Largely known by many as the teacher of Morio Higaonna, Anichi Miyagi was one of Goju–Ryu founder, Chojun Miyagi’s last students. Dedicated to Chojun Miyagi, he tried to stay true to his master’s teachings.
Anichi Miyagi was born on 9 February 1931, in Naha, Okinawa. He was the oldest of three boys.
Between 1 April to 22 June 1945, the Battle of Okinawa took place between Japan and the United States. The three-month battle saw 12,000 American deaths, 100,000 Japanese deaths, and around 100,000 Okinawan civilian deaths. Anichi Miyagi’s parents were among the dead.
Aged only 14, Miyagi had to look after his two younger brothers. He supported them by working at the Kaneda US Air Force Base.
On 1 February 1948, Miyagi and his friends, Chishin Bise, Seikichi Gima, and Tokeshi Kako were accepted by Chojun Miyagi to be his students. Chojun Miyagi had lost many of his students during the war. Some of his remaining students were picking up the pieces of their lives, following the end of the war. He wanted to pass on his system to a new set of students.
Living close to Chojun Miyagi’s Garden Dojo, Anichi Miyagi and his friends initially trained at Chojun Miyagi’s home, before eventually training at the Garden Dojo.
The training at the dojo was very tough. After a year, only Anichi Miyagi was still training. He had formed a close relationship with older Miyagi, who, apart from being his teacher, became a father figure to him.
Chojun Miyagi would give Anichi Miyagi various tasks to do around his home and garden. These tasks were done at various times of the day and were of various difficulties. He was testing the younger man to see what type of character he possessed. Pleased with what he saw in the young man, he eventually took him on as an uchi-deshi (live-in student). Apart from the physical teaching, he also taught him about the history of Okinawan Karate.
For the next few years, Anichi Miyagi trained with Chojun Miyagi, every day, learning much of what the master had to teach. It is thought that during this time, Miyagi changed his teaching style. Before the war, he taught his senior student’s different parts of the syllabus. He taught his young student, the majority of the Goju-Ryu syllabus.
In 1951 Chojun Miyagi began accepting new students at his Garden Dojo. The first of the new students was Shuichi Aragaki, the grandson of his first teacher Ryuko Aragaki. By the following year, the number of students at the Garden Dojo had increased. One of Anichi Miyagi’s brothers also started training at the dojo.
On 8 October 1953 Chojun Miyagi died from a heart attack. Anichi Miyagi had been training with him the previous night. He had been the last student to leave the dojo. He heard about the death, the following day on the radio and rushed to his master’s house. He had lost a teacher, mentor, and father figure.
At the time of his death, Chojun Miyagi had not named a successor. Over time several of his students, including Anichi Miyagi claimed to be his successor. However, it was one of his senior students, Eiichi Miyazato, who was unanimously selected as his successor.
In 1955 Morio Higaonna began training at the Garden Dojo. He was introduced to the dojo by his friend, Tsunetaka Shimabukuru, who was already training there. He mainly trained under Anichi Miyagi.
In August 1957, the Garden Dojo moved to a new location. The new dojo was named the Jundokan after Jigaro Kano’s first Judo club. Anichi Miyagi was responsible for the majority of the teaching at the new dojo.
Miyagi left the Jundokan in 1959. He had had some disagreements with Miyazato on the way. Goju-Ryu should be taught at the Jundokan. He felt they were moving away from the teachings of Chojun Miyagi.
Work was still hard to come by in Okinawa during this time. In 1959, Miyagi found work on an American-owned oil tanker and left Okinawa to become a merchant seaman.
Over the coming years, even though Miyagi was no longer teaching at the Jundokan, Morio Higaonna would train with him every chance he got. Whenever he visited Okinawa he would train with Miyagi.
Apart from training Higaonna, Miyagi largely removed himself from day-to-day teaching. He led a quiet and simple life.
In 1979 the IOGKF (International Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate-Do Federation) was established and was led by Higaonna. Miyagi was appointed the Honorary Chairman of the IOGKF.
In 2007, Miyagi promoted his longtime student, Morio Higaonna to the rank of 10th Dan.
By 2008, Miyagi’s health was beginning to deteriorate. Even so, he managed to give a lecture to IOGKF members at the 2008 Gishiki held in Okinawa.
On 28 April 2009, Anichi Miyagi died from a heart attack aged 79. His funeral was held. Two days later.
Anichi Miyagi was a man who led a simple life. He was not interested in the trappings of fame or fortune. Perhaps, this has led to some questions about his lineage, and whether he was a direct student of Chojun Miyagi.
Morio Higaonna and Tetsuji Nakamura have gone on record several times stating that Anichi Miyagi was a direct student of Chojun Miyagi. Also Chishin Bise, and Shuichi Aragaki, who are both students of Chojun Miyagi, have given interviews stating that Anichi Miyagi was a direct student of Chojun Miyagi. As a senior student at the Garden Dojo, he taught them kata. They have also stated what a phenomenal martial artist he was.