Master Shigeru Egami’s errors

Master Shigeru Egami’s errors

Master Shigeru Egami thinks that even though guided by Gichin Funakoshi, he followed a wrong way for a long time within his karate search. he wrote:

What I write here is no more than an expression of my reflective processes and my experiences during the forty years I have been within the way of karate. I would be very glad if I could help those that are searching to become experts of this way. I believe that Master Gichin Funakoshi tried to establish a way all through his 90 years of life, he followed a difficult path. I have gotten here by walking solid and freely the path he showed us. To follow a path followed by a predecessor isn’t easy either because there are always mood swings that bring problems to us the ordinary men. Even though a way has been followed before there are those that can get lost in time. This is why some get lost and others enter a labyrinth by trying forcefully to find effectivity quickly. We sometimes even doubt and ponder abandoning this painful search. However we are happy to know that there is a way that has been followed once at least. Weeding and moving the stones we can perceive clues of this road.

One day in my youth I got lost, I abandoned the way and found myself within a labyrinth… It took a long time before I understood my situation and I had to go through a painful and difficult period to return to the right road. When I once again found myself on the right way I was over 40 years old. But once I was again on the right way I was filled with happiness and since that day I have been able to face other types of difficulties and have been able to get to the last point of the way my master pointed out for me. You must never hurry, that is the lesson I obtained from my experiences…

This anecdote illustrates his training style between the ages of 25 and 30 years of age and the advice given by Master Gichin Funakoshi.

Around 1936, the young students grouped up around Yoshitaka Funakoshi to build the main dojo that would be called Shotokan based on the calligraphy pseudonym of Master Funakoshi. We called this dojo “Hombu Dojo” (central dojo; main dojo). We were all very proud of the magnificent dojo we had built ourselves, this stimulated the training environment. The two Funakoshi masters, Yoshitaka and Gichin, trained us with satisfied smiles.

In 1937 or 38, a short time after I had finished my studies at the university. I was training very dedicatedly, during the day at the university dojo and at night at the Hombu Dojo. One night I was training the Tekki kata movements in the empty dojo. I was talking to myself:

“Without placing the heel, put the foot with sokuto…”

And I did a fumikomi with determination. Then I heard a dry crack from the parquet. Surprised I look at the floor. My sokuto had cut one of the parquet pieces in two. It was not broken, it was as if I had cut it. I was very surprised and at the same time was very happy of being able to attain such a technical feat. But considering I had broken a new dojo floor parquet I went to inform this excusing myself to the young Master (Yoshitaka).

He comes down to the dojo saying:

“Oh, well! Have you done this? But they are not easy to break.”

Seeing the parquet, he exclaims:

“Oh, that is extraordinary! You could say it was cut, not broken. But the broken parquet is not something serious, we can just get it repaired.”

Instead of reproaching me, he is rather praiseful towards me and that cheers me up. Inside I am proud and happy. At this moment I feel the presence of the old Master (Gichin).

“Is that you, Egami, that has broken that parquet?”

“Yes, Master, I ask for forgiveness.” While I ask for forgiveness I believe he will congratulate me.

“Follow me.”

I follow him to his room on the second floor. Sitting there infront of the master, I start to feel unrestful. After a moment of silence the master says:

“Egami, you have once again done a similar thing. The real training is not what you have done. In my training in the past we never did brutal things like those. In a real training you must be able to put a shoji door (wood frame with an extended paper sheet) on the ground and throw water on it. Train on the paper without ripping it and move without breaking the fine wood unions, train techniques with power. Do you understand why we must search for the technique?”

Here you have a precious lesson of my master.

What type of errors did Shigeru Egami think he had made in his youth?

I discovered karate around 1924 when I was in the institute. The strange movements and the techniques the construction headmaster was doing, an originary of Okinawa, seemed mysterious and intriguing, with time I understood he was just a beginner…

Some year later, when I started to go to the university I started to train karate seriously. Training was far from mysterious. I was based on repetition and strength training. This training satisfied my first desire: to become strong. This type of training made the combative spirit return and furthermore strengthened the body, but I progressively understand that it was a partial physical strength and superficial…

I trained tsuki and keri with the idea of becoming the strongest possible person, investing my life. This helped me attain a remarkable strength. But in time I understood the limits of physical stength and human stength, this made me reflect on the possible search. I understood the limits of a human being and tried to heighten them by exploring and creating new possibilities. He who is weak can become strong, and he who is strong, becomes even stronger, but there is a limit in the search of physical strength. What is true strength that cannot be obtained through a physical training taken to the limit? Is there such a thing?…

I thought, when I was young, that karate must be completely effective and I practiced free sparring and furthermore to strengthen my tsuki, I would hit a particularly solid makiwara, instead of using a light board, I used a square post of 9 cm. (3.55 inches). That is how I deviated from true karate…


Originally to Spanish by Xavier Mínguez, Shotokai de España