An’ichi Miyagi Sensei (9th Feb 1931 – 28th April 2009)

Miyagi An’ichi Sensei was born in Naha, Okinawa, on February 9, 1931. He lost both his parents during the Second World War, and therefore at the age of 14 he began to work to support his family. He found employment on the Kaneda military base and was therefore able to support himself and his two younger brothers.

An’ichi Sensei’s friend and colleague on the military base, Kaho Tokeshi, had heard of Chojun Miyagi Sensei’s powerful karate through Meitoku Yagi (1912- 2003), who was once Chojun Sensei’s student before the war. Anichi Sensei along with Tokeshi and two other friends, Chishin Bise and Seikichi Gima, approached Chojun Miyagi Sensei to ask for instruction in karate. Chojun Miyagi Sensei agreed and they began on the 1st of February 1948. At this time Anichi Sensei was 17 years old and training was held indoors and then eventually moved to the legendary Garden Dojo later on.

An’ichi Sensei recalled that Chojun Miyagi Sensei followed his old practice of testing his prospective students’ sincerity and patience, he began by instructing them to stop smoking immediately, then he sent them into the Garden to clean and weed it. Once they had finished this and Chojun Miyagi Sensei was satisfied with their attitude and attention to detail, he began to teach them. His first instructions to them was in Junbi Undo. Chojun Sensei explained the importance of each exercise and how they develop strength and power to all techniques and that they also had important links to the internal organs. The training then progressed onto various stretching techniques and repetitive kicking drills, where Chojun Sensei showed them how to snap the knee and gave in depth details to each move. This was the extent of their initial training sessions under Chojun Sensei, Junbi Undo, Hojo Undo and Basic training.

During this period Chojun Miyagi Sensei was teaching three times a week at the Police Academy in Naha, and spent the rest of his time teaching karate at his home. As An’ichi Sensei lived a mere five-minute walk away from Chojun Miyagi Sensei, he took full advantage by going to Chojun Miyagi Sensei’s house whenever he had the free time. These visits to his teacher’s house would not only involve karate training; he also cleaned the house, tended the garden, made tea and performed any other tasks that needed attention.

A year later, Anichi Sensei’s three friends who had begun training at the same time as him, had for various reasons stopped training. An’ichi Miyagi continued on alone. Such was his dedication towards both his training and towards his teacher that Chojun Miyagi came to trust him implicitly. This was reflected in his teachings which became more detailed and of a more profound level. Chojun Miyagi spent hours everyday teaching and talking to his protégé, An’ichi Miyagi. They developed a close bond and An’ichi Miyagi effectively became a “uchi deshi” (Inner Disciple).

By his stage of his life, Chojun Sensei was sixty years old and he realized that while the development of Naha-te and Goju-Ryu system had been the life’s work of both his teacher, Kanryo Higaonna Sensei and himself, the system lacked a future successor. Most of Chojun Sensei’s previous students (prior to the war) had trained in his dojo for about five or six years with the exception of a few dedicated students. However, between 1927 and 1940 Chojun Sensei had been busy travelling between Japan and Okinawa and he made 2 long trips abroad to Shanghai and Hawaii, all for the promotion of and the research in karate, and even though he had spent several months in various places teaching some new students in this period of his life, he had not the time to train anyone in-depth for a long period of time. Over the years Chojun Sensei had incorporated new training methods to augment the training regime he had inherited from Kanryo Higaonna Sensei, he had incorporated 2 new katas to the Goju-Ryu system after 1940 and made modifications to the Sanchin Kata. The system he had inherited had evolved over several decades under his stewardship but most of his students who had stopped training before the Second World War began had not been taught the later aspects of Goju-Ryu which Chojun Sensei had developed after he returned to Okinawa for good between 1938 and 1953. Though Chojun Sensei returned to Okinawa in 1938 and began teaching in Naha, this training was constantly interrupted by the war and eventually ceased towards the end of the war. Amongst Chojun Sensei’s long-standing students Jinan Shinzato Sensei had trained under Chojun Sensei for more than 20 years and was his most senior disciple and intended successor. Unfortunately Shinzato Sensei was killed in 1945. After the war Chojun had begun teaching in the Naha Police Academy, however, the requirements and the time schedule of the students in the Academy were different, and Chojun Sensei as their physical training instructor, did not and could not have taught them the full Karate course. As Chojun Sensei himself approached old age and death, he realized the need to pass on the entire system to a Uchi Deshi in order to preserve his Goju-Ryu System. At that time An’ichi Sensei was the only candidate who showed enough perseverance and dedication who was also physically available to learn the system from Chojun Sensei.

Hence, from 1949 to 1951 An’ichi Sensei trained daily at Chojun Sensei’s garden dojo under Chojun Sensei’s intense scrutiny. Many times during training, Chojun Sensei performed the kata together with An’ichi Sensei, performing Kiai with passion thus bolstering An’ichi Sensei’s spirits. He also taught the Bunkai to An’ichi Sensei in great detail which eventually went far beyond the basics to show him the hidden techniques behind each movement. When training in Kata Bunkai Chojun Sensei would attack An’ichi Sensei with such force, he would sometimes unintentionally hit him and send him flying through the air. However on these occasions, such was Chojun Sensei’s concern for An’ichi Sensei, he would always ask after training, “An’ichi, are you alright?” On other times An’ichi Sensei would ask what certain movements meant. Once An’ichi Sensei found himself hitting the ground so hard and painfully from the application of a technique from Chojun Sensei, he learnt not to ask questions about moves he wasn’t ready for.

Chojun Sensei also began giving An’ichi Sensei extra chores at the dojo, some that seemed to be meaningless. One typical example is when he told An’ichi Sensei to come the next morning at 8am to move the large and heavy garden stones from one side of his yard to the other. On the following day, he asked An’ichi Sensei to move them back, then several days later to other areas of his yard. An’ichi Sensei realized later that Chojun Sensei was observing his personality and confirming his student’s determination to get things done properly.

In the evenings, An’ichi Sensei’s training would continue in Chojun Sensei’s house, with Chojun Sensei often explaining in detail about various karate movements and their meaning.  Often times, after training, An’ichi Sensei would relax and listen to Chojun Sensei discourse at great length about karate history and technique. He often spoke of heaven and earth, of yin and yang, the relationship of man to nature and of scientific and medical subjects. Then, sometimes he would become quiet and eventually say to himself in reflection, “Ah, if only Jiru (Jin’an Shinzato) were alive, then I could rest easily.” On one night Chojun Miyagi confided to him. “An’ichi,” he said seriously, “I did not even teach Jiru in such detail. I have passed the gokui (essense) of Goju-ryu to you. You must train hard and value this treasure I have given to you.”

During the Korean War (25 June 1950 – 27 July 1953), the military bases on Okinawa became increasingly busy. Sometimes An’ichi Sensei’s work load would increase to the point that he could not keep to a daily training schedule with Chojun Sensei. On one occassion in which An’ichi Sensei missed training for three days due to work commitment, Chojun Sensei became concerned and visited An’ichi Sensei’s home early in the morning on the fourth day. An’ichi Sensei awoke in the presence of his teacher, and after hearing Chojun Sensei’s concerns, explained how busy he had become. He apologized for not letting Chojun Sensei know earlier. Chojun Sensei, relieved that his best student would still carry on his training, smiled, then scanned An’ichi Sensei’s messy room and told him to clean it up.

An’ichi Sensei often tried to paid Chojun Sensei for his teachings, however his Master would not receive payment from students. So occasionally An’ichi Sensei would bring canned food and other items for Chojun Sensei, from the American military base. Chojun Sensei would always watch for the telltale sign of yellow stains from smoking on his students hands. Noticing these on a young An’ichi Sensei’s hands one day, Chojun Sensei scolded An’ichi Sensei and told him how bad smoking was for health and that those who practice the martial arts should never smoke. An’ichi Sensei quit shortly after, never daring to go against Chojun Sensei’s instructions.

An’ichi Sensei’s training intensified to a very advanced level. Sometimes when An’ichi Sensei had trouble performing certain techniques, Chojun Sensei would become frustrated and clench his fists. On other occasions, with out thought he would place his hand on the door frame and squeeze. Chojun Sensei’s grip was so strong that An’ichi Sensei later recalled that the whole room (wooded structure) would begin to shake under the pressure of his grip.

Until 1951 Chojun Sensei would not accept any students to his dojo. Many asked but they were turned away. However when Ryuko Aragaki, who had been Chojun Sensei’s first instructor, brought his grandson, Shuichi Aragaki to be considered as a student, Chojun Sensei felt he could not refuse. This was the beginning of a life long friendship between An’ichi Sensei and Aragaki Sensei.

In 1952, Chojun Sensei began admitting other students to the dojo, including Yuno Aragaki, Saburo Higa, Sosaburo Aniya, and Anichi Sensei’s younger brother, Mitsuhide who, at 12, was the youngest student there. Anichi Miyagi was now a Sensei and would teach them junbi undo, basics, and kata, while Chojun Sensei would watch and occasionally correct them.

As Chojun Sensei became older he confided to An’ichi Sensei, “I am most worried about one thing. I am worried that the Kata may be changed after my death.” After the war Chojun Sensei refused to travel. His goals had changed from promoting and spreading Karate to simply keeping it alive. It was through the hard private training An’ichi Sensei underwent, that Chojun Sensei passed Okinawan Goju-ryu Karate-Do on to him to guard until his own passing.

On October 7, 1953, An’ichi Sensei was the last to leave the dojo, bidding good night to Chojun Sensei and his wife. The next morning at work, An’ichi Sensei’s coworker signaled him over. With a somber voice, he said, “An’ichi, I have just heard the news on the radio that your sensei has died.” Shocked, An’ichi Sensei bolted out of the building and ran directly to Chojun Sensei’s house. When he arrived he saw standing outside, Chojun Sensei’s family, friends, other students and teachers from different styles, as well as neighbors, all waiting to go in to pay their last respects. At the age of twenty-two, An’ichi Sensei went into his teacher’s house and said his last farewell to a great man.

As An’ichi Sensei entered the house, Chojun Sensei’s wife greeted him and said, “Anichi, go and say your last farewells to Sensei.” An’ichi Sensei approached his teacher’s body, placed his hands together and prayed for Chojun Sensei’s soul. The guarding of Okinawan Goju-ryu Karate-Do had officially become the task of Miyagi An’ichi Sensei.

After a respectful period of mourning, Chojun Sensei’s students gathered to discuss the future of the Goju-Ryu. It was agreed that the students collectively organised training sessions for new students in order to continue Chojun Sensei’s legacy. Initially training took place at the Garden Dojo but it was moved to an indoor dojo subsequently. Throughout this period An’ichi Sensei was named as the regular instructor in keeping with the tradition of the time whereby the most senior student still training and teaching in his Master’s present at the time of a Master’s passing shall continue to teach in the Master’s dojo after his death. The rest of the senior students acted as the dojo administrators.

An’ichi Sensei and Morio Higaonna Sensei

In April 1955 Morio Higaonna Sensei presented himself at the Garden Dojo for instruction. He was told by Koshin Iha, a senior student and dojo administrator, “Anichi Miyagi san is the most knowledgeable. Go and learn from him.” Morio Higaonna thus began his training  in Okinawan Goju-ryu Karate-Do.

In this initial period Morio Higaonna Sensei was mainly trained by An’ichi Sensei. This relationship between teacher and student lasted for 54 years until An’ichi Sensei’s death. They trained daily together for many years. Morio Higaonna Sensei described An’ichi Sensei’s offensive movements as lightning fast and his blocks, although they did not look overly powerful, could stop any attack put against them with the greatest of ease.

An’ichi Sensei would come to Higaonna Sensei’s house on weekends and ask if he had time to come with him to Chojun Sensei’s house. It seemed that An’ichi Sensei spent all of his spare time cleaning the Garden Dojo, along with the well and repairing the Makiwara, as well anything else that needed to be done. When they were finished Chojun Sensei’s wife would bring the two sweets and tea and then send them on their way with fresh oranges.

During typhoon season, An’ichi Sensei would fetch Higaonna Sensei and they would go to Chojun Sensei’s house to ensure all the windows were secure and the roof was battened down. Even years after his teacher passing, An’ichi Sensei was still ensuring that his Sensei’s home and family were looked after.

Eventually Anichi Sensei’s work took him overseas and he visited many countries, whist sailing on the high seas as far as South Africa. Meanwhile An’ichi Sensei’s most senior student Morio Higaonna had become well-known for his mastery of karate and his Dojo in Yoyogi Tokyo had become a place of pilgrimage for serious students of the art. In 1979 with An’ichi Sensei’s blessing, Higaonna Sensei founded the International Okinawan Goju-ryu Karate-do Federation (IOGKF). An’ichi Sensei, together with other senior students of Chojun Miyagi Sensei such as Aragaki Shuichi Sensei and Seiko Kina Sensei, Jitsui Yogi, formed the first senior advisory body for the IOGKF.

With the growth of the IOGKF An’ichi Sensei had succeeded in not only securing the survival of Okinawan Goju-ryu the way Chojun Sensei had intended it, but through his most senior student Morio Higaonna Sensei, ensured that it through out the world – therefore accomplishing his mentor’s two major life goals.

After the IOGKF was established, An’ichi Sensei dedicated his time guiding the organisation in the technical aspect, and many of the IOGKF’s senior members have had the occasion to train with An’ichi Sensei and share his wisdom and knowledge in karate.

In 2006 at the IOGKF chief instructors Gasshuku, in Naha, Okinawa, Miyagi An’ichi Sensei presented Higaonna Morio Sensei with his own Black Belt as a token of him passing the style on to his student. An’ichi Sensei’s belt now rests in the Karate Museum in Okinawa.

In September 2007, Miyagi An’ichi Sensei and Aragaki Shuichi Sensei presented Higaonna Morio Sensei with his 10th Dan Black Belt certificate, along with a certificate that acknowledges him as the heir of the Goju-ryu style in the direct line to Miyagi Chojun Sensei. Both An’ichi Sensei and Aragaki Sensei personally signed and approved this in their capacity as Chojun Sensei’s most senior remaining students and the living successors of Chojun Sensei’s Goju-Ryu.

On April 28th 2009, Miyagi An’ichi Sensei passed away, officially passing the stewardship of the Goju-Ryu system to Higaonna Morio Sensei. He was 78 years old.

Miyagi An’ichi Sensei was an extremely humble, friendly and knowledgeable Master. He kept to his teacher’s wishes in his own lifetime and succeeded in passing on the essence of Goju-ryu to Master Morio Higaonna. An’ichi Miyagi Sensei led a simple life, but his legacy will last forever.