Defining Ryuhoryu

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Ryuhoryu (龍鳳流) began development in 2005 by Scot Mertz.  The idea for Ryuhoryu was that it would be a living preservation style focused on preserving older material and practices from the Naha area which wasn’t represented in other styles.  A lot of the material was extra kata that some instructors would teach that was outside of the normal modern Naha-te curriculums.  These extra kata had historical significance even though they themselves did not belong to any one school.

This project began under the name Saishuryu (最終流), however the name was dropped after it was found to belong to another school.  The name Ryuhoryu was chosen based on an old Okinawan saying regarding how the Dragon and the Phoenix regulate the moon and the tides.  The dragon and the phoenix are also representative of opposites and in Chinese cultures are often regarded as the King and the Queen, or the In and the Yo.  The dualism concept is found in many cultures throughout the world.

In 2014, after 9 years of research, the first curriculum of Ryuhoryu was produced.  This first curriculum covered 18 empty hand kata which were all in danger of being lost or forgotten, with the majority of the material coming from Aragaki Seisho, Kojo Tatei, Higashionna Kanryo, and Kuniyoshi Shinkichi.  Additionally in researching the older Naha practices some theory was also discovered which was incorporated into the Ryuhoryu curriculum, some of these practices include the use of the zodiac for kamae and fighting strategies, Chinese manners for entering and leaving dojos, use of the right and the left, energy usage, and other material that is not presently taught in modern karate.

The kata canon from Ryuhoryu is:  Sanchin, Babulien, Naihanchi, Seisan, Niseishi, Unshu, Tenkan, Kukan, Chikan, Sanseiru, Sochin, Byako, Hakkaku, Kuho, Useishi, Hakuryu, Pechurin, and Ershiba.

In the infamous words of Kimo Wall, Train hard... train often.

Gambatte Kudasai


Higa Seiko & Higa Seikichi Memorial Translated

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First and foremost I would like to give a shout out to Mr. Andy Sloane for sending me these wonderful pictures.

Recently the memorial marker at the Higa family tomb in Shuri was removed.  A few days ago this new one was revealed.  So this post is a translation of the new memorial marker found at the tomb of Higa Seiko and Higa Seikichi.

Gambatte Kudasai!!!

Kensei (拳聖) Higa Seiko

1898 November 8 - Born in Naha as the second son of Higa Seishu.
1911 – Began training under Higashionna Kanryo at the age of 13, after Higashionna’s death began training with Miyagi Chojun.
1919 – After graduating from Okinawa Fishery College became a primary school teacher, changed professions and became a police officer.
1931 May – Resigned from the police force and opened the Shimoizumi-cho Dojo in Naha City.
1933 – Relocated the Shimoizumi-Cho dojo to Matsushita Town, this dojo was open until 1944.  In 1937 established a dojo in Saipan.  In 1939 established a dojo in Itoman at the Hiroshima University of the Ryukyus located in Okinawa Prefecture.
1940 – Was awarded a [Karatedo Renshi] from the Dai Nippon Butoku Kai.  In March of 1954 was awarded the title of Hanshi.
1956 – Was one of the first directors for the Okinawa Prefecture Karatedo Federation, and in 1960 was the second Kaicho for this group.
1960 – Established the Shodokan Gojuryu Karatedo Hombu, later the same year he established the Gojuryu International Karate and Kobudo Federation and was the first Kaicho of this group.
1966 April 16 – Passed away at the age of 68.

Higa Seikichi
1927 February 10 – Was born in Naha City
1933 February – Began studying under his father Higa Seiko
1960 February – Was awarded the title of Renshi.  In 1965 was awarded the Kyoshi title.  In 1987 was awarded the Hanshi title.
1966 – Became the second Kancho of the Shodokan Dojo.
1976 – Began training in Kobudo under Nakaima Kenko.
1986 through 1998 became the Okinawa Karate Do Renmei Kaicho
1990 through 1996 was the Kaicho of the Gojuryu International Karate Kobudo Federation.
1990 January – Visited Fuzhou China as part of the International Martial Arts Community.
1993 through 1999 was a key component to the Okinawan prefecture Karatedo Federation.
1999 May 13 – Passed away at the age of 73.

2018 October
Gojuryu International Karate Kobudo Federation

Bukijutsu vs Kobudo

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Recently one of my students asked me about Kobudo and why I call my weaponry as bukijutsu instead of Okinawan kobudo.  So this is my response to this question, and hopefully it can shed some light on my way of thinking about this particular topic.

First off, Kobudo is a very deceptive word.  The kanji for kobudo reads 古武道, meaning “Old War Way”.  This implies that of all the Okinawan material; Kobudo would be the oldest thing on the island.  That would mean that it completely pre-dates karate in every way possible.  So if that is the case, then why were most of the kata (型/forms) created after karate styles were already established?  Even when you go back and look at some of the older forms they were being established at the same time as karate (or te).  So how could something be “older” when it was created at the same time or after?

When you are looking at what is old and what is new the Dai Nippon Butokukai had established categories for systems.  These are Koryu (古流) and Gendai (現代).  Koryu styles were martial art styles that were established (as a complete system) and being practiced before 1868.  Anything after 1868 is called Gendai, meaning a modern martial art.  When karate was first being registered with the Dai Nippon Butokukai every style was considered gendai and was in the category of shinbudo (新武道), which means “new budo”.  Even weaponry that was established fell into this same category.  There are some elements of karate that may have been practiced before 1868, but the honest truth of it is that the styles were not organized until much later.  So in my opinion karate is gendai with some koryu elements.

The second problem with using the word kobudo is that it’s a very regional term.  Depending where you are in Japan you will get different responses if you say the word “kobudo”.  Within the karate community it is accepted to mean weaponry.  However in other parts of Japan you could get anything from swords and spears (katana and yari), to bows and arrows (yumiya/弓矢), to someone else who might show up ready to wrestle.  And let’s not even talk about Ninjas. ;)

So some of the schools in Okinawa that teach weaponry use the term “bukijutsu”, I have also adopted this word because it is a lot more honest about the material.  Buki (武器) means weapon or weaponry, and jutsu (術) means art.  I personally like this term because it is a heck of a lot less ambiguous than kobudo, and it means exactly what it is intended to mean.

So for the weaponry I teach, not all of it is from Okinawa.  When I was in Yong Chun village I had picked up a very cool kocho soto (butterfly swords/蝴蝶雙刀) kata, in Hong Kong I got a nice sansetsukon (three section staff/三節棍) form, and others I have picked up over the years of traveling and training.  The base of my weaponry is from Ryueiryu, which is still the core, but the other kata are very nice additions that complement the original weaponry.  So it’s not really accurate if I say “Okinawan kobudo” since some of the material I teach is from China or even mainland Japan.  This is why I use the term bukijutsu (weapon art), this is a heck of a lot more honest about what it actually is.  It’s just a shame so many people only use kobudo, without even knowing what the word means or how it is technically historically inaccurate.

Food for thought.

Gambatte Kudasai,

Karate Day

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Today is a day that is important to every single person who practices karate, but yet many don’t seem to know about the importance of today.
On October 25, 1936 a group of martial art masters met on Okinawa to figure out what the Okinawan martial art was going to be called.  Up until this point the word karate had not really been widely used, and other things such as Toudi, Kempo, Toudi-do, and Te were used to describe karate.
The martial artists that were present for this decision included: Hanashiro Chomo, Kyan Chotoku, Motobu Choki, Miyagi Chojun, Kyoda Juhatsu, Chibana Choshin, Gusukuma Shinpan, Oroku Chotei, and Nakasone Genwa.
Due to the efforts of these gentlemen the name karate (empty hand) was decided on and the rest is history.
Gambatte Kudasai,
Time and Date: 4 PM, October 25, 1936
Showa Kaikan, Naha Okinawa
In attendance:  Hanashiro Chomo, Kyan Chotoku, Motobu Choki, Miyagi Chojun, Kyoda Juhatsu, Chibana Choshin, Gusukuma Shinpan, Oroku Chotei, Nakasone Genwa
Guests:  Sato Koichi, Shimabukuro Zenpatsu, Fukushima Kitsuma, Kita Eizo, Goeku Chosho, Furukawa Gizaburo, Ando Sei, Ota Choshiki, Matayoshi Kowa, Yamaguchi Zensoku, Mr. Tamashiro
Meeting Notes:
Genwa Nakasone: When karate was first introduced in Tokyo, the capital of Japan, "karate" was written in Kanji (唐手/China hand) as "唐手". This name sounded exotic, and gradually accepted among people in Tokyo. However, some people thought this Kanji "唐手" was not appropriate at schools. In order to avoid the use of this Kanji, some karate dojo wrote "karate" in Hiragana (からて) instead of Kanji (the kanji for Toudi 唐手). This is an example of temporary use of the word. In Tokyo, most karate dojo use the Kanji "空手道" for karate-do, although there are still a few dojo using the Kanji "唐手." In order to develop Japanese martial arts, I think Kanji for "karate" should be "空手" instead of "唐手" and "空手道" should be the standard name. What do you think?
Chomo Hanashiro: In the old days, we, Okinawan people, used to call it (唐手) "Toudi" or "Tode", not "Karate." We also called it just (手) "Tii" or "Te." It means fighting with hands and fists.
Ota: We, too, called it "Toudi" or "Tode."
Shimabukuro: Mr. Nakasone, I hear nowadays people call "Karate-Do" for karate. Does this mean people added the word "Do" to the name "Karate" for emphasizing the importance of spiritual training like Judo and Kendo?
Nakasone: They use the word "Karate-Do" in the meaning of cultivation of the mind.
Ota: Mr. Miyagi, do you use the word "唐手" for karate?
Chojun Miyagi: Yes, I use the Kanji "唐手" as most people do so. It has minor meaning. Those who want to learn karate from me come to my home and say "Please teach me Tii or Te." So I think people used to call "Tii" or "Te" for karate. I think "空手" is good in the meaning of the word. As Mr. Shimabukuro said, the name "Jujutsu" was changed to "Judo." In China, in the old days, people called Hakuda or Baida for Chinese kungfu, Kenpo or Quanfa. Like those examples, names changes according to times. I think the name "Karate-Do" is better than just "Karate." However, I will reserve decision on this matter, as I think we should hear other people's opinions. We had a controversy on this matter at the meeting of Okinawa Branch of Dai Nippon Butokukai. We shelved this controversial problem. In the mean time, we, members of Okinawa Branch, use the name "唐手道" written in Kanji as "The Way of Chinese Hand." Our Shinkokai will be formed soon, so we would like to have a good name.
Oroku: Mr. Miyagi, did you go all the way to China for studying karate?
Chojun Miyagi: At the beginning I had no plan to practice kungfu in China, but I found the kungfu excellent, so I learned it.
Oroku: Have there been our own "Te" here in our prefecture, Okinawa, for a long time?
Chojun Miyagi: There have been "Te" in Okinawa. It has been improved and developed like Judo, Kendo and boxing.
Kyoda Juhatsu: I agree to Mr. Nakasone's opinion. However, I am opposed to making a formal decision right now at this meeting. Most Okinawan people still use the word "唐手" for karate, so we should listen to karate practitioners and karate researchers in Okinawa, and also we should study it thoroughly at our study group before making a decision.
Chojun Miyagi: We do not make a decision immediately at this meeting.
Matayoshi: Please express your opinion honestly.
Chomo Hanashiro: In my old notebooks, I found using the kanji "唐手" for karate. Since August 1905, I have been using the kanji "空手" for karate, such as "Karate Kumite." (空手組手)
Goeku: I would like to make a comment, as I have a relation with Okinawa branch of Dai Nippon Butokukai. Karate was recognized as a fighting art by Okinawa branch of Dai Nippon Butokukai in 1933. At that time, Master Chojun Miyagi wrote karate as "唐手." We should change his writing "唐手" into "空手" at Okinawa branch if we change the Kanji into "空手." We would like to approve this change immediately and follow procedure, as we need to have approval of the headquarters of Dai Nippon Butokukai.
Ota: Mr. Chomo Hanashiro is the first person who used the kanji "空手" for karate in 1905. If something become popular in Tokyo, it will automatically become popular and common in other part of Japan. Maybe Okinawan people do not like changing the kanji (= Chinese character) of karate. But we would be marginalized if the word "唐手" is regarded as a local thing, while the word "空手" is regarded as a common name for karate as a Japanese fighting art. Therefore we had better use the word "空手" for karate.
Nakasone: So far the speakers are those who have been living in Okinawa for a long time. Now I would like to have a comment from Mr. Sato, the director of the School Affairs Office. He came to Okinawa recently.
Sato: I have almost no knowledge about karate, but I think the word "空手" is good, as the word "唐手" is groundless according to the researchers.
Furukawa: The kanji written as "空手" is attractive for us who came from outside Okinawa, and we regard it as an aggressive fighting art. I was disappointed when I saw the kanji "唐手" for karate.
Nakasone: This time, I would like to have a comment from Mr. Fukushima, the Lieutenant of the Regimental Headquarters.
Fukushima: The kanji "空手" for karate is appropriate. The kanji "唐手" for karate is difficult to understand for those who do not know karate.
Ota: There is no one who do not like the word "空手" for karate, but there are people who do not like the word "唐手" for karate.
Chojun Miyagi: Well, when I visited Hawaii, Chinese people there seemed to have friendly feeling toward the word "唐手" for karate.
Shimabukuro: Here in Okinawa, we used to call "Tii" or "Te" for karate. To differentiate from it, we called "Toudi" or "Tode" for karate that was brought from China.
Nakasone: I think we have almost made clear about the name of karate. Now we would like to discuss about the promotion of karate. It is regrettable that karate is not popular in Okinawa at present. We need to find a solution to promote karate in the fields of physical education and martial arts education.
Furukawa: There are a lot of Ryu or styles in karate now. I think we have to unify them at any cost. I hear there are small differences between Shuri style karate and Naha style karate. I think both styles should be unified and we should make Kata of Japanese Karate-do. In the old days, we had about 200 styles of Kendo, but now they have been unified and we have the standard Kata of Japanese Kendo. I think karate would become popular all over the country if we had the unified Kata. For example, we can newly establish ten Kata as Japanese Karate. The name of each Kata should be changed into Japanese, such as Junan-No-Kata (soft and stretch kata), Kogeki-No-Kata (offensive kata) and so on. In this way, we can conform the name of Kata to its content. And I also think we should make karate a competitive sport, so we should study how to hold a game of karate. We would like to make a uniform of karate and standardize contents and forms.
Chojun Miyagi: I agree to your opinion. With regard to Kata of karate, I ever submitted the opinion with explanation to the headquarters of Dai Nippon Butokukai, when its Okinawa branch was established. As to karate clothes, we also would like to make karate uniform soon as we often have problems. As for terminology of karate, I think we will have to control it in the future. I am also advocating it, and I have been making new technical words and promoting them. Regarding Kata, I think traditional Kata should be preserved as old or classic Kata For the nationwide promotion of karate, I think we had better create new Kata. We will create both offensive and defensive Kata which are suitable for students of primary schools, high schools, universities and youth schools. Mainly, we, the members of Shinkokai, will make new Kata and promote them throughout Japan. Now there are Physical Education Association and Okinawa Branch of Butokukai. We also have senior students of karate and those who are interested in karate. We, therefore, cooperate with them to study and promote karate. If such organizations and experts study karate thoroughly, we can make a decision about the karate name issue and karate uniform relatively soon. I think the old Kata should be preserved without any modification while new Kata should be invented, otherwise I am convinced that no one will be interested in karate any longer in the world in the future.
Ota: How many karate organizations are there in Okinawa at present?
Chojun Miyagi: There are Okinawa Branch of Dai Nippon Butokukai, Physical Education Association of Okinawa Prefecture and Physical Education Association of Shuri City.
Ota: Mr. Chibana, how many students do you have now at your karate dojo?
Choshin Chibana: I have about 40 students at my karate dojo.
Chojun Miyagi: There is an opinion insisting that there are two Ryu or styles in karate, namely, Shorin-Ryu and Shorei-Ryu. I think such an opinion is wrong or false, as there is no evidence at all. However, if we have two styles in karate, we can categorize them by their teaching methods. In one style, they do not even differentiate between Fundamental Kata (Kata such as Sanchin, Tensho and Naihanchi) and Kaishu Kata (Kata other than Sanchin, Tensho and Naihanchi). They teach karate unsystematically and unmethodically. In the other style, they differentiate between Fundamental Kata and Kaishu Kata clearly. They teach karate systematically and methodically. My teacher taught me karate in the way of the latter.
Ota: Karate masters we know did not go to China to study karate.
Chojun Miyagi: I have heard that Master Matsumura went to China and practiced karate there.
Choshin Chibana: Our teacher taught us Naifanchi as a Fundamental Kata.
Ota: Mr. Motobu, who taught you karate?
Choki Motobu: I learned karate from Master Itosu, Master Sakuma and Master Matsumora of Tomari village.
Ota: I thought you created your own karate on your own without learning from karate masters.
Choki Motobu: (laughing) No, I did not create my karate on my own.
Nakasone: Now we know every karate masters have agreed to the plan to establish a karate promotion association. As Mr. Furukawa told us the necessity of founding a karate promotion association, we think the other people also seem to agree to this plan. So we would like the members to start the preparation for establishing it.

Bushi Matsumura

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by Scot Mertz

Unyu, Bucho, Wu Chengda, Kayo Sokon, Kiyo Sokon, Bu Seitatsu Unyu
1809-1899 (Tomb Dates, confirmed by family Koseki)

Before we start on Matsumura himself, we need to take a look at his family.  According to documentation from the Bureau of Genealogies, Esu Anji Soso was the founder of the house of Bu (武).  The family name was Kayo (or Kiyo) spelled as 嘉陽, and this was the family name from around 1719 until around 1790, then many of the family members changed the name to Muramatsu (村松) and others changed it to Kiyo (井陽), later in 1861 the majority of the family reverted their name back to Kiyo.  Sokon being of the linear lineage kept the family name throughout.

Family lineage: (Name, Chinese Name, dates)
Ensu Anji Soso - Bu Genmin - 1472
Soju - Bu Sei'an - 1519
Zayasu Okite Pechin So'ei - Bu Sho'an - 1468-1560
Kobashikawa Okite Pechin Somo - Bu Eiso - 1519-1585
Noguni Pechin Sosho - Bu Juntoku - 1567-1648
Noguni Pechin Soho - Bu Kaishun - 1599-unk
Sobi - Bu Tokusei - 1649-1718
Sosa - Bu Eiho - 1675-1740
Soryu - Bu Chuyu - 1698-unk *exiled to Miyako 1729*
Soju - Bu Shisu - 1708-1752 - Had no legitimate sons
Sosho - Bu Yosho - 1714-1777 - Grandson of Sobi - Continued lineage
Shoshi - Bu Tokuon - 1742-1786
Sofuku - Bu Kosho - 1766-1828
Sokon - Bu Seitatsu - 1809-1899

On May 30, 1809 a young Kiyo Sokon (井陽宗棍) was born in Yamakawa Village to Kiyo Sofuku and Yoshie.  Kiyo Sokon was the 10th generation of the Bu clan (武) and the 7th generation of the Mo (莫) clan.  His father was Chinese (from the 36 families) and his mother was Ryukyuan.  Sokon was a fast study in Chinese and was called Wu Chengda by his Chinese friends (Bu Seitatsu in Japanese) and later in life when he traveled to China he used the name again.  The Bu and Mo families were always associated with great martial artists, and because of his ability to learn quickly and natural talent he also became a great martial artist.

Sokon trained with his father from 1821 to 1825 and learned Kake, Kumite, Shima, and bojutsu.  It was during this time that Sokon learned the value of Bun Bu Ryo Do (文武両道), which is the ability to balance physical training with mental training.

In 1826 Sokon entered into the service of the Ryukyu King Sho Ko.  At this point Sokon’s surname of Kiyo (井陽) was abandoned, as was the tradition for Royal guards.  When his name was changed to Matsumura (松村), Sokon was given the title of Chikudan Pechin.

Shortly after entering service Matsumura began training with the man who he was replacing.  This man was named Pechin Kojo Chinpe (also known as Umare Bushi of Kume, Nmari Bushi, Higa Kanematsu, Higa Machu, and Matsu Higa).

(**family legend**)  In 1828 King Sho Ko was conducting a plot to overthrow the Satsuma samurai that were on Okinawa.  Sho Ko sent Kojo and Matsumura to China as part of an envoy to try local training and possibly garner support for a military coup on Okinawa to oust the Satsuma.  This trip lasted for around 4 years.  Later in 1828 Sho Ko abdicated.

During his time in China Matsumura studied martial arts under several different instructors.  Some of them were also military attachés such as Iwa (Yáo Wéi Bó/瑶違伯) and Ason (Liú Lóng Gōng/劉龍公).  However he also looked at traditional martial arts and spent a lot of time at the Shaolin Temple (南少林) in Fujian province.  It was likely through this experience in China that Matsumura was first introduced to the idea of “kata”.

Matsumura returned to Okinawa in 1832.  He had just returned home when the new king, Sho Iku, told Matsumura that he needed a swordsman as a bodyguard.   In 1832 Matsumura traveled to Kagoshima, to train in Jigen Ryu from the legendary Ijuin Yashichiro.  Matsumura spent a total of 5 years learning Jigen Ryu.

Matsumura returned to Okinawa in 1837.  In 1838 he married a young woman named Yonamine Tsuru (與那嶺鶴).  At this time Matsumura was 30 years old, and his wife, Tsuru, was around 16.  Tsuru-sama was a bit of a tomboy growing up, and a lot of the locals in her village of Yonahara (area around Shuri Castle) use to call her "Yonamine no Bushi Tsuru".  Her family owned a business called the Yonahara Yonamine, they would sell items for the local farmers.  It was kind of like a farmer’s market.

Between 1838 and 1860 Matsumura Sokon became a highly trusted advisor of King Sho Iku, and the personal tutor of the young King Sho Tai.   He continued to train with local masters, such as Lord Yabiku, Lord Motobu, and various other famous karateka of the day.  Also during this time Matsumura produced quite a few writings and poetry, for his artist works he would sign his name as Unyu.

In 1860, Matsumura made a second trip to China as part of the Royal Emissary.  While there he made arrangements with the Ryukyukan in Fuzhou and ultimately came back from China in 1865 with Kojo Tatei, Kojo Isei, and Iwa (Yáo Wéi Bó/瑶違伯).

On March 11, 1879 King Sho Tai gave power of the Ryukyu Kingdom to Japan as part of the Haihan-Chiken (廃藩置県).  Chinese Viceroy Li Hongzhang (李鴻章) protested the annexation, and tried to enter discussions with former US President Ulysses S. Grant and other foreign dignitaries with no avail.

It should be noted that the Kiyo family name changed shortly after 1879.  There was an issue with families who had Chinese kanji in their names.  井陽 was considered too Chinese; the first character was changed back to 嘉陽 and pronounced as Kayo or Kaiyo.  This did not affect Matsumura himself, but all of his family had to adhere to the change.  To this day the family uses 嘉陽.

By the end of 1879 Matsumura became the guard at the Royal Gardens (御番, Uban), and was teaching karate to locals who were interested in the old ways of combat.  During this time there were several letters penned by Matsumura, most of them were signed as "Bucho".

Matsumura Sokon passed away on August 8, 1899.  Some of his students included Pechin Sakihara, Pechin Sakuma, Pechin Kiyuna, Ishimine Bishi, Kyan Chotoku, Motobu Choyu, Yabu Kentsu, Kuwaye Ryosei, Hanashiro Chomo, Chinen Sanda, Chikudun Pechin Tawada Shinboku, Itarashiki Chochu, Asato Anko, and Chibana Chosho.

Researchers Scot Mertz and Andy Sloane at the tomb of Bushi Matsumura in 2015

--- This research was compiled from various sources, the bulk of which was from interviews with family members of the Kayo family and direct descendants of Matsumura.  Family documentation was referenced for many of the dates.  Additionally the Bu Clan (house of Kayo) Genealogies from Shuri was referenced as was documentation from the Kojo (Koshiro) family for supporting references.  Some of this was also validated against research by Andreas Quast and his book Karate 1.0 and other conversations. ---

Effort and Opportunity

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Had a very unusual exchange a few nights ago with a parent of one of my students.  In so many words, I was conducting testing, but her child was not involved due to lack of time in grade.  Didn’t think anything of it, so the junior kids usually watch the tests so they can get familiar with how the testing is done and what is expected of them.  This particular testing was for junior kids age 5-8 and it was from white (9th kyu) to orange (8th kyu).
After the testing was completed and the remainder of class was done the mother came up to me and said that she felt that I was not giving her child an equal opportunity to test as the other children did and that it would only be fair if I awarded her child with an orange belt too, as her child participated by being present and watching the others.
Kind of bewildered by this, I explained that her child was not ready to test and that there was time in grade requirements.  All of my students receive books that cover the curriculum that they are required to know, and there are signature pages where everything is checked multiple times before the individual is allowed to test.  Her child did not have the book filled out, didn’t have the time in grade requirement, and didn’t know the material.  So she persisted that I should still give her child something anyway because of their participation.  So what I did next was probably not the right thing, but I called her child over and asked “can you perform Gekisai Dai ichi?”, the child responded “I don’t know that kata yet”, so I thanked the child and sent him on his merry way.  Looked at the mother and said “your kid doesn’t know the material; I can’t test him yet”.  With this she threw a bit of a hissy fit and took her child and left.
So what I would like to really cover is equal opportunity doesn’t mean equal outcome.  It seems like a lot of these younger parents (age 24 and younger) seem to not really understand that just because you are presented the opportunity to do something doesn’t mean that you are guaranteed the same outcome.  Meaning the real root of equal opportunity is being able to take a class, the outcome however is the result of how much time and work you put into it.  If taking a test for example and one person gets an “A” and another person gets a “F”, this doesn’t mean that it’s violating equal opportunity for the person who received the “F”, they were still granted the opportunity to take the test.  The outcome being the grade should not be altered because they participated in the test, but it is a result of the effort that went into it on that person’s part.  If the person comes back saying they felt that it was not fair that someone received an “A” and they received an “F” and they deserve an “A” because they took the same test and participated in class, this still goes back to outcome verses opportunity.  Equal opportunity is not equal outcome.  There are no participation trophies in life, and there shouldn’t be in karate either.  Effort = outcome.
Gambatte Kudasai,

Oshima Hikki (大島筆記)

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What follows is a quick translation and summary of the Oshima Hikki 大島筆記 followed by some important points that seem to have not been made public knowledge with this note.  Additionally if you would like to read this note for yourself and do your own translation you can find a scan one of one of the originals here at the University of the Ryukyus page.  All of my translation notes and footnotes will be in (* text *). If something is a different color try clicking on it!

Quick Translation and Highlights

On the 26th of April 1762 a Ryukyuan Tribute ship left the port of Naha and was headed to the Satsuma domain as it’s final destination.  (*The Satsuma domain 薩摩藩 is located on Kyushu, the southern island of Japan.  It was essentially the lower 3/4 of the island.*)  The first stop in the voyage was in Unten, which is in mid Okinawa, not far from Yayagi Island and Kouri Island.

The ship attempted to get underway from Unten several times, but bad storms and winds associated with 2 typhoons kept the ship in port.  The ship was finally able to get underway on 13 Jul 1762.  However three days later the ship met another typhoon in open ocean.  This time the mast and helm were damaged and the ship partially capsized.  The mast was ultimately cut off to allow the ship to return to a somewhat level pitch.  The ship floated with a north/northeast heading for three days like this.

On the third day land was spotted, the chief officer on board, Shionja Pechin, identified the land as being somewhere near Shikoku province Japan.

In the morning of 21 Jul 1762 the local authorities from identified the boat and asked them to drop anchor while the Satsuma authority was contacted.

On 22 Jul 1762 the boat was pulled by tugboat to Oshima, and the crew was put in a guesthouse ran by the local government.

The next section of the Oshima Hikki deals with the crew and inventory found on the ship.  Ryoen Tobe (*the man who wrote the Oshima Hikki*) recorded everything as close as possible to what was being said.

Ship’s Crew

There were four Ryukyuan Pechin onboard the boat.

Shionja Pechin (*Minister of Foreign Affairs*)
Gushi Satonushi Pechin (*Shionja Pechin's younger brother*)
Teruya Satonushi Pechin (*Shionja Pechin's cousin*)
Shionja Shi (*Shionja’s son*)

Ship’s Captain and Helmsman

Captain Takara
Helmsman Toma

Additional Crew

Two clerks, One Buddhist priest, Seven assistant clerks, Six extras, and 26 sailors.

After this section is an inventory of what was on the ship and interviews that were conducted either by Ryoen Tobe or by the Japanese authorities that Ryoen overheard and copied down into his report.

Concerning Kusanku

The mention of Kusanku comes from the ship’s captain.  He was recounting a random time in the past that he saw a small man performing a demonstration where he defeated several larger men.  He did this with very little effort.  The name Kusanku as it is written means “Government Official” or “Mr. Government Official”, which is an indication that the captain never learned the name of the individual giving the demonstration, only that he was employed by the Chinese government.  This event is discussed on page 45 on the Ryukyu University copy of the Oshima Hikki.  It is the last 3 lines on the far left of the page on the left.

Ending notes

The Oshima Hikki is a very cool document to read through, it is a bit of a tough read because it’s not in modern Japanese but well worth the effort.  The ship itself never went to China on that trip, but instead was going from Naha to the Kagoshima area.  I think this can’t be stressed enough that the story that has been put out with the Oshima Hikki wasn’t really transmitted well and not many people seem to have gone back and actually researched or translated it.  One last note is the kata that is presently known as Kusanku has really been named that for about 100 to 120 years, the original name for that kata was Ufukun (大君).

Gambatte Kudasai!!!

Karate Rank and Titles

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There seems to be a lot of confusion on the Internet regarding titles.  So I hope this blog will at least make the water somewhat less muddy.

The use of titles in martial arts stems from the Dai Nippon Butokukai (大日本武徳会).  A lot of the members from the pre-WW2 Butokukai were also members of the Japanese government and military, so when the DNBK would issue titles it would come from someone with that type of authority.  The three titles that were originally issued from the DNBK were: Renshi (錬士), Kyoshi (教士), and Hanshi (範士).

These titles have a somewhat militaristic meaning to them.  So to break these down.

Renshi -  (錬) Tempering/Refine/drill/polish (士) Warrior – These are your lower level teachers who are typically around a 6th dan (Rokudan Renshi), and are considered people who have the full curriculum (Menkyo Kaiden) but are still working on refining techniques.

Kyoshi – (教) Teach (士) Warrior – These are really individuals who should be focused on teaching.  They are considered a master teacher, they should know the full curriculum and be able to teach it with a high level of understanding.  This typically comes in at 7th dan.  Additionally in the education system teachers are called Kyoshi spelled like 教師.

Hanshi (範) Model/Example (士) Warrior – These are senior level teachers who have spent many years teaching and now may be the head of a group or organization.  They should fully understand the curriculum that they were taught and be able to transmit the style with a high level of accuracy.  In Japan and Okinawa a Hanshi can be an 8th dan and above.  In styles like Kendo an 8th dan is the highest obtainable rank.

In my opinion if there is any SHU/HA/RI, it should be between Renshi, Kyoshi, and Hanshi level individuals.  Prior to that students should be learning the curriculum, not trying to incorporate their own ideas into it as "training".  That is really something for someone who has already got the training and understands it well enough to incorporate things that are meaningful.

So those are the three titles that started this whole mess.  After WW2 the DNBK was dissolved on 9 November 1946 as part of the post war treaty with the US, many of the senior members even lost their government jobs, and they were not re-established until 1953.  However the newly established DNBK no longer had any government or military backing, and many of the senior members left for other groups and never returned.

Since 1953 many of the martial arts groups started incorporating new titles and licenses for their patrons.  Some of these new titles include:

Shihan (師範) – Essentially a chief instructor of a dojo.
Shidoin (指導員) – Intermediate level instructor (regardless of grade).
Saiko Shihan (最高師範) – Senior chief instructor, top instructor in an organization.

The most recent edition to martial art titles is Soke (宗家).  Soke is a whole different can of worms because it is actually a legal title for someone who is an inheritor.  This is typically done through a family’s koseki (戸籍), which is a family register.  This becomes enacted when someone passed away, the soke is the heir to the estate and they usually take care of things for the deceased person, such as funerals, any back property taxes, and things of that nature.  In the martial arts they use it as someone who has inherited a system from someone.  Which is misleading at best.

The Martial Art soke is someone who claims to be an inheritor of a style, but this does not work the way many people think that it does.  To say that it’s used loosely is an understatement.  So let’s look at a style such as Gojuryu.  The founder of Gojuryu, Miyagi Chojun, never left a clear inheritor of the system.  His family eventually said that Yagi Meitoku sensei was the heir only because he was there the longest, but Yagi sensei never once to my knowledge claimed the “soke” title, nor did any of his students or other student’s of Miyagi Chojun.  Yet after his death an individual from mainland Japan that had only attended a single seminar (at best) with Miyagi in Kyoto claimed to be the only true heir to Gojuryu.  How is this even possible?  The answer is, it is not.  There are several examples of this throughout the martial arts.  Lots of shady business when it comes to the use of soke, and the vast majority of people who claim this title have no business claiming it.

When it comes to ranking, as a 7th dan, I will not promote my own students to black belt.  Because as a 7th dan who am I to think I can award something like a shodan to someone?  These should all be awarded by the head of the organization from a panel type testing, and not from a single individual.  What I will do is evaluate them and give a recommendation to my teacher in Okinawa (who is a 10th dan).  But no testing is done or rank is awarded unless he sees them in person and is in agreement with my recommendation or retests them with several of his senior students present to give input.  I started doing this back in 2013 as a way to knock off any perception of impropriety within my dojo.  We really do try to do things on the up and up, and I don’t take the idea of giving someone rank lightly.

So when it comes to this stuff, ethics is key.  Someone claiming a title like Hanshi, Soke, Shihan, or even Grandmaster is likely NOT what they are claiming to be.  The real people out there know how they are suppose to act if they actually have a title, and forcing others to call them by a title is not the way to do it.  Always try to be ethical, do the right thing, train hard, and there are no secret made up titles that will actually give a person knowledge.


Karate Rituals

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In karate there are a lot of really strange practices, most of which have meaning behind them, but for one reason or another the meaning was not passed along or properly conveyed to foreign students. Seeing what some of these practices have become is absolutely insane and the Western reasons for doing them have completely distorted the original meaning.
Wooden airplane made by the Melanesian people.
Shomen (正面) is a good example of this. I would compare this practice in a lot of ways to how the people of Melanesia would build wooden planes after WW2 and make sacrifices to the planes in hopes that they would come back and drop food. First of all, a Shomen is an object that is at the front of a dojo, it’s not a blank wall or the front of the basketball court or racquetball court. A proper shomen usually takes up a large portion of the wall, it has shelves, pictures, and sometimes personal items from the people who have gone before. A lesser version of this is a kamidana (kamiza/神棚), which is a shelf that acts as a simplified version of the shomen. Sometimes even a shinden (神傳) is put up (looks like a miniature temple) which also serves as a substitute shomen. So the real point of the shomen is to show respect to those who have gone before, namely your sensei’s sensei and his teachers. They shouldn’t be generic by any means; they should be very specific to the lineage of that dojo.
Shomen from the Shinjikan Dojo in Okinawa (Toyama Zenshu Hanshi's dojo)
So what to do if the front wall is blank? There are two acceptable methods for handling a non-shomen situation. First is to skip the shomen ni rei (正面に礼) and just do a sensei ni rei (先生に礼) instead. This puts the sensei, who is at the front of the room as the “person who has gone before”…. odd that is what sensei actually translates to! The second one is to do a mutual bow throughout the group with otagai ni rei (お互いに礼). The whole point of the bowing in ritual is to show respect to the people who have gone before, the one who is currently teaching, and each other.
Never blindly do things in your karate practice. Everything has a purpose, always question this and find the correct answer.
Gambatte Kudasai!

Chinto's Cave

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There seems to be a common misconception in the west about Chinto.  At first I believed the stories about him being a pirate and living in a cave and what not too, but when I started researching this matter it really started falling apart very quickly.  So this is summary of what I found out about the event itself and the cave that is attributed to Chinto.

So first thing first, let's look at "Chinto's Cave".  This is really important so please make sure to note this, but infront of the cave is a marker stone.  The kanji on this stone says "地頭火神", which translates to "Temple of the Fire God".  Wait, Chinto wasn't a fire God!  Right... he wasn't, and he didn't live in this cave either.  This cave is called Furuferin Dokutsu (フルフェーリン洞窟), and is believed to be the home of the Hinukan (の神), who is the God of the Hearth in the original Okinawan religion called Tenpi.

The cave itself is very shallow, and inside there is a shrine to the fire god.  I asked several Okinawan people who were in the area what they knew about the cave and I got the same response from every one of them, that is the cave of the Hearth God.  Saying it's the cave of Chinto is just karate business to bring tourists to the area, but the cave itself is significant to the Okinawan people, just not how karate salesmen want you to think it is.

Ok now onto Chinto himself.  There are 4 sources that were used to put this information together, since not all of them told the full story.  Three of these sources are from the Ryukyu Shimpo from 1899, 1904, and 1914.  The fourth was a side note in the koseki of the Teruya family.

There is a string of events that you also need to be aware of and it explains why this individual was treated the way he was.  First is what is called the "Mudan Incident".  The Mudan Incident occurred in 1871, when 54 shipwrecked Ryukyuan sailors crashed on Taiwan.  Forty-two of these sailors were murdered by the aboriginal people of Taiwan, and the remaining 12 were rescued by some Han Chinese and were transferred to Miyako (宮古島) and handed over to the Japanese Navy who got their story then returned them home.  This story of the murder of 42 Ryukyuan sailors was not taken lightly and in 1874 the Japanese Navy retaliated against Taiwan.

So now that you have some of the background, let's look at 1872.  In late spring of 1872 a man washed ashore near Onna Village Okinawa.  He spoke a strange dialect of Chinese that the residents of Onna couldn't figure out, so they suspected he was from Taiwan, and because of this the Pechin in the area arrested him and took him to the Tomari area to try to find a translator who could communicate with the man.  The Pechin Matsumora Kosaku ultimately took charge of the man and found a translator.  The dialect he spoke in was Minh Chinese, which was a bit different from what most of the local people were used to hearing.  During the questioning of the man, it was discovered that his name was Mr. Lao (no first name is ever mentioned in any of the sources), he was a sailor from a merchant ship that was headed to Korea and a typhoon got them off course.  He was from Nan'an (南安市 /map) in the southern Fujian Province.  Shortly after this the local Pechin released the man and told him he could go home.  Mr. Lao was staying with the Teruya family in Tomari awaiting transportation, and began teaching a style of Nanquan that he knew to make money so he could pay for quicker accommodations to go home, he was only on Okinawa for a few months.

So what did this man teach?  Luckily for us in a 1904 interview with Asato Anko he covered who learned what from Mr. Lao or the man from Fukushu Annan (which is Uchinaguchi for Fujian Nan'an).  The material listed is:  Gusukuma and Kanashiro learned Chinto kata.  Matsumora and Yamada learned Chinte kata.  Yamada (Geiki) learned Ji'in kata.  Nakazato learned Jitte kata.

In summary, the common story about Chinto being in a cave and whatnot is actually somewhat linked to old Okinawan folklore (not related to this event).  It seems that over the years with the telling and retelling of this story elements and different people kept coming into play which actually had nothing to do with this event.  I am very sorry to let everyone down with this, but from what I can tell this is the truth of the event.  There was no cave (the cave is attributed to the Okinawan Hearth God), there was no plundering of a village (he stayed with a local family who took care of him), he didn't teach a massive list of kata, and he wasn't a monk.  The true part of the story is he was arrested for possibly being a pirate associated with the Taiwanese who executed 42 Ryukyuan (Okinawan) sailors the previous year, once it was sorted out he was released.

Gambatte Kudasai,

Product Review: Dreametal Sai

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When most people think of sai, the first thought that goes through their head is usually of the Shureido sai.  So since they have been a long established company, for this review I am using a set of medium Shureido stainless steel sai as the "control sai".  I am comparing the Dreametal stainless steel sai with blue handle wrap, it is a medium size, and both the control sai and the Dreametal sai come in at exactly the same length at 18.5 inches.  For the purpose of this article we will call the Shureido sai the control sai, and the Dreametal sai the test sai.

Test 1: Weight
For this test, I used grams as the weight measurement.  The control sai weighed 724g and the Dreametal sai weighed 660g.  So without a doubt the test sai weigh less than the control sai.

Test 2: Shape
When putting the moto (center of the sai / weld point) together, the test sai are more narrow than the control sai.  The control sai are exactly 2 inches from the yoko (side wing) to the monouchi (middle shaft).  The test sai measured out as 2 inches on one side of the yoko to monouchi and 1.85 inches on the opposite side taking the same measurement.  Below is a sample of how I am doing this measurement.
Control Sai 2"    -    Test Sai 2"    -    Test Sai 1.85"

For the sake of being thorough both sai in the test sai pair had the same 2" and 1.85" measurements, this is likely due to the jig being slightly off.

Test 3: Manufacturing
The first major noticeable difference is that the control sai has the octagon shape following a consistent pattern down to the moto (center) and rounding just before going to the yoko (wings/sides).  The test sai octagon shape disappears into a round base approximately 1" before reaching the moto.  The yoko are also completely rounded off coming off of the moto.  The moto between both sai are significantly different in size, with the test sai being roughly 30% larger.

The second difference is in the handle wrap.  The control sai is very smooth, and just feeling the sai move in your hand you are unable to feel a center string on how the handle is wrapped.  The test sai appears to use a slightly larger wrapping.  You can physically feel the center string on the test sai.

Regarding the center strings, the control sai has a center string that follows along the edge of the sai and is directly under the yoko, the string is somewhat smaller and completely unnoticeable on the wrap.  The test sai has the string going in the center of the handle directly under the moto.  This can be seen when you enlarge the handle photo above.

Test 4: Feel

The feel test sadly doesn't have any photos.  It is just how the sai feel in your hand and how they move.  The difference in the measurements on the yoko is not really noticeable when the test sai are in your hand.  Flipping the sai out from the inner position to the outer position feels natural, it doesn't seem to catch anywhere.  However when putting the sai together (like bringing them to your side when completing a kata) the differences in the yoko make the sai feel slightly off.  I flipped one of the sai over and it felt better (again likely an issue with the jig).  Movement and postures all feel good on the test sai other than when putting them together if one is backwards.

Test 5: Hitting Stuff

For the purpose of this test, I am striking the edge of my workbench with the sai.  My work bench is typical wood with a marbleized top.
During the hit test, both sai felt roughly the same.  There was no noticeable bending or major dents.  It should be noted that looking at the sai from the side there is a major difference on the thickness of the monouchi (center shaft) with the control sai being thicker.

One thing of note is that the test sai do not make the same type of sound as the control sai, or even a third set of sai from  The sound of the test sai is somewhat flat, not that it really matters, just notable because it's different.  Video below.

~ Final Thoughts ~
With Shureido stopping the sale of their sai it's been tough to figure out where to go for an acceptable level product that you can really recommend to students and friends without feeling bad or like they were ripped off.  In Okinawa the Shureido stainless steel sai were running for roughly $250 USD before sales stopped.  Their Iron sai (black) were roughly $100 USD.  These were great sai for their price.  The stainless steel Dreametal sai is not a bad set of sai, however with the price tag being close to $180 USD (this is for the Octagon Stainless Steel sai with blue handle wrap) it is difficult to recommend these as a Shureido level replacement.  They would be good for competition or other events where a lighter set of sai would be useful, however for daily abuse (sai against other weapons) this might not be the set of sai for everyone.  Overall I would give these sai a solid 8 out of 10 stars.

With this being said, this is just one person's assessment, maybe these are exactly what you are looking for, so before buying or not buying I would recommend trying out a set and seeing how they do for you.

All the best in your training, any comments on this assessment are welcome and you can reach me via the contact form on

Gambatte Kudasai!

The Kijimuna and The Poor Boy

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Once, long ago, there were two young boys who were friends.  One was from a rich family and the other was from a poor family.  The poor boy secretly envied the rich boy, but the rich boy would sometimes bully and humiliate the poor boy.  One time while visiting his friend, the poor boy became annoyed with his rich friend and ran into the mountains to hide.

While hiding in the mountains the boy fell asleep under a tree.  After a little while the boy heard "Haisai, haisai!".  As the boy woke he saw a kijimuna standing over him saying "haisai".  The boy responded "Haisai", and the kijimuna asked "Why are you hiding in the mountains?"  The boy replied that he was very poor and his friend was very rich and he was hiding because their families were too different.  The kijimuna said to the boy "If you become my friend, I can make you very rich."  The boy responded "If you can make my family rich I will be your friend forever."  The kijimuna then said, "If you disappoint me, I will leave and your family will be poor again, do you understand?".  The boy happy at the thought of being rich promised the kijimuna that he understood and he would never disappoint him.  With that the kijimuna said he would see the boy the following day.

The following day the kijimuna showed up at the boy's house as promised.  The two of them went to a nearby bridge and went fishing.  The kijimuna caught many fish.  He took out the eyes from the fish and gave them all to the boy.  The boy asked "Why are you giving me the fish?", and the kijimuna responded "Take these fish and sell them, you will be rich before you know it."  The kijimuna vanished and the boy took the fish to his village and sold all of the fish.  This same thing happened for many months.  Eventually the poor boy sold so many fish his family became richer than everyone else in the town.

Then one day the boy said to himself, "Today I won't go with the kijimuna, I will go see my friend."  So the boy visited his old friend.  The kijimuna came to the boy's house and couldn't find him anywhere, and he thought to himself "I have been deceived by humans many times, the boy has broken his promise."

The boy had fun with his friend, and at the end of the visit he thought, "I had a great day even though I did the kijimuna wrong.  Everything will be ok though, we are already very rich."  The boy went home and went to sleep.  When the boy woke up all of the money was gone, as was everything he ever bought with the money.  The boy never saw the kijimuna again.

From Uchinaguchi Folktakes: Okinawa's Old Folktale Book, by Massaki Nagata (2005)
「うちなー口」で語り聞かせるふる里の民話―沖縄の昔話 単行本 - 長田 昌明
Translated by Scot Mertz

Miyazato Eiichi's last interview

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This interview has been out for a few years but, with everything that is happening in the Gojuryu world right now, I think it is important to not forget the words of Miyazato during his last interview.  Please use this to put current events into perspective.
The Interview
On Saturday, December 11, 1999 Eiichi Miyazato passed away in Okinawa, Japan. Miyazato Sensei was one of the greatest Goju-Ryu masters that trained directly with founder, Chojun Miyagi. Many masters who have come to the United States have told stories about the history of Goju-Ryu and their training background. Even though Eiichi Miyazato has passed away his memory will live for a long time. The students who trained under his organization remember him as a person who would tell it like it was. Miyazato Sensei has never sought the Martial Arts limelight and wanted to be famous. Many people who sought his training were seeking out information on Goju-Ryu history and trying to understand information that was being told to Goju-Ryu Karate-ka in the United States. What we found out was that Miyazato’s version was quitedifferent than what we were told.
Who were the senior students of Chojun Miyagi?
Throughout the history of Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate it is well documented who were Chojun Miyagi’s top students at the time of his death in 1953. There have been many articles in magazines and books about Goju-Ryu Karate history from students of Chojun Miyagi’s students and other top masters. In 1953 the following names are loud and clear to all of us who were senior students of Miyagi Sensei.
  • They were Seiko Higa (age 55)-1898-1966,
  • Meitoku Yagi (age 41),
  • Eiichi Miyazato (age 30)-1921-1999,
  • Koshin Iha (age 28)-1925,
  • Seikichi Toguchi (age 37)-1917-1999.
It is important to understand how old they were at the time of Miyagi Sensei’s death. This will help you to understand who were senior and their relationship with Chojun Miyagi. There have been many numerous attempts to re-write history about whom was Chojun Miyagi’s successor and who were his senior students. There has been a Goju-Ryu instructor stating that he trained directly with Chojun Miyagi who didn’t. Several of these masters thathave circulated these rumor were former students of Eiichi Miyazato.
Mark Bishop’s book, “Okinawan Karate”.
There is an excellent book, called “Okinawan Karate”. This book includes all styles of Okinawan Karate and many top masters of each Ryu-ha. Mr. Mark Bishop wrote the book in 1989. Mr. Bishop spent ten years of research and interviewed many of the masters included in the book. Mark Bishop was a former student of Goju-Ryu master Morio Higaonna. Mr. Bishop has written several excellent articles for Fighting Arts magazine (see No. 82). This is an article of his memories of the Jundokan and his master instructor, Eiichi Miyazato. He highlights his training at the Yoyogi dojo in Tokyo and that his teacher Morio Higaonna introduces him to his teacher in Okinawa Hanshi Eiichi Miyazato at the Jundokan headquarters. In Bishop’s book “Okinawan Karate” he states about Miyazato Hanshi; “At present, Miyazato has about approximately 500 students and claims that over the years since 1953 he has trained more than 12,000 Karate-ka. Among his notables is the dynamic Morio Higaonna who used to run a small but much respected dojo in a dingy part of Yoyogi in Tokyo, but now teaches at his new dojo in Tsuboya, Naha, Okinawa. I trained for a year at the Yoyogi dojo and it was on Higaonna’s introduction that I originally journeyed to Okinawa and enrolled at Miyazato’s Jundokan where I remained for five years.” Mr. Bishop’s book is quite accurate aboutGoju-Ryu Karate history.
Morio Higaonna’s Version:
Many United States students who were a part of his organization could not understand Morio Higaonna’s version of who was the successor to Chojun Miyagi and who was his real teacher. Higaonna has always stated that Aniichi Miyagi (no relation to the founder Chojun Miyagi)was his teacher and successor to Chojun Miyagi.

 In an interview in Fighting Arts magazine No. 88, Mr. Higaonna was asked who do you think is the successor to Chojun Miyagi. Higaonna’s answer was “My honest opinion about this- and if I’m wrong I’m ready to change it- is that the successor to Chojun Miyagi is Aniichi Miyagi. Higaonna also states that Aniichi Miyagi trained under Chojun Miyagi for only two-five years. At the time of Chojun Miyagi’s death Aniichi Miyagiwas only 22 years old.

 Another interesting discovery was that Morio Higaonna has never received a Dan grade from his teacher, Aniichi Miyagi. All Goju-Ryu Dan grades were received from Eiichi Miyazato (see 7th Dan last Goju- Ryu grading). Morio Higaonna’s 8th and 9th Dan grades were from Yuchoku Higa, a Shorin-Ryu instructor whom Higaonna never trained under Grandmaster Eiichi Miyazato.

 Miyazato began training under Chojun Miyagi in 1935 at the age of 13. Miyazato was also very active in Judo and was the All Okinawan Judo Champion. Miyazato Shihan was former President of the Okinawan Judo Federation. He was on the board of directors of the Al Japan Karate Do Goju-Kai. Miyazato is a 10th Dan/Hanshi and is headmaster of the largest Goju-Ryu Karate dojo (Jundokan) in Okinawa. In 1954 the training resumed in the “Chojun Miyagi garden dojo”. In 1955 a general meeting was held and it was announced that Eiichi Miyazato would be the successor to Chojun Miyagi (See letter from Koshin Iha to Chuck Merriman). Eiichi Miyazaki because of his vast knowledge of Goju-Ryu Karate and many years training with Chojun Miyagi formed the Jundokan and dedicate his life to promote Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate-do. The Jundokan is a loosely structured organization and is not motivated as a money making proposition. Miyazato Sensei feels that based on Chojun Miyagi’s philosophy a person should not make money from Karate. Miyazato believes that a person should take care of his family, job, and then Karate. The Jundokan classes are very informal. Anyone can come in and work out on their own time. Many students learn kata or train in small groups based on their work schedules. They are free to train as long as they want at the dojo. Miyazato Sensei has some of the top students all over the world. They include Koshin Iha (10th Dan), Ted Yasuda (10th Dan), Chuck Merriman (8th Dan),Teruo Chinan (7th Dan), and Morio Higaonna (7th Dan).

 Miyazato has no motive to hurt anyone or their organization. But his story must be told. In the United States we have heard the stories of several of Miyazato’s former students but Hanshi Miayazato has never been able to tell his side of the story. Miyazato told this writer that many people come to Okinawa asking me the same questions over and over again. I hope that this article will help people understand the true story. So fasten your seatbelts. This is the final interview with Grandmaster Eiichi Miyazato.
1. What is your feeling about tournament karate & cross training in other martial arts?
EM For the past several years I have read magazine articles about tournament (Shiai) karate. Miyagi Sensei and I both predicted that in order to promote karate we must hold tournaments. I have been doing karate for over 60 years. When I began karate there was no protective gear. The protective gear will allow a student to further his kumite techniques. Miyagi Chojun also recommend hojo-undo to strengthen our bodies and all other arts and sports to improve our health. He told us that we should not just train in karate but to try other arts such as Judo and Kendo. If your body is strong from training in other arts and hojo- undo you will be able to withstand any strikes or kicks to your body. In the same respect you will be able to stop an attacker with one punch or kick.
2. How long were Miyagi Sensei’s training classes?
EM In those days training would last between two and four hours and training was very free to come and go on your own. The most number of students that would train was about 10.
3. Was the Miyagi family house at the same location before the war?
EM It is the same location but a different house. After the war Miyagi Sensei taught at several other locations in Okinawa.
4. Who were some of the students who trained before the war?
EM Most of the students before the war has died, quit karate, or was killed during the war in Okinawa. In 1953 when Miyagi Chojun died, all senior students held meetings to decide what to do about the future of Goju-Ryu karate. Many of the seniors stopped practicing for a long period of time and did not want to become involved. A lot of them forgot the katas or was never taught all of them. I was one of the few students who were fortunate to be taught all the katas. This was a very difficult period of time for everyone. Our Grandmaster of Goju-Ryu died suddenly, we had no water, electricity, and some families were without a home. It was a survival period where our primary concern was for our families, and to provide food for them. It was not on karate. After the war Miyagi Sensei ask me to teach karate at the Police Academy. I then became an assistant to Miyagi Sensei. I also was training in Judo. The home that Miyagi taught us at was not in good condition. I went around and asked people for money to build a nice dojo there. I began working very hard to build a better dojo for my teacher, but Miyagi suddenly died. At the time before Miyagi’s death he was under a tremendous amount of stress and grief. Two of his daughters were on the ship Tsushi Ma Maru going to mainland, Japan. The ship was hit by a bomb and sank at sea. His third son Jun was killed during the war in the Nanbu (southern section) of Okinawa. Miyagi’s number one disciple Jinan Shinzato was also killed during the war. I feel that all of the emotionalstress was part of the reason Miyagi Sensei suddenly died.
5. Was Jinan Shinzato being prepared to be the successor to Chojun Miyagi?
EM No, but he was a gifted student. At age 44 he was killed during thewar in the village of Kin.
6. What was the relationship between Miyagi Chojun and Higa Seiko?
EM Chojun Miyagi trained under Kanryo Higaonna. Seiko Higa was also a student of Kanryo Higaonna until Higaonna’s death in 1917. Higa then became a student of Miyagi Sensei. He trained mostly with Miyagi Sensei before the war.
7. How did Miyagi Chojun feel about making money from karate?
EM Miyagi felt that a person should not make money from teaching karate. Kanryo Higaonna Sensei felt the same way. Today karate has become twisted because unqualified instructors who only trained for a short time have now made a lot of money from opening dojos and promoting students. Many of them have forgotten some of the katas. It would now become quite embarrassing for them to go to their former junior students to relearn a kata.
8. Why is there so much of a difference between each Goju organization’s katas?
EM Because of what I just said. There are big differences between teachers that have learned only a little of our system vs. the entire Goju system.
9. Were the katas taught differently before the war vs. after the war?
EM Yes, very different.
10. Was there more of a Chinese influence (open hand techniques)before the war?
EM Yes, the katas that I was taught and teach in my dojo represents what was taught after the war. Your former teacher, Morio Hiagonna trained under me in this dojo. He has changed the katas from what they originally were.
11. Who was training with Miyagi at the time of his death? Meitoku Yagi? Aniichi Miyagi (no relationship to Chojun Miyagi)?
EM Yagi, yes. Aniichi Miyagi was my student. He came to Miyagi Chojun to study with him, but he only trained for a short time and Miyagi Chojun died. Aniichi Miyagi came to train under me. He trained with Miyagi Chojun under my direction for maybe one-year. During that time if you add up the number of days it came to about one month training in one year. Aniichi Miyagi was never recognized as a student of Miyagi Chojun. He was only 22 years old at the time of Miyagi’s death. Higaonna Morio became a good friend of Miyagi Aniichi in order to promote his own organization. I told Morio Hiagonna to stop trying to re-write the Goju-Ryu history. I received a phone call from Morio Higaonna when he was publishing his first book. He asked me to help him but I turned it down because he was trying to promote Aniichi Miyagi and change Goju-Ryu history.
12. How long did Aniichi Miyagi train at the Jundokan and where has he received his Dan ranking?
 EM Aniichi Miyagi trained under me for six years. Aniichi Miyagi worked on a ship and was not able to train very often. I promoted him to 6th Dan Black Belt. (Miyazato gave me a copy of this Dan promotion).
13. Why did Aniichi Miyagi and Morio Higaonna leave the Jundokan?
EM In the Goju-Ryu society in Okinawa few know the name Aniichi Miyagi. No one other than Morio Higaonna has ever heard of him. Aniichi Miyagi left Okinawa many years ago and has never returned. Morio Higaonna was in Tokyo at the time Aniichi Miyagi left Okinawa. Morio was teaching at the Yoyogi dojo. He came to Okinawa at my dojo begging me to let him make a living teaching karate. In Okinawa 97% of all karate teachers have a full time job and don’t make a living from karate. Morio’s mother built a small dojo at her home for him to teach. Morio could not get many students and his wife, Alanna ran back to America. He then followed her. His mother was very upset. Morio was also married to an Okinawan woman who I introduced him to atone time. She was also a University student.
14. In Morio Higaonna’s books, and videotapes there is a direct line from Kanryo Higaonna, Chojun Miyagi, to Aniichi Miyagi, to Morio Higaonna. Why does he promote Aniichi Miyagi as the successor and does not acknowledge you as his teacher?
EM Isn’t better for business? I taught Morio since high school. I will tell him straight. Aniichi Miyagi can’t say anything. No matter what Morio Higaonna writes about Goju-Ryu, Aniichi Miyagi won’t say anything because he knows what he and Morio have done is not correct. All Okinawa karate masters don’t even know who is Aniichi Miyagi. I told Aniichi Miyagi that he doesn’t know anything about Goju-Ryu karate and should quit.
15. How is it perceived by other Okinawan karate masters when a student has trained under you for many years and doesn’t acknowledge that you are his teacher?
EM The Okinawan karate masters won’t ever acknowledge his presence at any function. In Okinawa the great karate masters do not want to associate with Morio Higaonna and no one has heard of Aniichi Miyagi. I understand that in the United States, Morio holds a tournament using Miyagi Chojun’s name. Morio lived near Miyagi Chojun’s house, it is an Okinawan custom to visit Miyagi’s house and grave site and pay your respects to the Grandmaster. I visit and pay my respect to Miyagi Sensei twice a week. I asked myself why doesn’t Higaonna Morio pay his respects to Miyagi Chojun especially because he lives so close to his home? Please ask Ken Miyagi (son of Chojun Miyagi) who lives in Sensei’s home when you visit him.
16. I heard that Morio Hiagonna keeps returning to the Jundokan to try and talk to you. Why does he do this?.
EM Business! If he is still involved with the Jundokan and me it brings him credibility. At an All Japan Goju-Ryu tournament in Tokyo, Japan, the top Goju-Kai masters at the event confronted Morio. They asked Morio why was he going around promoting himself as the World Goju- Ryu Karate Chairman? This caused me some problems because I was his teacher. (This was confirmed by another Goju-Ryu master, Shuji Tasaki, 8th Dan Goju-Kai). When Morio would come to Okinawa he was afraid I would confront him with the incident. He was expelled fromthe Goju-Kai organization.
17. When Morio Higaonna left the Jundokan what Dan grade was he?
EM I never expelled him from the Jundokan. He made the decision to leave several times. When he left he was 6th Dan. One time later he came back to my dojo and begged me to sign off for him to be graded to 7th Dan by the Goju-Kai organization. I felt sorry for him and his desperation and signed for him to receive his 7th Dan (see copy of this record). He has never received a Dan grade from his so called teacher,Aniichi Miyagi.
18. Recently it was announced that Hanshi Yuchoku Higa, a Shorin-Ryu master who has died, promoted Morio Higaonna to 9th Dan. How is receiving rank from a master that he never trained under and also a teacher from a different karate style? If his teacher was Aniichi Miyagiwhy didn’t he receive any Dan grading from him?
EM Isn’t this the problem from the person receive the rank? I don’t like to talk about Mr. Yuchoku Higa, but people have told me that before he passed away he was giving out a lot of 10th Dan certificates to instructors from mainland Japan. In budo circles Morio Hiagonna isn’t old enough to receive his 9th Dan certificate. This is an honorary degree and you must be at least 65 years old. It is not awarded because of technical ability. Koshiki is an official ceremony that says you have been teaching karate for a long time. There are a lot of teachers accepting high rank in martial arts and now Morio has become that way also.
19. What do you think happened to Morio Higaonna that has caused him not to follow your teachings?
EM I think that Aniichi Miyagi has distorted his thinking. Morio is the type of person that needs someone to constanitly help him and that is more knowledgeable than him. Most of his Japanese students have left him and his organization.
20. In 1979 Morio Higaonna formed the I.O.G.K.F. organization. What was his relationship with Teruo Chinan?
EM I have been told that they were roommates together. They lived together for many years and were like brothers. Higaonna was a senior to Chinan in my dojo.
21. In America, Morio Higaonna tells us that Teruo Chinan was his student. Is this true?
EM No. I taught Chinan and Higaonna when they were in high school. Chinan, Hiagonna, and Aniichi Miaygi were all students of mine.Everyone knows this.
22. After Higaonna and Chinan had a falling did Chinan return to the Jundokan to head your organization in the United States?
EM Chinan did come back to the Jundokan but when he went to the United States he was not the chief Instructor of the country. He used that title to make money to start his own Jundokan organization in the U.S.
23. What do your students who trained with Morio Higaonna think about him?
EM A lot students in the dojo that trained with Hiagonna hear all the stories about him. They have a difficult time dealing with him. When they hear stories about Higaonna receiving 9th Dan, it means that Higaonna will do anything to get what he wants. They think its crazy.
24. In Budo magazine article in the US, it stated that Teruo Chinan trained under Chojun Miyagi for two years. Is this true?
EM It’s what I said before- he needed to promote himself to the American people, so he decided to say he trained with Miyagi Sensei. (I asked Ken Miyagi the same question. Ken Miyagi told me Teruo Chinan never trained with his father Chojun Miyagi) There’s so much happening with what Higaonna and Chinan are saying and the only reason I am talking about this is because you are asking me. These questions you ask about Higaonna & Chinan and what they tell the American people are lies. If they were both in my dojo sitting seiza they both could not look me in the face. When Morio Higaonna first came to this dojo he said to me, my father died and my mother is very poor so I have no money to train. Please let me train here. So I allowed him to train for free. Morio’s mother told him that Miyazato Sensei has been very good to you and in return you must always show your respect for him and go to visit him. He would come to visit me and sat seiza outside my dojo. I went out tosee him and told Higaonna not to come back to my dojo.
25. Did you ever meet Morio Higaonna’s Wife, Alanna?
EM No, but she told my student that she said to, Teruo Chinan “Why don’t you take a Dan grade under my husband, Morio”? Chinan replied, ” Why should I take a Dan grading under Higaonna? I’m not his student. My master is Miyazato Sensei”.One of the last times Morio visited my dojo he stated he was going to write a book on Goju-Ryu history and wanted me to be involved in the book and my cooperation. I told him “No”. There are many people that are leaving both of their organizationsto be affiliated with the Jundokan.
26. When did Teruo Chinan leave the Jundokan?
EM In 1993 Chinan came to our 40th year dojo celebration. I confronted Chinan about altering Dan certificates. I sent him a letter (see enclosed letter) on November 11, 1994 terminating his relationship with the Jundokan. He is no longer affiliated with me or Jundokan. He’s a disgrace.
27. What do you recommend to US Goju-Ryu karate-ka that is looking for affiliation of a Goju-Ryu organization?
EM If you want to learn true Okinawan karate, then they should contact our organization and come to Okinawa to train at the dojo. Okinawa is very close to the rest of the world. I have so many of both Higaonna’s and Chinan’s students asking me the same questions about their background and Goju-Ryu history. But this is always an inconvenience to me to answer the same questions over and over again.
28. Was Morio Higaonna expelled from the All Japan Karate Do Goju-Kai organization?
EM Yes. After he was going around promoting himself as the World Chairman of Goju-Ryu Karate the top Goju-Kai masters confronted him. They told him to bring proof of his appointment and who were the masters that are on his board of directors. He could not name anyone and so they expelled him. (Goju-Kai masters, Shoji Tasaki and Takeshi Uchiage who are members of the organization confirmed this).
29. How is it perceived in an Okinawan karate organization? If a person comes into your organization a certain Dan level and you ask them to test and don’t tell them what you are testing them for. Then you award the student a lower level Dan grade. What is your opinion of what this instructor is doing?
EM Everyone is different. But Dan grading are not just bout a student’s technical ability. As a student becomes higher in Dan grading is honorable. What is strange to me is Morio Higaonna accepting 8th & 9th Dan from a Shorin-Ryu instructor he has never trained under. What happened to his teacher Aniichi Miyagi? When a person is out to promote his style it is O.K. to receive honorary grades from an instructor in the same style. But if the motive is to make money it is not good. If Morio Higaonna promotes a student to a lower level than his Dan grade from another organization, it is not a positive thing to do. Morio is not recognizing his student’s hard work in training with someone else for many years. The feeling from the heart is the most important element of training and you can’t but someone else’s heart.
Miyazato Sensei’s closing remarks:
Please when you write this article, think before you write because Morio Hiagaonna is getting older and this could crush his organization. It’s too sad to do this to him. Tell him personally that you went to Miyazato Sensei’s dojo to hear the truth and not to hurt him, but you only wanted the truth.
Authors final comment:
As I write this article I was very saddened about the passing of Grandmaster Eiichi Miyazato. He was one of the greatest masters that I have been able to meet and train with at his dojo. I was with my first Goju-Ryu Master Kyoshi Chuck Merriman shortly after the time Miyazato Sensei’s passed away. Merriman Sensei did everything he could do to go to Okinawa to Miyazato’s Sensei’s funeral. I admire what Merriman Sensei did for his teacher, Eiichi Miyazato. Merriman Sensei attended Sensei Miyazato’s funeral in Okinawa, Japan.

 Miyazato Sensei was a very simple man. He did not seek out covers of magazines, make huge sums of money, or want the power of running a large karate organization. He truly practiced the teachings of Chojun Miyagi. Simple, Direct, and Uncomplicated. Just have fun training. That’s what Miyazato Sensei did every day at his dojo in Okinawa until he passed away. Miyazato enjoyed teaching karate to anyone who wanted to learn.

 Author: Kent Moyer is a Nandan/Kyoshi in Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate. He is the U.S. Headmaster of International Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate, Kobudo Ken Shi Kai in Los Angeles, Ca. Moyer is the senior student of Kyoshi Tetsuhiro Hokama in Okinawa, Japan.