of Message posted by José Patrão to
1 - Relationship Amongst Shotokai Groups
About bad relationship amongst European Shotokai groups, namely between
Murakami-kai ones, I dare to quote Mark Twain: "The report of my death
was an exaggeration".
I think many persons outside Murakami-kai may be
unaware of the excellent relationship between Associação Shotokai de
Portugal (ASP) and Scuola Shotokai Italia
(SSI), Mushinkai (M.Luís de
Carvalho), or IKDS (M.Vecchiet), just to name a few.
In terms of Murakami-kai Portugal many people may be also unaware that,
since Murakami Sensei death in 1987, ASP maintained its cohesion and spirit
of brotherhood. Nobody left this Association and we worked together both in
Technical and Administrative aspects as a group. Instead of a Technical
Leader we have a group named "Kodansha" composed of more than 20
persons each one having more than 25 years of practice and it this
collective being who decides, in a democratic way, the guidelines of the all
association for a three years period. The founders of Murakami-kai in
Portugal, 34 years ago, are still inside this group giving their advice to
younger members. Our Master continues to be Murakami
Sensei. The charge of
Technical Coordinator - occupied by myself for the moment - was occupied by
another person in the past and it will be occupied by other person in the next
With this words I don't want to say, by no means, that we are better than
others. Quite the contrary: every time I visited other Murakami-kai
organisations in Europe and practiced with them I admired their superior
technical expertise and organisational capacity.
Speaking about "intercontinental relationship" between Shotokai
groups, I can assure you all that ASP and Shotokai Karate Budo, for instance,
share exactly the same philosophy and spirit of practice, despite we never
had the same master and practiced together only a few hours. And if it is
certain that ASP has a direct relation (intermediated by no Japanese Master)
with Nihon Karate-do Shotokai it is also certain that we maintain perhaps an
even better understanding (in terms of work inside dojo) with persons that
were direct pupils of Egami Sensei.
Now let me say that I agree with Mr. Schneider that relationship between
French Murakami-kai groups is not a good example to follow (by the way,
relationship between Japanese Shotokai groups is not perfect also). But I
tend to have the recalcitrant mania to follow good examples. So I prefer not
to classify the all forest as ill just looking to one or two incompatible
species of trees.
Just take a look at annual number of hits at "shotokai.com"
compared with the same number on any other sportive Karate organisation
around the world… I am aware that hits on a Web page may not necessarily
represent an indicator of quality. Nevertheless, I'm convinced that in this
case karate and budo practitioners around the world look at "shotokai.com"
as an excellent site for guidance and reference in terms of Budo, Karate-do
2 - Importance and Role of Shotokai Organisations
You may classify me as an incurable optimist, but I have the personal
conviction that Shotokai organisations have a growing importance in the
general Karate-do panorama.
Even if people tend to embrace competition (in Karate, or in their
professional career) during a specific period of their lifes, as time goes by
they generally tend to look at others in a more interdependent way. As
people mature, they tend to look at non-competitive Budo arts in a different
manner, appreciating reflection and inner growth more than winning others.
In this process people may also look at their children and realize that
they have enough competition in their lives, both in school and in gymnasium,
and eventually may decide to put their sons and daughters in a Karate-do Shotokai
class. In Almada - my hometown - for instance, there are much more
children practicing Shotokai (around 200 children) than any other
competitive style of Martial Arts. And if we don't have more dojo open that
is simply because we rely on good preparation of instructors and we simply
don't have enough people for the needs.
Nowadays sportive competition has its own secure place in our lives (and
television share certainly shows that) but non-competitive Budo Arts, like
Shotokai, have reached his own niche too.
And I am convinced that a growing number of persons around the world (at
least in the countries where the flow of information is not limited or
censored) tend to embrace the non-violent philosophy that is inherent to our
With this I don't mean that Shotokai organisations doesn't need
But how can we develop them?
3 - Some diagnose
In this moment I dare try beginning to diagnose the illness of Shotokai
organisations (at least European ones) and propose some therapeutic actions.
Others more qualified than myself will certainly improve (or simply discard)
this first approach.
I think that in the past (from the 70's, through the 80's and still in
the 90's) European Shotokai Groups were strong, independently, because they
relied on the guidance of strong Japanese leaders: Murakami Sensei, Harada
Sensei, Hiruma Sensei are the main names.
However, with the death of Murakami Sensei and as the other two Masters
advanced in age, a crisis occurred.
My personal belief is that this crisis came from a *wrong paradigm* that
can be found everywhere around Europe:
- Some European Seniors who were once direct pupils of these masters (or
even direct pupils or Egami
Sensei) want to have a position of leadership
similar (if not equivalent) to their charismatic Masters.
To simplify, I think these persons said:
- I am the Master now! Follow me!
Former trials to make an European Shotokai group failed not because of
lack of outstanding skilled technicians, but just because people kept on
- I am the Master now! Follow me!
Sometimes this attitude was camouflaged by a false group hymn that
sounded like this:
- We are the best! Follow us!
Implied in these words lies the feeling that the Master is dead, or is no
longer competent, and other fellow leaders are much less competent than
themselves. So they were obliged (!?) to take the leadership.
To be frank I kept hearing this song for years and it simply didn't touch
If the old three-party leadership caused (directly or indirectly) the
appearance of three fanatical sects within Shotokai, I think the subsequent
attitude will cause an even worse fragmentation. In three of four decades it
may even cause the death of Shotokai (or as many prefer to say: Karate-do
philosophy as developed by Egami
Sensei) at least in Europe.
I am aware that initiatives like IKDS, Mushinkai and
AKSER have a good
spirit of cooperation and international teamwork behind them. I think that's
the main reason why they attain a certain degree of success.
But each one still fails to communicate with the others…
4 - Some therapeutic proposals
What to do, then? Refuse leadership?
Perhaps what we need is exactly the contrary. Perhaps we need to respect
leadership of each group and be tolerant to differences.
Why don't we look at technical differences between Shotokai groups just
as ecologists look at biodiversity?
Why don't we try to practice that kind of flexibility of mind that
Egami Sensei preached and practiced? Look at Masters like Aoki, Miyamoto, Harada,
Murakami, Hiruma. They all drank at the same source -
Egami - but everyone
flourished rather differently.
Is it bad?
Well, if we look at Shotokai as another style of Karate, another "ryu",
which must be uniformed and compiled, differences sound terribly.
But if we look at Shotokai as a practical philosophy (strongly rooted in
Karate Okinawan sources and also in Budo), then we must not be afraid of the
kind of experiences made by Hiroyuki Aoki (Shintaido) or Yves Thélen (Aiki-karate-do)
just to name perhaps the more extremists.
I'm convinced that, with the course of time differences between wheat and
grass will became apparent. Some experiences will fructify, others will not.
Agricultural practices of the last century relied on monoculture. The
result was almost catastrophic in some parts of the world where deserts now
take the place of millenary forests. In my opinion "monoculture"
will create desert in Shotokai too.
In practical terms let me give an image to clarify the old and the new
- Pyramids and Life.
Pyramids are indeed a first-rate achievement. Throughout millenniums they
persist as beautiful symbols of the past. But look again and ask yourself if
each one of them isn't also a symbol of immutability and death?...
Life, however, in its diversity and interdependence, is even a bigger
achievement. It existed before pyramids and, if humans with their egoism
will not destroy it, will survive long after pyramids fall in ruins,
absorbed by desert sand. Life evolves constantly, continuously adapting
itself to changes in environment.
So, let Shotokai flourish as a living network, not like a pyramid
standing in the desert in the memory of a death king.
That's why I adhered categorically to Shotokai Info Database project.
That's why I proposed that we meet in Portugal next month of October.
We urgently need to agree on what is our immutable core of values.
Keeping this "tanden" stable we can then appreciate variety and
diversity, in order to stimulate progress.