Grand Master Meitoku Yagi and Master Meitatsu Yagi
I can not speak of my journey in Gojyu-Ryu unless I talk about the two men who have had such a profound effect on my martial arts path. Dai Sensei Meitoku Yagi and his eldest son Master Meitatsu Yagi.
Dai Sensei Meitoku Yagi was born March 6, 1912 and began training with Master Chojun Miyagi as a teenager, after his grandfather introduced him to the Master. Dai Sensei trained with Master Chojun Miyagi until his teacher died of a heart attack in 1953. He founded his own system of training called Meibukan Gojyu-Ryu. He was the Chairman and Consultant of Meibukan Gojyu-Ryu and International Meibukan Gojyu-Ryu association until his death on Feb. 7, 2003. He performed his last kata demonstration in November 2002 at the Budokan in Naha. He was the only student given permission by Master Chojun Miyagi to open his own dojo and teach in 1952. He established the Okinawa Karate-Do Gojyu-Kai in 1956 and remained president until 1982. He was also president and consultant of the All Okinawa Karate-Do Association from 1975-1982. I would suggest that Gojyu-Ryu Karate-do would not be the same if it hadn’t been for the tremendous contributions of Dai Sensei Meitoku Yagi for 80 years.
Meibukan Gojyu-Ryu (Way of Pure Martial Arts) was born of Dai Sensei Meitoku Yagi honouring his teacher, Master Chojun Miyagi. His goals seemed to be related to doing everything that he could to further develop his teachers Gojyu-Ryu. I understand that in the ‘30s many other martial arts masters of that time regarded Master Chojun Miyagi as a ‘karate genius.’ I would suggest that his senior student Dai Sensei Meitoku Yagi was no less a ‘karate genius’. I will attempt to explain why I feel this way with some observations.
Injuries in free sparring in the early days were serious and discouraging for students so Dai Sensei Meitoku Yagi would not allow free sparring in the hombu dojo. Instead he developed sets of prearranged sparring called Yakusoku Kumite. More specifically a two man interactive exercise to practice basic blocks, strikes, and kicks called Renzoku Kumite. Another interactive exercise to practice blocks, strikes, and kicks involving 5 persons with the defender being attacked from four different directions. Genius!
I feel Dai Sensei wanted to further the development of Okinawa Gojyu-Ryu and in so doing actually made kata or forms to augment Gojyu-Ryu. He made 5 forms, which are the Meibuken or the kata of Meibukan Gojyu-Ryu. As I have observed and trained in other Gojyu-Ryu styles I see most as very hard and powerful. The Meibuken have a Chinese influence and although powerful, they are fluid in movement and seem softer. Genius!
The Meibuken have most of the intricate and difficult movement of the Kaishu kata contained in them. The practitioner is practicing these movements over and over but cloaked in the Meibukan forms. As Master Chojun Miyagi had taught Dai Sensei, basics from the Kaishu have to be practiced over and over until they become instinctive. Genius!
Dai Sensei tried to incorporate Okinawan Kobudo under the great weapons Master Shinken Taira at the hombu dojo. He found however, after a few months it wasn’t compatible with his teaching of Gojyu-Ryu and therefore stopped. Recognizing that people were interested in Okinawan Kobudo Dai Sensei developed Meibukan Kobudo which are done with both sai and bo. These forms use these weapons but the movement and stepping is congruent with the Kaishu kata again giving the practitioner more practice in basic movement and stepping but with weapons in hand. Genius!
Dai Sensei worked for nearly 50 years in various positions to support his family. ex policeman, chief customs officer etc.. Karate was secondary in the fact that he didn’t live off it. Master Meitatsu Yagi explained that ‘…day time job to support family, karate money extra.’ This meant he would not have to compromise his views, his teaching or his passion for Gojyu Ryu. Genius!
Master Meitatsu Yagi is the eldest son of the late Grand Master Meitoku Yagi. Master Meitatsu Yagi didn’t read books or watch training videos to gain his expertise in Karate. He was being tutored directly by the Grand Master himself. By training under his only teacher, his father, for over fifty years, he was groomed and trained to carry on the legacy of Meibukan Gojyu-Ryu Karate. One of Master Yagi’s goals has been to spread Meibukan Gojyu-Ryu Karate throughout the world whenever possible. This being said, Master Yagi has lived, worked, initiated new dojos and taught Meibukan in several places outside of Okinawa and around the world. Master Yagi lived in the US from 1964 to 1970; in Guam 1971 to 1975; in Saipan 1995 to 1997 and in the Philippines 1997 to 1998.
After returning from Guam in 1975, Master Meitatsu Yagi was given the title of Renshi 6th Dan and became a Director of All Okinawan Karate-Do Association in 1976. Also in 1976, he was given the teaching responsibilities at the Hombu Dojo in Okinawa as President of Gojyu-Ryu Meibu-kai with Sensei Meitetsu Yagi (his younger brother) as Vice-President and Grand Master Meitoku Yagi as Chairman/ Consultant.
The founder of Gojyu-Ryu Karate, Chojun Miyagi Sensei, chose the young master Meitoku Yagi to be the first and only person to learn all of the Gojyu-Ryu kata directly from him. Grand Master Meitoku Yagi chose his eldest son Master Meitatsu Yagi to be the first to learn all facets of Meibukan Gojyu-Ryu. Being the direct recipient from the Grand Master, he helped develop and teach all the Meibukan Kata, Renzoku Kumite, Kakomi Kumite, Meibukan Bo, Meibukan Sai, Nihon Kumite, Renzoku form, Kakomi form. From the Grand Master, Sensei Meitatsu Yagi was also charged with the responsibility of teaching all of the senior Meibukan Gojyu-Ryu teachers in Okinawa each Sunday afternoon. Although many profess to be Meibukan practitioners with high respect and admiration for the Grand Master, many have not learned or practiced the forms developed by him for his style. These forms are an integral part of Meibukan Gojyu-Ryu.
Master Meitatsu Yagi was also a director of the All Okinawa Karate-Do Gojyu-Kai for 20 years. He also served a two year term as President of the Okinawan Karate-Do Gojyu-Kai in 1987 as well as President of the Hombu Dojo in Kume.
In 1995 Meitatsu Yagi worked abroad in Saipan and the Philippines returning in 1998 to help care for his father and Grand Master who was ailing at the time. Ensuring that his successor be Master Meitatsu Yagi, Dai Sensei Meitoku Yagi gave Master Meitatsu Yagi the title of Hanshi Judan, Okinawa Karate-Do Gojyu-Kai in 1997. During his lifetime, Grand Master Meitoku Yagi presented only one Hanshi Judan and this was to his eldest son and heir, Master Meitatsu Yagi. To this day, Master Meitatsu Yagi, travels the world meeting and teaching hundreds of people each year in seminars in India, Canada, Israel, Italy, the USA, England,Czec Republic, Slovenia, Hong Kong and France as well as South America. This was the legacy that he was given by the Grand Master.
Master Meitatsu Yagi has also been very active in promoting and developing The Okinawa Traditional Karatedo Kobudo International Studying Center in Yomitan Village, Okinawa. As Master of Meibukan Gojyu-Ryu, he is working with Master Kenyu Chinen of Shorin-Ryu style and Master Yasuo Shimoji of Uechi-Ryu style. All three masters are traditional Okinawan teachers and are working together to promote Okinawa Traditional Karate-Do and Kobudo in Okinawa and around the world.
It is my intention to follow in the steps of these two great Masters, Dai Sensei Meitoku Yagi and Master Meitatsu Yagi. Meibukan Gojyu-Ryu is part of my life and in ‘polishing’ the techniques taught to me by my teachers, it is my hope to gain a better understanding of myself, and the world around me.