having patience where patience is intolerable, this is true patience.”

Katsuya Miyahira:

Natural movement has no straining tension. “Flowing water competes with nothing.”
(Ryusui saki wo kisuwazu.)

Meaning: Movement is relaxed and focused only at the end. This lets power flow out of the body like water from a hose or water in a stream. It doesn’t fight against itself or others. Excessive tension in the muscles and tendons traps power in the body. Moreover, just as water doesn’t fight against the rocks in the river, so too the receiving of an attack is done with flowing and enveloping energy, not clashing. This is at the heart of nagashi waza, flowing techniques.

Seikichi Iha:

Proper partner work leads to natural movement which, while small and unseen, yields
great opportunities for your martial purposes. This creates the quality of elegance in

Meaning: All effective techniques seem hidden because they are so natural as to appear
nonchalant or accidental. There is no thought attached to them (mushin). But this refined
elegance only comes from proper partner work which is based upon cooperation and care for
each other, and not through a competitive spirit where there can only be one winner and one
loser. A competitive mind undermines growth because it is based upon ego satisfaction, which
clouds self-perception. Growth only comes from seeing one’s self in an honest way, which our
partners can show to us if we listen with our minds and bodies (which Sensei here calls “body
conversation”). Mushin (an unattached mind) is the proper mental state of executing movement at the critical moment and humility is the proper mental state for learning movement. Sensei Iha often reminds us to “make friends with karate”. Our heart techniques (kokoro waza) most fully develop from martial friendship (buyu).


“Essential Teachings” provided by Seikichi Iha

with assistance from Akiyoshi Shiroma.
Japanese calligraphy by Nobuo Shimabukuro.

English translation of Japanese text by Seikichi Iha with assistance from Yujiro Uza.

Meaning of the concepts compiled from interviews with Seikichi Iha by Matthew Hubinger, Mark McCloud and Marian Reiter. May 2016.