Miyagi Chojun Sensei (1888-1953) was the founder of Goju Ryu Karate.
Miyagi Chojun Sensei was born on April 25, 1888. He began training in Karate under Higaonna Kanryo Sensei at the age of 14. Like his teacher before him, because of his great natural talent and fierce determination, he progressed very rapidly. The training was severe beyond belief at times but he practised ever harder with the enthusiasm unmatched by any of the other students. Miyagi Chojun became “uchi deshi” (private disciple) of Higaonna Kanryo Sensei and studied with him for 14 years before his teacher’s death in 1915.
As successor to Naha-te, Miyagi Chojun Sensei pushed himself to the limits of endurance in his desire to emulate the extraordinary skill of his teacher. To this end, in 1915, he journeyed to Fuzhou, China, the city where his teacher had studied the martial arts, to further his research. On returning home to Okinawa he began to teach the martial arts at his home in Naha. Later he also taught at the Okinawan Prefecture Police Training Centre, at the Okinawan Master’s Training College and at the Naha Commercial High School (where his teacher had once taught).
Miyagi Chojun Sensei worked hard to spread Karate throughout Okinawa and mainland Japan, and to earn Naha-te a status equal to that of the highly respected Japanese martial arts of Judo and Kendo. In 1933 karate was registered at the Butokukai, the centre for all martial arts in mainland Japan. This was a milestone for Karate as it meant that it was recognised on a level with the martial arts of Japan. Miyagi Chojun Sensei dedicated his whole life to Karate. He was responsible for structuring Naha-te (which he later named ‘Goju-Ryu’) into a systemised discipline which could be taught to society in general. This teaching system which he formulated enabled Karate to be taught in schools for the benefit of the young, and to reach vast numbers of people throughout the world.
The naming of Goju-Ryu came about more by accident than by design. In 1930, Miyagi Chojun Sensei’s top student, Shinzato Jin’an, while in Tokyo was asked by numerous martial arts masters as to what school of martial arts he practised. As Naha-te had no formal name he could not answer this question. On returning to Okinawa he reported this incident to Miyagi Chojun Sensei. After much consideration Miyagi Chojun Sensei decided on the name Goju-Ryu (Hard and soft school) as a name for his style. This name he took from a line in the Bubishi (a classical text on the martial arts and other subjects). This line, which appears in a poem describing the eight precepts of the martial arts, reads, “Ho Goju Donto “ (The way of inhaling and exhaling is hardness and softness).
Shinzato Jin’an, an exceptional talent and whom Miyagi Chojun Sensei had chosen as his successor, was tragically killed during the Second World War. Later, after the war, he chose Miyagi An’ichi Sensei to succeed him, to pass on Goju-Ryu to the next generation. Miyagi Chojun Sensei passed away on October 8th 1953.