The Life and Times of Miyagi Chojun Sensei

By: K.B. Tallack

My research led me to Japan on numerous occasions, and eventually I took up residence there. During the years I lived in Okinawa I was able to meet a number of older people who had known the Sensei, either as a neighbour, a famous Karate teacher, or as their personal Sensei. Overcoming the language barrier was a matter of study and practice, but even so without the help of some of my co-workers in the English departments of the High Schools where I worked, as well as the generous assistance offered by many Okinawan people, I would never have been able to conduct some of the interviews I was granted.

Yagi Meitoku, said by many to be the inheritor of the mantle of Goju-Ryu leadership and my personal Sensei, was invaluable to me in so many ways. His acceptance of me as a personal student when he was on the verge of complete retirement inspired me in my personal training, and helped me get a sense of the gentle nature Miyagi Sensei’s training could produce. His vast repertoire of stories of Miyagi Sensei reflect his 30 plus years as a student of the founder, and I was fortunate enough to have had him share some of those with me while I lived next door to his dojo and visited him daily.

Nagamine Shoshin, the world leader of Matsubayashi Shorin Ryu was very open with me in discussion of his relationship with Miyagi Sensei. I knew that Nagamine Sensei had been a police officer, and that Miyagi Sensei had been the official Police trainer in Naha City, and of course the Karate Society of Okinawa is a small world, but I was ignorant of their actual relationship. One day while Nagamine Sensei was training me in the Fukyu Kata Ichi and Ni of their school, I mentioned the obvious similarities to Geki-Sai Ichi and Ni of Goju-Ryu. Nagamine Sensei replied “When Chojun Sensei developed these Kata we were working together teaching the children and realized that we needed a way to blend our differing styles, so we developed these Kata….” I have taught Geki Sai Ichi and Ni for most of my life, and when I realized that I was in the presence of one of their originators I was humbled to my core. Nagamine Sensei knew Miyagi Sensei as his Sempai and as an associate. I am grateful that he shared some of his experience with me.

Due to the political nature of Karate, and Miyagi Senseis stature as the founder of one of the major schools, much of the information that is available in any language appears to be slanted to reflect the political leanings of the author. If we can believe Miyagi Sensei later writings about the importance of Karate being a vehicle for moral development, then we can see that creating a form of instruction opening Karate to all was an integral part of his lifes work. As a leader of segments of Okinawan society under American occupation, Miyagi Sensei would preach peace and harmony, and live his very life as an example of subjugating ones own desires for the greater good.

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