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Shotokai (???, Shotokai?) is the organisation formed in 1936 by Gichin Funakoshi to teach karate. The organization still exists and promotes a form of martial art that strictly adheres to O-Sensei’s teachings, in particular the notion that competition is contrary to the essence of karate. Nowadays, the name also designates a style and technique.
Historically, neither Shotokai nor Shotokan were in fact “styles” of karate. “Shotokai” was just the name of the association launched by Funakoshi’s students, and “Shotokan” the name of its Dojo, “Shoto” being the pseudonym by which Funakoshi used to sign his poems. The name derives from “Shoto”, the pen name of Funakoshi—literally translated as “pine leaves”, and “Kai” meaning “group”, therefore “Shoto’s group”.
At the Master’s death in 1957, his students split into two factions: on one side the group that was already known as JKA (Japan Karate Association), known widely as “Shotokan”; and on the other, the Shotokai association, which remained faithful to the Master’s teachings. One of the stumbling blocks between the two groups was the question of whether competitions were to be introduced or not; Funakoshi always forbade competitions whereas some of his students wanted to organize such events.
Therefore, although Shotokai was originally the name of an association, we can say that it became a style when Master Shigeru Egami defined the broad outlines of the new way of practising he developed after having, in a number of tests, discovered the inefficiency of the karate method of attack at that time.
After years of research, Master Egami found an efficient way of striking by executing the movement in a relaxed state of mind and body. This is the basis of Shotokai. It is suppleness and relaxation and not tenseness that generate force. Elaborating this basic idea, he suggested new forms of techniques and a new way of practising.
Faithful to Master Funakoshi’s teachings, Master Egami always kept the Shotokai group out of the Sports Karate movement which is predominant to this day. Rather, his spiritual evolution made him search for harmony with his partner. Master Egami wrote: “First of all, we must practise Karate like a combat technique and then, with time and experience, we will be able to understand a certain state of soul and will be able to open ourselves to the horizons of jita-ittai (“the union of one with the other”) which lay beyond fighting. This is the principle of coexistence which enables us to live together in prosperity.” (Source, mainly: KDSE Europe)
Gichin Funakoshi (1868–1957), also known as O’Sensei (the old master), founded the Shotokai.
Gigo Funakoshi (1906–1945), his third son, also known as Yoshitaka Funakoshi or Waka Sensei (the young master), was a martial arts genius who developed the technique and style. He died of tuberculosis before he could succeed his father at the head of the Shotokai.
Shigeru Egami (1912–1981), one of Gichin’s most talented students, took over Nihon Karate-do Shoto-kai together with Motonobu Hironishi and developed the art even further, making it what it is today. Shigeru Egami was the chief instructor and president of the Shotokai until his death.
Motonobu Hironishi (1913–1999) studied under Gichin and Yoshitaka, together with his close friend Shigeru Egami. After Shigeru Egami’s death, he became president of the Shotokai.
Jotaro Takagi (1927–) has been the chairman of the Shotokai, in Tokyo, since 1995.
Mitsusuke Harada (1928–) studied under Gichin and Yoshitaka Funakoshi, and most importantly under Egami in the early 1950s, with whom he practiced seven days a week for 18 months. He received his fifth dan by mail order from O’Sensei in 1955, the only surviving master with that honour. He still teaches to this day, mostly in Europe.