Harada Sensei MBE
At this time Gichin Funakoshi was trying to reverse the decline in the level of technique and spiritual void that had become dominant as a result of the war. With his son Yoshitaka and main hope for the future of karate now gone, his task had become even more difficult.
Now that Harada had entered University O’Sensei was more communicative towards him and would often joke. Always reflecting back on Okinawa, his karate teachers and his youth. Harada said O’Sensei’s techniques were "soft, relaxed and unfocussed” when he remembered how the old master would teach him. Whilst at Waseda, Harada trained under Master Funakoshi from 1949-52, classes were generally on Saturday between noon to 1.30pm. As was his custom Funakoshi would teach mostly kata. O’Sensei believed kata was the soul of Karate. Unfortunately his students wanted kumite and attendance’s at his classes were low. Harada remarked “we didn’t realise the importance of kata then and Funakoshi didn’t explain and that’s where he made the mistake. We, the students were concerned with the second dimension, he (Funakoshi) spoke in the third”. If a senior grade taught kumite whilst O’Sensei was present he would no longer take and interest in the class and look out of the window ”this is how we knew O’Sensei disapproved”.
Despite his age Master Funakoshi was “very agile and he had indomitable spirit”. At the first winters course of that year the frail looking old master engaged Master Kamata in kumite. Kamata was very strict with himself and generated great power; he attacked Funakoshi with an oi-zuki. The old master performed his favourite technique gedan-berai, simultaneously grabbed the arm and countering, Kamata fell to the ground. This caused a great impression all around. Harada’s faith had been restored – Master Funakoshi could still do it and do it well! Those years of kata had allowed him to stay very active. Allowing him to continue in kumite even at his advanced age.
It was at Waseda, that Harada also came under the influence of two other extremely outstanding Karate Masters. Both of whom deeply affected master Harada’s life – Shigeru Egami and Tadao Okuyama.
Egami trained in Judo and Kendo in middle school as was customary. He attended Waseda University to read for a Bachelors degree in Commerce as Harada was doing. Egami also studied some Aikido and helped form the University Karate club in 1931. His principle teachers were, Master Gichin Funakoshi and Master Takeshi Shimoda, Funakoshi’s assistant. Egami also engaged in a great deal of “special practise” with Yoshitaka his senior, whom he described as being of excellent character and highly skilled. Egami was an outstanding karateka, generally being regarded as having the finest punch in the Shotokan Style – he was an oi-zuki specialist. He was also a teacher at the military’s Nakano School; this was a unit for the Special Forces.
After a chance meeting at the Waseda dojo where Harada was practising individually as he often did, Egami noticed his efforts to improve and offered to help him. Over the next 18 months they trained 7 days a week. It was the start of a friendship that would last many years. This was a time of great innovation and research for Egami. He was developing his already formidable punch, into a more relaxed, fluid and more penetrative style. Together they researched, spending 3 hours each day practising and many more talking about karate, especially theory. Harada improved dramatically as a result of his private tuition.
Egami was attempting to change the stiff rigid training he had undergone, for the past 25 years. He realised that this type of technique was seriously flawed. His new technique was a radical concept, the relaxation of the joints and loss of undue tension allowed for the release of true power and penetration. Even through 4 cushions Harada, could still feel the sickening blow. His blocks were equally devastating, each time Harada attacked his blows would be parried and he would be knocked to the floor.
The result of Master Egami’s research was a softer, faster and more fluid Karate, which made Egami’s techniques more powerful than the typical Shotokan he had previously practised. Master Egami worked closely with Gichin Funakoshi until the old master died, and he considered that the development and direction of his research was in line with his teacher’s wishes.