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..