Chōjun Miyagi

Chōjun Miyagi (April 25, 1888—October 8, 1953) was an Okinawan martial artist who founded the Goju-ryu school of karate.

Personal history

He was born in Naha, Okinawa and was the adopted son of a wealthy businessman. Miyagi began his study in Karate-do at the age of nine (or fourteen). He first learned martial arts from Ryuko Aragaki, who then introduced him to Naha-te Master Kanryo Higashionna when Miyagi was 14. Under the tutelage of this Master, Miyagi underwent a very long and arduous period of training.

After the death of Master Kanryo Higashionna, Miyagi travelled to Fujian Province in China as his teacher had done before him. In China he studied the Shaolin and Pa Kua(Ba gua) forms of Chinese boxing. From the blending of these systems, the hard linear/external form of Shaolin, the soft circular/internal form of Pa Kua, and his native Naha-Te, a new system emerged. However, it was not until 1929 that Chojun Miyagi named the system Goju-ryu, meaning "hard soft style".

After some years in China, Chōjun Miyagi returned to Naha where he opened a dojo (training hall). He taught for many years, gaining an enormous reputation as a karateka. Even Kano Jigoro, the founder of judo, came to Okinawa to learn specific karate take-downs. Despite his reputation, his greatest achievements lie in popularization and the organization of karate teaching methods. He introduced karate into Okinawa police work, high schools and other fields of society. He revised and further developed Kata Sanchin - the hard aspect of Goju, and created Kata Tensho - the soft aspect. These kata are considered to contain the essence of the Goju-ryu style. The highest kata, Suparinpei is said to contain the full syllabus of Goju-ryu kata. Shisochin was Miyagi's favorite kata at the end of his years. Tensho was influenced by the White Crane kata Ryokushu, which he learned from his long-time friend Gokenki. With a goal of unification of various karate styles which was in fashion at that time (see Funakoshi Gichin for his works in Japan), he also created more Shurite-like katas Gekisai Dai Ichi and Gekisai Dai Ni in 1940, taking techniques from higher forms (notably Suparinpei, and upper blocks uncommon for Goju-ryu at that time) and incorporating them into a shorter forms. It is said he created these kata to bridge the gap between Sanchin kata and Saifa kata, which contains much more complex moves compared to Sanchin kata. However, Gekisai katas are learned before Sanchin kata now.

Chōjun Miyagi was a man of extremely mild temperament and it is said that he was a very humble man. He lived according to the principles of non-violence. Master Miyagi died in Okinawa on October 8, 1953 at the age of 65 from a second heart-attack (the first had occurred in 1951).

Some of his more notable students were: Seko Higa (his oldest student and also a student of Kanryo Higaonna), Miyazato Ei'ichi (founder of the Jundokan dojo), Meitoku Yagi (founder of the Meibukan dojo, who eventually accepted late master Miyagi's gi and obi from Miyagi's family), Seikichi Toguchi (founder of Shorei-kan Goju-ryu), and on the Japanese mainland Gōgen Yamaguchi who was the founder of the International Karate do Goju Kai Association and who after training with Miyagi, became the representative of Gōjū-ryū in Japan. At a later date Gōgen Yamaguchi invested much time studying Kata under Meitoku Yagi.

Chōjun Miyagi