Shotokai

Shotokai (松濤會) is the organisation formed in 1936 by Gichin Funakoshi to teach karate. The organisation still exists and promotes a form of martial art that strictly adheres to O’Sensei’s teachings, in particular the notion that competition is contrary to the essence of karate. Nowadays, the name also designates a style and technique.

Historically, neither Shotokai nor Shotokan were in fact “styles” of karate. “Shotokai” was just the name of the association launched by Funakoshi’s students, and “Shotokan” the name of its Dojo, “Shoto” being the pseudonym by which Funakoshi used to sign his poems.

The name derives from “Shoto”, the pen name of Funakoshi—literally translated as “pine waves”, and “Kai” meaning “group”, therefore “Shoto’s group”.

At the Master’s death in 1957, his students split into two factions: on one side the group that was already known as JKA (Japan Karate Association), known widely as “Shotokan”; and on the other, the Shotokai association, which remained faithful to the Master’s teachings.

One of the stumbling blocks between the two groups was the question of whether competitions were to be introduced or not; Funakoshi always forbade competitions whereas some of his students wanted to organize such events.

Therefore, although Shotokai was originally the name of an association, we can say that it became a style when Master Shigeru Egami defined the broad outlines of the new way of practising he developed after having, in a number of tests, discovered the inefficiency of the karate method of attack at that time.

After years of research, Master Egami found an efficient way of striking by executing the movement in a relaxed state of mind and body. This is the basis of Shotokai. It is suppleness and relaxation and not tenseness that generate force. Elaborating this basic idea, he suggested new forms of techniques and a new way of practising.

Faithful to Master Funakoshi’s teachings, Master Egami always kept the Shotokai group out of the Sports Karate movement which is predominant to this day. Rather, his spiritual evolution made him search for harmony with his partner.

Master Egami wrote: “First of all, we must practise Karate like a combat technique and then, with time and experience, we will be able to understand a certain state of soul and will be able to open ourselves to the horizons of jita-ittai (“the union of one with the other”) which lay beyond fighting. This is the principle of coexistence which enables us to live together in prosperity.” (Source, mainly: KDSE Europe)

Masters:

  • Gichin Funakoshi (1868–1957), also known as O’Sensei (the old master), founded the Shotokai.
  • Gigō Funakoshi (1906–1945), his third son, also known as Yoshitaka Funakoshi or Waka Sensei (the young master), was a martial arts genius who developed the technique and style. He died of tuberculosis before he could succeed his father at the head of the Shotokai.
  • Shigeru Egami (1912–1981), one of Gichin’s most talented students, took over Nihon Karate-do Shoto-kai together with Motonobu Hironishi and developed the art even further, making it what it is today. Shigeru Egami was the chief instructor and president of the Shotokai until his death.
  • Motonobu Hironishi (1913–1999) studied under Gichin and Yoshitaka, together with his close friend Shigeru Egami. After Shigeru Egami’s death, he became president of the Shotokai.
  • Jotaro Takagi (1927–) has been the chairman of the Shotokai, in Tokyo, since 1995.
  • Mitsusuke Harada (1928–) studied under Gichin and Yoshitaka Funakoshi, and most importantly under Egami in the early 1950s, with whom he practiced seven days a week for 18 months. He received his fifth dan directly from O’Sensei in 1955, the only surviving master with that honour. He still teaches to this day, mostly in Europe.

The style: Shotokai Karate differs from much of Shotokan in that it rejects competition altogether, feeling that it compromises Karate itself. Kata are generally the same as other forms of karate, although Shotokai often emphasizes smooth flowing movements rather than the sharp snappy movements of other styles. Kumite (sparring) in some Shotokai schools is practiced with full strength attacks, and is tightly controlled in terms of who is attacking and defending and the attacks that can be performed in order to reduce the chance of injury.

Organizations:

  • AKSER (Association Karate-Do Shotokai Egamiryu®)
  • Karate Do Shotokai
  • Karate Do Shotokai Europe (KDSE)
  • Murakami-Kai
  • Nihon Karate-do Shotokai
  • Scuola Shotokai Italia (SSI)
  • Shotokai Karate Budo (SKB)

THE TWENTY PRECEPTS by Gichin Funakoshi :

  1. Karate begins and ends with REI. (courtesy)
  2. An offensive attitude does not exist in Karate.
  3. Karate is an aid to justice.
  4. First know yourself and then others.
  5. Spirit is more important than technique.
  6. It is necessary to let KOKORO free (the mind).
  7. Accidents result of neglect.
  8. Karate training is not only in the dojo.
  9. Karate is a lifelong training.
  10. Confront your problems with a Karate spirit.
  11. Karate is like warm water (if you don’t heat it constantly, it will cool).
  12. Do not foster the idea of winning neither that of being defeated.
  13. Transform yourself according to your opponent.
  14. The secret of combat resides in the art of directing it.
  15. Think of your arms and legs as swords.
  16. When you leave your home, think that you have numerous opponents waiting for you (it is your behavior that invites trouble from them).
  17. Beginners must master low stance and posture; natural body positions are for the advanced.
  18. Strive for the perfect form (kata), real combat is something else.
  19. Do not forget to correctly apply: strength and weakness of power, expansion and contraction of the body, and slow and fast techniques.
  20. Always try to study and express it better.