In Memory of Grandmaster Eiichi Miyazato
It is with a heavy heart that I write this Memoriam on behalf of all those students of Master Eiichi Miyazato. Miyazato Sensei devoted his entire life to the preservation of Okinawan Goju Ryu Karate Do and the teachings of his Sensei, Master Chojun Miyagi. Every Karate Ka owes a debt of gratitude to Masters like Miyazato Sensei, who have through their ceaseless efforts, contributed so much to the growth and development of Karate Do. Born on the 5th July 1922 in Naha, Okinawa, Japan, Miyazato Sensei was one of seven children. His study of the Martial Arts first started in 1936 when at the age of fourteen he was introduced to Karate Do and Ju Do training, under the guidance of his father. His father, who was a merchant by trade, had at one time been a student of Master Kanryo Higaonna. In 1938, on the introduction of his father, Miyazato Sensei began his study of Goju Ryu under the strict instruction of Miyagi Sensei. Miyagi Sensei’s Dojo was in situated in the back garden of his house in Naha. When asked to describe the Dojo, Miyazato Sensei is quoted as saying, “There were only about ten students training in those early days. We didn’t have a nice comfortable Dojo like you see today in Okinawa. Instead of a wooden floor we trained on the ground. However, the Dojo was well equipped with Makiwara, Chishi, Sashi and all the training tools needed for Hojo Undo. I remember that we would go for a run and then return to the Dojo were Miyagi Sensei would train us in Sanchin Kata. The training in those day’s was very severe but afterwards Miyagi Sensei would be very kind to us”.
After finishing his education Miyazato Sensei was drafted into the Japanese Army. World War II had broken out and Japan was at War with America, Great Britain and the Soviet Union. Miyazato Sensei said about this period of his life, “As soon as I finished High School I had to join the Army. After severe training I was sent to Manchuria to help patrol the border with the Soviet Union. My primary job was in the financial section. However, I would train in Karate Do every day and as a result I gained the respect of the officers and men. At one point, I was asked by my commanding officer to teach armed personnel Karate Do due to the shortage of weaponry, but I strongly refused. Instead, I asked for a transfer and in time I was sent to work in a Military Hospital in mainland Japan”.
On returning to Okinawa after the War, Miyazato Sensei found his homeland in ruins and his father killed, shot through the heart during the invasion of the Island by the American forces. This was a dire time for the population of Okinawa as they struggled to survive due to the scarcity of water, food and electricity. Despite this, one of the first visits Miyazato Sensei made was to his Sensei. Miyagi Sensei did not have the urge or willingness to teach Karate Do at this time. This was due to the fact that he did not know the fate of his three sons. Also, two of his daughters had been sent to mainland Japan for safety but their ship was sunk during the voyage and they were killed (Miyagi Sensei lost three children during the War). On top of this his closest student, Shinzato Jinan, was also killed in the ferocious battle for Okinawa, together with many friends. Despite all these hardships Miyazato Sensei eventually managed to rally some old students and together they raised enough money to make Miyagi Sensei’s house larger. The hope being that they would have a Dojo to train in should their Sensei’s enthusiasm to teach Karate Do return.
Miyagi Sensei now resumed his position as Karate Do Shihan at the Police Academy in Naha, a post he held before the War. On the recommendation and advice of his Sensei, Miyazato Sensei became a Police Officer and also took up the post of teaching Judo at the Academy in 1946. He also assisted his Sensei in teaching Karate Do and was entrusted to take charge of his classes whenever he was away. After they both had finished teaching Miyagi Sensei would give his assistant special training, this know doubt helped to deepen the relationship between them. Since the end of the War Miyagi Sensei’s health began to progressively deteriorate. Being aware of this, Miyagi Sensei requested that Miyazato Sensei together with Koshin Iha Sensei take on the responsibility for teaching at his garden Dojo. Miyazato Sensei says of this, “There were only about ten students, all young boys, so the training they received was not as severe as the kind we had in the early day’s. Sensei would come out from his house, sit on a chair and say, “Miyazato San, please teach him”. Because at that point I was about thirty years of age and full of energy”. Sadly, Chojun Miyagi Sensei passed away on the 8th October 1953 at the age of 65. At the request of the bereaved family and to fulfill the will of Miyagi Sensei, the garden Dojo was renovated and training was to continue. Miyazato Sensei is quoted as saying, “Miyagi Sensei’s death resulted in the uncertain future of Goju Ryu. Some of the members of the Dojo discussed this problem but because of the difficulties of society at that time, no one wanted to take the responsibility. I had been working at the Police Academy as my Sensei’s assistant until his death. Because of this I was asked to look after those students of Sensei who were left. However, someone had to take care of Goju Ryu and Miyagi Sensei’s family strongly requested me to accept this responsibility, so finally I agreed. With Mrs Miyagi’s permission I started teaching at the garden Dojo with the help of Koshin Iha and Mr Inami (regular training sessions began in 1954)”. With the passing of his Sensei, Miyazato Sensei became the Chief Instructor at the Police Academy , where he now taught Karate Do, Ju Do and arresting techniques.
In 1955 a General Meeting was held of the then Goju Kai (an association set up to preserve the teachings of Chojun Miyagi Sensei by his students) at a restaurant at Matsuo in Naha. The meeting was chaired by Nakaima Sensei and was to decide upon the successor of Master Chojun Miyagi. It was moved that Miyazato Sensei be recommended as successor. There was only one objection from Meitoku Yagi Sensei. It was at this point that Mr Kin Miyagi (the second son of Miyagi Sensei) was brought into address the meeting. His told the meeting that his father would always say, “Eiichi is the only one whom I can rely upon, after I die”. After this there were no more objections and the motion was passed. With this decision Eiichi Miyazato Sensei was officially recognised as the true successor of Master Chojun Miyagi. At first Miyazato Sensei declined but later he agreed for the sake of the association.
Because of the increase in the amount of students, the lack of space in the garden Dojo and the worry that Goju Ryu might disappear, Miyazato Sensei decided to move the Dojo to larger premises. When he approached Mrs Miyagi about this she replied, “Yes, please teach and preserve it”. So in 1957 a new Dojo was built in Asato, Naha. At this time Miyazato Sensei founded the association, Okinawan Goju Ryu Karate Do Kyokai. He also decided to call his new Dojo the Jundokan. When asked about the meaning of this name, Miyazato Sensei replied, “There are many Dojo’s with a similar sounding names to this, but originally I took the name from a Chinese poem. In this poem the meaning of “Jun Do” is “To follow The Way”. Its not the Jun taken from the name of Chojun Miyagi Sensei, even though the Kanji is the same. “To follow The Way” is to lead you to victory even if you lose”. Because of the growing popularity of Karate Do a new Dojo (still in Asato) was built in 1969. The new Dojo is still there today and is one of the most spacious and well equipped in Okinawa. The building is three storeys high, the Dojo and its office are situated on the ground floor, a large viewing balcony and reception rooms comprise the second floor and the third floor being the living accommodation of the Miyazato family. In 1972 the Police Academy moved to the north of Okinawa. This was a problem as travelling this distance every day would have taken up a considerable amount of time and Miyazato Sensei had the Jundokan to think of. Luckily at about the same time a friend asked if he would become the director of a removal company he was about to create. This was an ideal opportunity that enabled Miyazato Sensei to carry on his responsibilities at the Dojo. There is no doubt that Miyazato Sensei could have earned a considerable amount of money from Karate Do. However, the code of morals that he lived by prevented him from doing so, he would always quote Miyagi Sensei words when referring to this, “You should never eat from Karate” and he strongly stressed the same view to all his students.
Zen Master Basho (1644-1694) said, “Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; seek what they sought”. Miyazato Sensei’s life ambition was to preserve the tradition that was passed down to him by his Sensei. He always encouraged his students to work hard. But more than this he encouraged them to understand, research and deepen their knowledge of Karate Do and by so doing, to seek out the wisdom of previous Masters. When asked about the so called “secrets” of Karate Do, he replied, “The only secrets are the ones you find out for yourself”. There are no formal classes at the Jundokan, Miyazato Sensei explained this by saying, “The Dojo is open from 10am to 10pm, six days a week. The students vary in age and ability. There are no set classes, students can come and train for as long as they want and train on what they need to improve. If they need help they ask for it and if a Sempai sees a student doing something wrong they help him. In a fixed class, while you’re correcting one student the others are wasting their time. Also, one student may be training in a high grade Kata but you may have low grade students as well; it doesn’t work. The instructor just comes to the Dojo to count and gets a little training himself. The way we train at our Dojo develops camaraderie between students. Its the way Miyagi Sensei taught and I follow his way. I’ve been practising some sixty years now and still remember my Sempai, when I used to meet them I would always thank them. There is a lot of help at the Jundokan, if someone’s not doing so well others will help and this is very good”. When asked about his teaching methods he said, “I teach each student the things I think he needs to get better. This way of teaching comes from the old days when communication was not as good as it is today. There were no videos to look at or television for that matter. Also, there were not many books about Karate Do. The only way to learn was to find a Sensei and stick with him. Each Sensei had his own way of teaching and students would learn what they could. But the Sensei would always look out for the really serious students and often they would be taught more. Today, I teach people like Shodan and Nidan in one way, but I teach a little more to Yondan and Godan students. Each person needs to know certain things but they must also be allowed to discover things for themselves. This is how Miyagi Sensei taught me. The secret is to study your Kata. This will give you all your knowledge and understanding of the essence of Karate Do. Also you have to take into account a person’s occupation as this will effect the way they train”.
We must not forget the Judo career of Miyazato Sensei. At one time he was All Japan Police Champion and All Okinawan Judo Champion. He was also Vice Chairman of the Okinawan Ken Judo Renmei.
On a personal level I would like to say that Miyazato Sensei certainly had strength of character and was not afraid to speak his mind. But he was also wise and humble. He was a man with a big heart who gave a lot of himself. I will always remember him with affection and will hold him in high regard. I once asked him what is the greatest gift that Karate Do can give, and he replied quite simply, “Humility”. Miyazato Sensei was held in great respect by other Masters both in Okinawa and Japan and I think this speaks for itself. He was also Chairman of the Okinawan Ken Karate Do Renmei (embracing all the styles of Karate Do in Okinawa) and the Okinawan Chairman of the All Japan Karate Do Federation. As Head of the Jundokan, Miyazato Sensei has done much towards the growth and development of Goju Ryu as well as Karate Do in general. In the process of doing this he has produced many great Karate Ka, some of whom are Masters in their own right. These Karate Ka are indeed the legacy that Miyazato Sensei leaves behind. Miyazato Sensei will be greatly missed but I am sure that his spirit will live on in all the Dojo’s that are the Jun Do Kan. I will leave you with the Dojo Kun of the Jundokan. This sums up the philosophy of Miyazato Sensei and is taken from the teachings of his Sensei, Master Chojun Miyagi.
Be humble and polite
Train considering your physical strength
Practice earnestly with creativity
Be calm and swift
Take care of your health
Live a plain life
Do not be too proud or modest
Continue training with patience
Shibucho, Jundokan United Kingdom