"I first met Tom in the 70's but got to know him better during the 80's. Tom was a man that was worth knowing, his approach to life was to live it by his own rules and not the judgement of others. He came from a bygone era in martial arts, an era where ability was judged not by belts or certificates or awards, although he certainly had all of those, but by your capacity to actually fight, and on this score Tom had few equals. I am of the view that Tom would have been a highly capable fighter whether he studied martial arts or not, but certainly his study of the martial arts only enhanced an already very capable individual. Tom was in every aspect a self-made man who contributed much to the foundation of Australian martial arts; he was a genuine world record holder and in his business life away from the martial arts, he was highly successful. A testament to his ability is the number of students he produced that have gone on to be capable and successful teachers in their own right. Our industry is the poorer for his passing but the greater for what he contributed and the rich legacy that he has left us."
President, Martial Arts Industry Association
"At the end of 1979, I was already a student of Karate and had earned a Black Belt, but while bouncing at a pub I found myself in a confrontation with several opponents and I discovered to my regret that my fight skills were insufficient to get me out of a bad situation. As a result of this, I went looking for someone to teach me how to fight in the street. After searching the Sydney martial arts community I found those who were highly proficient at their arts, and some were very skilled fighters, but there was only one name that was mentioned by everyone as a real master of street combat... Tom Slaven. I found Kyoshi, but a commitment sent me to Canada which didn't allow me to study under Kyoshi until 1982. It was then that I joined the Kingswood Hombu Dojo. One of the instructors at the dojo was Andy Melito - he informed Kyoshi that I was already a Black Belt in another style of Karate. Kyoshi kept an eye on me from a distance, although anyone who knew Tom Slaven knows it was not hard to know when he was keeping an eye on you. I worked what I thought was hard, and the time came to test for my Yellow Belt. Kyoshi failed me, not only did he fail me once, he failed me the next time I tested as well; now there are some who may have thought this was unfair, but I believe he was testing not just my skill, but also ME the man... did I want this enough to keep coming back even in the face of rejection and failure? I remember being pushed to achieve both mentally and physically. This single experience proved to be the paradigm shift in my thinking process. In the years that have passed I constantly find myself being grateful to Kyoshi Slaven for having my success as his goal. I remember one Friday night Black Belt class where we were taken outside to the telephone pole in front of the dojo where Kyoshi had tied a kick shield to the pole; he stood in a Horse Stance and execute 4 palm heels into the shield... the overhead wires began swaying - we were all stunned by the power he used - our task was to maintain the wires swaying motion. Not an easy task. I learned so much from Kyoshi, I learn to fight with my mind, physical skill and real intent, something that has proven useful in many aspects of my life both inside and outside the dojo. Kyoshi taught me to break, as he did for many who were his students and there is ample evidence as to how well he passed on this skill. There are none who break as well as the students of Slaven Kyoshi. Most people misunderstood Tom Slaven. He was a man, and all men have flaws and weaknesses; they never seem able to separate the man from the martial arts master, but at the center of all his proclivities and traits was the fact that he was a warrior, a warrior like few others, and that was how he looked at everything, with the warriors' eye. This made him a hard man in every aspect of his life. I am grateful and proud to have been a Kyoshi Tom Slaven student and one of his Black Belts. Kyoshi's skills, both mental and physical have been rivalled by very few. I have studied all over Australia, Canada and the United States and Kyoshi Tom Slaven is the standard against which I have measured all other masters of their arts. This standard may be equalled, but seldom surpassed."
Sean A. Waugh
5th Dan Kenpo Karate
Las Vegas, Nevada
Tribute to Tom Slaven
This page has been added in respect of my former teacher and friend, Thomas Thompson Black Slaven, Shihan Kyoshi (1940-1993).
Born in Haddington (near Edinburgh), Scotland, Tom's first introduction to martial arts came in 1945 when his uncle (fresh from active service) taught him the use of the elbow at close range. As a youth he excelled at gymnastics and competitive wrestling (Catch-As-Catch-Can), although he chose to end this pursuit as the techniques he came to favour had recently been banned as they were deemed too dangerous.
Shortly following his immigration to Sydney, Australia in 1960, Tom took up the advice of new friend Ron Jennings and began the study of a relatively obscure art named Nippon Kempo. This was followed in 1966 with practice under Neil Atkinson in the powerful system of Kyokushin Karate, in which he obtained the certified rank of Sho Dan in 1969.
Having an alternative outlook on actual combat to that of Kyokushin, Tom sought to combine aspects of his formal training with 'in the field' research and founded Kempo Karate Do. This was a system that would discard the traditional methods of practice in favour of more realistic methods of combat. An art that is today survived and taught by Tom's first graded Black Belt, Sensei Steve McHugh. Long before the phrases 'mixed martial arts' or 'reality-based training' had been coined, Tom was going against the grain of the traditional schools by cross training and constantly redefining his art. Notably, Tom's quest for self-improvement earnt him a place in the history books when in 1975 at North Rocks, NSW he broke 368 x 4 concrete blocks in one hour.
The 70's was a difficult decade for Tom as he suffered several personal tradgedies. He continued on in the martial arts where many would have crumbled and in 1978 joined forces with Zen Do Kai legend Bob Jones. Lasting merely three years, this alignment saw Tom gather a wealth of experience that transcended into his already successful security company (Prospect Security Services). Charged with the protection of many prominent political and entertainment personalities such as Linda Ronstadt, Fleetwood Mac & Gough Whitham, he was in 1983 bestowed with the honour of providing additional protection to HRH Prince Charles & Lady Diana Spencer on their visit to Canberra.
Like all true artists, Tom recalled a life chequered with joy and pain to produce a martial arts masterpiece like no other. Believing Tameshiwari to be the perfect fusion of mind & body into a single technique, on April 15th 1983 at Woden, ACT Tom crushed 2040 lbs of ice with a single elbow strike - a feat yet to be equalled.
Founding Zen Chi Ryu was to be the final chapter in the martial arts life of Tom Slaven. His life's work is best respected and complimented by the many varied instructors who have studied under him and continue his principles in their chosen art. He was a formidable man with an extraordinary mind who found martial arts to be the perfect vehicle to match his aggressive, extremist personality.
Written by Graeme Sneddon
8th April, 2008