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Brief History of Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate

By: Sensei Anthony Mirakian, Hanshi Kudan


This article was given to me almost 30 years ago by Anthony Mirakian Sensei, who was the first westerner to be accepted as a student of Dai Sensei YAGI, Meitoku. He opened the first Meibukai Dojo in the Western Hemisphere in 1960. Location: Boston, Mass.


What is known as Karate today was brought from China into Okinawa during the Tang Dynasty (618-906 a.d.).  This martial art from China was combined with the Okinawan native fighting of self-defense, Okinawan-te. Through development and refinement of fighting techniques on Okinawa, Karate reached its highest peak of perfection at the turn of the 20th. century.


In the United States and elsewhere in the world, Japan is called the home of Karate; but in Japan, Okinawa is called the home of Karate. In Japan and other countries, Karate is practiced as a sport, but in Okinawa, Karate is practiced as a way of life (Karate-do). Okinawa is the real home of Karate.


The four major styles of Karate on Okinawa are Goju-ryu, Uechi-ryu, Kobayashi Shorin-Ryu and Matsubayashi Shorin-ryu. Goju-Ryu is the only style that consists of hard and soft, slow and fast movements, which are performed with deep abdominal tension breathing. Every movement is one of studied symmetry and grace; head, hands, body, and feet move in smooth co-ordination and harmony. Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate-do is a unique martial art requiring utter observation and concentration. It is based not on only speed, strength, and coordination, but also on science and logic. Many years of constant training are needed to become proficient in Goju-Ryu Karate. Serious Karate practitioners train their entire lives; this is known as practicing Karate as a way of life, or Karate-do. This daily practice of Karate practice will keep the student physically fit, will develop mental discipline, and will strengthen the spirit.


Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate is traced back to the great Okinawan Grand Master Kanryo Higashionna, who traveled back to Fukien province, China, in 1866 and spent over twenty years training there under the famous Chinese Kempo master Lui Lui Ko. Master Higashionna introduced a new school of Karate into Okinawa when he returned.


In 1915 Master Higashionna passed away leaving Chojun Miyagi, his top student, as successor on Okinawa. Master Chojun Miyagi further improved and develop the theory and techniques of Karate, and founded the Goju-Ryu style around 1930. He is considered the greatest Okinawan Karate Master of all time and he was teaching and promoting Goju-Ryu Karate up to the time of his death in 1953.


Master Miyagi's family designated Mr. Meitoku Yagi as his successor and heir to the Goju-Ryu system of Karate on Okinawa, because of his great knowledge and skill. Meitoku Yagi Sensei is the foremost living Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate Master in the world. He teaches the original Okinawan Goju-Ryu forms and techniques handed down from its founder, Chojun Miyagi. Master Meitoku Yagi is the president of the Meibukan School of Goju-ryu Karate-do at Naha City, Okinawa, where he still continues to teach.


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