Shotokai History


A tentative, and far from complete, version.

(July 1st, 1998)

This will try to be a more complete version. there’ll still be many things missing, but that you all understand.
I continue to ask for help from the different groups around the world, your help is necessary to try to “complete” it.
Please do take into consideration that there may be mistakes in what I write here, but none are on purpose!

The beginning of the story is included in the History of Karate, I will start at the moment of the foundation.

Shotokai (Shoto: Master Funakoshi’s pseudonym & Kai: group, meeting) was founded in 1935, this related to the establishment of the Shotokan Dojo Fund, created to generate the resources necessary to build the first Dojo for Master Funakoshi). This organization was reformed in 1956 as a group in charge of the preservation of Karate-do unblemished by commercialism. The masters involved were Funakoshi, Egami, Hironishi and Noguchi, the name of the organization was: Nihon Karate-Do Shotokai. Master Funakoshi was it’s president until his death in 1957 (reference: Karate-do Kyohan biography of Funakoshi). The objective of Shotokai was to preserve the true spirit of Karate-Do, that already at that moment was starting to become commercial and sports oriented by NKK’s (Kyokai; JKA) influence.

After Master Funakoshi’s death in ’57, Master Shigeru Egami took over the titles of Head Instructor of the Shotokan (Shotokai’s Hombu Dojo in Japan) and President of Nihon Karate-do Shotokai. He was president of this organization until his death in 1981, at that moment the successor was Genshin Hironishi, who until today is the highest representative of Nihon Karate-do Shotokai.

Shotokai’s History outside Japan is rather complicated and incomplete in my handed-down knowledge.

There are two important things to take into consideration:

  • Before the 1950’s, when the Shotokai/kan split took place, Shotokan represented the name commonly used to designate the Karate-do that Master Funakoshi founded and established, even though his organization was Shotokai.
  • All 5th dans in the Shotokai Organization are authorized to establish their own organizations and heed the one “Greatest authority” represented by, today, Master Hironishi.

So in 1955, both Ohshima and Harada Sensei traveled abroad, Ohshima traveled to USA, California, Harada to Brazil, to the city of São Paulo. And due to the date, they established Shotokan in both countries. Shotokan of America (SKA) and Shotokan do Brazil. Ohshima Sensei continued to expand his organization, and at the moment it embraces all the USA, and some other countries, like: Canada, France Spain, Belgium, etc. Though I am not totally sure, they mostly avoid competition, or at least do not lay much weight on it, never as much as the JKA.
Harada Sensei stayed continuously in Brazil until 1962, when he traveled to Europe. There he seems to have arrived in France and later England, where he established SHOTOKAI in these countries (the split had already happened). He intermittently traveled to Brazil, until 1969, when he established himself permanently in England, he now seems to be living in Wales. Harada’s organization in Europe has expanded to other countries, including: Finland, Belgium, Portugal, Algeria, Scotland, Italy, etc.
Murakami sensei, traveled to Europe in the late 50’s by request of a French karate practitioner, once there he began establishing a very strong organization that includes a number of groups in various European countries, Portugal, Italy, Switzerland, etc. Sensei Murakami studied with Yamagushi sensei (Not the Goju-ryu master) one of O-sensei’s students, he later studied under Egami sensei, becoming Egami’s representative in Europe for Nihon Karate-do Shotokai. Murakami sensei passed away in the late 80’s leaving a big number of strong dojos in Europe.
In 1958, Kawanabe Sensei, assistant to Master Egami opened a Dojo in Atsugi, Japan, thus founding Kawanabe Shotokai.
Marshall M.Dow Sensei studied in Atsugi in 1960, under Kawanabe, he later on returned to the USA where he established Shotokai, in Tucson, Arizona. In 1985 he founded the Shotokai Kumayama Dojo.
Harada before leaving Brazil definitively, had a number of students, including Okada. Humberto Heyden Sensei studied karate in Brazil. Heyden Sensei returned to his country, Chile, where he teaches Shotokai Karate-do, under the Shotokai name, with authorization from Kawanabe and Dow Sensei. There is also a small group of students directed by Heyden Sensei in Brazil.
With respect to Okada Sensei, he has stopped teaching Shotokai. Two Shotokai masters have taught in Brazil, Harada and Shibata, but the latter has retired from teaching karate-do. Apparently the only true Shotokai group practicing in South America is directly related to Humberto Heyden Sensei.
Other Shotokai masters in Europe, students of Master Egami, seems, are: Fujita sensei in France, Atsuo Hiruma sensei in Spain and Italy.
As an end to this tale, Shotokai is practiced under the Shotokai name is at least the following countries, today:


This is all I can say, with a certain foundation. Extra information and corrections to be included write to:
[email protected]
Shotokai Karate-do