OKINAWAN KARATE-DO ACADEMY MEIBUKAN GOJU-RYU TM
INTERVIEW OF SENSEI ANTHONY MIRAKIAN (September 2nd 1997) By Eric Tuttle
Note: The questions of this interview were supplied by Eric Tuttle Sifu of the Kingston Twin Mountain Kung Fu Club in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Tuttle Sifu has been a good friend of Mirakian Sensei for the past 15 years. Mirakian Sensei has graciouly supplied all the answers to Hing-Poon Chan of the GTKA during his visit to Ottawa between September 2nd to September 4th and September 20th 1997.
Q. Sensei Mirakian, for what purpose are you visiting Canada?
A. I travelled to Canada at the invitation of Sensei Hing-Poon Chan to visit and teach Okinawan Meibukan Goju-ryu karate at his dojo, the Gloucester Traditional Karate Association in Ottawa, Canada.
Q. Who is your representative for the Okinawan Meibukan Goju-ryu Karate-do Association in Canada?
A. Sensei Hing-Poon Chan is my newly appointed representative in Canada.
Q. Why did you choose Sensei Hing-Poon Chan as your Okinawan Meibukan Goju-ryu karate representative in Canada?
A. I chose Sensei Hing-Poon Chan to be my representative in Canada in order that he promote and expand genuine Okinawan Meibukan Goju-ryu karate-do throughout Canada under my guidance. Sensei Hing-Poon Chan visited and trained diligently at my dojo in Watertown, Massachusetts, U. S. A., where I carefully observed his dedication and attitude towards the art of Okinawan Meibukan Goju-ryu karate-do. Because of the loyalty, skill, and sincerity which he has demonstrated, I am very confident that Sensei Hing-Poon Chan is well qualified to be my representative in Canada. Therefore, I have designated his dojo, the Gloucester Traditional Karate Association in Ottawa as the Headquarters for Okinawan Meibukan Goju-ryu Karate in Canada, and I welcome this new branch in my Association.
Q. Is Sensei Hing-Poon Chan the first representative you appointed in your organization?
A. No. Sensei Alexander C. Opdam is my first overseas representative in the Netherlands. He is a strong, skillful Meibukan Goju-ryu karate practitioner who has trained very diligently under me. I designated his dojo as the Netherlands Headquarters for Okinawan Meibukan Goju-ryu karate, and I am pleased to have this branch in Nijmegen, Netherlands, in my Association.
Q. Your dojo in Watertown, Massachusetts, is the U. S. A. Headquarters for the Okinawan Meibukan Goju-ryu Karate-do Association. When did you receive that authorization and from whom?
A. I received authorization from Grandmaster Meitoku Yagi on March 15, 1961, establishing my dojo in Watertown (Okinawan Karate-do Academy, Meibukan Goju-ryu) as the U. S. A. Headquarters for the Okinawan Meibukan Goju-ryu Karate-do Association.
Q. What was your rank when you left Okinawa?
A. When I left Okinawa at the end of November, 1959, 1 held the rank of 3rd degree black belt, Sandan, given to me by Grandmaster Meitoku Yagi.
Q. What rank do you hold now?
A. Ninth degree black belt (Hanshi). Grandmaster Meitoku Yagi promoted me to the rank of Kudan, Hanshi (9th degree) while I was in Okinawa on October 21, 1990. I am the only Meibukan Goju-ryu karate practitioner outside of Okinawa who holds this high rank.
Q. What other position do you hold in the Okinawan Meibukan Goju-ryu Karate-do Association?
A. Grandmaster Meitoku Yagi appointed me Overseas General Manager for the Okinawan Meibukan Goju-ryu Karate-do Association.
Q. Was this an official appointment?
A. Yes. I was awarded a certificate dated March 6, 1972, given in accordance with the provisions of the Okinawan Goju-ryu Karate-do Association and signed by Grandmaster Meitoku Yagi.
Q. Who became the legitimate successor of Grandmaster Chojun Miyagi's Okinawan Goju-ryu karate?
A. Grandmaster Meitoku Yagi is the legitimate and only successor of Grandmaster Chojun Miyagi's Goju-ryu Karate. Grandmaster Meitoku Yagi is the only one who was taught all of the karate katas by Grandmaster Chojun Miyagi. Also, he trained the longest with Grandmaster Chojun Miyagi, became the top student of Grandmaster Chojun Miyagi, and contributed the most to Okinawan Goju-ryu karate. Nowadays, some Okinawan Goju-ryu karate practitioners in Okinawa are trying to revise historical facts and are distorting the truth about the rightful heir of Chojun Miyagi's Goju-ryu karate.
Q. Is there a lineage chart of Grandmaster Meitoku Yagi's Meibukan Association?
A Yes. I have included a current official lineage chart at the end of this interview.
Q. Who was the top karate student at the Meibukan Goju-ryu dojo on Okinawa while you were training in karate in the 1950's?
A. The top karate student was Yushun Tamaki who was an assistant instructor to Grandmaster Meitoku Yagi in the Meibukan Goju-ryu karate dojo.
Q. Describe the karate training you had with sensei Yushun Tamaki in the Meibukan Goju-ryu karate dojo.
A. The karate training with sensei Yushun Tamaki was very intense, strict, and powerful. He taught classes along with Grandmaster Meitoku Yagi who would oversee the entire karate training while Sensei Yushun Tamaki assisted. Occasionally, Grandmaster Meitoku Yagi would show the application of a karate technique by demonstrating with Sensei Tamaki.
Q. What were the ranks of your classmates while you were training at Grandmaster Meitoku Yagi's dojo in Kume, Naha, Okinawa?
A. While I was training in the late 1950's at the Meibukan Goju-ryu karate dojo in Kume, Naha, Okinawa, the ranks of my classmates were: Yushun Tamaki, 4th degree black belt (Yondan); Shosei Shiroma, lst degree black belt (shodan); Meitatsu Yagi, Green Belt; Shigetoshi Senaha, White Belt; Tsuioshi Nakasone, Brown Belt; and myself, 2nd degree black belt (Nidan). Note: Please refer to photograph in Fighting Arts International magazine, Vol. No. 66, page 13. click here for photo
Q. After you left Okinawa what promotions were given to your former karate classmates by Grandmaster Meitoku Yagi?
A. In March, 1961, Grandmaster Meitoku Yagi promoted Yushun Tamaki to 5th degree black belt (Godan), Shosei Shiroma to 3rd degree black belt (Sandan), Shigetoshi Senaha and Tsuioshi Nakasone to 2nd degree black belt (Nidan) and Kyoshi Nakamoto and Meitatsu Yagi to lst degree black belt (Shodan).
Q. Was Meitetsu Yagi training in the Meibukan Goju-ryu Karate Hombu Dojo while you were training there?
A. No. Meitetsu Yagi was not training with us in karate while I was at the Hombu dojo. He was too young to be in the formal karate workouts.
Q. Who is the most senior active Okinawan Goju-ryu karate master in the Meibukan Association?
A. Since karate master Yushun Tamaki on Okinawa retired from active practice many years ago, I am the most senior active Okinawan Goju-ryu karate master in the Meibukan Association. In Grandmaster Meitoku Yagi's dojo in the late 1950's, Yushun Tamaki was the most senior advanced student, and I was the next most senior student. Shigetoshi Senaha was much younger than I, and he was a white belt at that time. Meitatsu Yagi was a green belt and also much younger than I when I was a black belt.
Q. How does Okinawan karate training in the United States compare with the karate training in Okinawa?
A. The training in the United States compares favorably with the training in Okinawa today. There are many good Okinawan karate schools in the United states, and there are many bad ones. However, the same thing is true in Okinawa. In many dojos in Okinawa the karate training nowadays is not what it was in the 1950's when intensive and lengthy karate training classes were given. In my karate dojo in Watertown, Massachusetts, the training has remained hard, long, and strict. My training classes are three hours long, four times a week. Presently, in most of the schools in both the United states and Okinawa, the workouts are only 1 1/2 hours long and three times a week. When I visited Okinawa in 1985 and again in 1990, I noticed that the workouts had been changed drastically from the intensive training of the 1950's. This change brought nostalgia to me, as most of the hard workouts of the 1950's were gone.
Q. How long has karate been practiced in Okinawa?
A. Karate has been practiced in Okinawa for over one thousand years. Okinawa (Ryukyu Islands) is the true home of karate.
Q. What is your opinion of the present standards for black-belt promotions in Okinawa and elsewhere?
A. The black-belt promotions are being given by the karate instructors
much too fast. Therefore, the ranks awarded to the karate practitioners
are highly inflated and the recipients are often not properly trained,
qualified, or deserving.
Q. What are your standards and how do you promote and rank the karate students in your dojo?
A. The promotions in my dojo are based on the strict standards that the Okinawans maintained in Okinawa in the 1950's and early 1960's. My students must be well qualified and well trained to be considered for promotion to black belt from me.
Q. What is the highest black-belt promotion you have given in your dojo?
A. In the over thirty-seven years that I have been teaching Meibukan Goju-ryu karate in Watertown, Massachusetts, U. S. A., the highest rank that I have awarded is 4th degree black belt, Yondan. I have students who have been training with me for fifteen, twenty, twenty-five, and thirty years and who still continue to train. Karate should be practiced for life.
Q. On what do you base your ranking system?
A. My first requirement is that the student has good character. He must have proven his honesty and dedication to the art of karate and to me. The most important aspect of the training in karate in my school is not the final destination (the goal, the black belt), but the journey itself (the training).
Q. What rank was required in Okinawa in the 1950's for a black-belt karate instructor to operate his own dojo in Okinawan Goju-ryu karate?
A. When I was training in Okinawa the requirement was that a black-belt instructor had to be at least a Sandan, 3rd degree black belt, to be eligible to open and operate his own dojo. However, the instructor was required to continue his formal karate training with his karate master. In those times in the 1950's in Okinawa, a Sandan was a well-trained karate-ka; the equivalent of a 4th, 5th, 6th, or even higher rank of nowadays.
Q. When did you open your karate dojo in Watertown, Massachusetts, U. S. A.?
A. I opened my Okinawan Meibukan Goju-ryu karate dojo in Watertown in 1960 when I had the rank of 3rd degree black belt, Sandan.
Q. What are your requirements for your students to open and operate a karate dojo?
A. My first requirement is that the student must have received the rank of Sandan (3rd degree black belt) from me. My very strict karate training and promotion policies ensure that a Sandan karate practitioner is well qualified to teach based on the very high standards of the karate training on Okinawa in the 1950's. I also require that the karate student must have other qualities which are very important besides the training such as sincerity, honesty, and dedication to the art of Meibukan Goju-ryu karate-do and to me.
Q. Is there a moral obligation in the relationship of the karate student to his master in Okinawan karate?
A. Yes. There is such a principle which is known as Giri.
Q. What is the meaning of Giri?
A. The meaning of Giri is duty, responsibility, honor. In the case of the relationship of the student to his karate master, the student has a responsibility, debt, towards his master, because what the master is passing down to the student is something unique. The obligation which the student has towards his karate master is that no matter what the karate student will give or do for his master the student will never be able to repay the master for what the master has given the student.
Q. Weapons training (kobudo) has been incorporated into some Meibukan Goju-ryu karate forms such as Saifa and Shisochin. Do you think training with weapons like the Bo and the Sai using Goju-ryu karate katas is good practice?
A. Definitely no. Kobudo and karate should not be mixed as they are two different martial arts each with its own principles. weapons training (kobudo) has its own characteristics, principles, and forms which are not exactly like karate forms; and the two martial arts should be practiced separately. Karate means empty hands. Practicing karate katas with weapons is a contradiction.
Q. Did you have kobudo training in Okinawa?
A. Yes. when I trained in the Meibukan Goju-ryu karate dojo, the late famous kobudo Grandmaster Shinken Taira was invited by Grandmaster Meitoku Yagi on many occasions to teach us kobudo, weapons training. Note: Please refer to photograph in Fighting Arts International magazine, Vol. No. 67, page 16. click here for photo
Q. Is there free-fighting practice (jiyu kumite) in the training of Okinawan Meibukan Goju-ryu karate?
A. No. Free fighting was not practiced in the dojo of Grandmaster Meitoku Yagi when I trained in the 1950's, and it isn't practiced now. Grandmaster Meitoku Yagi never taught free fighting.
Q. Why wasn't free fighting practiced in the Meibukan Goju-ryu karate dojo in Okinawa?
A. Grandmaster Meitoku Yagi believed that the free fighting in karate turned the art of self-defense into a sport, and traditional karate is not a sport.
Q. To what do you attribute the present international growth and popularity of Okinawan Meibukan Goju-ryu karate-do?
A. Hard work and dedication. I have spent thirty-seven years working for the expansion and promulgation of Okinawan Meibukan Goju-ryu karate-do. I am proud that I have succeeded in making the name of Grandmaster Meitoku Yagi well known and in making Meibukan Goju-ryu karate-do internationally recognized.
Q. Who was the most famous Okinawan karate master whom you had the honor of meeting while you were training in Okinawa?
A. I met many great martial-art masters while I was in the orient, but one of my greatest experience was meeting the late legendary Okinawan karate Grandmaster Juhatsu Kiyoda while I was visiting in his home in Beppu, Japan. Grandmaster Juhatsu Kiyoda was sempai (senior) to Grandmaster Chojun Miyagi and was one of the three top students of karate Grandmaster Kanryo Higaonna. Grandmaster Juhatsu Kiyoda was the founder of Toon-ryu karate. He named his style in honor of his Grandmaster Kanryo Higaonna. Note: Please refer to photographs in Fighting Arts International magazine, Vol. 66, page 11, and Vol 67, page 10. click here for photo
Q, How was the style named Toon-ryu?
A. one of the Japanese characters in Grandmaster Kanryo Higaonna's last name is pronounced Toon.
Q. Is Toon-ryu karate being practiced today?
A. Yes. Toon-ryu karate is being practiced in the city of Beppu in the southern island of Japan and elsewhere. There are Okinawans who have been taught Toon-ryu karate by the late Grandmaster Juhatsu Kiyoda. I had the honor of personally meeting some of them while I was in Okinawa.
Q. Is Toon-ryu karate identical to Goju-ryu karate?
A. There are great similarities in both styles; but, those who had trained with Grandmaster Juhatsu Kiyoda claimed that his style was the closest style to Grandmaster Kanryo Higaonna's Naha-te which Grandmaster Higaonna brought from Fukien Province, China, around 1890.
Q. What is your advice for the betterment of the Okinawan Meibukan Goju-ryu Karate-do Association?
A. My advice to the practitioners of Meibukan Goju-ryu karate-do is to adopt the strict standards of the karate training of the 1950's. Therefore, we need harder karate training, more dedication, true respect, less politics, no divisive policies, and greater unity than prevails today. As the old saying reminds us, "There is strength in unity."
Okinawan Meibukan Goju-Ryu Karate Lineage Chart
Ru Ru Ko (Liu Liu Ko) Fuchow, Fukien, China | | Kanryo Higaonna (Naha-te) (Okinawa) | | Chojun Miyagi (Founder, Goju-Ryu) (Okinawa) | | Meitoku Yagi (Meibukan Goju-Ryu Karate-Do Association) | | |__ Yushun Tamaki (Retired, Inactive) | (Okinawa) | | |__ Anthony Mirakian (Senior Active Student of | (Watertown, Ma) Grandmaster Meitoku Yagi) | U.S.A. | | | |________ Alexander C. Opdam, Headquarters | | (Nijmegen, Netherlands) | | | |________ Hing-Poon Chan, Headquarters | | (Ottawa, Canada) | |__ Shosei Shiroma | (Okinawa) | | |__ Shigetoshi Senaha | (Okinawa) | | | | Sigemitu Gushiken | | Hidenobu Tamaki | | Hokama | | Tatsuya Akamine | | Mitsuhiro Akamine | |____________ Teruo Higa | | |__ Kyoshi Nakamoto | (Okinawa) | | |__ Meitatsu Yagi Yasunori Yonamine, Sao Paolo, Brazil | (Saipan) Rajesh L. Thakkar, Bombay, India | __________________ Marc Dodds, Canada |__ Meitetsu Yagi Cristofoli Clemente, Australia | (Okinawa) Carl A. Wheeler, Canada | | Benyamini Yaron, Israel | | | |__ Shintetsu Kuniyoshi | |__ Seisho Kuniyoshi | (Okinawa) | |__ Kyoshi Horikawa | (Okinawa) | |__ Masaaki Ikemiyagi | (Okinawa) Johanes Fong Australia | | __________ Wade Chroninger USA | | |__ Masami Odo | (Okinawa) | |__ Tadanori Shiki | (Japan)