The parallels of Shotokan Karate of America and Shotokai
Some time ago an Internet friend asked me why I have not included a document that touches the fact that Shotokai and Shotokan Karate of America (SKA) are quite well related. I thought about it and even though I mention quite a few times the fact that we can consider each other brother organizations, I have never really gone in depth on the subject. I will try to draw some parallels in this document.
Even though Shotokai was formed in 1935 to collect money for the construction of Master funakoshi’s first Dojo, it was only made official in 1956 with O-sensei as the president. So when Ohshima Sensei and Harada Sensei travelled abroad they had authorization from Master Funakoshi to establish groups under the Shotokan name. This resulted in the establishment of Shotokan Karate of America (S.K.A.) and Shotokan Karate-do do Brazil.
Only one of them has survived till this day and in a very notably way. SKA is one of the largest true traditional Karate-do organizations worldwide. Harada Sensei traveled to Europe where he formed a new Karate-do organization (Karate Do Shotokai), since this was during the early 60’s he chose the Shotokai name for the new organization thus establishing a relationship to the Association that succeeded Master Funakoshi. So actually, there are only two people that can rightfully use the name “Shotokan”, Sensei Ohshima and Sensei Harada, all the rest outside Shotokai that used it, have done so illegally.
Anyway, now that the name issue is cleared up, we can start drawing some parallels between Shotokai and SKA. Ohshima Sensei clearly states that he considers Master Shigeru Egami (Technical Director of Shotokai from 1957 until 1981), his senior and furthermore invited him to the USA for lectures.
Furthermore, Ohshima Sensei wrote the foreword for Master Egami’s marvelous “The Way of Karate, Beyond Technique”. There he states the following: “Following Master Funakoshi in the world of Karate-do is Senior Shigeru Egami. I feel that we of the next generation are fortunate to have this man.”
In the sixties Shotokai, holder of Master Funakoshi’s works, decided to translate Master Gichin Funakoshi’s main work: Karate-do Kyohan, it was Ohshima Sensei that was chosen to undertake this colossal mission. It took ten years to complete (1972).
This gives a clear idea of the close relationship, at least formally, that exists among the two groups, and if you actually dig a bit you start noticing that the main difference is mostly the name.
Shotokai and SKA are both associations that do not participate in sports karate and furthermore both maintian the five dan system established by Master Funakoshi, avoiding any superficialities and changes of this structure. Actually these two characteristics could actually define truly traditional Master Funakoshi derived Karate-do groups.
Much has varied technically in both groups and within each group, the SKA at first sight seem to maintain a technical style of Karate-do closer to what Gichin Funakoshi Sensei practiced. For example: higher stances compared to normal Shotokai the body position and the fist, but many things repeat themselves among the groups and in the most significant areas. For example both stress Karate-do as a way towards personal development, mental, physical and mainly spiritual.
Once we understand that Karate-do can use a large diversity of methods, techniques, styles, etc. but still search for the same results, names become irrelevant and a union beyond names arises.
It is my sincere wish that this may happen in a not so far future, when similar spirits within Karate-do may unite for the benefit of society.
September 12th, 1998