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SENSEI

Those who made the road before

Robert Slywa

Isshinryu lineage: Tatsuo Shimabukuro > Angi Uezu > Robert Slywa
 

OKINAWA ISSHINRYU KARATE AUSTRALIA (OIKA)

 

Slywa Renshi’s martial arts career started in the Australian Navy in 1965 with jujitsu and kenpo karate. He first encountered Isshinryu in the USA in 1967 and was hooked. However, there were no Isshinryu classes in Australia so he instead studied Shorinryu, Kyokushin and Kenpokan. With only books and the occasional trip to the USA, it was a difficult road.

 

After leaving the navy in 1976, Slywa taught Jishukan Jujitsu and Kenpo karate full-time for the West Australian Education Department for two years, establishing seven dojos. He earned enough to travel to the USA for training, but knew he’d need to visit Okinawa to study with the best. He left the Jishukan association and studied Isshinryu alone and with whomever he could find, until he became friends with Master Uezu through Uezu’s student Joe Jennings, owner of Panther Productions.

 

Slywa visited the USA regularly from 1986 until 1995, when Uezu offered to
teach him full-time at his dojo in Okinawa. Besides personal tuition by master Uezu at his dojo each day, he also attended classes with sensei Tony Herald and master Uechi in their evenings. After almost four months as Uezu Hanshi’s first and only full-time student, Uezu told him to open a dojo in Australia so he could continue training in Isshinryu. Later that year, the Australian Okinawa Isshinryu branch of Okinawa’s OIKKA was born as Okinawa Isshinryu Karate Australia ( OIKA ).

 

To help promote the little-known style, Slywa entered as many tournaments as possible, also representing Australia in the Okinawa World Tournament in 1997. After winning the ISKA Grand Championship and the NAS National Title in 2003, he retired from competition. He has been awarded with Instructor of the Year by AIKA in 2002 and the ISKA Hall of Fame “Lifetime Achievement Award” in 2004. He still visits Okinawa regularly, taking students along for training and grading.

 

Although the OIKA has expanded to four branches in Australia, two in India, plus one each in Iran and Sri Lanka, it remains a non-profit organization and instructors teach for their love of the art. There are also about 26 long-distance students who live too far from a dojo to attend. Slywa remembers the frustrations he had in his early days and feels that karate should be for everyone, anywhere, so he travels extensively to teach and grade students. He’s also a judge and referee with the ISKA.

 

Robert Slywa became a member of the United Isshinryu Council in 1999 after being nominated by master Toby Cooling after his Australian seminar tour.

 

Slywa sensei has never forgotten the words of master Uezu when he graded him to Dan in 1995: “You have good heart and Isshinryu. Never forget: you teach with heart and Isshinryu become strong in Australia.”

 

Sensei Slywa was graded to 6th Dan Shihan in 2005 by master Phillip Furgason of AIKA and by Shihan H.G. Smith of GKA.

 

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Copyright © 2005 Harry G. Smith