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),
- Ei'ichi Miyazato (age 30)-1921-1999,
- Koshin Iha (age 28)-1925,
- Seikichi Toguchi (age 37)-1917-1999.
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
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 Ei'ichi 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
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 Ei'ichi Miyazato would be the
successor to Chojun Miyagi (See letter from Koshin Iha to Chuck
Merriman). Ei'ichi 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 emotional stress 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
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
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
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 at one time. She was also a University
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 it 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
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
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 from the Goju-Kai
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
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 receiving 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
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 constantly 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
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 to see
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 organisations to 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
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).
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 buy 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 Ei'ichi 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, Ei'ichi Miyazato. Merriman Sensei attended Sensei
Miyazato’s funeral in Okinawa, Japan.
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.
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..