Meeting Master Shigeru Egami

By Hiroyuki Aoki Sensei

From the book “Shintaido – The body is a message of the universe” Published by Shintaido of America, ISBN: 0-942634-00-4

Shotokai Karate-do comments (not included in the book!):

First of all we clearly recommend you try to buy this book, it includes information not only interesting to Shintaido participants but for any person in the martial arts, furthermore, the description of Shintaido’s foundations and basics are very compelling. H. Aoki as the text recounts was one of Master Egami’s important students. When Master Egami founded the Rakutenkai, a group of 30 Shotokai godan and specialists in various Japanese arts with the objective of researching the arts, Mr. Aoki was chosen o guide the group, through this group Mr. Egami fostered the idea of Sogo-Budo or Holistic Martial Art. Once the foundations of a new martial art where established, Master Egami was not able to take off as it’s founder due to his responsibility in Shotokai. Today Master Aoki, the founder of Shintaido, is the director of the International Shintaido Federation.

…After I started practicing karate, I was very surprised. My honorable sempai or “seniors” trained me in a crazy, inexplicable way. The group captain or leader in each generation before me had been a man of high character, and most of the senior members were the same age or younger than I, so I wanted to survive the severe training and live up to their expectations. Often my body would be covered with welts, there would be blood in my urine and I would have to crawl on all fours to the bathroom at night. This type of training is almost impossible to envision in today’s more democratic, moral circumstances. It would have been unnecessary at the time, also, if more effective methods had been available to us.

In the autumn of my second year, about one and a half years after I joined the karate club, Mr. Shigeru Egami, called the “phantom master”, appeared in Tokyo after spending many years in the country. We asked him to teach us as a special instructor. At the same time, I became captain of the Chuo University Karate Club and started to lead classes.

Egami’s teaching was like bright sunshine penetrating the darkness. He had been a great student under Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of modern Karate-do and the first master to bring Karate from Okinawa to Japan. Mr. Funakoshi had told his students that in Karate there are no title matches which would restrict them with rigid rules. Mr. Egami developed this idea by teaching us that the practice of Karate involves competition within oneself. He taught us that if there is an enemy, it is our self. He completely changed the traditional and feudalistic conception of our practice. In addition, his training was quite gentle and strangely soft; he never allowed a sadistic or oppressive feeling to enter our practice. Through his teaching, Karate movement suddenly approached the basic thinking of the artists and philosophers I had always admired in Japan and abroad. He introduced the stream of ki energy and a soft natural movement — unknown in the usual Karate world.

When we started our Karate Club practice under Mr. Egami, he would often say, “Why did Karate become so hard and stiff? It used to be much softer”. He used to say we should always seek softer movements which would be good even for sick and old people. His constant aim was the creation of a modern way of heiho — “a means of training in the day-to-day world” — by arranging the rough and simple fighting methods of the South China Sea area.

Mr. Egami’s teaching is an invaluable guide for anyone seeking a genuine martial art. He taught us to eliminate tension as much as possible through deepening concentration and proper meditation; to use holistic or integral power, rather that strength originating from one part of the body; to develop soft and natural movement with no surplus tension in the shoulders. These are the most basic tenets, not just for Karate, but for all body movements.

Shintaido does not diverge from this theory and I do not believe that it should. To be natural and move as we want is sufficient.