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!
Shifu Adrian Chan-Wyles (b. 1967) - Lineage (Generational) Inheritor of the Ch'an Dao Hakka Gongfu System.