KARATE-DO, Beyond Technique
Shigeru Egami Sensei
Kodansha International, 1972
Forty years have assed since I began to practice karate under Master Gichin Funakoshi. During those years, I have of course changed physically and mentally; in some cases, I became aware of the changes myself, but at other times they were pointed out by others. But always, I think, they were inevitable. Moreover, there have been great changes in the techniques and the kata during this period. My objectives in writing this book are to review the changes that have taken place in Karate-do ófor the purpose of casting a fresh light on what is important in karate trainingó and to present the fundamentals to be practiced by the student.
The changes have by no means been merely technical ones; changes have also occurred in the way of thinking. We were taught, for example, that all movements follow a straight line and practiced in this way, but the truth is quite the opposite: karate movements never follow a straight line. Some movements are circular, some are up and down, and some are lateral. Although there was a time when we would have thought it inconceivable, even striking is not done in a straight line; it can be done in a number of ways. Blocking techniques have also changed, and the movements performed In a kata, from beginning to end, have become varied and flowing.
Since the changes are numerous and fundamental, several questions arise. For example, did the karate-ka of former days think of training in the fundamentals as the way leading to real practice? That is, did they realize that through practice they could clarify the relation between mind and body, understand the relation between one’s own mind and the mind of another, and seek the innermost secrets of the human being ?
The ideal of Gichin Funakoshi, who has come to be recognized as the “Father of Karate-do,” was to advance from jutsu (“technique”) to do (the “way”). It became my mission to realize this ideal, but here again questions arise: What is the meaning of “from technique to the way ?” Through what kind of practice can one attain this ideal ?
Karate-jutsu or Karate-do ? The distinction between the two must be clearly grasped. Karate-jutsu must be regarded as nothing more than a technique for homicide, and that, most emphatically, is not the objective of Karate-do. He who would follow the way of true karate must seek not only to coexist with his opponent but to achieve unity with him. There is no question of homicide, nor should emphasis ever be placed on winning. When practicing Karate-do, what is important is to be one with your partner, move together, and make progress together.
The differences between the karate of today and that of former times extend even to warming-up exercises, for if the way of thinking changes, everything will change. Stress is now placed on suppleness of both mind and body. For those of us who began the practice of karate long ago, the result of making our bodies rigid was to become muscle-bound, and our power was dispersed to many parts of our bodies. The present concept is that the body be relaxed, supple and strong, and the power concentrated in one point. Furthermore, the mind should be clear, that is, without thoughts, and all movements should be made in a natural way. Without a clear, supple mind, the body cannot be supple.
That karate has come to be identified in the public mind as an “art of homicide” is indeed sad and unfortunate. It is not that. It is an art of self-defense, but in order to attain its benefits, the practitioner must be completely free of any egotistic feeling. This widespread, public misconception was very much in my mind while I wrote, and I would be very happy if this book could serve as a corrective to the mistaken public image and thus become a valuable guide to those who will practice karate in the future.
In 1972, at the request of Mr. Tomoji Miyamoto of the Japan Karate-do Shoto-kai’s secretariat, I began a series of articles under the title “Changes in Technique” for Karate-do, the newsletter of the Shoto-kai. On the recommendation of my colleagues, and also in commemoration of my sixtieth birthday, these articles have been translated to form the basis of this book. Since I am not a writer by profession, I fear that this book is full of defects. However, I would like to dedicate it to the members of the Shoto-kai in deep appreciation of their long friendship and support. I would also like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude to the many persons who have been of assistance in bringing this book to publication.