Shotokan vs. Shotokai (Part 2)


Shotokan vs. Shotokai (Part 2)

Written by Antonio García Martínez

(Also published in Black Belt Magazine)

On April 26th, 1957 Master Gichin Funakoshi died at 89 years of age. At that day the final rupture occured. The Japanese Karate Association announced that it would not assist to the funerals if they were not the ones in charge of organizing it. A general meeting was convoked to analyze the problem and try to find a solution.

The Kyokai announcement surprised everybody in a negative way. Their attitude was totally unexpected and even more so if we consider the words of Giei, the deceased’s primogenite, who repeated the following:

“The burial of my father will be in charge of the Shotokai school, this because my father did not have other duties other than Director of the Shotokan Dojo and the Shotokai school. Now that his Dojo has disappeared in a fire, the logical thing is that his burial be in charge of the school”.

At that moment the Kyokai included the main universities that had a long history of activities within karate, such as Keio, Takushoku & Hosei while other universities such as Chuo, Noko, Seijo, Gakushin & Senshu were faithful to the Shotokai school and were totally in favor of its organization of the funeral.

In the case of Waseda it maintained itself in an intermediate plane, this was due to the fact that the sports coordination department director, Mr. Ohama, was in charge of coordinating the funeral due to the strong friendship that bound him to Master Funakoshi and therefore the group could not ignore the mission given to their director and on the other hand they backed up the reconsideration posed by the Kyokai. Therefore they were present at the meeting but barely commented on the subject.

Within this complex atmosphere full of tension the meeting began with approximately fifty karateka. The Kyokai right from the beginning maintained an inflexible attitude: “If the funerals are not in charge of the Kyokai, it will not assist…”

The Takushoku, Hosei and Keio representatives left the meeting taking their club flags that had been left for the funerals. They said they needed them for some university ceremonies the next day.

After many hours of discussion a conclusion was reached, the assistance to the funerals would be a personal decision. The only reason that the Kyokai gave was that Master Funakoshi was not only president of the Shotokai school but was also the highest technical advisor of the Kyokai.

After that what was bound to happen happened, the separation of the two tendencies that for some time already had developed within the Master’s group and that with his death became a reality. Master Hironishi recalls a conversation the month of December that same year with Master Nakayama, written in an article by him:

Nakayama: “Become a member of the Kyokai. Stop your scheming and become a member of our group.”.

Hironishi: “Before you invite me to become a member of the Kyokai you must do two things: Go to the house of the Funakoshi and ask them to forgive you. How can I become a member of the association that boycotted the Master’s funerals? and furthermore you must accept the Taikyoku Kata as official. If you fulfill these two requirements I will think about it.”

Nakayama: “Well, you may be right. But let’s not discuss. Become part of the Kyokai and later on impose your arguments.”

Hironishi comments: (The Kyokai at the moment of this conversation already recognized that the Kata Taikyoku was created by Master Funakoshi but they still didn’t practice it, something I could not understand).

Hironishi: “Look Nakayama, we are karate instructors. We have trained and shared tough moments together. I hope you understand me. You have students and if people say to them: “You are from the association that boycotted the funeral of Master Funakoshi!”, that hurts, doesn’t it? Go to the Funakoshi home and ask for forgiveness. It’s a mere formalism, I know, but you must do it”.

That was the last time I saw Mr. Nakayama.

The same year that Master Funakoshi dies the first Japanese Karate championship takes place. Master Funakoshi was always opposed to these tournaments just as he was opposed to the differentiation of schools, as he comments in his book “My way of life” in 1956, one year before his death.

“There is no place in Modern Karate for different schools. I know that there are instructors that claim the right to call themselves founders of ‘schools’. I myself have heard people talk about our schools as Shotokan but I firmly oppose this type of differentiation.”

From that moment on the denomination of “Shotokan” as a school appeared, claiming themselves the owner of the techniques practiced by Master Funakoshi and with a fundamental use of the practice of Ju-Kumite and introducing Karate to competitions.

From that moment on the denomination of “Shotokan” as a school appeared, claiming themselves the owner of the techniques practiced by Master Funakoshi and with a fundamental use of the practice of Ju-Kumite and introducing Karate to competitions.

On the other hand the Shotokai school develops under the name of the Shotokai Association founded by Master Funakoshi. This school in the beginning is directed by Master Shigeru Egami, Instructor of the Japanese Army and the Intelligence Service during the Second World War and one of the best technicians at that moment in time. He continued with the initial idea of Master Funakoshi totally opposed to competition and practicing a technique whose evolution had been supervised on a daily basis by Master Funakoshi himself.

As a summary of this article, where we have made a brief tour through the evolution of Karate, we can assure with complete clarity the wrongful use of the name “Shotokan” to denominate the school whose name should actually be “Kyokai”. In Japan today the name “Shotokan” is not a style name, actually they have always been called Nihon Karate Kyokai, never Shotokan. Their training method, though as respectable as any other, can never self-proclaim themselves the heirs of the karate practiced by Master Funakoshi just because they have chosen to use the name of the Dojo of the Master.