April 25, 1888—October 8, 1953
Chojun Miyagi was born in Naha, Okinawa and was the adopted son of a wealthy businessman. Miyagi began his study in karate at the age of nine (or eleven). He first learned martial arts from Ryuko Aragaki, who then introduced him to Naha-te Master Kanryo Higashionna when Miyagi was 14.
After the death of Master Kanryo Higashionna, Miyagi travelled to Fukien Province in China as his teacher had done before him. In China he studied the Shaolin and Pa Kua forms of Chinese boxing. From the blending of these systems, the hard linear/external form of Shaolin, the soft circular/internal form of Pa Kua, and his native Naha-Te, a new system emerged. However, it was not until 1929 that Chojun Miyagi named the system Goju-ryu, meaning hard-soft style.
After some years in China, Chojun Miyagi returned to Naha where he opened a dojo (training hall). He taught for many years, and even though Miyagi’s reputation as a karate man was enormous, and even Kano Jigoro, the founder of Judo, came to Okinawa to learn specific karate takedowns, his greatest achievements lie in popularization and the organisation of karate teaching methods. He introduced karate into Okinawa police work, high schools and other fields of society. He revised and further developed Kata Sanchin - the hard aspect of Goju, and created Kata Tensho - the soft aspect. These kata are considered to contain the essence of the Goju-ryu style. The highest kata, Suparimpei is said to contain the full syllabus of Goju-ryu kata. Shisochin was Miyagi’s favorite kata at the end of his years. Tensho was influenced by the White Crane kata Ryokushu, which he learned from his long-time friend Gokenki. With a goal of unification of various karate styles which was in fashion at that time (see Gichin Funakoshi for his works in Japan), he also created more Shurite-like katas Gekisai Dai Ichi and Gekisai Dai Ni in 1940, taking techniques from higher forms (notably Suparimpe also upper block was uncommon for Goju-ryu at that time) and incorporating them into a shorter forms. It is said he created these kata to bridge the gap between Sanchin-kata and Saifa kata, which contains much more complex moves compared to Sanchin kata. However, Gekisai katas are learned before Sanchin-kata now.
Chojun Miyagi was a man of extremely mild temperament and it is said that he was a very humble man. He lived according to the principles of martial arts, that of non-violence. Master Miyagi died in Okinawa on October 8, 1953 from second heart-attack (first took place on 1951).
Some of his more notable students were Seiko Higa (also a student of Kanryo Higaonna), Seikichi Toguchi (founder of the Shorei-Kan dojo), Ei’ichi Miyazato (founder of the Jundokan dojo), Meitoku Yagi (founder of the Meibukan dojo, he eventually accepted late master Miyagi’s gi and obi from Miyagi’s family), and in Japan, Gogen Yamaguchi (founder of Goju-kai and who, after short training with Miyagi, spent later most of his time studying katas under Meitoku Yagi while being himself a representative of Goju-ryu in Japan).