Chojun Miyagi was born in Naha City, Okinawa on April 25, 1888 to an aristocratic family. They were in the import/export business and owned two ships which made regular trips to mainland China. 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. Higaonna Sensei was very demanding of his students. Miyagi trained for 13 years in this manner until the death of Higaonna, developing into a powerful Karateka.
He continued to train in the methods he learned from Higaonna at several institutions, always under severe and demanding conditions. He didn’t confine his training to the dojo either. Every waking moment (and while asleep) was spent in pursuit of the art, always remaining vigilant to his surroundings, always planning and ready for whatever might occur.
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.
There is a Chinese text called the Bubushi, a very popular historical reference among Karateka. In it are the eight poems of the fists. The 3rd precept reads, “The way of inhaling and exhaling is hardness and softness.” “Go” means hard and “Ju” means soft. Since his style was a combination of these ideals, he began referring to his art as Goju Ryu. In 1933, Goju Ryu was officially registered as such at the Botoku-Kai, the Japanese Martial Arts Association. In the same year he presented his article, “An outline of Karate-Do.”
The following year, Miyagi Sensei was appointed as head of the Okinawan branch of the Butoku-Kai Association and traveled to Hawaii the same year to introduce Karate there. Upon his return to Naha, he was awarded a commendation from the Ministry of Education for outstanding service in the field of Physical Culture.
In 1936, he returned to China for further study, this time in Shanghai. After his return in 1937, he was awarded the Japanese equivalent to the commendation he received at home. In 1940, he created the beginners kata 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.