An’ichi Miyagi Sensei (no relation to Miyagi Chojun) was born in Naha, Okinawa on February 9th, 1931. At age 14, during WW II, he lost both his parents and worked to support his two younger brothers at the US Air Force Base. An’ichi and his brothers lived about a five-minute walk from Sensei Miyagi’s garden dojo.
Together with three friends, An’ichi asked to be accepted as a student. On February 1st, 1948, he began his karate training.
After WW II life on Okinawa had become an arduous battle for survival. Food was scarce and people worked long hours to bring home sustenance to their families. By now Sensei Miyagi’s senior students came by to visit only; they were fully occupied with survival, and for some time the four new youngsters were Sensei Miyagi’s only students.Sensei Miyagi, at that time, was teaching at the Police Academy. After a while, however, young An’ichi was the only remaining student in the garden dojo and went every day for private lessons. Sometimes Sensei would tease An’ichi, telling him that it was harder to give him a private lesson, which demanded that he ensure that Anichi was truly understanding and grasping the techniques, than it was to teach an entire class of police cadets.
Sensei Chojun Miyagi’s teacher, Kanryo Higaonna, had dedicated his life to the research, practice and teaching of Naha-te, and bequeathed his favorite, top student – Miyagi – with the task of preserving and passing on the art. Sensei Miyagi knew that his days were drawing to an end and took this responsibility most seriously. He was determined to carry out the will of his teacher and to pass his knowledge on to someone who would preserve and maintain the tradition.
Until this time Chojun Miyagi Sensei had taught only Kata Sanchin and one other kata to each student. Students sometimes learned kata from each other, but most were content to perfect the two given kata for many years. Now Sensei Miyagi began to teach all thirteen Goju-Ryu kata to An’ichi Miyagi, along with the Bunkai, or applications, of each kata. He also taught him Bunkai Oyo, hidden self-defense techniques disguised within the form of the kata. Afterwards, the teacher would invite his pupil into his home and would give over verbal explanations of the kata’s meanings. He would speak long into the night about technique, kata moves, philosophy, culture and his opinion of what the future would bring. Sensei Miyagi Chojun spoke of heaven and earth, yin and yang, man’s relation to nature, nutrition, healing and science. One night he revealed to An’ichi: “I didn’t even speak to Jiru (Jin’an Shinzato – his favorite student who died during WW II) in such depth. I have passed on to you the essence of Goju-Ryu. You must train hard and appreciate the treasure I’ve given you.”
The outbreak of the Korean War brought much activity to the US Air Force bases in Okinawa, so much so that An’ichi Miyagi was no longer able to attend evening training sessions. On one occasion he missed three classes in a row. Sensei Miyagi Chojun was worried; it wasn’t like his student to miss so many classes without an explanation. In the morning An’ichi woke up to see his sensei standing over his bed, staring at him. He quickly apologized and promised to return to his training that evening.
In 1952 Chojun Miyagi Sensei began to accept new students in his dojo. It was An’ichi Miyagi’s responsibility to teach the new students and he did so enthusiastically while Sensei Miyagi looked on.
On October 7th, 1953, An’ichi Miyagi was the last to leave the dojo. The next morning he was summoned with the news that the radio had reported Sensei Miyagi’s death. The stunned An’ichi ran straight to his teacher’s house only to find that the report was true. Outside was already a large gathering of family, friends, neighbors, students and former students, teachers from different styles, all waiting to pay their final respects. At age 22 An’ichi Miyagi Sensei had come to say good-bye to the greatest man he had ever known.
After several weeks had passed, the question arose of who would inherit the dojo. The senior students gathered at the home of Genkai Nakaima. After the mourning period ended Eiichi Miyazato became head of the dojo, Koshin Iha took charge of collecting dues and An’ichi Miyagi taught the students.
In 1957, to guard the privacy of the Miyagi family, the dojo moved to different quarters. Eiichi Miyazato, together with An’ichi Miyagi and others, built a wooden dojo and named it “Jundokan.” An’ichi Miyagi Sensei was the head teacher at the Jundokan. In time tension developed between An’ichi Miyagi Sensei and Miyazato Sensei because the latter wished to change the kata. Because of this pressure, in 1959, An’ichi Miyagi Sensei decided to leave the Jundokan and in his quiet way distanced himself from the central stage of karate. He continued to teach only his protégé Morio Higaonna.
Anichi Miyagi Sensei was the Honorary Chairman of the IOGKF, holding the rank of 10th Dan. Sensei Higaonna, in his book “The History of Karate,” concludes, “An’ichi Miyagi leads a simple life as his teacher did. In both his life and his training, he remains loyal to the teachings of Chojun Miyagi.”
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…