Shihan Kyoshi Tom Slaven (1940 - 1993.)
By Shihan Phil O'Brien, Founder and Chief Instructor Bukido Kai, former student of Tom Slaven.
This page is written as a tribute to the finest martial artist that I have had the pleasure of knowing, Shihan Kyoshi Tom Slaven. I first met Shihan Tom around 1984 where I undertook both class and private lessons from the man I came to regard as a true master of the martial arts.
Shihan Tom was born in Haddington, Scotland, in 1940 and began his Martial Arts studies with amateur wrestling. After moving to Australia in 1961, he commenced training in the oriental martial arts, studying Nippon Kempo, Kyokushin Kai Karate, Tae Kwon Do, with additional studies in Judo, Jujitsu, Thai Boxing and Ying-Ye Kung Fu.
It was from an amalgamation of formalised martial arts training and real-life 'on the streets' combat experiences within the security industry in Sydney's tough western suburbs, that Tom developed a modern "hard" fighting style known as Kempo Karate, which lead in 1978 to Tom formulating and founding Zen Chi Ryu.
Shihan Tom's dedication to change and improvement inspired Shihan Phil after Tom's death and upon Phil leaving Zen Chi Ryu to develop and found Bukido Kai as a means of continuing Shihan Tom's work.
Tom's often outspoken and forward thinking views and rejection of many of traditional Karate's forms and practices, in favour of street-effective techniques taught in full-contact sparring and realistic training, earned him his share of criticism from some martial arts purists, but admiration and respect from many of his contemporaries.
Shihan Tom believed that martial arts were like a stream, always moving and changing, he was always open to change and his ability to analysis and extract the best and most efficient techniques from a wide range of sources created a martial art philosophy of adapt to overcome. Shihan Tom was also a master at extracting the best from those who had come to him with a desire to learn and train hard. I personality found that Tom's teachings, wisdom and friendship were things that I valued greatly during his life and have missed since his untimely passing.
Sadly Shihan Tom passed away on the 22nd of September 1993 at Penrith. He will be missed by all those who knew him.
During his life Tom demonstrated his mastery of technique by amazing displays of tameshiwari (breaking). On one occasion in 1983 Shihan Tom smashed through one tonne of ice with a single blow, (elbow strike, see below). On another occasion he broke 4,378 bricks in one hour. Each of these break earned much needed funds for children's charities.
Below are images of the ice break, some are poor quality as they were taken from a very old video tape.
(Above 15th 1983 at Woden, ACT
The recognition he received throughout his life continued until the very end, when he received the prestigious Michael Edgeley Award for Martial Arts Excellence in 1993. Previous recipients included Bill Wallace, John Newman, Dan Inosanto, and Erle Montaigue.
An uncompromising and consummate martial art teacher and a fighter of awesome power, Shihan Tom Slaven, was truly one of Australia's martial arts elite.
Whilst some believe that his death marked the final chapter for this outstanding martial artist, I believe that a lasting tribute and legacy to Shihan Tom is the way in which many of his former students still train and teach, passing on the lessons learnt from Tom to a new generation of martial artists. Some of Tom's students remain within the systems that Tom founded, many former students have gone their own way creating a number of new martial art systems, still teaching the philosophies and skills that were passed on to them by Tom Slaven.
If by chance you are a former student of Shihan Tom, please Email us or send us a message via the feedback page so the you can let us know where you are today and what you are doing and if you like you can leave a details of your involvement with Shihan Tom. If you would like to send us any photos of Tom we will happily post them on this page. Thank you to those former students who have sent photos to us.