Okinawa Kenpo Karate is the core style of the Sanrin Dojo Curriculum. It is a traditional varient of karate that comes from the island of Okinawa, off the southern coast of Japan. It focuses heavily on the usage of kata (pre-arranged forms) to transmit the ideas and techniques of the art. However, those kata are supplemented by technique practice, basic drills, and sparring.

A Sample of Okinawa Kenpo Kata by Odo Seikichi Sensei

An Example of Kata Application by Matthew Apsokardu

Brief History of Okinawa Kenpo

Nakamura Shigeru: Founder of Okinawa Kenpo

Nakamura Sensei was born in 1894 in the northern city of Nago. His father was a successful merchant and his uncle was a practiced karateka, who helped introduce Shigeru to the art at an early age. Throughout his life, Shigeru would be exposed to some of the great practitioners of the previous era, including Motobu Choki, Hanashiro Chomo, Yabu Kentsu, and Kuniyoshi Shinkichi.

In his adult life, Nakamura Sensei attempted to organize Okinawan karate under one banner and call the collective art “Okinawa Kenpo”. However, that organizational push did not last and the name “Okinawa Kenpo” became synonymous only with Nakamura Sensei’s personal art.

Nakamura Shigeru

Odo Seikichi

Upon his passing, Nakamura Sensei did not declare a formal successor. He had a number of accomplished students, including his son Taketo. However, the mantle of Okinawa Kenpo ultimately fell to Odo Seikichi, who was instrumental in the operation of Nakamura Sensei’s dojo and organization.

Odo Sensei was a man of exceptional talent and power, despite his slight frame. His most notable skill was an uncanny ability to memorize and synthesize kata, seemingly adding forms to his style at will. In addition to Nakamura Sensei, Odo Sensei was influenced by Matayoshi Shinpo, Kakazu Mitsuo, and more.

Image Courtesy of John Jackson

Bruce Heilman

Much like Nakamura Sensei, Odo Seikichi Sensei did not declare an official style inheritor upon his passing. However, throughout his life he advanced a select few individuals to positions of importance and high rank. One of those individuals was Bruce Heilman.

Starting his training in the early 1960s, Heilman Hanshi began with jujutsu and some rudimentary karate. He continued his training with the famed Robert Trias until eventually meeting Odo Seikichi Sensei and transitioning to Okinawa Kenpo fully. Heilman Hanshi became a trusted advisor and representative in America, traveling to Okinawa to train and starting the International Karate Kobudo Federation.

bruce heilman odo seikichi
Photo Courtesy of Bruce Heilman

Matthew Apsokardu

Matthew Apsokardu draws the core of his karate training from Bruce Heilman Sensei. Material is supplemented with extended study with Jody Paul Sensei of Seidokan and Bill Hayes Sensei of Shobayashi Ryu. Kobudo and swordsmanship is extended with Rick Zondlo and the Iwakabes (Hideki and Monica).