conducted by Toshihiro Oshiro
Translated by Haruko Chambers
Times: Sensei, why did you first go to a karate dojo to train?
My grandfather Aragaki Ryuko taught Chojun Miyagi karate when he was a child
of around ten years old.
Times: Is that so!?
Yes! Chojun Sensei was so good that my grandfather took him to train with
Times: How old was he at that time?
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.
Times: So you had quite a connection with Chojun Sensei.
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.
Times: When was this?
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.
Times: That must be hard on your teacher.
He was getting a salary for teaching the police, so he never charged students.
Times: That's hard for the students, having that sort of obligation.
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
Times: Only two students, you and An'ichi Miyagi?
Times: I heard that Chojun Miyagi and Choki Motobu had a fight.
Is that so?
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.
Times: In the old days these fights were fairly common weren't
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.
Times: They say that in the old days in Okinawa they didn't do
kumite in the dojo.
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
Times: I have heard some people say that Miyagi Sensei was a gentleman.
Others say that he was scary. What was your personal experience?
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
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.
Times: How did Miyagi sensei train his students?
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.
Times: Did Miyagi sensei practice sanchin at that time?
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.
Times: How about the other kata?
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.
Times: How did training with Miayagi sensei change your life?
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.
Times: Has Goju ryu changed since Miyagi sensei's death?
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.
Times: How about Okinawa?
Not so much.
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?
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.
Times: Sensei, thank you very much for your time. We enjoyed talking