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Home Tribute to Tom Slaven
Tom Slaven: Kempo Warrior

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 4, 368 concrete blocks in one hour.

The seventies 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 2040lbs 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, extremeist personality.

Written by Graeme Sneddon. 8th April, 2008


Tom and his students



Tributes to Tom Slaven


I first met Tom in the seventies but got to know him better during the eighties. 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 testiment 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.

Walt Missingham
President Martial Arts Industry Association


I have trained with many top instructors around the globe at different times but without a doubt Tom Slaven was one of the finest. Because of my occupation as a security officer and later on with the Military, the skills I learnt from Tom certainly saved me from injury and death. Tom was a great fighter and instructor who always brought so much realism to the Martial Arts he taught. He was ahead of his time and it was not until I started teaching myselef that I realised how lucky I had been to meet and train under him. R.I.P Shihan Tom, thanks for helping to make me the instructor I am today.


Carl Halley TKM CEO


As an instructor in early 70's in Sydney, Many times I cam across Shihan Tom Slaven in various tournaments and demonstrations. I found him to be a no nonsense instructor with a very good hard background.

My meetings with him were breif and general but I came to know him better later on through some of his students.

He left a legacy through his students and ti is said that a teacher is judged by the way his students are, and in Tom's case he has left a high standard of well diciplined, well mannered instructors behind, and that is how he will be remembered.


Homa Alenaddaf
General Manager, Sportsmaster Athletics International
KanZen Ryu Karate-Do www.karateschool1.bounce.com.au


Though I did not know Tom Slaven well, it was clear from his contribution to DANGERFREAKS that his skills were remarkable. He deserved The Big Brass Balls Award for his confidence, and ability to block out pain. It was clear from the commitment of the Kempo Karate Team that he was also a charismatic leader, and well regarded throughout the martial arts community.


Brian Trenchard Smith
Director of Dangerfreaks, Stunt Rock, Man From Hong Kong, and Turkey Shoot


In 1974 I was a student training in the Art of Ju-Jitsu at the Evening College for Adult Education in the Pendle Hill High School (NSW). At this time I was only a Brown Belt.

One of the Black Belts asked me to help a new student learn about the art of Ju-Jitsu. The fellow was introduced to me only as Tom.

We trained most of the night but I had the feeling this fellow knew more about the Martial Arts than I did at that stage and was wondering how come I had been selected to partner this person.

After class I spoke to the Black Belt who had put me with Tom and asked, "Who was that person I was teaching as he seems to know a lot about Martial Arts?"

His reply to me was "Oh didn't I tell you, that person was Tom Slaven".

I met Tom several times after that and always found him to be a gentleman and a wealth of knowledge.


Brierley Bailey
President of the Australian JuJitsu Association


My opinion of Tom:

He was roughheaded, irreverent little Welshman (that coming from someone from neighbouring Cheshire, home of fellow master archers in the Middle Ages)

He really knew what he was doing in terms of teaching workable martial arts tactics and of his personal capabilities in a serious affray

He produced students who didn't go in for a lot of bullshit, invariably knew their stuff and were good to work with

There weren't (and still aren't) many people who could beat his icebreaks

He was a marked contrast to the thousands of "Martial Arts Masturbators' (to borrow his terminology) out there :)


He was a breath of much needed fresh air in the Martial Arts industry and I really liked the little sod

David Crook
Head of Bac Fu Do Kung Fu
Vice president of MAIA.


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 Kyoshi Tom Slaven student and one of his Black Belts.


Kyoshi's skills, both mental and physical have been rivaled 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 equaled; but seldom surpassed.


Sean A. Waugh
5th Dan Kenpo Karate
Las Vegas, Nevada


Tom was a man of substance. At a camp in Brisbane around 1979 we were discussing the one-inch and three-inch punch, when Tom hit me with a palm-heel on the chest. I can still feel it today.


Funakoshi is dead. Yamaguchi is dead. Oyama is dead. Slaven is dead. His legacy should be remembered.

Malcolm Anderson
Founder of Anderson Bushi Kai
Former No.2 Zen Do Kai