Early life and training

Sensei Miyagi was born in Higashimachi, Naha, Okinawa on April 25, 1888. One of his parents was a wealthy shop owner. Chojun Miyagi began studying Okinawan martial arts under Ryuko Aragaki at age 11. At age 14, Miyagi was introduced to Kanryo Higashionna (Higaonna Kanryō) by Aragaki. Under his tutelage, Miyagi underwent a very long and arduous period of training. His training with Higaonna was interrupted for a two-year period while Miyagi completed his military service, 1910–1912, in Miyakonojō, Miyazaki. Miyagi trained under Higaonna for 15 years until Higaonna’s death in 1916.

Training in China

In May 1915, before the death of Higaonna, Miyagi travelled to Fujian Province. In China he visited the grave of Higaonna’s teacher, Ryū Ryū Ko. In this first trip he travelled with Eisho Nakamoto. After Kanryo Higaonna’s death (in Oct, 1915) he made a second trip to Fuzhou with Gokenki. In this second trip he studied some local Chinese martial arts. It was in this second trip that he observed the Rokkishu (a set of hand exercises rather than a formal kata, which emphasizes the rotation of the forearms and wrists to execute offensive and defensive techniques), which he then adapted into the Tensho Kata. From the blending of these systems, and his native Naha-Te, a new system emerged. However, it was not until 1929 that Chōjun Miyagi named the system Gōjū-ryū, meaning “hard soft style”.

Return to Japan

After several months in China, Chōjun Miyagi returned to Naha where he opened a dojo. He taught for many years, gaining an enormous reputation as a karateka. Despite his reputation, his greatest achievements lie in popularization and the organization of karate teaching methods. In recognition of his leadership in spreading karate in Japan, his style, Goju-Ryu, became the first style to be officially recognized by the Dai Nippon Butokukai. He introduced karate into Okinawa police work, high schools and other fields of society. He revised and further developed Sanchin – the hard aspect of Goju, and created Tensho – the soft aspect. These kata are considered to contain the essence of the Goju-ryu. The last kata taught in most dojos, Suparinpei, is said by some to contain the full syllabus of Goju-ryu, although this assertion is disputed. Shisochin was Miyagi’s favorite kata at the end of his years. With the 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 Shuri-te-like katas known as Gekisai Dai Ichi and Gekisai Dai Ni in 1940, taking techniques from higher forms (notably Suparinpei, and upper blocks 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 and Saifa, which contains much more complex moves compared to Sanchin, as well as to have forms to teach to his students in the Prefectural Teacher’s College.


Miyagi had his first heart attack in 1951, and died in Okinawa on October 8, 1953, from a second heart attack.[


Miyagi died without having officially named a successor, and several of his pupils have proclaimed themselves as his successors. However, Seikichi Toguchi is quoted as saying “Let me first say that I was not named the successor of Goju-Ryu by Miyagi, but nor was anyone else. There are some Goju-Ryu teachers who claim to have been privately appointed successor by Miyagi. These claims are ludicrous and disrespectful of his memory. He never publicly named anyone as successor. Common sense would dictate that if he were to appoint someone, it would have been a longtime student and it would have to be of public record to have any value.” After Miyagi’s death, his most experienced pupils at the time of his death were Sekō HigaMeitoku YagiEiichi Miyazato, Koshin Iha, and Toguchi himself.

The family of Chojun Miyagi communicated that the founder of the style wanted Eiichi Miyazato to succeed him. The Goju Ryu committee, formed by major students of Miyagi (which included among others Nakaima, Madanbashi, Meitoku Yagi, Iha Koshin) at a meeting in February 1954 voted almost unanimously Eiichi Miyazato as the official successor to Chojun Miyagi. Miyazato continued to teach from Miyagi’s Garden Dojo until 1957, when he built the Jundokan dojo with the help of the Miyagi family. Miyagi’s family also donated Hojo Undo tools and Miyagi’s Busanagashi statue to Miyazato, which became the symbol for the Jundokan.

Another important recognition was made by Miyagi’s family in 1963 to Meitoku Yagi, publicly recognizing him as one of the successors of Miyagi and giving him one of Miyagi’s karate gis and belts.

Later other students would proclaim themselves Miyagi’s successors like An’ichi Miyagi (a claim supported by Morio Higaonna, who claims An’ichi as his main teacheror Gōgen Yamaguchi, whom Peter Urban (in his book The Karate Sensei) says was named in Miyagi’s will as successor.


Some of Miyagi’s more notable students were Seko Higa (also a student of Kanryo Higaonna), Miyazato Ei’ichi (founder of the Jundokan dojo), Meitoku Yagi (founder of the Meibukan dojo, Seikichi Toguchi (founder of Shorei-kan Goju-ryu), and on the Japanese mainland Gōgen Yamaguchi who was the founder of the Gōjū Kai in Japan.

The character of Mr. Miyagi in the Karate Kid film series, written by Robert Mark Kamen (a Goju Ryu student of Toguchi – Kayo Ong lineage), was inspired by Chōjun Miyagi.


Our Legacy

Miyazato Sensei 

Founder Of  The Jundokan

Eiichi Miyazato (宮里 栄一Miyazato Eiichi, July 5, 1922 – December 11, 1999) was a leading Okinawan master of Goju-ryu karate. He was a senior student of Chōjun Miyagi, founder of the Goju-ryu style. Miyazato held the rank of 10th dan in karate and 7th dan in judo; on his death, he was honoured with the degree of 8th dan in judo.

Early life

Miyazato was born on July 5, 1922, in I-Chome, 13 Banchi, Higashi-machi, Naha, OkinawaOkinawa Prefecture, Japan.  Some sources indicate that Miyazato began training under Miyagi at the age of 13, while others state that Miyazato first trained under his own father and only began training under Miyagi at the age of 15.  Miyazato’s father had been a student of Kanryo Higaonna, who had been Miyagi’s teacher, so Miyagi accepted the young Miyazato as his student.  Except for an interrupted period due to World War II, Miyazato learned from Miyagi continuously until the death of the latter in 1953. Apart from his karate training, he also studied judo under Shoko Itokazu.

Judo career

Miyazato was also a great judoka: he became champion of Okinawa 1950 or 1951. Miyazato also became a skilled judo master in the local police judo club and president of the Okinawa Judo Federation.

Karate career

Miyazato began practicing Karate with his father (student of Kanryo Higaonna) and then became a student of Miyagi around the age of 13. Since that time, Miyazato, except for a short period during the war, trained continuously with Miyagi until his death. He also assisted Miyagi in teaching in the Okinawa Police School and was also the only one to have learned the entire teaching system and all the Kata. Miyazato was also a judo instructor: a discipline that Miyagi himself invited him to cultivate as it was complementary to Goju Ryu Karate.

Miyazato joined the Ryukyu Police Department on Miyagi’s recommendation in 1946. He served as physical education instructor at the police academy, and assisted Miyagi (then an instructor at the academy), teaching karate and judo there. Upon Miyagi’s death in 1953, Miyazato inherited his teacher’s training equipment; he also took up the position of teaching at the ‘Garden dojo,’ which had been Miyagi’s dojo.

After Miyagi’s death (1953), the family communicated that the founder of the style wanted Eiichi Miyazato to succeed him. The Goju Ryu committee (formed by its major students) at a meeting in February 1954 voted almost unanimously Eiichi Miyazato as the official successor to Chojun Miyagi. In 1956, Miyazato opened his own dojo, the Jundokan, in Asato, Naha. The building had three levels, with Miyazato’s dwelling located on the top level. In 1972, he retired from the police force and devoted the rest of his life to teaching karate. Through the early 1970s, he served as Vice-President of the Okinawan Judo Federation and President of the Okinawa Prefecture Karate-do Federation.

On March 20, 1988, the Okinawa Goju-ryu Karate-do Kyokai awarded him the rank of 10th dan in karate. Apart from his karate rank, Miyazato held the rank of 7th dan in judo from the Kodokan, and was President of the Okinawa Judo Federation.

Later life

Miyazato received several awards for his contribution to the martial arts. In 1984, Miyazato received an official commendation from the Kodokan. In 1994, he was awarded a Commendation for Distinguished Service from the Nihon Budo Kyogikai and received an official commendation from the Okinawa Judo Federation. In 1998, he received an official commendation from the Japanese Ministry of Education.

Following a period of poor health, Miyazato died on December 11, 1999, in Naha Hospital. On his death, the Kodokan awarded him the rank of 8th dan in judo. Miyazato’s students included Teruo ChinenMorio HigaonnaMasaji Taira, Ronald Michio Yamanaka and Mike Clarke. Miyazato’s dojo is now run by his son, Yoshihiro Miyazato.

 Taira Sensei 

Founder of The Kenkyukai

Masaji Taira (平良 正次Taira Masaji, born 1 December 1952) is a leading teacher of Okinawa Goju Ryu Karate Do, and head of the Okinawa Gojuryu Kenkyu Kai. His teacher was Eiichi Miyazato, a student of Chojun Miyagi and the founder of the Okinawan Jundokan dojo. Taira’s karate is that of his teacher and the Jundokan, with the addition of his novel approach to the application of the kata.

Taira is best known as a researcher and practitioner of the bunkai of the Goju Ryu kata. He is unusually open in his teachings, feeling that the techniques and learning must be shared, for their preservation and to test their effectiveness.

Early life

Taira was raised on Kume Island. His family were farmers, growing sugarcane and rice. In his third year of high school the family moved to Naha, where Taira finished his schooling.

When he was young on Kume Island the kids all used to do Okinawa Sumo. They would go to the sand pit when they were in school and do that during break times. There were always Okinawa Sumo competitions and tournaments between the different villages.

Karate career

At age 16, Taira started training in Goju ryu karate at the Jundokan dojo of Eiichi Miyazato. There was a break in his karate training when he joined the Japanese police force. He has trained continuously at Goju ryu karate since he was 21.

He joined the Japanese Police Force when he graduated from High School. As part of his riot police training he was required to learn judo. He achieved his judo black belt in 3 months, when 6 months was more common. He attributes this to his childhood Okinawa Sumo training. He is currently 4th dan in Judo.

His day as a member of the riot squad ended at 5pm whereby he would make the journey from Gushikawa City where he was stationed to the Jundokan in Naha where from 6pm to 10pm every night he would pursue his karate training with an equal dedication under the guidance of Miyazato, founder of the Jundokan and heir to Chojun Miyagi.

While in his early years at the Jundokan he met a senior in the Dojo called Shinko Gima. Gima was a very wiry, extremely strong man whose kata exudes power. Although a slight man, he was formidable in his speed and execution of technique. Realising they were on a similar path the two men teamed up and spent their time in the dojo training together. Both hating to lose there were many battle scars received on both sides. After the dojo on many occasions, taken by the spirit of perfecting their technique, they would make their way to the hills of Madanbashi approximately an hours walk from the Jundokan. There they would spend their time training until sunrise on some occasions. Being the hills and given Okinawa’s tropical climate, the mosquitoes were always in abundant supply giving them all the more reason to keep moving.

Most of Taira’s karate career has revolved around his focus on the Bunkai of the Kata. He has painstakingly dissected the kata and trained his body to the point where he has mastered the inner workings of Goju Ryu Kata. Taira’s bunkai is unusual in his insistence on working the kata in sequence, rather than picking techniques from the kata in isolation. He is also adamant that the kata do not need to be changed to perform bunkai.

Taira’s first overseas seminar was held in Seattle, Washington in 1997 and hosted by Jundokan Seattle. Since then he has been traveling the world giving seminars on his interpretations of the bunkai of the Goju Ryu kata. He has presented seminars in Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Europe.

Taira left the Jundokan dojo in 2011 to form the Okinawa Goju Ryu Kenkyukai (Okinawa Goju Ryu Research Society) at the request of his students.

Taira was promoted to 9th dan by Kishaba Chogi, founder of the Ryukyu Bujutsu Kenkyu Doyukai and one of the few remaining students of Miyagi Chojun Sensei, and a junior to Miyazato Eiichi Sensei.

Taira is also a student and teacher of Okinawan Kobudo.

Training Philosophy

The main focus of Taira’s training is the application of Goju Ryu Kata techniques to self-defence, as bunkai. Unlike many other teachers he does not cherry pick techniques from the kata. He believes that the Kata were designed as complete fighting systems, with logical transitions from one technique to another as a complete and complex defensive flow.

It is important not to mistake his complete kata bunkai to mean that the entire kata needs to be performed. Any single technique can be used to finish a fight. The kata works as a template to prepare the student with entry and exit points for defensive and counter moves. With a complete knowledge of the system a practitioner should be able to respond to almost any attack and have a start and end point from that attack.

One of Taira’s motivations in spreading his teaching world wide is to give him access to more partners of differing size and skill levels, to better test his techniques.

Promoting Goju Ryu World Wide

He is well known in France and was profiled in the official magazine of Fédération Française de Karaté et Disciplines Associées (FFKDA).

The National Geographic Channel’s Deadly Arts program profiled a visit by French Canadian martial artist Josette Normandeau to Okinawa, where she trained with Taira.


Taira teaches seminars world wide throughout the year, visiting the US, Canada, Australia, France, Italy, Portugal, England, Lithuania, India and New Zealand. He teaches hundreds of students. His seminars are open to students from any style or organisation, continuing his themes of openness and inclusion. Through his teaching at the Jundokan and overseas, Taira has taught many students from all over the world.

In Okinawa the students most closely associated with his teachings are Satoshi Taba, Stewart Azuma, Glenn McIlvride, and Keiji Ito.

 Traditional Okinawa Goju Ryu Karate

Miyazato Sensei and Kapel Sensei

Two men in white and black uniforms standing next to each other.

 Taira Sensei and Kapel Sensei

Two men in white and black uniforms holding a board.

Okinawa Goju Ryu Kenkyu Kai

Kapel Sensei is the owner/teacher of Mountain Martial Arts, Est 1998.  He joined The House Of Karate on Staten Island, in 1981. The style taught there was Shinto Goju Ryu. Shihan Chris DeBaise developed the style which was a blend of Urban Goju and Goju Kai. The owner of that dojo was George Smith (Sensei Smitty) and the Chief instructor during the 90’s was Glenn Cunningham Sensei. However, during the 1990’s our training shifted toward Okinawa Goju Ryu and in 1998 we traveled to Okinawa to train with Eiichi Miyazato Sensei in his Jundokan Dojo.

In 1998 Sensei Mark opened Mountain Martial Arts in Monroe Twp, NJ and has been training and teaching Okinawa Goju Ryu nearly everyday since then.

We are honored to be an Official representative (Shibu-Dojo) and student of Masaji Taira Sensei and The Okinawa Goju Ryu Kenkyu Kai. In addition to being a teacher, Sensei Kapel has also taught, organized and hosted many tournaments and seminars with some of the most talented Goju Ryu practitioners anywhere.

Kapel Sensei regularly teaches seminars specializing in kata/bunkai and is available to travel to your dojo to teach.