The Goju Ryu of Chojun Miyagi

Miyagi Chojun images

Chojun Miyagi (1888-1953) is the founder of today’s Goju-Ryu karate-do; he was responsible for taking Naha-te and formulating it into a system.

Miyagi was Kanryo Higaonna’s most talented and chosen pupil. Miyagi came from a rich family of high esteem, shipowners who imported -amongst others- medicines from China and supplied these to the royal miyagi chojun – the founder of Goju Ryu Karate-do family, the government and business houses. To prepare him for his future task to lead the family, when only eleven years old Chojun was brought to Ryuko Aragaki (1875-1961), who on his terms sent him at the age of fourteen to Kanryo Higaonna. Here Chojun Miyagi, together with Juhatsu Kyoda (1887-1967), was tutored thoroughly in Higaonna’s Naha-te.

After the death of Higaonna the well-off Miyagi, who occupied himself full-time with the study of martial arts, planned a trip to Fuzhou, the mecca of South-Chinese fighting arts (Nan Quan), to visit the birthplace of Kanryo Higaonna’s Naha-te and to pay his respects to Ryu Ryu Ko’s grave. For two months Chojun Miyagi together with Aisho Nakamoto (1881-1945) stayed in Fuzhou to train and they also visited the Julianshan Fujian Shaolin Temple.

Back on Okinawa he became friends with two tea-merchants from Fuzhou Wu Xianhui (Jap. Go Kenki) and Tang Daiji (Jap. To Daiki, both of them where famous martial arts teachers. Wu Xianhui (1886-1940) came to Naha in 1912 to teach White Crane boxing and made friends with amongst others Juhatsu Kiyoda, Chojun Miyagi and Kenwa Mabuni (1889-1952).

Together with Wu Xianhui, Chojun Miyagi left to visit Fuzhou again at the end of the twenties. Apart from Wu Xianhui who emigrated from Fuzhou to Naha in 1912, Miyagi had as already stated a good relationship with Tang Daiji (1887-1937) a Tiger Boxing (Hu Quan) master who also emigrated from Fuzhou to Naha. Introduced by Wu Xianshui, Miyagi met in February 1936 in Shanghai the famous Monk Fist (Luohan Quan) master Miao Xing (1881-1939). Miyagi is said to have trained for some time diligently with Miao Xing and other Chinese masters associated with the Jingwu Athletic Association. He also visited the national martial arts championships.

Miyagi dedicated his whole life to the development of what was called ‘toudijutsu’ (China hand art) or simply ‘te’ on Okinawa. In 1921 crown-prince Hirohito visited Okinawa before travelling to Europe. Due to his visit Shuri-te as well as Naha-te (by Chojun Miyagi) was demonstrated.

In 1925 Miyagi demonstrated for prince Chichibu-Nomiya and shortly after, in 1926, he founded the Okinawa Karate Kenkyu-Kai (Okinawa Karate Research Club) together with Chomo Hanashiro (Shuri-te), Choyu Motobu (Tomari-te) and Kenwa Mabuni. One year later, Chojun Miyagi demonstrated to Jigoro Kano, grappling, locking and throwing techniques and the correct use of breathing. Kano was very impressed by this toudijutsu and introduced Miyagi, accompanied by his friend Mabuni in Japan.

At the end of the twenties and the beginning of the thirties, Miyagi, together with his -at that time- top student Jinan Shinzato (1901-1945), gave seminars and demonstrations at Japanese universities, Budo-tournaments and at the crowning festivities of crown-prince Hirohito.

In 1933 Chojun Miyagi registered ‘toudi’ officially as Goju-Ryu at the Japanese regulating Budo-institution, the prestigious Dai Nippon Butokukai, the All Japan Martial Arts Association.

Later on Miyagi was distinguished by the Ministry of Physical Education, receiving the highest honour of the Dai Nippon Butokukai and was appointed representative of the Butokukai department for Okinawa.

Thus Goju-Ryu karate-do -the name derived from the Bubishi- was the first and eldest karate-tradition recognised by the Dai Nippon Butokukai; its founder, Chojun Miyagi, acquired an outstanding position in karate-do.

May 1934, Chojun Miyagi travelled on invitation to Hawaii where he taught and gave demonstrations until February 1935. His teachings for that matter were referred to as kempo karate.

On the 25th of October 1936 the most outstanding Okinawa-masters (Chomo Hanashiro , Chotoku Kyan, Choki Motobu, Chosin Chibana, Juhatsu Kiyoda and Chojun Miyagi) assembled and changed the name toudijutsu into karate-do.

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