History: Lineage of the Academy
In 1957 Miyazato moved the students from the Miyagi family garden dojo to a permanent dojo in Naha that he named the Jundokan. It is said that Miyazato incorporated many Judo, Aikido and Ti techniques into the training regimen at his well equipped dojo. Over the years Miyazato Sensei taught many well-known karateka. They include Koshin Iha, Ted Yasuda, Chuck Merriman, Teruo Chinan and An'ichi Miyagi (no relation to Chojun Miyagi). According to historian Mark Bishop, perhaps his best known student is the dynamic Morio Higaonna (no relation to Kanryo Higaonna) although Higaonna himself has stated that his main teacher has always been An'ichi Miyagi.
The essence of Miyazato's karate is summed up by his dojo kun here listed as translated for historian Mark Bishop.
- Be mindful of your courtesy with humbleness
- Train yourself considering physical strength.
- Study and contrive seriously
- Be calm in mind and swift in action
- Take care of yourself
- Live a plain and simple life
- Do not be too proud of yourself
- Continue training with patience and humbleness
(The above mottoes should be recognizable to the Wu-Wei Dao student as they are the same ones we use - albeit with a slightly different translation - see Academy motto).
Following Chojun Miyagi's death in 1953, there was a requisite mourning period during which training at the garden dojo was suspended. An'ichi Miyagi's training resumed in 1954 under the supervision of Eiichi Miyazato and with the assistance of Koshin Iha, initially still at the Miyagi family garden dojo and later at Miyazato's Jundokan dojo. As one of the Sempai (senior students) An'ichi Miyagi assisted with teaching. In fact, present-day Master Morio Higaonna credits An'ichi Miyagi as his main instructor in Goju-ryu at the garden dojo and maintained an instructor-student relationship with him until the latter's passing on 27 April 2009.
Higaonna was once described by martial arts historian Don Draeger as "the most dangerous man in Japan if it came to a real fight" and is acknowledged by many to be, to the martial arts, what Michael Jordan is to basketball.
Morio Higaonna was born in Naha, Okinawa in 1938. He started training in Shorin-ryu karate in 1952 when he was 14 years old. In 1955 at the age of 16 he began training in Goju-ryu in the garden dojo of the late Chojun Miyagi. At this time the dojo was supervised by Chojun Miyagi's student Eiichi Miyazato although Higaonna's Sempai in the dojo was An'ichi Miyagi. In 1957 a full-time dojo, the Jundokan, was opened by Miyazato and the students of the garden dojo shifted to the new premises. Higaonna continued his training there until he was accepted into Takushoku University in Tokyo in 1960. As Higaonna had never been graded, just before he leaving for Tokyo a grading was organised at his request and he was awarded a 3rd Dan black belt by Miyazato Sensei.
With his credentials established, Higaonna was engaged as an instructor at a dojo in the Yoyogi district of Tokyo. Although only 22, his realistic karate and personal ability had caught the attention of the dojo owner who invited him to teach there, even though it was a Shorin-ryu dojo. Higaonna's classes soon became very popular despite the severity of his training methods and it wasn't long before he was employed as a full-time instructor. In time, the Yoyogi dojo converted to Goju-ryu and over the next 21 years Higaonna Sensei's and the Yoyogi dojo's reputation and popularity grew among martial artists the world over.
Sensei Higaonna with Wu-Wei Dao instructors Nenad (left) and Dan (right) in 1994.
It was not only Higaonna's realistic karate and personal ability that impressed people, but also his genuine modesty and humility and the manner in which he and his students treated gaijin (foreigner) students. At a time when non-Japanese karate students in Japan were treated as cannon-fodder in most dojos, Higaonna's classes were conducted in an atmosphere of mutual respect. Many foreigners who had come to Tokyo to study at internationally famous dojos such as the Japan Karate Association (JKA) and Kyokushinkai Honbu (Headquarters) dojos were so impressed by Higaonna's powerful karate, that they converted to Goju-ryu. Some of these, including Denis St. John Thomson sponsored Higaonna to travel overseas to teach his brand of karate directly to their students. Others, like Sensei Graham Ravey took up permanent residence in Tokyo in order to train with Higaonna Sensei.
Whenever he could, Higaonna continued to visit his family home in Okinawa and continued to learn from senior Goju-ryu instructors. In 1979, as a 6th Dan Black belt, he left the Jundokan and, with James Rousseau, set up the IOGKF (International Okinawan Goju-ryu Federation) taking up the role of Chief Instructor to that organisation.
Higaonna continued to teach at the Yoyogi dojo until 1981 when he returned to Okinawa. He has subsequently moved to California in the USA when he still lives and teaches. Recently the late Hanshi Yuchoku Higa, a Shorin-ryu master who trained as a youth under both Chojun Miyagi (briefly) and Jin'an Shinzato, awarded Morio Higaonna the grades of 8th and later 9th Dan.
Denis St John Thomson
Hanshi Denis began training in karate in South Africa in 1963 with his brother Hugh in an organization that became known as "Karate-do International" (now "Kushido Karate-do"). They trained in and taught the Kyokushinkai ("ultimate truth") style of karate, founded by Japanese Karate strong-man Mas Oyama.
Karate in the early sixties was considered a mystical art that enabled a flesh and bone human to become a brick smashing and board breaking superhuman. Japanese Karate strong-man Mas Oyama did much to perpetuate this belief, even among sceptics, by killing Bulls bare-handed.
In 1965, in conjunction with various other schools and clubs in Cape town, Durban and Johannesburg, including a Johannesburg based club operated by Stan Schmidt (now at 8th Dan, the highest graded Westerner in Japanese Karate), four highly graded Japanese Shotokan karateka were brought out to South Africa, namely: Taiji Kase, Hirokazu Kanazawa (see photo below), Keinosuke Enoeda and Hiroshi Shirai. The South Africans were so impressed by their ability that all participating clubs (including Denis' "Karate-do" dojo) joined the Japan Karate Association (or JKA, formed by the famous Shorin-ryu master Gichin Funakoshi).
Apparently the training was very severe. Instructors such as Taiji Kase, who had trained throughout the war (when the Japanese government turned a blind eye to death rates in Karate dojos provided they were less than 10% of the membership!) would think nothing of breaking a student's arm, leg or ribs during demonstrations.
In December 1966 Karate-do International began a process of conversion from JKA Shotokan to the style of Okinawan Goju-ryu (as opposed to Japanese Goju-kai system taught by Gogen Yamaguchi) as taught at Morio Higaonna's small but well respected Yoyogi dojo in Tokyo.
Despite this conversion, Karate-do International retained two Shorin kata and many training methods which still form part of the Academy's curriculum.
In years to come, Hanshi Denis made visits to Higaonna's 'Yoyogi dojo' and moreover the 'Karate-do' school sponsored Higaonna and other Okinawan Goju-ryu instructors to make training visits to South Africa.
Hanshi Denis followed up his 1st Dan grading in JKA Shotokan with a 2nd Dan in Goju-ryu in 1967 and in 1969 underwent special Instructor Training in Goju-ryu under Shihan Morio Higaonna in Tokyo. In same year he also began training in the Okinawan Weapons of Nunchaku, Bo and Sai and Tonfa. As a result of this training and research, he was promoted to Chief Instructor of the 'Karate-do' school in 1970.
In 1972, Denis underwent further instructor training under Shihan Morio Higaonna and was awarded his 4th Dan in Goju-ryu. He followed this up in 1974 with advanced instructor courses (which included weapons training) in Tokyo, Japan and also Naha, the capital of Okinawa and birthplace of karate where he attended the World Goju-ryu Congress.
In 1976 Denis was awarded his 5th Dan Black Belt. In 1980 he attained 6th Dan and Shihan ranking. In 1985 he was awarded the title of Renshi in recognition for his research into traditional Okinawan Weapons. In the same year he made a trip to Taiwan and Hong Kong to study taiji and Chinese weaponry.
Hanshi Denis passed away on 2 September 2009 after a long battle with illness. He was recognised not only as one of the most senior Western Okinawan Goju-ryu instructors in the world but was also an internationally recognised Okinawan Kobudo (weapons) expert. He remained the Chief Instructor of Kushido Karate-do until his passing.
From the early 1980's, in addition to his continuing training with the Karate-do International organisation, he began to seek knowledge from other sources. In particular he has studied: Aikido (from Ken Cottier - one of the most respected non-Japanese Aikidoka and a student the legendary late Morihei Ueshiba); Escrima (from Bill Newman a student of respected Filipino Escrima master Rene Latosa), Arnis (from the late Remy Presas and various other masters during a number of training visits to the Philippines); Okinawan Kobudo (weaponry); the traditional short staff weapon systems of 'Aiki-jo', 'Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei Jodo', and 'Shindo Muso Ryu Jojutsu'; and the Chinese 'close-range' fighting styles of Wing Chun and Qin-na (a grappling art, similar to Ju-Jitsu).
In 1985 Bob decided that the worldwide trend of commercialisation and modification of martial arts for sport and competition was not conducive to effective self-defence application, health and personal growth, and withdrew his support for the modern sport-variants of the arts.
As a martial artist and instructor Bob Davies is a perfectionist renowned for his ability to acquire and assimilate practical, pertinent knowledge. His studies have taken him to Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Philippines, Australia, Western and Eastern Europe and the USA. Balancing this expertise has included an in-depth examination of some of the 'healing' aspects of martial and civilian combat arts training provided by a number of schools of meditation, Shiatsu, Chinese Chi-Kung, as well as clinical anatomy and physiology including a year of full-time cadaver dissection.
Since 1975 Bob has personally trained over 8000 students. As an indication of his high standards, in all of that time he has awarded only sixty-five black belt grades (in four different disciplines) of whom twelve individuals went on to reach the internationally rated rank of 3rd Dan, five the rank of 4th Dan (two of which are Nenad and Dejan Djurdjevic), and one the rank of 5th Dan.
Nenad and Dejan Djurdjevic
On 26 April 1985 Nenad and Dan established a martial arts school in Perth, Western Australia that is today known as the Academy of Traditional Fighting Arts. Initially their school was a branch of the Karate-do International organisation but - from 8 December 1986 - the school was affiliated directly to their teacher's (Bob Davies') Wu-Shin Chi-Dao Martial Arts College.
On 23 December 1996, after an apprenticeship of nearly 16 years under their teacher Bob Davies, Nenad and Dejan, acting in conjunction with their most senior students, established their school as an independent entity. The school was named Wu-Wei Dao ("the way of spontaneous action"/"achieving a result without action") in order to reflect its philosophy and technical direction.
In July 2006 the school changed its name to the Academy of Traditional Fighting Arts in order to better describe the scope of the syllabus (the term “Wu-Wei Dao” is still used to describe the system under which the arts are taught).
The Academy's syllabus reflects Kancho Nenad's and Shihan Dan's studies of Goju-ryu karate as taught by Chojun Miyagi as well as select techniques and forms from Shorin-ryu karate, traditional Okinawan weapons arts (kobudo), some southern Chinese and Filipino martial arts and the internal arts of China.
Kancho Nenad and Shihan Dan acquired their knowledge primarily from Laoshi Bob Davies. In addition to their studies with Bob Davies, Nenad and Dejan have trained with and gained knowledge from a variety of sources over the years including: Hugh and Denis St. John Thomson, Graham Ravey (formerly chief technical advisor to IOGKF Australia, now head of the TOGKF), Hirokazu Kanazawa (the founder of SKI Shotokan), Morio Higaonna (the chief instructor of the IOGKF), Tatsuo Suzuki (the founder of Wado-ryu karate), Ken Cottier (a student the legendary Aikido master Morihei Ueshiba), the late Shihan Jan de-Jong (an internationally recognized master of Ju-Jitsu), Cacoy Canete (the founder of Doce Pares Escrima), BJJ instructor John Will, Goju-kai instructors Tino and Paul Ceberano and Sal Ebanez, Kali and Jeet Kune Do legend Dan Inosanto and Wing Chun instructor William Cheung, among others.
Since 2005 Shihan Dan has been a student of Chen Yun-Ching, son of the late internal arts master