Copyright © 2015 Dragon Associates Inc. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Dragon Associates Inc. is prohibited.


 

Interview: Shuichi Aragaki
Interview conducted by Toshihiro Oshiro
Translated by Haruko Chambers


Dragon Times: Sensei, why did you first go to a karate dojo to train?

Shuichi Aragaki: My grandfather Aragaki Ryuko taught Chojun Miyagi karate when he was a child of around ten years old.

Dragon Times: Is that so!?

Shuichi Aragaki: Yes! Chojun Sensei was so good that my grandfather took him to train with Kanryo sensei.

Dragon Times: How old was he at that time?

Shuichi Aragaki: 10 to 12 years old. The Miyagi family were grandfather's neighbors so Chojun sensei would be with him a lot practising karate. My grandfather taught him how to punch, basic stuff life that. Grandfather was about thirteen years older than Chojun sensei.

He told me that one day Chojun sensei asked him to hold his geta because he was going to pick a fight with someone in the street. He told my grandfather "hide and watch me. If I lose run away." Grandfather realized that he needed a hard master to control him so he took him to practice with Kanryo Higaonna sensei.

Then our family went to Taiwan and lost contact with Chojun Sensei After the war we returned to Okinawa and re-established contact. His dojo was in Tsuboya and grandfather took me to Chojun sensei and I became a student at the Garden Dojo. This is how I started karate training.

Dragon Times: So you had quite a connection with Chojun Sensei.

Shuichi Aragaki: Not personally, not then, but I had heard so much about Chojun Sensei from grandfather. At that time Chojun sensei refused to take students, he was only training An'ichi Miyagi, but he agreed to take me because of my grandfather.

Dragon Times: When was this?

Shuichi Aragaki: In 1951. I was an elementary school teacher. I worked in the day time and in the evening I went to Miyagi sensei's house to train. He was always waiting for us in the corner of the dojo sitting in seiza. So even if I didn't feel like going I really had to because he was waiting for us every evening. He didn't charge us anything for training.

Dragon Times: That must be hard on your teacher.

Shuichi Aragaki: He was getting a salary for teaching the police, so he never charged students.

Dragon Times: That's hard for the students, having that sort of obligation.

Shuichi Aragaki: Well, twice a year at O Bon and New Year as was the custom we would give him presents. Every day we would arrive at 5 o'clock to cut firewood, draw water and clean up the garden before starting to train at 6 o'clock. So we contributed our work to Chojun sensei. After the war life was very hard and everyone was poor.

Dragon Times: Only two students, you and An'ichi Miyagi?

Shuichi Aragaki: That's right.

Dragon Times: I heard that Chojun Miyagi and Choki Motobu had a fight. Is that so?

Shuichi Aragaki: Well I heard that too, but it's best not to comment on such things. Both of them were great karate men who founded schools of karate so out of respect for them I don't want to say anything.

Dragon Times: In the old days these fights were fairly common weren't they?

Shuichi Aragaki: In the old days, yes. The other day I heard from the principal of an elementary school that in Koto Oyama in Shuri there were always people who would accept a challenge to fight. You know, kakedameshi. In Naha at the graveyard you could always find someone to try your skill on. Even when you were walking on the street and you saw someone coming towards you who looked strong or had an unpleasant manner you could challenge him to kakedameshi.

It wasn't so much like an argument or a really bitter confrontation rather a test of ability. If you challenged someone much stronger or much weaker, you could withdraw. If you encountered someone your own level you could fight. It was unusual for anyone to get really badly hurt.

Dragon Times: They say that in the old days in Okinawa they didn't do kumite in the dojo.

Shuichi Aragaki: No, they did it in the dojo and outside as well. When you left the dojo you wouldhave to be careful because people would hang around outside to pick a fight with students and see how good they were. You avoided dark alleys on the way home and always kept alert to make sure that nobody was following you. (continued)

Dragon Times: I have heard some people say that Miyagi Sensei was a gentleman. Others say that he was scary. What was your personal experience?

Shuichi Aragaki: Actually Miyagi sensei was very scary, terrifying in fact. I couldn't go near him, he had such an aura. When he practised karate his eyes glowed and emanated power. He was a bushi. His gaze was intimidating. While he was talking to me he would fix me with his eyes and I would be afraid. It was like a snake looking at a mouse, I could not move when he looked at me. However in his family life he was a gentle and kind man. During training he was very hard and would slap us because when you are told something in training you might forget, but if you are slapped you always remember. I was so scared of his slap.

In the old days my seniors said that if you asked a question he would ignore you. However, when I was training at his dojo he was older and more mellow. If we asked a question he would explain in detail so I think I am very lucky that I trained when I did.

Dragon Times: How did Miyagi sensei train his students?

Shuichi Aragaki: Chojun sensei's garden was his dojo. It was small but there were huge stones there. He would say move that stone here, then, move it there, then move it back. I cleaned the garden and the house for three months before I started training. If I think about it now he was just checking me to see if I was serious about training or not. Of course at that time there was only one student, An'ichi Miyagi. The only reason Chojun sensei accepted me as a student was because of his relationship with my grandfather.

Dragon Times: Did Miyagi sensei practice sanchin at that time?

Shuichi Aragaki: He tested our shime. We only wore shorts not karate gi, and he would he would hit you on the shoulders, body, legs, all over. Because of this our technique would get better and our bodies stronger.

Dragon Times: How about the other kata?

Shuichi Aragaki: We learned Gekki sai dai ichi, Saifa, Seiyunchin, Shisochin, and Sesan in that order. Most of the time we trained to make ourselves strong by using chi'ishi, sashi, kongo ken and the makiwara. We spent a lot of time on this because we were young. As a result, even at my age I can still do the same things as young people.

Dragon Times: How did training with Miayagi sensei change your life?

Shuichi Aragaki: After I started going to Miyagi sensei's dojo it did change. I dedicated myself to karate. Although I worked during the day and only practised at night, even while working I thought only of karate and was greatly influenced by it. Karate made me patient, and gave me robust health. I am nearly seventy years old now but, since I joined Chojun sensei's dojo a day have never passed in my life without me thinking deeply about karate. My senior said that karate training finishes when you die. Your are finished when they put you in a coffin.

Dragon Times: Has Goju ryu changed since Miyagi sensei's death?

Shuichi Aragaki: One month before Miyagi sensei passed away I left to study in Tokyo. The following year I came back to Okinawa and then went back to Tokyo again. I could see that training on the mainland was changing all the time.

Dragon Times: How about Okinawa?

Shuichi Aragaki: Not so much.

Dragon Times: How would you compare Morio Higaonna sensei's Goju ryu with what you learned from Chojun Miyagi sensei when you were a young man?

Shuichi Aragaki: It's the same. He trains with chi'ishi, sashi, basic power training the same as me. That is his policy. I also use chi'ishi, sashi, and the makiwara just as I did when I trained with Miyagi sensei. Makiwara training is very important. In the old days we developed our strength by practising hojo undo, punching the makiwara, and studying kata very seriously. People like Morio sensei and myself carry on this tradition.

Dragon Times: Sensei, thank you very much for your time. We enjoyed talking to you.