THE LIFE AND TIMES OF MASTER ANICHI MIYAGI


As a tribute to Miyagi Anichi Sensei, we will celebrate the life and times of such an amazing man and Karate-Ka…

Miyagi Anichi Sensei was born in Naha, Okinawa, on February 9, 1931. He lost both his parents during WWII, at the age of 14, and was left to fend for himself and his two younger brothers. He did this by acquiring employment at the Kaneda Military base.

The three brothers lived only a five minute walk from Miyagi Chojun Sensei’s house and Garden Dojo. So it was no surprise that when Anichi Sensei heard of the amazing Chojun Sensei and his powerful Karate, from his friend Kaho Tokeshi, who also worked on the military base, that the two decided to go and investigate.

Kaho Tokeshi had heard of Chojun Sensei through Meitoku Yagi, who had been a student before the war. Anichi Sensei along with Tokeshi and two other friends, Chishin Bise and Seikichi Gima, approached Chojun Sensei to ask for instruction.

Chojun Sensei agreed and the four began their Karate training at Chojun Sensei’s home in Tsuboya on February 1st 1948. At this time Anichi Sensei was 17 years old and training was held indoors and then eventually moved to the legendary Garden Dojo later on.

The four young men were extremely nervous when they began training and Chojun Sensei had powerful eyes that could look right through them. His first lesson of instruction was for them to stop smoking immediately. Secondly, he sent them into the Garden to clean and weed it. Once they had finished this and Chojun Sensei was satisfied, he began their instruction with Junbi Undo. Chojun Sensei explained the importance of each exercise and how they develop strength and power to all techniques and that they also had important links to the internal organs.

They then moved onto various stretching techniques and repetitive kicking drills, where Chojun Sensei showed them how to snap the knee and gave in depth details to each move. It wasn’t long before the four had a good understanding of Junbi Undo, Hojo Undo and Basic training.

However the aftermath of the war had a large impact on his friends and after one year only Anichi Sensei remained. He training hard and daily in Chojun Sensei’s Garden Dojo and his Master watched him like a hawk, correcting his every move down to the minutest detail. Chojun Sensei commented that teaching Anichi Sensei alone was more tiring than teaching large classes at the Police academy. He explained at the Academy all he had to do was count, yet when he taught Anichi Sensei he made sure every technique was performed until perfection.

Now that Chojun Sensei was sixty years old, he realized the development of Naha-te and Goju-ryu had been the life's work of his teacher, Kanryo Higaonna, who in turn had entrusted it to him. Now that he himself was approaching old age and death, he felt that if everything was lost, his teacher's entire life's work might not survive. Chojun Sensei was determined to pass the teachings on.

Often times, after training, An'ichi Sensei would relax and listen to Chojun Sensei discourse at great length about history and technique. He often spoke of heaven and earth, of yin and yang, the relationship of man to nature and of scientific and medical subjects. Then, sometimes he would become quiet and eventually say to himself in reflection, "Ah, if only Jiru (Jin'an Shinzato) were alive, then I could rest easily." Jin'an Shinzato was Chojun Sensei’s top student, but had died in the war. Miyagi had intended to leave Goju-ryu in Jiru's hands.

For the next two years, from 1949 to 1951, An'ichi trained intensively everyday at Chojun Sensei’s garden dojo. Chojun Sensei began giving An'ichi Sensei extra chores, some that seemed to have no meaning. One typical example of these is that one night he told An'ichi Sensei to come the next morning at 8am to move the large and heavy garden stones from one side of his yard to the other. The next day, he asked An'ichi Sensei to move them back, then several days later to other areas of his yard. An'ichi Sensei realized later that Chojun Sensei was observing his personality and confirming his student's determination to get things done properly.

May time’s while training, Chojun Sensei performed the kata together with An'ichi Sensei, performing Kiai with passion thus bolstering An'ichi Sensei’s spirits. He also taught the Bunkai to An'ichi Sensei in great detail, and eventually went far beyond the basics to show him the hidden techniques behind each movement.

After darkness fell, he would go into Chojun Sensei's house and continue practice, with Chojun Sensei often talking for great lengths of time about the movements and their meanings.

Then one night Chojun Miyagi confided to him. "An'ichi," he said seriously, "I did not even teach Jiru in such detail. I have passed the gokui (essense) of Goju-ryu to you. You must train hard and value this treasure I have given to you."

When the Korean War began to arise, the military bases on Okinawa also became busy. Some time’s Anichi Sensei’s work load would increase to the point that he could not make training in the evening with Chojun Sensei. Once Anichi Sensei missed training for three days in a row, due to the amount of work he had.

Chojun Sensei became concerned and visited Anichi Sensei’s home early in the morning on the fourth day. Anichi Sensei awoke in the presence of his teacher, and after hearing Chojun Sensei’s concerns, explained how busy he had become. He then apologized for not letting Chojun Sensei know earlier. Chojun Sensei, relieved that his best student would still carry on his training, smiled, then scanned Anichi Sensei’s messy room and told him to clean it up.

Anichi Sensei often tried to paid Chojun Sensei for his teachings, however his Master would not receive payment from students. So occasionally Anichi Sensei would bring canned food and other items for Chojun Sensei, from the American military base.

Chojun Sensei would always watch for the telltale sign of yellow stains from smoking on his students hands. Noticing these on a young Anichi Sensei’s hands one day, Chojun Sensei scolded Anichi Sensei and told him how bad smoking was for your health and that those who practice the martial arts should never smoke. Anichi Sensei quit shortly after, never daring to go against Chojun Sensei’s instructions.

Anichi Sensei’s training intensified to the point where he was at a very advanced level. Sometimes when Anichi Sensei had trouble performing a certain technique, Chojun Sensei would become frustrated and clench his fists. On other occasions, with out thought he would place his hand on the door frame and squeeze. Chojun Sensei’s grip was so strong that Anichi Sensei later recalled that the whole room would begin to shake under the pressure of his grip.

When training in Kata Bunkai Chojun Sensei would attack Anichi Sensei with such force, he would sometimes unintentionally hit him and send him flying through the air. However on these occasions, such was Chojun Sensei’s love for Anichi Sensei, he would always ask after training, “Anichi, are you alright?” On other times Anichi Sensei would ask what certain movements meant. One time Anichi Sensei found himself hitting the ground so hard and painfully from the application of the technique from Chojun Sensei, he learnt not to ask questions about moves he wasn’t ready for.

Until 1951 Chojun Sensei would not accept any students to his dojo. Many asked but they were turned away. However when Ryuko Aragaki, who had been Chojun Sensei’s first instructor, brought his grandson, Shuichi Aragaki to be considered as a student, Chojun Sensei felt he could refuse. This was the beginning of a life long friendship between Anichi Sensei and Aragaki Sensei.

One occasion Anichi Sensei and Aragaki Sensei were walking when they spotted a beautiful stone. Remembering that their Sensei loved precious stones they decided to bring it to him as a present. The two young men spent hours carrying and rolling the stone to Chojun Sensei’s front door. When their master saw the stone he was shocked! “What have you done?” Asked Chojun Sensei. “This is a stone from some ones grave!” and he ordered them to take it back immediately.

In 1952, Chojun Sensei began admitting other students to the dojo, including Yuno Aragaki, Saburo Higa, Sosaburo Aniya, and Anichi Sensei’s younger brother, Mitsuhide who, at 12, was the youngest student there. Anichi Miyagi was now a Sensei and would teach them junbi undo, basics, and kata, while Chojun Sensei would watch and occasionally correct them.

As Chojun Sensei became older he confided to Anichi Sensei, “I am most worried about one thing. I am worried that the Kata may be changed after my death.” After the war Chojun Sensei refused to travel. His goals had changed from promoting and spreading Karate to simply keeping it alive. It was through the hard private training Anichi Sensei underwent, that Chojun Sensei passed Okinawan Goju-ryu Karate-Do on to him to guard until his own passing.

On October 7, 1953, Anichi Sensei was the last to leave the dojo, bidding good night to Chojun Sensei and his wife. The next morning at work, Anichi Sensei’s coworker signaled him over. With a somber voice, he said, "Anichi, I have just heard the news on the radio that your sensei has died." Shocked, Anichi Sensei bolted out of the building and ran directly to Chojun Sensei’s house. When he arrived he saw standing outside, Chojun Sensei's family, friends, other students and teachers from different styles, as well as neighbors, all waiting to go in to pay their last respects. At the age of twenty-two, An'ichi Sensei went into his teacher’s house and said his last farewell to a great man.

As Anichi Sensei entered the house, Chojun Sensei’s wife greeted him and said, “Anichi, go and say your last farewells to Sensei.” Anichi Sensei approached his teacher’s body, placed his hands together and prayed for Chojun Sensei’s soul. The guarding of Okinawan Goju-ryu Karate-Do had officially become the task of Miyagi Anichi Sensei.

After a respectful period of mourning, training became for all of Chojun Sensei’s students at the Garden Dojo and Anichi Sensei was named as the everyday instructor.

In April 1955 a young 16 year old man, passionate to study Karate and with money his mother had given him for fee’s clutched tight in his hands, presented himself at the Garden Dojo for instruction. He was told by the dojo administrator, “Anichi Miyagi san is the most knowledgeable. Go and learn from him.” Morio Higaonna had now been registered as a student of Okinawan Goju-ryu Karate-Do.

Higaonna Sensei approached Anichi Sensei and this was the beginning on a bond that has lasted physically for 54 years. They trained daily together for many years. Higaonna Sensei described Anichi Sensei’s offensive movements as lightning fast and his blocks, although they did not look overly powerful, could stop any attack put against them with the greatest of ease.

Anichi Sensei would come to Higaonna Sensei’s house on weekends and ask if he had time to come with him to Chojun Sensei’s house. It seemed that Anichi Sensei spent all of his spare time cleaning the Garden Dojo, along with the well and repairing the Makiwara, as well anything else that needed to be done. When they were finished Chojun Sensei’s wife would bring the two sweets and tea and then send them on their way with fresh oranges.

At time of high risk Typhoons, Anichi Sensei would fetch Higaonna Sensei and they would go to Chojun Sensei’s house. If the high speed winds ever made it into the house it would be destroyed. So the Master and the student would ensure all the windows were secure and the roof was battened down. Even years after his teacher passing, Anichi Sensei was still ensuring that his Sensei’s home and family were looked after.

As the years rolled by Anichi Sensei’s work took him overseas and he visited many countries, whist sailing on the high seas and made it as far as South Africa. In 1979 with Anichi Sensei’s blessing, Higaonna Sensei founded the International Okinawan Goju-ryu Karate-do Federation (IOGKF). Anichi Sensei had succeeded in not only securing the survival of Okinawan Goju-ryu the way Chojun Sensei had intended it, but through his most senior student had spread it through out the world - Therefore accomplishing his mentor’s two major life goals.

In 2006 at the IOGKF chief instructors Gasshuku, in Naha, Okinawa, Miyagi Anichi Sensei presented Higaonna Morio Sensei with his own Black Belt as a token of him passing the style on to his student. Anichi Sensei’s belt now rests in the Karate Museum in Okinawa.

In September 2007, Miyagi Anichi Sensei and Aragaki Shuichi Sensei presented Higaonna Morio Sensei with his 10th Dan Black Belt certificate, along with a certificate that acknowledges him as the heir of the Goju-ryu style in the direct line to Miyagi Chojun Sensei. Both Anichi Sensei and Aragaki Sensei personally signed and approved this as Chojun Sensei’s most senior students..

Click picture to enlarge.

On April 28th 2009, Miyagi Anichi Sensei passed away, officially passing the flame of guardianship to Higaonna Morio Sensei. He was 78 years old.

Miyagi Anichi Sensei was an extremely humble, friendly and knowledgeable Master. He never strayed from his teachers wishes once during his entire life and he succeeded in passing on the essence of Goju-ryu to Master Morio Higaonna. His life and times were spent simply, but his legacy is forever lasting…