Nantanreikan Seibukan Karate Dōjō
Civilize the mind; make savage the body
Our dojo is called the Nantanreikan, which means “the Hall of Difficult Grace.”
We are chartered by the International Okinawan Shōrin-ryū Seibukan Karate-dō Association (IOSSKA). Our chief instructor is the student of Dan Smith, 9 dan Hanshi and senior disciple of Shimabukuro Zenpō 島袋善保, 10 dan Hanshi, head of Seibukan and past-President of the Okinawa Prefectural Karate-dō and Kobudō Rengōkai. Our instructors are certified in Japan.
While there are many ways to become a better person—the Chinese proverb is “there are many paths to the far mountain”—we hold to the Japanese principle that some transformations are only achieved through disciplined physical practice. Such transformations are our aim. We are not interested in karate as sport or competition, nor as a means to lose weight or get toned. We turn away from martial arts platitudes. We do not build confidence; instead, we train for commitment. We do not nurture self-esteem; instead, we train to lose the self, like getting lost in a great story. We do not seek personal growth; instead, while our aim is to become stronger, faster, more precise, more fluid, and more open, we train to become smaller and thereby part of something greater than ourselves.
We emphasize conditioning; we work for what Nagamine Shōshin 長嶺将真 called the “ecstasy of sweat.” We return to kihon 基本 (basics) over and over again. We practice kata 型 (forms) every class. We use kumite 組み手 (sparring) as a drill; we do not mistake it for real fighting. We train less to fight others than to battle ourselves—our weaknesses, our fears, our shortcomings, our vanities, our ignorance—but we believe that taking combatives seriously makes karate-dō different from other kinds of work on the spirit.
At the Nantanreikan, we constantly work on our understanding of karate as inevitably mid-Pacific. On the one hand, karate should not be separated from its Japanese and Okinawan cultural contexts. It is a serious distortion to configure karate through Western values, such as pride. On the other hand, this is not Okinawa and we are not Okinawan, and we should not pretend otherwise. We see our ongoing project as learning and teaching how our Canadian lives and understanding can be illuminated and elevated by the lessons of Okinawan karate-dō and Japanese budō.
Seibukan 聖武館 means “Holy Art School.” The Seibukan dojo was founded in 1962 by Shimabukuro Zenryō and his son, Zenpō, in the village of Jagaru, on the island of Okinawa. The karate taught there went back much earlier, though. In the taxonomy of karate-dō, Seibukan is a ryū-ha (“school”) of Shōrin-ryū, one of the three major branches of Okinawan karate. “Shōrin” 少林 is the Japanese pronunciation of the characters of “Shaolin,” referencing the legendary Shaolin Temple of China, although Shōrin-ryū has no strong historical connection to Shaolin. But even the name “Shōrin-ryū” was coined by Chibana Chōsin only in 1933 to refer to a group of already extant Okinawan fighting systems mostly influenced by the Matsumura Sōkon (1809 – 1899). The other two major systems of Okinawan karate are Gōjū-ryū and Uechi-ryū. Gōjū-ryū came to Okinawa from China in the late 19th century; Uechi ryū was imported from China even later, and was not taught in Okinawa until the 1920s. But the history of the antecedents of Shōrin-ryū go back centuries in Okinawa, so it is considered more native to the island.
“Seibukan” was originally the name of the dojo established by the Shimabukuro family. Today, it refers to the school of karate-dō that began there, but is now practiced in many countries around the world, under the guidance of Shimabukuro Zenpō. The Nantanreikan Seibukan Dojo is the only Seibukan school in Canada.
Hanshi 範士 Master Teachers of Seibukan
(1943 - ) Shimabukuro Hanshi is the head of Seibukan worldwide. He is jūdan, 10th degree black belt, the highest rank of Okinawan karate-dō, and President of the Okinawa Ken Karate-dō Rengokai. He runs a land development and management company in Okinawa.
(1944 - ) Hanshi Smith is kudan, 9th degree black belt, the only one in Seibukan. He is the senior student of Shimabukuro Zenpō, having studied under him for more than half a century. Hanshi Smith was introduced to Seibukan when he was in the American Special Forces and based in Okinawa during the Vietnam War. Now retired, he rose to Vice-President of AT&T. He has trained many world and national champions, and teaches at his dojo in Coal Mountain, Georgia, USA.
Doug Aoki, nidan, 2nd degree black belt. Chief Instructor. He is a retired professor who taught social theory and published several articles on karate and teaching. He is the student of Hanshi Dan Smith and goes to the US several times each year to study with his teacher. Doug made his fifth training trip to Okinawa in 2020.
Lucy is shodan, 1st degree black belt. Instructor. Lucy is the Coordinator of the International Office of the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. She spent 2 1/2 years teaching English in Japan. She has trained in the US with Hanshi Smith many times, and has gone to Okinawa to train with Shimabukuro Hanshi five times since 2014.
Jesse Hahn, shodan, 1st degree black belt. Instructor. Jesse started training in karate in 2005, and professionally is a manager in the industrial hemp industry.
Clayton is shodan, 1st degree black belt. Instructor. is a fish biologist for the Province of Alberta. He has visited Okinawa twice for extended training there.