Chojun Miyagi was born on April 25,1888. He began his Karate training in Shuri-te and at the age of 14 was introduced to Kanryo Higaonna with whom he began his study of Naha-te. Like his teacher before him, because of his great natural talent and fierce determination, he progressed very rapidly. The training was severe beyond belief at times but he practiced ever harder with an enthusiasm unmatched by any of the other students. Chojun Miyagi became “uchi deshi” (private discipline) of Kanryo Higaonna. He studied with his teacher for 14 years before his teacher’s death in 1915.
Chojun Miyagi, as successor to his teacher’s “te”, pushed himself to the limits of endurance in his desire to emulate his teacher’s extraordinary skill. In 1915 he journeyed to Fuzhou, China, the city where his teacher had studied martial arts to further his research. This was one of three trips he made to China during his lifetime.
On his return to Okinawa he began to teach the martial arts out of his home in Naha. Later, he also taught at the Okinawan Prefecture Police Training Center, at the Okinawan Master’s Training College, and at the Naha Commercial High School (where his teacher had once taught).
Chojun Miyagi worked hard to spread Karate throughout Okinawa and mainland Japan, and to earn his toudi a status equal to that of the highly respected Japanese martial arts of Judo and Kendo. To achieve this he traveled frequently to mainland Japan where he was invited to teach at Kyoto University, Kansai University and Ritsumei Kan University. In 1933, Goju-Ryu Karate was the first Okinawan martial art to be registered with the Dai Nippon Butoku-Kai, the center for all martial arts in Japan. This was a milestone for Karate as it meant it would aligned with the highly respected martial arts of Japan.
Chojun Miyagi dedicated his whole life to Karate. He was responsible for structuring his toudi (which he later named Goju-Ryu) into a systemized discipline which could be taught to society in general. This teaching system that he formulated enabled Karate to be taught in schools for the benefit of the young, and to reach vast numbers of people throughout the world. However, his private teaching at his home remained strictly in adherence to the principles and traditions of his teacher, Kanryo Higaonna, and his teacher before him, RuRuKo.
The naming of Goju-Ryu came about more by accident than by design. In 1930, Chojun Miyagi’s top student, Jin’an Shinzato, while in Tokyo demostrating the Karate of his teacher, was asked as to what school of martial arts he practiced. As Naha-te had no formal name he could not answer this question. On his return to Okinawa he reported this incident to Chojun Miyagi. After much consideration, Chojun Miyagi chose the name Goju-Ryu (hard and soft school) as a name for his style. This name he took from a line in the “Bubishi” (a classical text on martial arts and other subjects) is shown below. This line reads, “Ho Goju Donto”. It is necessary to point out that these precepts have a much greater importance than simply as the source for the naming on Goju-ryu. They present great insight into the indispensable knowledge and application of the sciences practiced by the martial arts masters of this time. Without proper and complete research and study of these paradiagms, the true essence of Goju-ryu can never be truely understood.
- The mind is one with heaven and Earth
- The circulatory system of the body is similar to that of the sun and moon
- The way of inhaling and exhaling is hardness and softness
- Act in accordance with time and change
- Techniques will occur in the absence of conscious thought.
- The feet must advance and retreat, separate and meet.
- The eyes do not miss the slightest change.
- The ears listen well in all directions
The Philosophy of Grandmaster Chojun Miyagi
The philosophy that permeates Goju-Ryu Karate-do, that is the very essence of this art, could be seen in its most practical way by simply observing the life of Chojun Miyagi. Indeed, Chojun Miyagi’s life and the way he lived his life was a perfect expression of the spirit and philosophy of Goju-Ryu Karate- do.
After the extreme devastation of the second World War Okinawa was left in the grip of terrible poverty. Housing and food were scarce. The United States Military had stockpiles of food and clothing and even the most virtuous of Okinawans would take these from time to time. On occasions when Chojun Miyagi was offered food or clothing he would always refuse and point out that what little he already possessed was sufficient for his needs.
Chojun Miyagi would never compromise himself. Whatever hardships he encountered in his life, his heart (mind & spirit) would never change. He would always stress that especially in the martial arts one must always be humble. The stronger one becomes, the more that person should express their gentler side. This is the meaning of “Go” and “Ju”.
Chojun Miyagi was a strict teacher of the martial arts but he showed great affection and love for his students. He would always consider the well being of his students, not only in their training but in their everyday lives as well. He would always try and guide them along the correct path.
The legacy of Chojun Miyagi is much more than just technique. He has left us with a philosophy which is profound in its simplicity; a philosophy to help us achieve truth and virtue in our lives.