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History of Shudokan

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The Father of Malaysian Aikido

1926 - 2022

The history of Aikido Shudokan begins with Thamby Rajah Sensei.

The founding father of Aikido in Malaysia, Thamby Rajah Sensei began his martial arts career with the study of judo. He traveled from Malaya (as it was then known) by ship in 1957 for eleven days, arriving in Japan to seek training under Harayoshi Ichijima Sensei and Mifune Kyuso Sensei, the latter of whom was a 10th dan and one of the foremost exponents of judo at the time.

Thamby Rajah Sensei was introduced to the founder of Yoshinkan Aikido, Soke Gozo Shioda during his time of training in Japan. Fascinated with the martial art, he studied under the watchful eye of Soke Shioda from 1959 as his student. Upon his return home to Malaysia, Thamby Rajah Sensei made history by becoming the first ever Malaysian to attain a black belt both in judo and Yoshinkan aikido. He would one day attain world records for these achievements, in addition to being Malaysia’s oldest and longest-practicing Aikido teacher.

In Japan, Soke Shioda presented Thamby Rajah Sensei with the name “Shudokan” which Thamby Rajah Sensei crowned the founding dojo in his hometown of Seremban in Malaysia. The name as explained by its components – “Shu” means to study, “Do” means the way, and “Kan” means the house – is translated as “the house to study the way of Aikido”.

Thamby Rajah Sensei’s most notable students include his nephew and the founder of Aikido Shudokan Australia Joe Thambu Shihan (8th dan), as well as the late Edwin William James Stratton (9th dan) the founder of the Shudokan Institute of Aikido International in the United Kingdom.


Thamby Rajah Sensei continued to teach Aikido until he passed away on 3rd November 2022, at the age of 97. He is remembered as a respected and influential figure in the world of Aikido, and his teachings continue to inspire students and instructors around the world.



1961 - PRESENT

Joe Thambu Shihan is the founder of Aikido Shudokan Australia and Chief Instructor of Aikido Shudokan International.

Thambu Shihan began his training in aikido in 1972 at the age of 11 years old under the tutelage of his uncle, Thamby Rajah Sensei, the man prominently known as the “Father of Malaysian Aikido”. As a teenager, Thambu Shihan studied kendo and Shindo Muso Ryu Jodo, before testing for and achieving his 1st dan in aikido in 1978.

He left for Australia soon after attaining his shodan rank to attend university, wherein he trained in the several forms of aiki-kai and ju-jitsu before relinquishing his study of these styles in favour of opening and establishing the first-ever yoshinkan aikido dojo in Melbourne, Australia. Thambu Shihan later flew to Japan for the first time in 1983 to dedicate himself to his aikido training, becoming a live-in student (“uchi deshi”) of the Yoshinkan Hombu Dojo in Tokyo. Upon his return to Australia, he opened the first full-time yoshinkan dojo on St George’s Road and the first permanent home of the “Aikido Shudokan”.

Thambu Shihan has visited Japan many times since 1983 and would later receive his 5th dan under the examination of Soke Gozo Shioda in 1993, becoming both the youngest non-Japanese yoshinkan aikidoka to ever receive the rank, as well as the last aikidoka to be tested under Soke Shioda prior to the latter’s passing in 1994. He was awarded his 6th dan in 2001 and much later in December of 2007, Shioda Yasuhisa Kancho awarded him his 7th dan in acknowledgment of Thambu Shihan’s dedication to the proliferation of aikido. Thambu Shihan was promoted to the rank of “shihan” in October of 2008, once again making history as the first non-Japanese aikidoka to receive the title, and in November of 2015 was awarded his 8th dan by his mentor and head of Aikido Shudokan, Kancho Kyoichi Inoue (10th dan).

Thambu Shihan has worked tirelessly throughout the years to spread aikido throughout the world, and has been instrumental in the development of yoshinkan aikido throughout South-East Asia, the United Kingdom, the United States, Poland, Iran, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands. For his efforts, Thambu Shihan received the Blitz Martial Arts Magazine “Hall of Fame Aikido Instructor of the Year” award in 1997, and later in 2012 was conferred an honorary doctorate by the Asia Pacific Open University of Martial Arts for his lifelong contributions. In September of 2005, Thambu Shihan was presented with the Tokubetsu Embu Sho, an award given for the best demonstration at the illustrious 50th Anniversary All Japan Yoshinkan Aikido Demonstration.

As chief instructor of Aikido Shudokan schools worldwide, Thambu Shihan has met and trained with a multitude of aikido masters from all over the world, including Soke Gozo Shioda (10th dan), Kancho Kyoichi Inoue (10th dan), Tsutomo Chida Shihan (8th dan) and Takafumi Takeno Shihan (9th dan). His interactions with martial arts is not limited to yoshinkan aikido and he has worked with masters of other disciplines, such as Kaiso Obata Toshishiro of Shinkendo Shimbukan, Donn F. Draeger of Shindo Muso ryu Jodo and Testsuro Nariyama Shihan of the aikido kyogi styled Shodokan Aikido Federation.

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Ramlan Ortega Shihan (PhD MA) is the head of Aikido Shudokan Malaysia and Aikido Shudokan Singapore.

He began his aikido journey in 1995 and received his 1st dan black belt from Kancho Inoue Kyoichi Sensei (10th dan) who was then the Headmaster of the International Yoshinkan Aikido Federation in Japan circa 1997. Ramlan Shihan became a student of Thamby Rajah Sensei in 1998 and, one year later, received his 2nd dan.

Master Thamby Rajah sent Ramlan Shihan in January of 2002 to Melbourne for intensive personal training under his nephew, Joe Thambu Shihan (8th dan), the Chief Instructor of Aikido Shudokan Australia and also the Shuseiki Shihan of our parent organisation, Aikido Shudokan International. In March of 2003, he received his 3rd dan from Inoue Kancho on the latter’s visit to Melbourne, and later attained his 4th dan after being graded by Joe Thambu Shihan in July of 2007. In March of 2012 in Melbourne, he was awarded his 5th dan after grading in front of Inoue Kancho. In June of 2018, Ramlan Shihan was awarded his 6th Dan and most recently on 29 March 2019, conferred the title of Shihan from Aiko Inoue Kaicho and Joe Thambu Shuseiki Shihan.

Ramlan Shihan has devoted his life to spreading aikido under the tutelage of his mentor Joe Thambu Shihan and founded both the Malaysian and Singaporean schools of Aikido Shudokan. He has returned to Australia and Japan many times over the last two decades for advanced training and to participate in aikido demonstrations and seminars. Ramlan Shihan has featured in numerous demonstrations in Indonesia, Thailand, Australia and Japan, as well as participated in the illustrious 50th Anniversary All Japan Yoshinkan Aikido Demonstration in September 2005.

Over the course of his career, Ramlan Shihan has also trained under world-renowned aikido teachers such as Kancho Kyoichi Inoue (10th dan), Tsutomo Chida Shihan (8th dan), Takafumi Takeno Shihan (9th dan), Yasuhisa Shioda Kancho (son and successor of Soke Gozo Shioda) and Robert Mustard Shihan (8th dan), all of whom are notable luminaries in the world of yoshinkan aikido and with whom he maintains cordial relations with to this day.

History of Aikido

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