Those who made the road
Isshinryu lineage: Tatsuo Shimabukuro >
> Robert Slywa
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
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.