An’Ichi Miyagi and Higaonna Morio

Miyagi An’Ichi and Higaonna Morio the formation of the International Organisation: I.O.G.K.F

Miyagi An'Ichi Sensei

Before World War II Chojun Miyagi’s top student was Jinan Shinzato. Shinzato was a police-detective by profession. Besides karate he also trained in judo. Shinzato was talented and it was generally known that he was to become Chojun Miyagi’s successor. Unfortunately he was killed during World War II. Except for Shinzato, Chojun Miyagi also lost two daughters and his third son during this war.

Before the war Chojun Miyagi’s teaching method began with hojo undo, uke harai, ude tanren, yakusoku kumite, kakie and then sanchin kata . This was the students’ routine for the first three to five years and comprised eighty percent of Chojun Miyagi’s teaching. After this, one or two kaishugata would be taught, the depth and applications varied according to one’s level of understanding and technical ability. Jinan Shinzato learned sanchin, sesan and tensho; Seiko Kina learned sanchin and seiyunchin; Meitoku Yagi learned sanchin and suparinpei; Shunshin Furugen learned sanchin and kururunfa. However the senior students from before the war, Seiko Kina, Meitoku Yagi, Kiei Tomoyose, Shunshin Furugen, Eiko Miyazato and Eiichi Miyazato, did not train anymore as they were busy trying to make a living in these hard times.

Therefore in 1948 Chojun Miyagi accepted new students and revised his teaching system, arranging the kata of Goju-Ryu into a set sequence, something that had not existed previously.

In February of that year four students came to his dojo. These were An’ichi Miyagi, Bise Chishin, Gima Seikichi and Tokeshi Kako. After one year of intensive training only An’ichi Miyagi stayed. Up to 1951 he was Chojun Miyagi’s sole student. A close relation between both grew; Chojun Miyagi treated An’ichi like a son of his own.

Chojun Miyagi who realised that he wasn’t getting any younger taught the essence (gokui) of Goju-Ryu to An’ichi Miyagi. From February 1948 to October 1953 Chojun Miyagi taught An’ichi everything he knew to preserve this knowledge as a whole for future generations.

In 1951 Miyagi accepted new students. The first of them was Shuichi Aragaki, after him gradually more followed. Usually these students were taught by An’ichi. In 1952 the number of dojo-members gradually began to grow.

On the 8th of October 1953 master Chojun Miyagi died suddenly of a heart-attack.

Training continued in the garden-dojo of Chojun Miyagi’s house. Mostly An’ichi taught and through his tuition three special students arose: Yasuo Iba, Anya Sauchi and Saburo Higa. For the first time since World War II the Goju-Ryu garden-dojo started to flourish and could claim many outstanding students.

About this time, Morio Higaonna joined the garden-dojo of the late Chojun Miyagi. Before that time Morio Higaonna trained in Goju-Ryu and Shorin-Ryu with Tsunetaka Shimabukuru, Kenji Kaneshiro and Yoshishige Omine. At the intercession of Tsunetaka Shimabukuru, Morio Higaonna was introduced to the garden-dojo in March 1955. At his first visit he met Yasuo Iba. He told the young Morio Higaonna that he should go to An’ichi Miyagi as he was the most competent of the dojo. After training Morio Higaonna always visited Chojun Miyagi’s widow Makato (1887-1966). Sometimes they spoke about Chojun Miyagi, some of his senior students, and of karate. She stressed that he should learn from An’ichi Miyagi as the latter was most close to her husband and learned from him Goju-Ryu in great detail.

August 1957, Eiichi Miyazato built a large dojo in the Asato district of Naha, which he named Jundokan, after the name of Jigoro Kano’s first judo-dojo. Miyazato who after the war was heavily occupied with judo became a judo champion around 1950 or 1951 and even left for Japan in April 1953, to attend the Japan Kodokan seminar. Miyazato finally became an accomplished judo master and president of the Okinawan Judo Federation as well. Because of his authority and position as a police-officer Miyazato became official head of the dojo with Koshin Iha as his assistant and responsible for the fees. They rarely taught however, leaving the daily teaching responsibilities to An’ichi Miyagi. It was An’ichi Miyagi who for example taught Yasuo Iha suparinpei kata.

In 1959 An’ichi Miyagi left Okinawa to work on an American owned oil tanker. At this time work was very difficult to find on Okinawa and An’ichi still had the responsibility of supporting his family. One year later, Morio Higaonna decided to go to Tokyo, mainland Japan, to attend Takushoku University. Attending university he would return to Okinawa just twice a year, each winter for about one month and each summer for about two or three months. On these occasions he continued his training and further development with An’ichi Miyagi.

The Okinawa Karate-do Renmei had been formed in May of 1956, with Choshin Chibana, the founder of Shorin-Ryu, as its first chairman. On December 30, 1960, this seminal organisation held the first all-style dan grading. Shoshin Nagamine from Matsubayashi Shorin-Ryu was chairman at that time. The top-instructors of each style were awarded godan; twenty-five karate-ka were graded sandan (among them Morio Higaonna); twenty-three were awarded nidan; and forty were awarded shodan.

Morio Higaonna spent twenty years teaching at a dojo in Yoyogi, a suburb in Tokyo, during which time he built it up into a place which became famous throughout the world. As a result many people from a variety of martial arts backgrounds would come to train with and learn from Higaonna. In Tokyo Higaonna also introduced his teacher An’ichi Miyagi. During these years An’ichi Miyagi passed on the secret and highest level techniques of Goju-Ryu to his student Morio Higaonna.

In 1979 with the support of the family of Chojun Miyagi and Ken Miyagi the fourth son of the founder of Goju-Ryu, as well as many of Chojun Miyagi’s senior students, the International Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate-Do Federation (IOGKF) was formed. This to keep Goju-Ryu’s original techniques unchanged and to further its technical development as well as its popularity according to the wish of Chojun Miyagi. An’ichi Miyagi was appointed honourable chairman; Morio Higaonna was appointed world chief-instructor.

In 1981, Higaonna moved to Okinawa and opened a dojo in Naha (Higaonna dojo) to do more research. Here he was selected by the documentary makers of the BBC -Howard Reid and Michael Croucher- to represent traditional karate-do in the series “The Way of the Warrior”.

In 1987 he left for the USA to promote Goju-Ryu. Since 1987 he visited Fuzhou on many occasions to expand his knowledge on the Chinese roots of Goju-Ryu. From these visits a close bond between the IOGKF and the China Fuzhou Wushu Association (CFWA) was established.

The IOGKF today has a large following, numbering tens of thousands of students in forty-five countries all over the world. At this moment the IOGKF Honbu Dojo is being constructed on Okinawa, the birthplace of karate. It will be the true Goju-Ryu Budokan, with dojo, meeting rooms and upstairs a dormitory.

→ IOGKF Technical Curriculum