Martial Arts Wisdom

Meitoku Yagi

Contributed by: Wade Chroninger

In 1963, Meitoku Yagi (now referred to as Dai Sensei Yagi), most senior student of Miyagi Sensei, was chosen by Miyagi Sensei’s family to receive the Menkyo Kaiden (naming him official successor of the system) along with the masters karate gi and belt. He was chosen by virtue of his extreme loyalty to Miyagi Sensei, his character, and his knowledge and ability in Goju-Ryu.

Meitoku Yagi
Dai Sensei Yagi was born on March 6th, 1912. He is a descendant of the original "36 families" who arrived in Okinawa from China in 1392 and established a settlement here. He began his training with Miyagi Sensei in1926 at age 14. Initially, he had to do chores for his teacher to prove his loyalty and seriousness of desire to train. Once he had earned his way to become a student, he started his training.

For the first year of his training, he was taught only Sanchin Kata. Every student was required to be proficient in Sanchin before they were allowed to begin training other kata. The training sessions were long and brutal but he never gave up. When he visited the local bathhouse, the local men would often comment about the bruises on his body, saying they could tell that he was training with Miyagi Sensei.

In his youth, Meitoku Yagi was known as "the makiwara breaker." He could break a typical punching board at will, and occasionally sought out a particularly tough makiwara to break when others said that it could not be done.

Dai Sensei Yagi remained a faithful student of his master, training and learning from him right to the point of Miyagi Sensei's passing in 1953. After Miyagi Sensei's death, Dai Sensei Yagi continued to teach in the Daido district of Naha. Dai Sensei Yagi has made the Miyagi family truly proud of their decision to select him as successor to the Goju-Ryu system.

Dai Sensei Yagi formed not only the Meibukan School of Okinawa Goju-Ryu (his immediate karate family) but also the Okinawa Goju-Kai (an association that includes and helps propagate all Okinawan Goju-Ryu styles).

He is one of very few karate-ka to ever receive the 4th Order of Merit. Emperor Hirohito presented him with this title, "Living National Treasure" on April 29, 1986, for his outstanding contributions to karate.

Gogen Yamaguchi, the creator of Japan Goju, recognised Dai Sensei Yagi as the rightful heir to Miyagi Sensei's system. Yamaguchi Sensei visited Dai Sensei Yagi in Okinawa several times to compare kata and to receive instruction in Okinawa Goju-Ryu.

In addition to all of his ventures in the "hard-hitting" world of karate-do, Dai Sensei Yagi also excelled in many softer endeavours, making him a perfect example using a healthy balance of "go" and "ju" to enrich ones life.

In 1988 he was the Japanese National Champion of Chun-Ji (the strategy based game of Chinese Chess). In 1989 he was not only Japanese champion, but World Champion as well. Along with his love of games, music is another of his creative pastimes. He regularly plays the piano and even learned to play the violin.

Despite all of these wonderful accomplishments, Dai Sensei Meitoku Yagi has remained a humble and genuine person. Each morning before the children pass by his home on their way to school, he sweeps away the litter from their path. In life, he is a gentle and kind man with all who he encounters. In training, he is harsh and will accept none but each individual’s best effort. He has not only maintained the integrity and purity of Miyagi Sensei’s Goju-Ryu, but he has greatly helped to propagate and enrich all the systems of Okinawa Karate-Do.

Through tireless training and studying of kata and technique of Goju-Ryu as well as other systems, Dai Sensei Yagi has developed kata and training methods, which we now use in the Meibukan. These wonderful insights into the training of karate-do are one of Dai Sensei’s most precious gifts to those fortunate enough to be in the family of Meibukan Goju-Ryu.

Dai Sensei Yagi is now retired from active teaching, but is still very active in the capacity of an advisor for the Zen Okinawa Karate-Do Renmei and the Okinawa Goju-Kai. He resides in Naha-Shi, Okinawa in his home which shares location with the Okinawa Hombu Meibukan Dojo. At least twice every year all of his closest students gather so that Dai Sensei Yagi can instruct and talk with them to continue their knowledge and understanding of his teachings.

Dai Sensei Yagi has ensured the integrity and continued vitality of Goju-Ryu Karate-Do by teaching his disciples the ways of Goju-Ryu as he learned them from Miyagi Sensei. He has cultivated many fine men into skilled karate-ka: Yushun Tamaki, Shigetoshi Senaha, Tadanori Ishiki, Meitatsu Yagi, Meitetsu Yagi, and Masaaki Ikemiyagi among others.