I find Toyama (Oyadomari) Kanken one of the most interesting and colourful teachers to have emerged from Okinawa to teach Karatedo on the Japanese mainland. Much lesser known than other Okinawan Karatedo contemporaries such as Mabuni Kenwa and Gichin Funakoshi, he was nonetheless just as prolific as both men; establishing a successful dojo called the Shudokan and publishing three books on Karatedo: Karatedo Okugi Hijutsu (1956), Karatedo, Karatedo Dai Hokan (1960), and Karatedo Nyumon (1967). Below I’ve translated a section form his wiki page which I found interesting on his view of Karate-do styles. Its something I find myself agreeing with the older I get.

Toyama Kanken, acknowledged himself as a direct student of Itosu Anko, and adhered to the concept of “no-styles” (mu-ryuha-shugi 無流派主義) throughout his life, never naming his Karate and denying the existence of any Karate styles. He believed that “there is no reason why there should be two or three different styles of [supposed] ultimate techniques in the profound art of Karate.” In addition he commented, “The normal way in Karate is to train techniques slow and fast using strength and relaxation. This is fundamentally different from a style of Karate”. He believed that all of the styles that were labelled as such at that time were simply differences in individual training and should not be considered separate styles.

In his book “Karate-do Daiho Kan” (The Great Book of Karate-do), Toyama argued that Shorin-ryu and Shorei-ryu, which were already well known at the time, were regarded in the same way, saying, “These two styles are thought of the Karate community as if they exist today, but there is no evidence or proof of this based on historical facts.”

When he met with Mabuni Kenwa of Shito-ryu and Miyagi Choujun of Goju-ryu, Toyama asked about the various styles that had emerged in the early Showa era. Mabuni replied, “Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to name our Karate, and wouldn’t it be more meaningful to remember our teachers? Miyagi replied, “Since people are not aware of Karate, I have expressed the whole of Karate in two simple characters, Go and Ju.”

But for Toyama, the name of a style was meaningless in genuine Okinawan Karate, which has neither styles nor schools. He also criticized the frequent emergence of new styles at the time, saying, “Recently, there have been some unknown Karate practitioners with strange new style names, but these are people do not know the whole story of authentic Karate-do.

Translated from:遠山寛賢