Miyagi Takashi [宮城敬] (1919-2008) – Establishing a Foundation for ‘Scientific’ Goju Ryu Karate-Do! (18.10.2022)
The traditional purpose of Karate-Do is said to be the development of the ‘Single Punch Precise Kill’ (一拳必殺) technique! This is because the historical origins of Karate-Do developed out of battlefield martial arts - specifically designed to kill and wound an opponent without mercy! The question for modern practitioners is whether this objective is suitable as a contemporary teaching device – and how should the technical inadequacies of the old ways be improved upon? It may well be the case that the potentially lethal elements of Karate-Do are retained (because they are inherent in the ancient martial techniques) - but that the ‘killing’ aspect should not be made the key point when teaching the public – and should be replaced by encouraging young students to develop their own minds and bodies whilst perfecting a virtuous character! Therefore, saving lives and helping others signifies a necessary shift in traditional attitudes when teaching Karate-Do to modern students.
In fact, this is not a ‘new’’ attitude that I invented – but an idea taught to me by my father Miyagi Chojun. In-turn, this was an attitude inherited from Higaonna Kanryo (and his Chinese teachers). Although exactly the same ‘killing’ techniques are retained (and certainly not ‘removed’ from the art) - what is emphasised is character development so that clever ways of resolving conflict in the environment is utilised as a type of ethereal Karate-Do – that precedes any need to deploy potentially devastating physical techniques! The lethal reality of Karate-Do techniques, therefore, is ‘hidden’ within a deep and stratified approach to Goju Ryu Karate-Do, which is now embedded in the grading system involving coloured belts. If the practitioner does not suitably develop their mind (psychology) and body (physicality) - then they do not gain access to the ‘lethal’ nature of the genuine Goju Ryu Karate-Do techniques! Each practitioner must develop ‘trustworthiness’ before they are permitted to gain access to the deepest aspects of this ancient martial art!
My father – Miyagi Chojun – maintained the emphasis of the ‘Hard’ (Go) aspect of Goju Ryu through the ‘Sanchin’ Kata which had been passed on to him by Higaonna Kanryo – but he felt the opposite element of ‘giving way’ was missing in the Style, or at least not very well represented. To remedy this, Miyagi Chojun developed the ‘Tensho’ Kata from a set of movements he had been taught in China from a White Crane Fist teacher in Fuzhou related in lineage to the Chinese teacher of Higaonna Kanryo. Bear in mind that ‘Tensho’ is NOT exactly the same as the Form (六機手 - Ro Ku ki Te) he learned in China and that Miyagi Chojun chose to modify its structure to assist the ‘balance’ of Goju Ryu Karate-Do methodology. This is where Miyagi Chojun developed the ‘Soft’ element of Goju Ryu which saw the Tensho Kata counter-balance the Sanchin Kata. When practiced together – the Yin (Soft) and Yang (Hard) energy within the mind and body is perfectly ‘balanced’! ‘Weaving Hand’ (機手 - Ki Te) is a principle found within the ‘Southern Fist’ martial system of China, and which relates to all the upper body movement of the extremities and the combat techniques which are expressed therein. Within the book entitled ‘Bubishi’ (武備志) (transmitted China to Okinawa) - there is an explanation of where the vital pressure points (経穴 - Kei Ketsu) are on the opponent’s body – and how the hand – used in the ‘open palm’ (開掌 - Hiraki Tenohira) position – can be used to ‘pierce’ these points and cause catastrophic damage to the opponent’s health! Higaonna Kanryo taught Miyagi Chojun how to ‘stand’ and ‘move’ through the ‘Sanchin’ Kata – and then Miyagi Chojun then developed ‘Tensho’ Kata to emphasis ‘Softness’ - but a ‘Softness’ with a lethal ‘hidden’ central element (involving pressure-point hitting)!
The ‘Sanchin’ and ‘Tensho’ Katas are unique to Goju Ryu Karate-Do and are not found within ‘Shuri-Te’ (首里手) derived-traditions! These are foundational Katas that are taught to express the beginning and the end of the Goju Ryu Karate-Do training method! As this is the case, there are definite ‘breathing’ methods used when performing these Katas. The ‘Sanchin’ Kata employs what is referred to as a formalised ‘Yang Breath’ (陽の息吹 - Yō No Ibu Ki) - which sees the practitioner maintaining the ‘tightening’ of all the muscles around the bones throughout the entirety of the body – with the instructor continuously ‘testing’ to ensure this process is being adhered to correctly! Through these training methods, the practitioner learns how to shift and lower the centre of gravity, how to smoothly transition between various and different fighting techniques - all performed whilst breathing deeply and fully! Both myself and my father, however, teach preparation exercises which loosen and strengthen the body and focus the mind BEFORE any of these profound exercises are taught. This is important as students require a means of ‘entering’ the Style so that the Goju Ryu techniques are not experienced as a shock to the system. Correct preparation prevents unnecessary injury and conditions the mind and body so that the structures and processes become suitable for further and advanced training.
This is the systematic application of the scientific process. Science does not stand still but provides opportunities for continuous and further development. Logic and reason must be brought to bear upon the established traditions using the old techniques and is immeasurable when providing a firm and dynamic foundation for further development! When I was young, Kano Jagoro (嘉納冶五郎) visited Okinawa (in 1927) and was very impressed in the rational approach that my father had incorporated into the structure of Higaonna Naha-Te (as it transitioned into Goju Ryu)! He even took elements of my father's training regimes and incorporated them into his ‘Judo’ training patterns! He agreed that logic and reason must be used within traditional martial arts as a means to ensure that these old ways are preserved and made relevant for survival within modern society! My father explained to Kano Jagoro that the structure of Karate-Do is similar to the physical structures of material objects – such as a house, a tower or a bridge, etc. If the design principles are not sound – the building and/or structure will not stand – and will not be able to fulfil the purpose for which it was made! The house will collapse, the tower will fall, and the bridge will give way! Kano Jagoro was impressed with this thinking and congratulated my father on his progressive attitude! Indeed, Kano Jagoro incorporated this type of thinking into his development of Judo technique!
As for my father – Miyagi Chojun – he would later develop the ‘Gekisai’ (撃砕) Kata (Number One and Number Two), as a means to express the entire Goju Ryu Karate-Do path in just two short sets of movements which can be elaborated extensively when an instructor so chooses to do so! This was a substantial achievement which many other lineages of Goju Ryu misinterpret as being ‘simplistic’ or ‘beginning’ only Kata – but in reality, my father intended these Katas to be something much more important than this. If the ‘Gekisai’ Kata are closely examined, a whole new world of ‘meaning’ can be clearly discerned! This does not detract from the fact that the entirety of Goju Ryu Karate-Do is defined by the ‘Sanchin’ and the ‘Tensho’ Kata! When added together – there are ‘twelve’ (12) Kata preserved within Goju Ryu Karate-Do. The two ‘Gekisai’ are known as the ‘public’ Kata which are used to prepare a student for a more profound learning experience later on!
Miyagi Chojun had a deep knowledge of geography and history as well as the Chinese Classics and was well versed in the different aspects of Eastern culture. I will never forget the image of my teacher - who used a dictionary as a pillow and would constantly look-up the meaning of words and think deeply about what he found! He was particularly knowledgeable about medicines and the physiology of the human body, and always studied Karate-Do from a medical point of view. This is why many of his acquaintances were also doctors. He studied Karate-Do from a modern and scientific point of view and designed its structure as a practical system! Indeed, modern Goju Ryu Karate-Do is designed around a scientific agenda which brings logic and reason to the practice of an ancient martial art! Although the techniques can be lethal if deployed a certain way – Miyagi Chojun ensured that the health-giving component of each technique was emphasised over its destructive element. An emphasis upon building a sound mind and a strong body replaced the destructive act of confusing the mind and harming the body of an opponent! Goju Ryu Karate-Do was maintained as a traditional fighting method with modern (medical) implications!
‘I was born in Naha City during August 1919 (Taisho 10) and I am the eldest son of Miyagi Chojun (1888-1953) - the founder of Goju Ryu Karate-Do! My father taught me how to use my ‘hands’ (手 - Te) and ‘feet’ (足 - Ashi) during every moment of the day! He taught me where to ‘walk’ on the road, pavement or path – and where to place my awareness to stay safe! In a similar vein – he taught me how to hold an umbrella properly so that it looks innocuous but is really a ‘weapon’ that can be used in self-defence! For the Miyagi Family – Karate-Do was not only practiced in the ‘Dojo’ - but training of the mind and body continued throughout the entirety of our lives! My father – Miyagi Chojun – was a very popular person and knew many interesting and important people! He often told me about the famous people living in Okinawa - including military personnel and literary figures - who had come to live and work in Okinawa. Due to his wide range of associations, my father was well read, well-educated and took a general (and specific) interest in many different and varied subjects. As my father took me everywhere with him when I was young – I also met these people and often witnessed (and absorbed) the discussions as they unfolded! This is how my father ensured that I had a well-rounded education premised upon practical experience and intellectual stimulation! This is how I started the development of my mind and body and developed a sound foundation in the understanding of Karate-Do! I also understood exactly how my father thought about life and his general attitude toward Karate-Do! His personality clearly shone through during these interactions!
As my father – Miyagi Chojun – believed that travelling expanded the mind, he advised me to travel to Kyoto and enrol for the Summer in a Martial Art College and study ‘Kendo’ (剣道). He respected Kendo and was very enthusiastic about me learning a different martial art! Indeed, through me experiencing Kendo training – I gained a far deeper understanding of Goju Ryu Karate-Do! My eyes were opened to a far broader view. I particularly benefitted from the Kendo technique of ‘Kakari Geiko’ (掛かり稽古). These are the techniques within Kendo which involve the development of a sound ‘defence’ - coupled with a penetrating and devastating ‘attack’. I used this experience (and knowledge) gained through my Kendo training in my later development of Goju Ryu Karate-Do! Shifu (師父) - we always referred to Miyagi Chojun by the respectful Chinese language term of ‘Master-Father’ - put a great emphasis upon ‘Preliminary Exercises’ (予備運動 - Yo Bi Un Do) that both ‘warm’ and ‘strengthen’ the bones, ligaments (joints), muscles and tendons! As these exercises are so demanding and arduous to perform and repeat – the ‘mind’ is fully developed as it is ‘calmed’ and ‘stilled’ over time! I took this crucial element of Goju Ryu Karate-Do training and developed it further so as to progress the Style. I developed what is referred to as ‘Hard-Soft Body Manipulation’ (剛柔体操 - Go Ju Tai Misao)! This is sometimes referred to as ‘Goju Body Mechanics’.
This is a development within Goju Ryu Karate-Do that all of our students a) learn and b) perform – at the beginning of each public training session held in a Dojo. (The same situation applies to closed ‘private’ lessons where groups of students are training in a Dojo). Miyagi Chojun always followed the same training habits as his teacher Higaonna Kanryo (learned in China) - which involved the performing of the ‘Sanchin’ (Hourglass), ‘Shiko’ (Horse-Square) and ‘Nekoashi’ (Cat) Stances as ‘warm-up’ techniques. Miyagi Chojun was very strict when teaching these stances and would shout very loudly at the beginning of a training session to encourage the flow of energy and attentiveness of a student! The stance work teaches how to drop the bodyweight correctly, how to stand ‘still’ (rooted to the spot) and how to project the rebounding force forward and back correctly. Whilst practicing kata, Miyagi Chojun stated that each Kata possesses various (inherent) characteristics - such as how to stand, how to use the hands, how to use the legs and feet to kick correctly and how to move in any direction properly amongst many other important attributes. I was told to think carefully about what the concept of each individual Kata meant - and how each individual movement within each Kata should be accurately interpreted and performed.
A defining aspect of Goju Ryu Karate-Do is that ‘distance’ is rapidly closed from ‘far’ to ‘near’ in a manner that exposes the opponent to danger whilst keeping the practitioner (traversing the ‘distance’) safely protect (through a superior technical positioning). This means that although there are variations and contradictions within the Kata movements of Goju Ryu Karate-Do – the emphasis is always upon ‘closing’ the distance and engaging the opponent with effective (and devastating) close-quarter-combat. The opponent is inundated and overcome with a variety of rapidly deliver and perfectly timed (powerful) martial interactions – involving the effective movement of the arms, legs and torso, etc. The movements, although ‘attacking’ - are delivered in such a manner that ensures the Goju Ryu Karate-Do practitioner is ‘safe’ whilst inhabiting the quiet ‘centre’ inherent within each set of movements. Quite often, words do not convey the totality of the defining principles of Goju Ryu Karate-Do – but words do serve an important supporting role in the teaching process. Obviously, individuals will understand what is said and taught to them according to their age, maturity and level of experience. This is why an effective teacher understands this and applies the teachings of Goju Ryu Karate-Do according to the level of awareness that a student brings with them into the Dojo. After-all, a good teacher is able to produce an equally good and effective student.
When Master Miyagi Chojun passed away in 1953, I (Miyagi Takashi) was recognised throughout the Miyagi Clan in Okinawa as the true ‘Inheritor’ of the Goju Ryu Karate-Do ‘Lineage’. This is the ‘Family’ lineage which is separate and distinct from those other numerous ‘lineages’ transmitted ‘outside’ the family. The ‘Family’ transmission represents the ‘internal’ lineage – whilst all the other transmissions are representative of the ‘external’ lineage. This does not imply that one transmission is better or worse – but rather merely ‘different’. In the ‘Name Temple’ the pictures and the urns holding the cremated remains of the Miyagi Family are obvious for all to see (stretching back hundreds of years). I am part of this ‘Family’ transmission – whilst all those sharing in the ‘external’ transmissions have their own ‘family’ lineages that are separate and distinct (and all equally valid in their own right). Furthermore, it used to be that the ‘internal’ (Family) transmission was only taught (privately) within the family – whilst the ‘external’ lineages were public – but today, generally speaking, ALL ‘lineages’ are publicly taught to anyone who wants to learn. As for myself, I developed the ‘Komeikan’ (‘Transmitting Brilliance Training Hall’) during my time living in Tokyo to teach Goju Ryu Karate-Do (from 1951 onwards) to the general public as the only representative of the Miyagi Family. I have conveyed the teaching of my father – Miyagi Chojun – in a logical and correct manner, whilst also adding my own understanding. This is a process of evolution encouraged by both Higaonna Kanryo and Miyagi Chojun. Tradition is protected and conveyed through a process of continuous and relevant improvement.’
Japanese Source Article:
Translator's Note: This short historical text can be found in its original Japanese language form on the 'Komeikan' website linked both above and below. This is the website of the Miyagi Family Goju Ryu Karate-Do association based in Okinawa. This translation is a 'quote' from a publicly viewable section of this website that would overwise be limited to the vagaries of universal translators - and all the contextual 'errors' such devices entail. If you find this content interesting - please contact the 'Komeikan' association directly on email@example.com. ACW (15.10.2022)
‘A few years before I went to war – I received direct instructions from Miyagi Chojun (my father). This was in the form of a set of clear and concise directives. He said “Remember everything I have taught you regarding the development of the mind and body. Do not forget any part of it.” I took this as a formal “transmission” during a very difficult time. Due to the war – death was on the minds of everyone – such was the destruction. Through these words I was entrusted with the future of Goju Ryu Karate-Do. Amongst my father’s best students was ‘Jinan Shinzato’ (新里仁安). My father – who was considered a ‘Great Master’ in his own right – thought very highly of Jinan Shinzato and had him sent to Tokyo to teach martial arts in his name at the Dai Nippon Butokukai. When my turn came to go to the Front, my father advised me that if anything happened to him – I was to consult with Jinan Shinzato (I referred to him as ‘Uncle Jinan’). Jinan Shinzato, however, was killed during the war in its final year (1945)! Miyagi Chojun was greatly upset and disappointed by the death of one of his best Goju Ryu Karate-Do students!
Even after the war, Miyagi Chojun continued to teach at the Okinawa Prefectural Police Academy and to profoundly mentor his disciples. Considering the great losses inflicted upon us during the Battle of Okinawa - I know that in private Miyagi Chojun suffered a considerable psychological and emotional trauma! The sheer destruction involved in the war had eradicated decades of great and sustained effort in developing and transmitting Goju Ryu Karate-Do! We had to re-build out of the bitter ashes of defeat... When the war ended, I was demobilised from the Imperial Japanese Army and lived in Tokyo. I kept in regular contact with my father (Miyagi Chojun) through writing many letters and postcards. My father (Miyagi Chojun) always propagated an attitude of positively looking toward the future and in creating continuously improved conditions for the development of Goju Ryu Karate-Do! He expressed an intention to travel to Tokyo and visit me – but during the following year a tragedy occurred. Miyagi Chojun died of a heart-attack on October 8th, 1953 (Showa 28). He was 65 years old. His passing was truly a great loss to the Okinawan Karate-Do world!’
Original Japanese Language Source:
I translated this interesting text:
'Komeikan was founded in 1955 by the eldest son of Miyagi Chojun (1888-1953) - the founder of Goju Ryu Karate-Do. The eldest son - Miyagi Takashi (1919-2008) was the 2nd Head of Goju Ryu (afer his father) - and founded this organisation on the 2nd anniversary of the passing of Miyagi Chojun in 1953 (Showa 30). The organisation was called '講明' (Ko Mei) or 'Transmit Brilliance' - technically the full name being 'Transmit Brilliance Training Hall' (講明館 - Ko Mei Kan). The purpose of this organisation is to penetrate and clarify the origin and meaning of the 'essence' of the Goju Ryu Karate-Do Style!
This knowledge is used to enhance 'how' and 'why' Goju Ryu Karate-Do is practiced within the modern world! As this is the only genuine lineage - Miyagi Takashi carried on his father's legacy until he passed away at the age of 89! He practiced Goju Ryu Karate-Do to maintain his own health, demonstrating its benefits as a mental and physical discipline.
As for myself, I am the 3rd Head of Goju Ryu Karate-Do - the grandson of Miyagi Chojun - and my name is Miyagi Toru. It is my duty to carry on the genuine Goju Ryu Karate-Do lineage! Miyagi Chojun taught the 'Hard', 'Soft' and 'Integrated' Way which he learned from Higaonna Kanryo (1853-1915). What was passed-on from the origins in China is the need for 'logic' and 'reason'. Every purpose must be clearly understood, fully comprehended and correctly practiced. At the 'Komeikan' we work hard to combine 'tradition' with 'modernity' so that there is no contradiction between the past, the present and the future! We use body conditioning, basic technique, Kata and Kumite!
Komeikan Director: Miyagi Toru - EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org
講明館館長 宮城 徹
Shifu Adrian Chan-Wyles (b. 1967) - Lineage (Generational) Inheritor of the Ch'an Dao Hakka Gongfu System.