Chojun Miyagi was born in Naha City, Okinawa in 1888 to an aristocratic family. The family was among the wealthiest in the area.
Miyagi began his formal training at age 11, in the dojo of Ryuko Aragaki. At the age of 14, he was first introduced to Kanryo Higaonna, and after a period of doing chores for Higaonna Sensei to earn his place, was accepted as a student.
Training was very severe with a lot of running and strength exercises. It is said that Miyagi sometimes passed out while performing Sanchin Kata. Miyagi trained for 13 years in this manner until the death of Higaonna, developing into a powerful karate-ka. He continued to train in the methods he learned from Higaonna at several institutions, always under severe and demanding conditions.
In 1921, he was chosen to represent Naha-Te in a presentation to the visiting crown prince Hirohito, who would eventually become emperor, and gave an impressive performance. He repeated this in 1925 for Prince Chichibu. He began to visualize the future of the Okinawan fighting arts, and in 1926 set up the Karate Research Club.
Miyagi began referring to his style as Goju Ryu in reference to a poem from a Chinese text called the Bubushi. The poem read “The way of inhaling and exhaling is hardness and softness.” Go means hard and Ju means soft. In 1933, Goju Ryu was officially registered as such at the Botoku-Kai, the Japanese Martial Arts Association. In 1940, Miyagi Sensei created the beginner katas Gekisai Dai Ichi and Gekisai Dai Ni.
Chojun Miyagi died on October 8, 1953 from either a heart attack (the most popular explanation) or a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 65. His legacy lives on through his senior students and the untold Karateka whose lives he continues to influence.