History of Okinawan Goju-Ryu - Sensei Chojun Miyagi

chojun miyagi goju ryu sensei Oct 04, 2021

Sensei Chojun Miyagi

Sensei Miyagi was born on April 25, 1888, in Naha. Sensei Miyagi’s family belonged to the gentry. Having two trading ships, the Miyagi family was engaged in the importing of medicine from China, supplying both the government and the private merchants. The family was one of the wealthiest in Naha. At the age of five he became the heir to the Miyagi family.

His training in karate began at the age of eleven under Ryuko Aragaki Sensei (the grandfather of Aragaki Shuichi, an advisor to the International Okinawa Goju Ryu Karate-do Federation today). When he was fourteen, Aragaki Sensei introduced him to Higaonna Kanryo Sensei. Chojun Sensei trained with Kanryo Sensei from 1902 until October 1916, when Kanryo Sensei passed away.

During this time, he was one of the few people who could withstand the severe training given by Kanryo Sensei. The same year Higaonna Sensei passed away; Miyagi Sensei left for China. Miyagi Sensei tried to find Master Ryu Ryuko and his Dojo but all he found were the remains of the Dojo.

After Miyagi Sensei came back from China, he spent time studying Kata “Rokkishu”. Miyagi Sensei created the original open hand Kata “Tensho” based on it. Tensho Kata is characterised by soft and smooth movements as opposed to the hard movements of Sanchin Kata. Later he developed two more Katas “Gekisai Dai Ichi” and “Gekisai Dai Ni”, though the Tensho Kata is thought to be his real masterpiece.

After the death of Higaonna Sensei, Miyagi Sensei could not receive instruction from his master any longer, so he turned to nature and his natural surroundings for inspiration. He began to train in close contact with nature.

In 1921, he performed a demonstration of Naha-te in Okinawa for the visiting Prince Hirohito, Emperor of Japan, and in 1925 for Prince Chichibu. Chojun Sensei had already envisioned the development of Naha-te not only in Japan but also around the world. It became increasingly important to organize and unify Okinawan karate as a cultural treasure to be passed on to future generations.

In 1926, Chojun Sensei established the Karate Research Club in Wakas-Cho. Four instructors, Chojun Sensei, Hanashiro, Motobu and Mabuni, taught alternately some preliminary exercises and supplemental exercises. Afterwards, Chojun Sensei gave talks to the students about mankind, daily life, and the samurai code of ethics in order to improve their moral development as well. In 1927, Jigoro Kano Sensei, founder of Judo, saw a demonstration of a kata by Chojun Sensei and was impressed by the advanced technique and sophistication of Naha-te. Kano Sensei´s influence allowed Chojun Sensei to perform Okinawan karate at leading Japanese Budo tournaments sponsored by the government. In 1930, Chojun Sensei performed at the Butoku-kai Tournament and then later at the Sainei Budo Tournament in 1932.

As its exposure increased, many became interested in Chojun Sensei´s style of martial arts. One of his senior students, Jinan Shinzato Sensei, gave a performance of kata at a Japanese martial arts tournament. Afterwards, a master asked the name of his school. Shinzato Sensei had no answer for him, and upon his return to Okinawa he told Chojun Sensei about his encounter. To promote his art as well as to cooperate with other schools of Japanese martial arts, Chojun Sensei decided it was necessary to name his martial art. It became known as Goju-Ryu Karate, meaning “hard and soft” taken from the precepts of traditional Chinese Kempo. He was the first among different schools of karate to name his art and in 1933 his art of Goju-Ryu was formally registered at the Butoku-kai, Japanese Martial Arts Association.

In 1931, Miyagi Sensei was very busy spreading karate-do in Japan and throughout the world. In 1934, he was made head of the standing committee of the Okinawan branch of the Butoku-kai Association. During the next years he spent time teaching in China and Hawaii. He was dedicated to spreading the Goju-Ryu style and aiding in the transmission of Okinawan karate to future generations.

During the war years, Miyagi Sensei and Okinawa suffered a great deal. He lost his third son and his senior disciple, Shinzato Jin´an Sensei. Okinawa was left in great poverty and Miyagi Sensei stopped training during this time.

As normal life returned to Okinawa in the aftermath of the war, Chojun Sensei began teaching again in his garden dojo. Okinawan Karate spread rapidly throughout the world after the war.

Sadly, Chojun Sensei passed away on 8th October 1953 because of heart disease. Miyagi Sensei was regarded a superhuman because of his outstanding skills. The people of Okinawa called him “Bushi Magusuku” meaning Gentleman Warrior Miyagi.

Chojun Miyagi’s essence and influence can be found today in Dojos in nearly every country of the world. His vision of Goju-Ryu spreading world-wide was realised just as he had foreseen.

To find out more about Traditional Okinawan Goju Ryu Karate-Do go to… 


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