Sensei Iha is the senior most practitioner of Okinawa Shorin-ryu residing in the United States and is ranked a Hanshi 10th Dan by the Okinawa Shorin-ryu Karate-do Association of Naha, Okinawa. He teaches Chibana-style shorin-ryu and refers to his method as Okinawa Shorin-ryu Shidokan Karatedo. On May 19th 2020, the Okinawa Prefecture Government designated him as an Intangible Cultural Asset Holder in the category of Okinawa Karate and Kobujutsu, a designation granted to only 20 karateka ever.
Iha Seikichi was born in Nishihara City, Okinawa Prefecture on July 9, 1932. He presently runs his own dojo, the Original Okinawa Karate Dojo, in Lansing, Michigan. He was promoted to Hanshi 10th Dan by his teacher, Miyahira Katsuya on March 25, 2001. He is the U.S. Branch Chief for the Okinawa Shorin-ryu Karate-do Association.
Iha began his karate training under his uncle but in 1950 he was accepted as a formal student of Gusukuma Shinpan. Gusukuma was a student of the famous Itosu Ankoh and was a well respected authority of Shuri-te. Since Gusukuma was an educator and a noted acupuncturist, he was very particular as to who he would take as a student. He was also very strict and scientific in his training and application of karate-do.
Although Gusukuma was physically small in size, he was very powerful in his techniques believing that a karate-man worth his salt could hit with force equal to three times his own body weight. Gusukuma was a stickler on conditioning the body through body contact and through the practice of the makiwara punching board. This concept is passed on to all of Iha's students.
Iha trained with Gusukuma for four years. After Gusukuma's death in 1954, Iha was introduced to his next teacher by his good friend, Miyazato Shoei. Iha met Miyahira Katsuya in 1954 and was accepted as a student shortly thereafter. Miyahira was very much like Gusukuma in that he was a school teacher with a very strict and scientific method of teaching karate-do.
Iha progressed in karate-do at a steady pace so that by 1963 he had been promoted to the rank of 5-Dan Shihan in Okinawa Shorin-ryu. At that time, Miyahira Katsuya received a request from the Philippine Islands asking for a Shorin-ryu instructor. Iha was chosen and spent approximately 11 months teaching Shorin-ryu at the dojo of Latino Gonzales in Manila.
Iha returned to Okinawa during the latter part of 1964 and began teaching the U.S. Marines stationed at Futenma, Okinawa. At that time he was promoted to 6-Dan and opened up his own dojo in his home town of Nishihara.
In 1967 Iha was promoted to the rank of Kyoshi 7-Dan and sent to teach in Los Angeles, CA. Iha initially began his karate teaching at the American-Okinawan Club located in Los Angeles. He is recognized as the first Okinawan Master Instructor of Shorin-ryu to teach in Southern California since 1927 when Yabu Kentsu taught for the same club.
After teaching shorin-ryu at the American-Okinawan Club for five months, he and two other 7-Dans opened up the Shureikan Dojo on Olympic Blvd. A year later, Iha went off on his own and opened his Shidokan Karate Dojo on West Pico Blvd.
Iha moved to the Lansing area in April of 1975 and began teaching at the Original Okinawa Karate Dojo. In September of 1978 he was promoted to Kyoshi 8-Dan. On March 12, 1989 he received his Hanshi 9th-Dan certification. And on March 25, 2001, Iha was promoted to Hanshi 10-Dan by Miyahira Katsuya, making him the highest ranking Okinawan residing in the United States. His rank is certified by the Okinawa Shorin-ryu Karate-do Association.