Chojun Miyagi was born on April 25th,
1888, in Higashi-Machi (Naha-shi), Okinawa, the son of a wealthy
family whose business was in imports and exporting. His family belonged
to the Japanese upper class, and were also involved in the medical
profession. Owning two ships, which made regular trips to mainland
China, his, was one of the wealthiest families in Naha.
Miyagi's original name was Miyagi
Matsu; however this name was changed to Chojun at the age of 5,
by his uncle, who adopted him after the death of his father in
Miyagi's formal Martial Arts training
began with Karate Master, 'Kanryo Higaonna', at 14 years old.
Higaonna Sensei was also not keen on accepting new students without
them showing a demonstration of character and personality. It
was only after his student's behaviour had convinced him, that
he would take the steps to train them. At age 17, in the fall
of 1905 after fulfilling a host of chores (the traditional way
of being accepted by an instructor), Master Higaonna eventually
decided to accept him as a disciple of traditional Martial Arts
Higaonna's training was exhaustive,
and Miyagi would often pass out after many an evening. Miyagi
Sensei's training was not confined just to the dojo. He ran every
day from his High School to the local harbour. He also trained
on makiwara, chishi, and nagiri-game, which were used to strengthen
and develop the muscles. Although the training was very hard,
Miyagi was extremely enthusiastic about his Karate, and Higaonna
Sensei was already thinking of him as his successor. As Chojun
grew & matured, and over the continuing years, both teacher
and student were already working on the practice of Kata and on
the improving the system of Naha-te. They stayed together for
12 years until the death of Master Higaonna at Nishiishin-Machi,
Naha, Okinawa, in December of 1917. Miyagi Chojun Sensei paid
for his teacher's funeral.
Not long later, after years of training
with Higaonna Sensei, Miyagi sailed to China in search of Higaonna's
teacher. This was one of three trips Miyagi made to China during
his lifetime. Upon his quest he studied Kempo (Chinese Fist) in
Fuchow, Fukien Province.
He Later created the Katas: Gekisai
Ich and Ni. Training by himself now, Miyagi decided to approach
his Karate in a more "natural" way. He worked out in
the forests and on the beaches. Sometimes, he even practiced in
the snow for long periods of time, as to bring his Karate closer
Chojun Miyagi Sensei worked hard
throughout his life to spread Karate throughout Okinawa and mainland
Japan. For the most part, he successfully earned Naha-te a status
equal to that of the highly respected Japanese Martial Arts of
Judo and Kendo. To achieve this he travelled frequently to mainland
Japan where he was invited to teach karate at Kyoto University
and Ritsumei Kan University.
In 1921, he performed the Art of
Naha-te in front of then crowned, "Prince Hirohito".
The Prince was most impressed for what he saw, and couldn't believe
such powerful Art had come from the tiny island in Okinawa. Some
years later, and after Jigoro Kano the founder of Judo visited
Okinawa, Miyagi was invited to perform at the Butoku-sai tournament
in Japan. This performance gave Miyagi Sensei the opportunity
to spread the qualities of Okinawan Karate throughout many Martial
Arts circles, and was from then onwards, always invited to the
Budo Tournaments sponsored by the Japanese government..
When he returned to Okinawa, he
began to teach his Karate at a number of places in and around
Naha, and to lecture and demonstrate throughout Japan Miyagi-Sensei
subjected the art of Naha-te, as received from Kanryo Higaonna,
to scientific examination. He studied the basic Go (Sanchin) and
the six rules and created the Ju (Tensho) form, combining soft
and hard movements.
Miyagi Sensei was the first instructor
to officially give his style of Naha-te a name in 1927 apart from
the city in which it was practiced and organize a school of Karate.
From the old Chinese book Wu Pei Chih (Army account of Military
Arts and Science) published in 1636, Miyagi took the expression
Goju Ryu for the name of his school as it appears in the sentence:
The successful methods required both give and take, the Go and
Ju-hard and soft.
He was called the last great samurai
warrior of Okinawa because of his legendary strength and skill,
as well as his intense dedication to all Martial Arts. His Club
was also visited by other Masters of Karate, including Sensei
Kenwa Mabuni, Hanashiro Chomo, and Motosu Chobu, all of whom took
turns in the teaching their curricula.
Miyagi spent his life promoting
and developing Goju Ryu, and improving scientific methods of exercise.
He organized the auxiliary movements to strengthen the body through
'Callisthenics'. He organized these exercises in preparation for
practicing the classical Kata. It can be said, he formulated the
theory for the practice of Karate and organized it as an educational
subject, an art of self-defence, and as a spiritual exercise.
Miyagi Chojun Sensei instruction
was not limited to physical training. Miyagi Sensei also lectured
his students on history, culture, society, human relations as
many senior Sensei of today do. During these 'sessions' Chojun
Miyagi Sensei would teach the Kata (forms) in great detail and
explain the "bunkai" (Kata applications) thoroughly.
Miyagi often used the slogan 'Nanji Kyokuden', meaning to "apply
"Strength ought be determined
in everything that one does
"Defeat is not the end; losing is not the end of everything."
On March 23, 1934, Chojun Miyagi
wrote the document Toudijutsu Gaisetsu, 'An Outline of Karate-Do';
a very rare and technical account of almost spiritual training
associated with Karate-Do.
On his pilgrimage to the Chinese
mainland he studied not only the building blocks of his teachers
art Hung Gar-Shaolin Chuan Chi-Chi, but also I-Chuan, Pa Kua Chang
and Tai Chi Chuan. All softer however highly skilled and effective
styles. It was at this time he learned the Kata or Quan (Chinese
for Kata) Rokkishu which later became the building block on Kata
Tensho. With this additional martial art training Okinawa-te,
Naha-te and the Chinese arts Sensei Miyagi developed a refined
form of empty hand, and even today its Whooping Crane Chinese
Gung Fu roots can still be seen in its forms or Kata.
Indeed, the makings for the popular culture, 1984 American film,
"The Karate Kid", draws its inspiration from the Chojun
Miyagi legend. In the final climax of the film, Daniel (the Karate
Kid played by Ralph Macchio), the sole student of the reclusive
Okinawan, Mr. Miyagi (Noriyuke "Pat" Morita) uses a
high precision and traditional Japanese Crane Kick to defeat his
bullying opponent, which victoriously wins him his pride and the
Karate tournament. The real life account of Chojun Miyagi's Crane
technique is not too dissimilar.
A story is told that while visiting
a temple in China, Chojun Miyagi noticed a large Crane sitting
on a roof, which was constructed of many tile. As he approached
the huge bird, the Crane became alarmed and flew away. As it launched
and flew away, the frightened Crane flapped its wings so powerfully
above the tiled roof that it literally broke a number of the tiles
in the process. Miyagi was amazed that the soft feathers of the
Crane were able to break something as hard as tiles. With that
as the beginning, he devised a whole new approach to Karate, mixing
in with the hard techniques many soft ones to be used in countering
hard blows and kicks.
In 1929 Gogen Yamaguchi invited
Mr. Miyagi to visit Japan and he later named Mr. Yamaguchi the
leader of the Goju Ryu schools in mainland Japan. That same year
(1929) he was named as Shihan of the Okinawan Police and of the
Naha School of Commerce (The Municipal Commercial High School
- the general education program of Okinawa). Chojun Miyagi was
named Karate Division Chairman (Chief) of the Okinawan Prefecture
Athletic Association in 1930 and became a permanent officer of
the Dai Nippon Butokukai (Japan Martial Virtues Association).
Miyagi-sensei was a martial artist
of incredible skill, power, and humility. Although a somewhat
quiet man he was noted for his very large and muscular hands (the
Goju Ryu Fist may be found of the original cover of this paper
and was sketched of his hand), a symbol drawn by the magnanimous,
Sensei Gogen Yamaguchi himself.
In 1933 Karate was registered at
the Butokukai, the centre for all Martial Arts in Japan. This
was a milestone for Karate as it meant that it was recognized
on a level with the highly respected Martial Arts of Japan.
By 1936 Mr. Chojun Miyagi is truly
recognized by the Government of Japan with being awarded the medal
for "Excellence in the Martial Arts" from the Japanese
Ministry of Education. That same year he went to train at the
Chinese martial arts in Shanghai at the Seibu Dai Iku Kai or Great
Gymnastic Association - Pure Martial Spirit. On May 5th, 1937
- Miyagi Chojun Sensei performed Kata at the Butoku Sai for the
Dai Nippon Butoku-kai. Following what is now known as the Meeting
of the Masters, Mr. Miyagi along with others who attended formed
the 'Great Japan Martial Arts Karate Teachers Association' or
'Dai Nippon Butokukai Karate Jutsu-Kyoshi'(1937). The first ever
awarded in Japan. During this time he also becomes a permanent
officer of the Dai Nippon Butokukai (Great Japan Martial Virtues
After returning to Okinawa Miyagi
Sensei, now teaching in his Dojo again as well as teaching Okinawa
school Children, creates the Kata Gekisai Dai Ichi and Ni. Chojun
Miyagi's students primarily studied four Kata: Sanchin, Sesan,
Seiunchin and Tensho. These Kata are called the Kaishu forms,
but the Kata Sesan and Seiunchin were actually considered the
training Kata of Goju-Ryu. These are very important Kata, central
to understanding Goju-Ryu. As of April, 1938 - Miyagi Chojun Sensei
was appointed to a Karatedo instructor at the Okinawa Teacher
Training School. In 1940 Chojun Miyagi and Shoshin Nagamine (Founder
of Matsubayashi Shorin Ryu) created the Gekisai Kata to standardize
Karate, make it easier to learn and to prepare young Okinawa for
A bronze bust of Chojun Miyagi was
put up in the Butoku-den and was moved to the Naha Police Headquarters
In 1946 he opened up a karate school
in his backyard. Karate was rapidly spreading through Japan and
for a while Miyagi taught in the Kansai area or Western Japan.
The only time Miyagi stopped teaching
was during the war. Before the revolutionary Second World War,
Chojun Miyagi traveled widely and was involved in many projects
to spread karate throughout mainland Japan and the rest of the
world. Many Martial Artists escaped to Singapore and Malaysia,
never came back. However, from 1948 until 1953 he remained in
Okinawa and dedicated his time to the "development"
of Tensho, for many his "masterpiece".
Before the war he had been dedicated
to his own training and research, to further develop the art of
Goju Ryu Karate, but his purpose in life had now changed. He was
intent on passing on Goju Ryu, and the "gokui" (secret
principles) of Goju Ryu to the next generation. Miyagi Sensei
thought of organising Okinawan Karate, in order to preserve this
Art as a cultural inheritance of the Okinawa.
For reasons mostly pointing to WWII,
may students of Tsuboya-cho (a district of Naha) garden dojo returned
for training in 1951. As well, new students once more began to
Miyagi Chojun Sensei had four boys
and five girls. Miyagi Tsuru was the oldest daughter and first
born. Master Miyagi taught at his home, outside in his Garden
Miyagi never awarded anyone a Black
Belt. He was in the process of formulating requirements for the
Black Belt however he died before he completed this. Leaving an
unprecedented mark in the world of Karate-do and from his famous
Garden Dojo and enough legendary students to carry his name into
the history books.
Chojun Miyagi dedicated his entire
life and fortune to Karate. He predicted that during the twentieth
century Karate would spread throughout the world. Today, we can
see that this prediction has been realized; Karate is not only
practiced in Japan, but it can be found throughout the countries
of the world and our own country, Australia. Karate can no longer
be referred to as a solely Okinawan or Japanese Martial Art, but
it has become an art with no boundaries, an art for all nations
and all peoples of the world.
Among Gogen Yamaguchi, Seiko Higa,
Meitoku Yagi, Seikichi Toguchi, and EiIchi Miyazato, Goju Ryu
Karate Do has carried on in the unified All-Japan Karate-do Federation.
These students have gone on to continue Miyagi Sensei's original
teachings and establish a promotional ranking system for the art
Throughout the world, Chojun Miyagi
is highly respected as the "father of Goju Ryu". In
Okinawa he became "Bushi Magusuku" which means, "Gentleman
warrior". Miyagi passed away in the Autumn of 1953 due to
natural causes, leaving behind his wife and family of 9 children.