History: Goju ryu
Miyagi was the only student of Higaonna to be taught all of the kata that had been passed down from Ryu Ryu Ko. With the exception of some Bo techniques however, Higaonna did not pass on his knowledge of weaponry, believing weapons to be unnecessary in peaceful Okinawa.
Miyagi's first visit to China
Miyagi was introduced to an old man who professed to have been a student of Ryu Ryu Ko's and Kanryo Higaonna's junior. He told Miyagi that the art no longer existed in China. The story goes that Miyagi demonstrated his kata to the approval of the old man who commented that one kata was missing from Miyagi's system. He then proceeded to demonstrate Sanseiru. Miyagi was astonished and pleased to see that it was almost identical to the version he had been taught. He had merely not performed it because it was his least favourite.
Although they visited several masters, they could not find anyone teaching Ryu Ryu Ko's art. The places where Ryu Ryu Ko and Wan Shin San had lived and trained either no longer existed or were occupied by new tenants who were unable to provide any useful information. They did find Ryu Ryu Ko's grave and, after paying their respects, Miyagi recorded the inscription on the tombstone which was quite detailed as is the custom in China. They also visited the ruins of the Shaolin temple where it was believed that Ryu Ryu Ko had learned his art.
Miyagi introduces Tensho
There is also some conjecture about whether Miyagi also introduced the kata Saifa, Seiunchin, Shisochin, Seipai and Kururunfa. There is even speculation as to whether he learned Sanseiru from Kanryo Higaonna or from some other source.
The development of junbi undo (yobi undo)
Miyagi also developed a set of warm-up and conditioning exercises he called Yobi undo (also known as Junbi undo in Japanese). These were developed with a view to preventing injury and developing optimum health in a student while assisting with the development of technique.
The first karate club
This appears to have been the first proper Karate dojo, both in the sense that it had a building dedicated for use as a training hall and in that it involved fee paying students that could "come in off the street". The dojo was constructed by obtaining a loan from the bank with Miyagi's good friend Gokenki acting as a guarantor to the loan. Training was held everyday but Sunday and many guest instructors were invited to teach at the dojo including Gokenki who often came to teach and demonstrate his art of White Crane. Unfortunately the club struggled to break even and was disbanded in 1929.
The naming of goju ryu
In 1929, after a demonstration at a martial arts festival in Japan, Chojun Miyagi's top student Ji'an Shinzato was asked what style of karate he practised. At a loss for a reply he described it as Hanko or half hard. Shinzato later posed the question to Miyagi who gave the matter much thought. Given the nature of the techniques contained within the art he eventually decided to name his style Goju-ryu (the "hard-soft" style) after a line in the classic martial text Bubishi.
Miyagi's second visit to China
Miyagi's visit to Japan
In 1931 Master Miyagi followed up on his top student Ji'an Shinzato's 1929 visit to the Japanese mainland by himself travelling there on a teaching visit. By this time karate's popularity had grown in Japan and in particular had found a large following in that country's universities mainly as a result of fellow Okinawan Gichin Funakoshi's efforts. As such Chojun Miyagi visited a number of universities to instruct the karate students there. At Retsumeikan University in Kyoto one of these students was Jitsumi (later known as "Gogen") Yamaguchi who was to go on to to become the leader of Goju-ryu on the Japanese mainland and who created the large Japan-based organisation known as the Goju-Kai.
Miyagi's visit to Hawaii
In 1934, Miyagi accepted an invitation to make a training visit to Hawaii to teach Karate to the large Okinawan and Japanese community there. He stayed for nearly a year and for the first time in history brought knowledge of Karate into the Western world - reportedly even having had a few Americans in his classes.
Miyagi's third visit to China
Shortly after his return to Okinawa, in early 1936 Miyagi made another trip to China again accompanied by his old friend Gokenki. This time he visited Shanghai where he performed a demonstration in front of two hundred Japanese nationals at the Japanese club. Miyagi managed to obtain five books on Chinese Boxing which he intended to translate.
The development of Gekisai dai ichi and ni
Miyagi's final years
Miyagi's legacy: Goju ryu
The martial art of Okinawan Goju-ryu as developed by Chojun Miyagi, is a true combat art, not at all suited to modern day sport karate competition. Instead, goju-ryu is a counter-attacking system based on a synthesis of hard linear type techniques with softer circular movements. Goju-ryu's circular blocking actions and evasive body movements not only deflect and/or absorb an opponent's energy but serve to wind up the body like a spring so as to unleash explosive counter-attacks. These can take the form of a series of strikes beginning with kicks, followed by groin and joint kicks, foot-sweeps, stamps, punches, a variety of open hand strikes and finishing with knee and elbow strikes, rips, tears, gouges and headbutts. Gripping, pulling, pushing, jamming and joint-lock techniques are also included, as are throws.
Chojun Miyagi, and the masters who had passed the art to him, knew that no matter how good the fighter the chances are that, sooner or later, he/she will get hit during combat. Thus the age-old Shaolin tradition of "iron shirt" body conditioning is embodied in Sanchin kata, to toughen the body against strikes and increase tolerance to blows.
From a philosophical point of view Chojun Miyagi chose the name goju-ryu ("hard-soft" style) to mirrors the concept of the yin-yang and to provide a guide to the performance of the techniques. Here are some examples of his teachings:
- In defense, attack - in attack, defend.
- Soft target, hard weapon - hard target, soft weapon.
- Grip a strong person lightly - a weak person strongly.
- Linear attack, circular block - circular attack, linear block.
- To strike high, first kick low - to kick low, first strike high.
- Chojun Miyagi applied the "hard-soft" concept to conflict resolution without resorting to fighting:
- "When your temper rises, lower your fists - when your fists rise, lower your temper."
- A quote that sums up Chojun Miyagi's karate philosophy is:
- "Do not strike others, and do not allow others to strike you. The goal is peace without incident."
Goju ryu after Miyagi
Apart from Ji'an Shinzato, other noteworthy students of Miyagi's were: Meitoku Yagi, Seiko Higa, Ei'ichi Miyazato, Yoshio Itokazu, Seikichi Toguchi, Koshin Iha and An'ichi Miyagi.
Thus, in 1954 after a requisite period of mourning and at the request of Miyagi's family, Ei'ichi Miyazato took up the responsibility running classes in Miyagi's garden dojo. There was however much disagreement over how Goju-ryu should be taught after Miyagi's death and debate continues to the present day.
Next: Lineage of the Academy