Master Shigeru Egami’s Itinerary (1912-1981)
Shigeru Egami was born in 1912 in Kyushu within a family of merchants. Once he arrived to Tokyo he begins to practice passionately Karate. Before that point he had been introduced to Judo at the age of thirteen. After a few difficulties in the entrance exam he is accepted in the Waseda University in Tokyo, here he started his commerce studies but it is karate that he discovers. It is at this university that he becomes the first student of Gichin Funakoshi to whom he would maintain himself faithful all his life.
His student Haruo Kudo, director of the Gakushuin University karate club summarizes the life of his master this way:
All his life Master Egami was the first disciple of Master Gichin Funakoshi. Master Egami said “Master Funakoshi’s karate in his youth must have been light and without any waste of strength. It is necessary that our karate emulate it and that it finds inspiration in this model.” This is why I consider that Master Egami’s karate is in the style Funakoshi-Egami, the one that inspires the superior Shotokan.
In the 1930’s Master Egami dreamt of constructing karate with Master Yoshitaka Funakoshi based upon the teachings of Master Gichin Funakoshi. But, Master Yoshitaka (Gigo) Funakoshi died young, that is why Master Egami had to continue alone, his heart full of tears, with the construction of the superior Shotokan school…
Around 1955, when Master Egami was just over 40 years old, he started to search, in his classes at the university dojo, for a light karate without waste of strength. He audaciously rejected the conceptions and techniques of karate he had acquired until that point. He transformed all basic techniques, this made all advanced students feel inferior compared to the newcomers that could directly learn the new techniques. But I think that Master Egami was he who must have felt the biggest feeling of inferiority.
During these courses, I had many ocassions where I could talk to Master Egami with whom we’d stay dozens of hours each day. The Master noted the techniques and personalitites with a great freshness of spirit. He had started studying the energetic cycles of the sun and moon. He ask questions, even to me, on telepathy and toate (hitting at a distance) […] He said that a tsuki must be focussed two meters past the target, that he knew how students were training without looking, that it would be possible to make a person fall without touching them, etc…
As mentioned, during the last part of his life, Shigeru Egami directs his studies towards energetic research and the interpersonal communication and directs his karate towards mysticism. We may think that his health was an important influence concerning this evolution and his studies centered around effectivity. Actually, right from his infancy he had serious digestive disorders and at the age of 24 he was affected by tuberculosis after a pneumonia. However, before and after these afflictions, Shigeru Egami, had a reputation of having a particularly solid body. He was proud of his muscles “of steel”, said his fellow students. Nevertheless after he became forty he suffers periodically of stomach, lung and heart illnesses that will get worse every year. I believe that these experiences oriented his research in karate creating an introspective attitude.
In his research Shigeru Egami was strongly influenced by two other Masters. Two maxims that reflect directly through his teachings, one by Morihei Ueshiba, founder of aikido:
“The fundament of aikido is love”
and one by Shoyo Inoue, the founder of shinwa-taido:
“It is necessary to perceive the unifying energy of the universe”.
H. Kudo continues:
After 1956, Master Egami had to go through two new operations and his health deteriorated. He could no longer show us techniques in practice kimono. Would it be possible for me to be a martial arts teacher without being able to move? This fact, one nobody had had to face before, became his life’s theme after forty years of age. Furthermore he felt incredibly inferior, he not only had come to doubt all his technical knowledge he also had to confront economical difficulties.
The karateka stuck on his sick bed could no longer train. Meditating his karate in this situation he was able to sense the presence of somebody with his eyes closed, something that gave him a renewed hope and a base over which to build his karate.
Shigeru Egami wrote: Three years have passed since I died once. It was no more than some ten minutes. I later was told I had been victim of a cardiac crisis. During those minutes I had a precious experience. Face to face with death, the last pain, the agony and the sadness, the loneliness at that moment is beyond all description. In the daily life, I would say that it was necessary to live with a state of mind as if you were in difficult moments, and I would teach this state of mind during training. But this experience sank all my pretentions. When I returned to life, what happiness! All I looked at shown with light and I had the bliss of being able to experience a true way (“do”). I was so full of happiness and pleasure that I talked spontaneously to everyone.I believe Master Egami’s experiences living very close to death and as he himself wrote “since I died once“, enhanced his energetic perceptions to a significant degree. It is also possible that his experiences activated an exceptional capability. On this subject, the testimony of Masaru Mizushima, member of the administration council of the Shotokai association are interesting: I started karate to become strong but my objectives have progressively changed… There was a lady at the dojo that was 2 kyu over me. When we did combat training I was never able to touch her and she would project me, I felt incredibly humiliated, this gave me motivation to train. But during training I was always dominated by my fellow trainees, I wanted to get over this situation. About then I was taken by one of my seniors to the house of Master Egami for the first time, there I was mute and could not utter one word. From that day on I started to visit from time to time the house of the master and listening to him I started to grasp a new dimension of karate. In the course of a training, when I touched the hand of the master for the first time, I transpired enormously without apparent reason. In the first combat exercise with the master without him touching me I was projected and lost consciousness, something completely uncomprehensible. Master did this with me on three separate occasions. And for three years, when I train, the same curious phenomenon occured. It was then that I understood the deepness of karate-do. M. Mizushima is not the only one that has been projected by Master Egami without him touching them. A large number of Shotokai adepts that recount similar experiences. We can ask ourselves: Is this a karate that is close to its ideal form? Is this really a martial art phenomenon? Do the dynamics that exist between a master and a student explain this? Is it really an energetic phenomenon that can be explored by a karate method discovered by Shigeru Egami? Let’s leave this question open. Let us return to the H. Kudo text: In 1963, at the age of 50, Master Egami finally discovered that magnetic waves penetrate the human body through the right side. From that day and for the period of two or three years he was able to establish karate at a long distance, karate with toate (give a blow without touching the body of the adversary)… So he found a new gate at the age of 50 where he was able to fuse his body and spirit, uniting his softness, weakness and his lightness with his discoveries on ki, toate and the human body magnetic waves. But difficulty always followed him and he had to be hospitalized in 1967 due to a cardiac crisis… October 10th, 1980 during a course for instructors, Shigeru Egami’s health deteriorates. He was taken to a hospital where two days later he suffers a brain hemorrage. He did not recover conscienceness and died of pneumonia January 8th 1981 at the age of 68. Originally to spanish by Xavier Mínguez, Shotokai de España