Memories of my Miyagi Sensei
My father, Chojun, loved his children very much. Though my name is Yasu now, my old name was Thuru before I was married. As I used to be very active and gymnastic, my father’s students, Mr. Matama and others, said to me, “Could you do Karate?, please do it”. At that time I wore Koshimaki (the cloth) instead of pants. I imitated my father’s Karate with wearing only Koshimaki in front of this people. They really enjoyed and clapped enthusiastically. After having four daughters my father got a son, his name is Kei. My sisters were quiet, but I was very active. I have always imitated my father’s Karate. I have ten brothers and sisters. The oldest sister used to be a teacher in kindergarten. Her husband was also a teacher in a school and became a director before he retired. She died of fever after the delivery of the girl when she was only 28 years old. I am the second child and 4 years younger than my oldest sister. My father went to the War (First World War) when he was 21 years old. I was born after his return when my parents were both 25 years old. They were both born in the year of the mouse and so was I. After me, there were two daughters and then the first son, Kei, was born. My father was very pleased and loved the son incredibly. It seemed that he could not feel any pain, even though he takes his son in his eyes (Japanese expression). I used to be jealous as a child for the fact that a boy was very important in family. So I forced Kei to enter the Japanese cabinet to make him cry when my parents were not at home. I am 7 years older than Kei and 19 years older than my youngest brother, his name is Ken-Bou (Bou is used for children only). When I walked with Ken-Bou some people asked, “When did you get married and have a child ?” My father loved his children very much. This morning (30th march, 1978) I tried to cut my nails. Usually my grandson cuts my nails, but he has gone skating today. It reminded me that my father used to wash our hair on every Saturday evening when we were small. At that time we did not have shampoo like today, instead we used the washing powder. After that we took bath and he cut our nails. The way he cut the nails was so short that it hurted. Also as my hand has been tensed by it, he has hit me gently with the scissors. When I cut my nails I always remember that my father used to cut my nails every week. So the memory makes me embarrassed if I have long nails.
He was strict about cleaning and organizing. He would become angry when I did not put my books on the shelves properly. When I did not know how to read Kanji (Chinese character), I put Hiragana (Japanese alphabet) along the Kanji. He was angry that I could not even memorize the Kanji.
He was adopted to another family and then changed his name from Matsu to Chojun. He started learning Karate because when he was small he was not very healthy. The house where he was born, was a pharmacy. They sold the medicines to the royal households . They imported the medicines from China and had two ships. When I was small I found natural medicines, for example, the sweet plants(licorice) which were cleanses the toxins after childbirth. There was a medicine, Saikaku(rhino horn), that was sold solely to the royal households in the region. My father was adopted to the main house of his family (his uncle, his father’s oldest brother) when he was 3 or 4 years old. My father’s name used to be Matsu(pine tree). But his rich neighbour gave his new name, Chojun. His new family was very rich. My father has been China many times to learn Karate. I have been having good memory since I was 3 years old. Although he had a master in Okinawa, Kanryo Higaonna Sensei, he wanted to go to China to learn Karate. This because Karate came from China originally. But Chinese people hesitated to teach him Karate. So he paid money to learn. I was always looking forward to get the souvenirs from China.
My father died of heart attack.
My father died in October, the 28th year of Showa (1953) of heart attack. He was 66 years old. I was in Tokyo when he passed away. At that time I had a house in Kyoto and some medical students who came from Okinawa were living in my house. When they went to Okinawa I asked them to bring some unusual souvenirs for my father. I have heard that he was not going to live more than 3 years. Just 1 year before he died, I received the telegraph from him, and I went back to Okinawa to see him. He was very pleased and called all his students, “Yasu has come back. Could you come to see her?” It was very surprising when I saw all this people. But it was very good that I went back to see him before he died. The third year of the first heart attack seems most dangerous. He died in the dangerous period. He was too young to die. I wanted him to live longer. He used to tell to my mother. “The people who do Karate in Shuri, can live longer, but not in Naha. So I really want to live long.” (He lived in Naha. So he wanted to prove that someone who did Karate could live long in Naha.)
He collected many materials about Karate. He wished to write the book of Karate. When I asked if he wants to write the book he said he has to do more research in China again. Unfortunately the Second world War had started and all materials were burnt and destroyed. He regretted this very much.
My father’s training wear dedicated to Meitoku Yagi Sensie.
Here is Meitoku Yagi Sensei. He is same age as me. When we were small, I called him, “Yagi, Yagi”. Then he said, “As I am a man, you should use the polite words.” So I was against him and said, “It is not necessary. We are same age!” My mother and I decided to give my father’s training wear to Mr. Yagi. When my mother was still alive, we tried to decide to whom we should give this training wear to. Should we give it to Kei (the oldest son) or not? But finally we decided to give it to the person who has been doing Karate for a long time and dedicated to my father. That was Mr. Yagi. My brother, Kei, did not come back to Okinawa when my father died, even though he has a obligation, as the oldest son, to come back when once’s parents die. I preferred to give this training wear to Mr. Yagi instead of Kei, because of this reason. Mr Yagi started learning Karate when he was 14 years old. My father would be also pleased for this decision. In September this year, it will be the thirteenth anniversary of my mother’s death. We gave my father’s training wear to Mr. Yagi two to three years before my mother died. My father wrote his name, Master Miyagi, on his training wear. Kei wanted it and still thought that he can take the way of Gojuryu, because he is the oldest son. But I do not think so. The most important person who has developed the way of Gojuryu is Mr. Yagi. I think the person who does one’s best for Gojuryu should be the leader. The leader is not necessary to be the son of my father. But Kei can not understand what I mean. At the beginning the students could not understand as well. So I said to my brothers, “You have to think. Though you are the son, you have not done Karate. Have you learnt Karate from our father more than Mr. Yagi?” I am sure that my father would have agreed with me. This is the only way to follow the will of my father. Ken-Bou (the youngest brother) can understand. He said that they should not say anything about who should become the leader. The person who will take Gojuryu will follow the way of Karate, not the position of my father.
Note: The English translation of this interview was done by Ms. Keiko Sato for the Netherlands Meibukan Gojuryu Karate-Do Headquarters. She is currently a university student at the University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands.
Poon Chan. November 1999