Seeking the way by Ken Waight

Master Egami… Shotokai Training in Japan… and Sogo Budo
by Ken Waight
Fighting Arts International Magazine

Arriving in Japan was quite a shock to a rather naive young keikonin (trainee) who had romantic dreams of it. Travelling in the overhead railway, through the industrial outskirts of Tokyo, was like entering a world of science-fiction. This was Japan, the rising industrial giant, a place which had little to do with the images I had in my mind.

After a mix-up which led to me wandering around Tokyo, lost, I finally met my contact, who was an old friend of Harada Sensei. I stayed at his house for several days, before getting the chance to meet Egami Sensei, who lived the other side of town. I became really excited. Here was the chance to meet one of the great masters of the Martial Arts.
Egami was little-known outside of Japan, being one of the ‘hidden sensei’: he practiced with some of the great masters in Japan and carried on through these teachings in Karate. As a leading disciple of the founder of Karate-do in Japan, Gichin Funakoshi, he had a vast amount of experience upon which to draw.

Harada Sensei had told me many stories of his discipleship with Egami, so I was highly expectant as well as feeling rather shy when I entered his house. It was such a relief to be greeted, not by someone great, forbidding man, but by a very big, warm-hearted person, full of life and wisdom. He asked me how Harada Sensei was and how things were going in Europe and his charming wife prepared my first real Japanese meal. Over lunch, he recommended that I train at Gakushuin and later Chuo University.

I visited his house several times and was always impressed by his presence. He looked quite thin, yet very soft. Once he showed me some photos of himself training when he was young. Here was a different person, very wiry, with pronounced muscles, which gave off a feeling of immense power. He had a strong and very concentrated look in his eyes that spoke of years of practice, tempered in the fire of extreme training.

The man in front of me seemed so different. He told me that he had wanted to develop a soft, open practice which had come into being more and more after he had a serious operation on his stomach. This had made him reflect on the meaning and purpose of keiko (practice) and power. He had also met secretly with some of the other ‘hidden masters’, notably Yoichiro Inoue Sensei, of whom very little is known in the West. I believe he had been one of the early founders of Aikido along with Morihei Ueshiba Sensei. Perhaps he was a more introspective or secretive person, but he developed his own style of movement called Shinwa Taido. I know of only one foreigner who has studied this keiko.

Whatever lies in the depth of time, Egami Sensei had developed his ideas through personal research and has been open to other great teachers. I can remember some of the stories that he told of his experimental days when he wandered the countryside and lived alone in mountain huts. There was the time when, after some lengthy period of sitting meditation in the hills, he sat by the side of a lake. Whilst sitting there he saw the images of hundreds of bodies before him. Later he found out that there had been a large battle, with many wounded and killed, at the same place.

There was also the time he had been wandering in the hills. He studied bokuto (wooden sword) besides other weapons and had been practicing when he came upon a group of fellow-wandering Martial Artists. He told me that they showed him the most important keys to his bokuto practice. All of these experiences must have helped him to create a new way of Karate and the way forward.

Master Shigeru Egami, his wife, and his son Masatake, on the left, Ken Waight
Master Shigeru Egami, his wife, and his son Masatake, on the left, Ken Waight
Egami Sensei from The Heart of Karate
Egami Sensei from The Heart of Karate