Japan and Karate are not often popular with Okinawan stylists. Today many decry the different ways those arts differed.
But there is a remarkable work by one of Funakoshi’s original Japanese students, that asked many of the same questions we still ask today. And he acted on those questions, making choices based on what he found on Okinawa. While we might agree or disagree with his choices, or those of each other, we can still recognize the quest that drove him. For that reason alone he is well worth the time to study what he wrote.
In my beginning years there was little writing about Isshinryu or karate itself available in the book stores. There were magazines like Black Belt and others. But there was little of depth.
I knew there were differences between different systems but did not understand what those differences were. When I began my study I had a brother in the Jhoon Ree system of TKD, a brother studying a Chinese system in NH and a younger brother and sister in Shotokan in York Pa.
We did not live near each other and did not discuss our training. Of all of them I was the only one who kept training.
When I began my training my father presented me his copy of Nakayama’s “Dynamic Karate”, a superior book in its own right but as I was studying Isshinryu it did show something of Shotokan it also didn’t mean a great deal to me.
Our study of Isshinryu was not from books (which came later) but that of sweat equity on the dojo floor. Several years later my wife bought me Funakoshi’s “Karate Do Koyan” for Christmas. Again a great book I would appreciate more as the decades passed.
But in 1976 I purchased a new book, my first, Engami Shigeru’s “The Way of Karate Beyond Technique.” As I read it I recognized it was something different. Did not exactly know what the difference was, but as the years passed it said more and more to me.
Now at the time the book was written in Japan, he was in his 40 year in karat (coincidently I am there myself as I write this).
The karate he studied was different from what the JKA had become, for many reasons. Karate had changed (as it probably always did, even on Okinawa). For one thing the Karate-do that concerned Funakoshi did not seem to resonate within the younger man. He began to understand why some changes were made.
For one thing the original version of Knuckle Toe Kicks (one of many Okinawan variations on toe kicking) was discontinued because of the pain from training. He too (as many still do) traveled to Okinawa to understand what was being done there for his own reasons. Then he acted on those answers he experienced and changed the way he did karate. He also followed his own logic making other changes. Trying holding to the original traditions he studied from Funakoshi.
To seriously understand the difference from what Funakoshi originally taught, seeing his own observations of Okinawa, and then seeing what that knowledge did to his karate, and the reason for those choices, I recommend this book.
It was later reissued as “The Heart of Karate” perhaps slightly different but still the same book.
Shigeru Egami was a pioneering Japanese master of Shotokan karate who founded the Shōtōkai style. He was a student of Gichin Funakoshi, who is widely recognized as the founder of modern karate.
o Born: Dec 07, 1912 · Omuta, Japan
o Died: Jan 08, 1981 · Tokyo, Japan
o Education: Waseda University
1912: Egami was born on December 7, 1912, in Ōmuta, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan.
1949: On May 27, 1949, he helped establish the Japan Karate Association under Funakoshi.
1957: Following Funakoshi's death in 1957, Egami began trying to change karate's poor reputation as a 'deadly martial art,' something Funakoshi had tried to do all his life.
1981: Egami died at 7:00 PM on January 8, 1981, in Tokyo.