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To’on Goju-ryu


A young Kyoda Juhatsu practicing Sanchin

By Yagi Meitoku

Translated by Mario McKenna 2001

The founder of Naha-te, Higashionna Kanryo, had many students who became teachers themselves such as Kyoda Juhatsu, Shiroma Shimpan and Miyagi Chojun. Kyoda Juhatsu traveled to the Japanese mainland and opened a dojo, while Miyagi Chojun strove to promote Naha-te on Okinawa.

Higahionna Kanryo lived a simple and poor life and after his wife passed away Miyagi sensei brought Higashionna sensei to his home and cared for him in his later years like a son. When Higashionna sensei passed away, Miyagi sensei, while preserving the traditional kata, developed new kata and in due time named his art “Goju-ryu” after the phrase “goju tonto” or “[All is] breathing hard and soft”. Thus through Miyagi Chojun’s fervent desire in his Goju-ryu Karate came to be known. It is through these stories that I fondly remember both teachers.

After Miyagi sensei passed away, I went to Oita Prefecture accompanied by Mr. Toguchi to visit Kyoda Juhatsu sensei who was one year older than Miyagi Chojun. I had heard from Miyagi sensei that while he was away serving in the army, that Kyoda sensei had learned the kata Sanseru. With this in mind we asked Kyoda sensei to correct our Sanseru kata and after we performed it for him, Kyoda replied that it was not wrong. Kyoda sensei had instructed Iraha Choko and was now instructing his son (Kyoda’s third son, Kyoda Juko).
We talked about many different things including the passing of Miyagi sensei and that I had become the representative of Goju-ryu. However since Miyagi Chojun’s passing, only Kyoda sensei remained as the most senior student of Higashionna Kanryo and therefore I asked Kyoda sensei to be the Chairman of the Goju-ryu association for its future development and progress. Kyoda sensei responded by saying, “You did not consult me about Higashionna sensei’s kata. I do not think that the name “Goju-ryu” is particularly appropriate and also I am not disciple of Miyagi Chojun’s…”. After a while Kyoda sensei replied, “Even if after consulting with each other I doubt you would consider changing the name “Goju-ryu”, however if you agree to adding “To’on” in front of it to “To’on Goju-ryu” in order to preserve the name of Higashionna sensei, I would consider your request.”

When I returned to Okinawa I consulted the board of directors who weighted the possibility of changing the name Goju-ryu, however “To’on Goju-ryu” never came to light.

Exerpted from “Otoko Meitoku no Jinsei Gekijo”
(The life drama of the man, Meitoku),(2000) pg. 172-174.

Translator’ Note:

Tou'on-ryu, the style of Okinawan Karate taught and named by Kyoda Juhatsu Sensei. Kyoda Juhatsu was born on December 5, 1887 (Meiji 20). Although Kyoda had several instructors, he credited Higashionna Kanryo as his primary teacher. By far Higashionna had the most profound impact on him. Indeed, Kyoda devoted well over a decade of his life to learning Higashionna’s karate-do. So loyal was Kyoda to his teacher, that he named the style of karatedo that he taught after him; Tou’on-ryu (literally ‘Higashion[na] style’). Kyoda Juhatsu died on August 31, 1968 (Showa 43) at the age of 81.

Kyoda's tradition was carried on by Iraha Choko, Kanzaki Shigekazu and Murakami Katsumi. The current headmaster of Tou'on-ryu todaay is Kanzaki Shigekazu.


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About The Author:

Yagi Meitoku was the most senior student of Miyagi Sensei and represented one of the major inheritors of his karate. He is founder of Meibukan School of Okinawa Goju-Ryu. For more information see the biography posted elsewhere on the site.

About The Translator:

Mario began training under Yoshitaka Kinjo sensei in 1985, while a high school student in Lethbridge, Alberta. He moved to Japan in 1994 and while living on the island of Amami Oshima in Kagoshima, Japan, he trained under Minowa Katsuhiko sensei and his student Yoshimura Hiroshi sensei in classical Okinawan weaponry. In 1998 he began studying Tou'on-ryu from Kanzaki Shigekazu sensei until his return to Canada in 2002. He holds a 5th degree black belt in Tou'on-ryu Karatedo, 4th in Ryukyu Kobudo, 3rd in Gohakukai and has practiced Karatedo for over 20 years and kobudo for 10 years. Other martial arts experience includes limited training in Aikido, Judo, Shorinji Kenpo, and 18 months of training in Chikubishima-ryu bo-jutsu in Omura, Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan. He has written on the historical and cultural aspects of martial arts training.


To find more articles of interest, search on one of these keywords:

Karate, Toon-ryu, To?on Ryu, Kyoda Juhatsu, Goju Ryu, Higashionna Kanryo, Naha-Te


Read more articles by Yagi Meitoku

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