A pioneer of Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate in the United States, Anthony Mirakian was an exponent of traditional Karate as he had been taught in Okinawa. Alongside the likes of Pat Burleson, Bruce Lee, Jhoon Rhee, Allen Steen, George Mattson, Ed Parker, Tsutomu Ohshima, and Robert Trias, he was an early pioneer of Asian martial arts in the United States.
Anthony Mirakian was born on 12 November 1933 in Havana, Cuba. His parents, Ruben and Vartouhi Mirakian were Armenians who fled their country due to the genocide. He had a sister.
Mirakian grew up in Cuba, where he attended school. He graduated from school and was the valedictorian of his class.
By 1950 Mirakian had become an American citizen, having been granted a Green Card.
On 25 June 1950, Korean War began with North Korea invading South Korea. Mirakian had dreamed of becoming a pilot, so he enrolled in the United States Air Force.
As the Korean War raged, Mirakian was deployed to Okinawa. He was stationed at the Kadena Air Force Base, where he worked as an Air Force Weapons Technician.
During his free time, Mirakian began practising martial arts. His first exposure to Goju–Ryu Karate was at the Shoreikan dojo of Seikichi Toguchi.
Mirakian trained at Toguchi’s dojo six nights a week. The training was intense, with around 40 students training in a hot and humid dojo. All training was supervised by Toguchi, and students were expected to give 100% effort.
Ryutitsu Arakaki also trained at Toguchi’s dojo. He and Mirakian became good friends. Noting how Mirakian was passionate about his training, he suggested he train with Meitoku Yagi, who was considered one of the top Goju-Ryu instructors in Okinawa.
Mirakian and Arakaki visited the dojo of Yagi. Mirakian was interviewed by Yagi for an hour. Satisfied by the answers he received, Yagi excepted him as a student.
Yagi operated a very traditional dojo and training usually lasted for around four hours. Mirakian was the first Westerner to train at Yagi’s Meibukan dojo.
Mirakian would take an hour’s bus ride to train at Yagi’s dojo. Most of his free time was taken up by his Karate practice. He ended up serving several tours of duty, as he wanted to maintain his Karate practice. His dedication saw him eventually become the first Westerner promoted 1st Dan by Yagi.
In 1958 Mirakian represented the Meibukan at a large martial arts demonstration, held in Ginoza. There were over 2000 people in attendance. He was the only Westerner participating. Initially, when he got up to perform his kata, he was booed by some of the crowd. However, by the end of his kata, he had won the crowd over, as they recognised he was a serious martial artist.
Yagi promoted Mirakian to 3rd Dan in November 1959. A party was held in his honour. Some of those in attendance included Meitoku Yagi, Seikichi Toguchi, Shinken Taira, Seikichi Higa, and Ryuritsu Arakaki.
Mirakian completed his final tour of duty and returned to the United States in 1959.
On his return to the United States Mirakian settled in Watertown, Massachusetts. In 1960, he founded the Okinawan Karate-Do Academy at the Armenian American Social Club. This was the introduction of Okinawan Goju–Ryu in the United States. Running a traditional dojo, his classes were known to be intense.
In 1960 Mirakian married Helen Bozkourtian. The following year, their daughter Doreen was born.
Mirakian began working at Raytheon, a technology firm, in 1966.
By 1967 Mirakian had begun to establish his style of Karate in the United States. That year he moved his dojo to a new storefront location. Five years later he relocated his dojo.
In 1972 Meitoku Yagi appointed Mirakian as the Overseas Manager of the Association.
By the mid-1980s Mirakian was widely recognised as one of the faces of traditional Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate in the United States.
Mirakian was promoted to 8th Dan by Yagi in 1985.
On 10 February 1985, Meitatsu Yagi invited Mirakian to a special celebration in honour of his father’s 73rd birthday.
Mirakian travelled to Okinawa with his wife and daughter, as the US representative of Meibukan Goju-Ryu Karate, to celebrate Meitoku Yagi’s birthday.
On 18 August 1990, the 30th Anniversary celebration of the founding of the Okinawan Gojo-Ryu Karate-do Association was held at the Shimin Kaikan in Ginowan, Okinawa. Mirakian was accompanied by his students to the celebration. They participated in the event.
Mirakian was promoted to 9th Dan on 21 October 1990. He travelled to Okinawa where he received his promotion from Meitoku Yagi. Mirakian was the first foreigner to receive the rank from Yagi.
On 17 August 2009 Mirakian’s wife of over 40 years, Helen, died following a bout of illness.
August 2010 marked the 50th anniversary of Mirakian’s teaching career. There were several events to mark the anniversary. Lin Chang-I, a White Crane Kung Fu master from Taiwan, gave a seminar. A banquet was also held. There were representatives from all the major traditional Goju-Ryu organisations in attendance.
Mirakian suffered a stroke in 2014. This did not stop him from going to the dojo to watch the classes.
Anthony Mirakian died on 31 March 2015 in his home in Watertown, Massachusetts. He was 82 years old. He was survived by his daughter Doreen.
On 4 April 2015, a chapel service was held for Mirakian at the Giragosian Funeral Home in Watertown. He was laid to rest at the Ridgelawn Cemetery.
For Anthony Mirakian Karate was never about making money. He never advertised his dojo. He got the majority of the students by word of mouth.
Mirakian tried to run his dojo in the traditional way he had been taught in Okinawa. His dojo was known as the most traditional dojo in North America.
Mirakian’s legacy continues through his students, who continue to teach at his dojo.