Shigeru Egami’s Worries




Egami has truly been an authentic prodigy of Karate. He dedicated all his life to the development of his own style. He was blessed with many disciples that respected him. Karate in his hands evolved in general. Nobody could have contributed more to karate than he did.

Even considering the sicknesses that attacked him in his last years of life, his passion and restlessness never declined. Right till his last moment he worried how he could transmit his message in the best possible way.

“To go beyond traditional karate and make it evolve, have I gone too far, putting too much emphasis on the soul?”
“Would it be better to have makiwara tsuki practice made compulsory for students with first dan and upwards?”

His worries were infinite, which clearly showed his continuing passion for Karate and his interest in attaining a better efficiency in his teaching method.

Another of his worries was based on the fear that his style had become a sacred form, untouchable and unmodifiable. If this should ever happen it would be a contradiction, because he himself, in his youth, had rebelled against the Kyokai that had transformed everything into something untouchable.

I can surely say most of his worries were due to the mental weakness of the youngsters.

“Many youngsters come to visit me, but they shut up and don’t ask anything. They do nothing other than stare at me, imitate me, I do not understand what they expect of me. They seem to be counting their visits. I am the one that always does the talking and I end up exhausted and sad when it is over…”
“If during the training sessions I criticize a youngster or I warn him of something, his heart shrinks and some don’t even return to train. Are there no more young ones courageously determined to seek the truth with determination and without losing their enthusiasm, with an enormous wish to learn?…”

As it is often said, today the young ones are in no way the same as in the past. They do not want hard work, they only want to get to the goal effortlessly and taking shortcuts. This surely explains a film which had a title that very much amuses me, “How to advance in your business without hard work”.

The advances in our civilization offer us a comfortable and easy life. The young ones always have the enormous advantage of having many comforts at hand. But unfortunately, once they are accustomed to comfort they are incapable of realizing that behind every comfort there are implicitly many years of effort and research. They never get around to think about things that way, their mentality is weak.

The young Egami students shared this weakness with today’s youngsters. They should think back upon those years of hard training to understand, reevaluate and definitively approve those achievements attained by the masters. But who actually does this type of exercise?

Egami was horrified seeing the young ones imitate his achievements, transforming them in mere forms. This happened with the IRIMI technique, that must be practiced with defiance confronting all the opponent’s attacks with a very strong mental attitude. However the younger ones practiced without this defiance and without the mental attitude, transforming irimi into just another evasion technique.

The young ones are changing and together with this change the teaching method must also change. But how shall it change?

This sparked his intention of reintroducing the use of the Makiwara in training, something he had eliminated as useless. The students should then train with it, feel real physical pain and understand the uselessness of the instrument in order to attain a superior level.

“Hey, Hironishi. What is your opinion about this youths tendency of fleeing?”

“What do you want me to say? There is no easy explanation. We need a lot of time to see if it grows or if it stays at its present level. Then we will find some solution to deal with it.”

“You can say that because you have very good health and thus you have time. I am not in your situation, that is why I would like it if you could give me an answer.”

“Truthfully, I have none.”

My friend Egami has died.

I should follow with his wish to stimulate the young ones. But I am tired. Physically I am well off, but his death has weakened me and I am tired. Now I have the feeling of living in a great void. I will not get over this weakness.

I should say that I will continue making my friends dreams come true, but I can’t. My words would sound empty. I would not be able to utter them.

My friend, I will go to your side very soon and we will remember all we went through in our youth.

Wait for me a bit, alright?

Comments by Master Hironishi, he was, when this article was written, the President of the International Shotokai Association with Headquarters in Japan, the only surviving 5th dan of the 12 that existed by the end of World War II.