About Walter Todd, American Pioneers
Walter Todd: (1927-1999)
Walter Todd”s martial arts career spanned over 50 years, and although he generally avoided the limelight, he was featured in numerous martial arts magazines. Walter E. Todd Sensei began training in budo, the traditional martial arts of Japan, in 1945, while stationed in Tokyo with the American military. He married a Japanese woman, and lived in Japan off-and-on throughout the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. Todd Sensei studied under many illustrious teachers including Mifune Kyuzo Sensei, judan (tenth-degree black belt), and Abe Ichiro Sensei, eighth dan, at the Kodokan Judo Institute.
Mifune Sensei, a legendary figure, was the last living holder of the tenth dan awarded by Kano Jigoro Sensei, the founder of judo. He accepted Walter Todd as his personal student. In 1948, Todd Sensei became the first foreign student of Otsuka Hironori Sensei, founder of Wado Ryu karate-do and tenth dan. Later, in 1954, Todd Sensei trained under Obata Isao Sensei and other Japanese experts in Shotokan karate-do. Obata Sensei was a direct student of Funakoshi Gichin Sensei, founder of Shotokan karate and the person responsible for bringing karate to Japan from Okinawa. Funakoshi Sensei is commonly regarded as the “Father of Japanese Karate,” and Funakoshi Sensei approved Todd Sensei”s black belt certificate, making him the first foreigner in history to obtain a dan rank in Shotokan karate-do.
After returning to the USA, Todd Sensei trained in karate-do and Aikido under Takahashi Yokou Sensei, a direct disciple of the legendary Toyama Kanken 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.
Todd Sensei later began aikido under two world famous instructors–Tomiki Kenji Sensei, founder of Tomiki aikido, and Tohei Koichi Sensei, the only man ever to receive a tenth dan certificate in aikido directly from the art”s originator, Ueshiba Morihei Sensei. In fact, Ueshiba Sensei personally approved and signed Walter Todd”s first and second dan certificates. Todd Sensei later received a sixth dan in aikido from the celebrated Kokusai Budoin of Tokyo. In June of 1993, the Kokusai Budoin, which was founded in 1952 by leading masters of various forms of budo, issued Todd Sensei an eighth dan in judo. Even in Japan, ranks above fourth dan are difficult to achieve, and it is extremely rare to find a foreigner ranked sixth dan or higher. The Kokusai Budoin is one of few groups in history to be authorized to issue rank certificates by Japan”s Imperial Family; it has branches in dozens of countries, and is known to be rather conservative in nature.
Despite battling back from a near fatal automobile accident several years ago, and surgery to install two artificial hips, Walter Todd Sensei, a rugged, solidly built senior citizen, continued to teach and subdue young opponents literally one-third his age. His supporters saw him as “a living testament to the power of perseverance and the vitalizing capacity of authentic budo.”
He was a Martial Arts legend who will be greatly missed. But we can be thankful for his teachings and how they have influenced so many in the west to have a greater understanding of the east.
“I first started training under Sensei Tobey in 2008. When I first started my training I was a pack-a-day smoker. I had tried to quit smoking many times but had failed. I promised Sensei I’d quit before my black belt test. I no longer smoke, and I believe that my training in Shudokan Karate under Sensei Tobey gave me the mental discipline that I needed to quit.”
-Thom E – Adult Karate Program
“My 7-year old son and I have been going to Emerald City Karate for several years now. We have had a great time and always look forward to our family/youth class. As well as teaching about karate and Japanese culture and language, Sensei Tobey provides great lessons on how to work hard and patiently to succeed in anything. It’s also a great way to get mid-week exercise!”
Alan H – Youth & Family Program
“Sensei Tobey is my son’s Karate teacher (we’re in the 4 to 6-year-old class). As a teacher of small children, I find him to be a wonderful combination of patience, discipline, and fun. He is very passionate about teaching Karate and it shows. He relates to the kids very well and can teach boys and girls equally, not only the physical skills of Karate but mental focus skills as well. It’s been a great experience for my son and I highly recommend Sensei Tobey and Emerald City Karate to anyone looking to enroll their child in a martial arts class. “
Yvette H (Karate Mom)
Before joining Emerald City Karate I had no experience playing sports or participating in exercise programs because I didn’t like physical activities. So I didn’t expect I would be able to keep training for more than a month or so. But I found it to be fun immediately. The karate class has a variety of different subjects that keep students from being bored. Also, Sensei Tobey knows how to encourage students and allows them to have fun while feeling good about themselves. He likes telling jokes and making students laugh but his passion for teaching karate is always distinctive and serious. Because of his encouragement, I have kept training for a long time and even now I am training in Japan! Karate has taught me the joy of exercise and improved my concentration and it continues to teach many students to practice better manners and etiquette.
It is my pleasure to recommend Emerald City Karate for your exercise and experience in martial arts.
-Kaoru M: Adult Karate Program
“I cannot say enough good things about the programs offered at Emerald City Karate. If you have children, this dojo (school) is a wonderful environment for them to learn traditional Japanese martial arts, self-discipline, and to have a great time!”
-Samantha: Karate mom