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Miyagi Chojun Memorial Martial Arts Festival

Miyagi Chojun Memorial Martial Arts Festival

Report and Photos by Terry O'Neill

Text is taken from "Fighting Arts International" #62 (Vol 11, #2)

October 18 - 22,1989

The Supreme Martial Arts Event

Grandmaster Chojun Miyagi
Grandmaster Chojun Miyagi 1888-1953

The Miyagi Chojun Memorial Martial Arts Festival was dubbed 'The Supreme Martial Arts Event' and the host city, San Diego carries the sobriquet 'America's Finest City' ... but who is responsible for these plaudits? Well, the first came from the International Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate-Do Federation, who organised the event, and the second claim, not unexpectedly, is made by the Mayor's office in San Diego ... and, as everyone knows, self-praise is (usually) no recommendation.
Speaking as one who has 'been there and done that' I have to say that the I.O.G.K.F. were nearer the money 'American terminology for closer to the target' than were City Hall. As Californian cities go, San Diego was just pleasant - certainly nothing to write home about - but the Miyagi Chojun Memorial didn't fall far short of its claim.
It really was a tremendous event: five full days of Masters' seminars/clinics, demonstrations and an international tournament which brought together a legion of martial artists from all over the world. A grand total of 24 countries were represented, some sending over a full delegation, like New Zealand with 35 participants, England and Chile - both with 30, Mexico fielded 20, Venezuela 15, and Japan 10 and so on. Of course, being on home turf, the U.S.A. dominated the numbers game with 450 active participants but the visitors certainly redressed the balance at the two day tournament, winning 9 out of the 11 'senior' events.
The festival was the brainchild of Morio Higaonna, the internationally acclaimed Okinawan Goju Ryu Karate sensei. In fairness to him I should point out that 'the supreme event' tag came from his staff and fellow organizers, not him - his modesty is almost on a par with his outstanding ability.

Master Morio Higaonna
Master Morio Higaonna

As the name implies, this grand memorial was held in commemoration of the founder of Goju Ryu Karate, Grandmaster Chojun Miyagi, this being the 101st year since his birth (those unfamiliar with the Japanese language may wonder what's with the name juggling at this point - In Nihon-go, the family or surname precedes the given name: so in introducing or writing down a person's name a Japanese would, for example, do so as Higaonna Morio).
Central to the theme of this festival was the feeling of all martial artists as one family, the promotion and continued dissemination of karate throughout the world and the promotion of friendship and technical exchange between budo-ka of different styles and different nations. To this end the event was a resounding success with 300 seminar participants and over 600 competitors from the far corners of the globe taking part. That karate has few age barriers was proven by the fact that competitors ranged in age from 5 years to 73 years.
To make this festival a fitting tribute to one of the great masters, Higaonna invited and arranged for a number of top martial arts luminaries - all leading authorities in their respective arts - to teach seminars at the three day special Gasshuku or 'Training Camp' and to demonstrate their skills at the tournament.
The honoured guest was the Okinawan Goju-ryu master, An'ichi Miyagi. As a foremost protege of the man the festival was commemorating and the teacher of Morio Higaonna, the founder's namesake (no relation) had a lot to live up to. This he did admirably: the Okinawan master's detailed discourses, instruction and demonstrations on the finer points of the Goju-Ryu system were undoubted highlights for the huge gathering of trainees.

Master An'ichi Miyagi
Master An'ichi Miyagi

Because of the historical relationship between Goju-Ryu and the martial arts (Wu Shu) of Fuzhou, Southern China (a subject that Higaonna has been actively engaged in researching for a number of years now) invitations had been made and accepted by several top masters of the F.W.A. (Fuzhou Wushu Association) in Mainland China. Very unfortunately, due to recent political unrest in China, these were unable to make the journey. However one expert instructor of the F.W.A. was able to attend, being outside the jurisdiction of China. Yan Ling Xing, a master of the 'internal' martial arts, now lives and teaches in Japan and she proved a popular replacement at the festival. The two classes, in which she taught the 'standardised' (shortened) Tai Chi quan form, may have looked easy to an observer, particularly one used to the speed and explosiveness of karate action. They were, however, far from easy: moving slowly with the type of control and graceful power that this delicate-looking lady exhibited was beyond 99% of the trainees ... actually it was one hundred per cent, I was merely leaving an opening so that readers would figure that I was the exception.
Also representing the Chinese Martial Arts was Augustine Fong, a leading exponent and teacher of the Southern Chinese art of Wing Chun. Sifu Fong, who is based in Tucson, Arizona, has 29 years of experience in Wing Chun and this was apparent in the expert manner in which he introduced and taught the basic fighting principles of the art to a host of 'first-timers' in the relatively short period of three hours.
Japanese Martial Arts were represented by a number of distinguished masters, led by three outstanding karate men: Osamu Ozawa, a direct student of Shotokan Grandmaster, Gichin Funakoshi, is one of the most senior karate sensei in the world. A staunch traditionalist, Ozawa brought over 50 years of experience in the martial arts to the festival and his absorbing class formed an historical link with the 'Father of Japanese Karate'; another high-ranking and internationally renowned Shotokan master was in the line-up, Hirokazu Kanazawa. Thirty two years on since he became the first fighting champion of the Japan Karate Association, the dynamism and flawless execution of Kanazawa's technique still makes seasoned karate ka shake their heads in awe; the trio was completed by the Shito-Ryu stylist, Fumio Demura. After becoming an All-Japan Champion in 1961, Demura moved to the U.S.A. where he has become one of the most popular and respected karate sensei there. Even on the strength of the one class I experienced under him, it's easy to see why.

Fumio Demura
Fumio Demura, the famous Shito Ryu sensei 'cought' midway through his seminar.

George Andrews
Instruction from the master: George Andrews, an I.O.G.K.F. senior instructor in England is taught by Miyagi Sensei.

Paul Enfield
Paul Enfield, one of Higaonna Sensei's senior students undergoes rugged shime (testing) at the hands of Master Miyagi (at his front) and Kato Sensei at his rear.

Paul Enfield
A little more pain for Mr. Enfield!

Morio Higaonna
Morio Higaonna, the force behind the Festival and a man most worthy of the title 'Budo Master'.

Hirokazu Kanazawa
Internationally acclaimed Shotokan sensei, Hirokazu Kanazawa was a very popular guest instructor and demonstrator at the Festival.

Tetsutaka Sugawara is another sensei who studied under one of the great founders of modern Budo: he was an uchi-deshi ('inside student' or private disciple) of O'sensei Morihei Uyeshiba, the originator of Aikido. This teacher is eminently qualified to transmit the principles of one budo to followers of a completely different 'way': during his 29 years of training, Sugawara has not only gained a mastery of Aikido but is also a senior in the Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu, a highly revered sword (and traditional weapons) school in Japan. Add to this his experience in both Goju-Ryu, in which he holds Shodan (1st degree black belt) rank, and Tai Chi quan and he was an obvious choice for such a difficult task. His three-hour class convinced all present of the effectiveness of Aikido!
In the position he'd wish to be listed, last, is of course, Morio Higaonna. Suffice it to say that not withstanding the fact that his teacher was present, along with various men who are 'senior' to him in budo hierarchy, this is the inverse position to where he would have been had a popularity poll been conducted amongst the assembled three hundred. The ability and demeanour of this diminutive Master puts him head and shoulders above many who lay claim to such a title.
The five day festival, which was held at an impressive Holiday Inn venue, right on San Diego Bay, was preceded by a huge welcoming party on the evening of Tuesday 7th October. At this initial get-together, countries were introduced and applauded for the effort they had put forth to attend. The countries officially represented were (in alphabetical order): Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Bermuda, Canada, Chile, China, Denmark, Dominican Republic, England, Iceland, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Okinawa, Peru, Portugal, Scotland, Spain, United States and Venezuela.
The Gasshuku started at 8 am the following morning when 300 gi-clad karate ka bowed in for the first four hours of Goju-Ryu training. This period was programmed to be split into two sessions, relieved by a 15 minute break. It never happened. The sensei became so engrossed in the classes that the rest period never materialized . . . still I suppose it was nice to look forward to!
Higaonna Sensei lead the training and then split everyone into workable sized groups, according to their experience. Each group was then assigned a teacher and 'The Boss' was ably assisted in this respect by the I.O.G.K.F. 'Seniors': Bakkies Laubscher (South Africa); Juichi Kokubo, Tomoyuki Kato and Kazuo Terauchi (Japan); Leon Pantanowitz (Israel); George Andrews and Ernie Molyneux (England). Over the three days these instructors would interchange regularly between the groups. Throughout it all, Miyagi Sensei moved constantly and untiringly around the vast dojo, pulling out small groups, sometimes just individuals, for personalised instruction in kata or some other integral aspect of the system. Often during these morning sessions this senior master would gather everyone around to explain - with Higaonna translating - some of the principles and history of Goju Ryu, and of his experiences training under Grandmaster Miyagi.

Old Karate-ka
73 year old Karate-ka Irene Seputis performs kata under the watchful eyes of Master Miyagi and Sudo Sensei.

During one of Master Miyagi's lectures, Higaonna Sensei is called upon to demonstrate a point. On the right is the I.O.G.K.F. Chief Instructor for South Africa, Bakkies Laubscher.

During the accumulated 12 hours of Goju Ryu, spread over the three days, the seminars focussed strongly on kata practice and application, including the expected heavy emphasis on Sanchin training. In fact Miyagi Sensei watched and 'tested' the Sanchin of all the yudansha (black belts) - some of the lucky ones got second and third treatments! Those who haven't seen (and heard!) the rugged shime (testing) of Goju Ryu adherents are really missing something. With this in mind I determined to provide readers with photographs of this aspect of the festival ... unfortunately wielding a camera prevented my being personally tested by this amiable Okinwan, whose hands descended upon his victim's trapezius muscles like iron shovels. It was hard to forego such a pleasure but life is full of sacrifices and I instinctively knew that my duty was to the readers of F.A.I.
Whilst the backbone of the seminars (and indeed of the system itself) was/is the study of kata, the various Goju Ryu fighting drills like kakie were not neglected either.
After a two hour break for lunch the afternoon and evening seminars were taken by the guest instructors. There were two separate 90 minute sessions in the afternoon, another two hour break and then a final two hour training period, from 7 - 9 pm, for those who just hadn't had enough: so trainees had a possible nine hours a day of specialised martial arts instruction!
The final two days of the festival was devoted to a Traditional Karate Tournament and it was here that the only hiccup occurred to mar an otherwise problem-free event. Due to the extremely litigious penchant of the Americans, everyone, including the organisers of martial arts events, are very aware (scared stiff) of the possibility of having a lawsuit slapped on them by any opportunist who feels that there has been a violation of rights against themselves, their family, predecessors or even their pet dog! Consequently when the insurance company, that the I.O.G.K.F. use, stipulated that all the kumite (sparring) contestants had to wear headguards and foot protectors, along with the already mandatory fist guards, groin cup (for men) and mouthguard, this was the way it had to be.
So the situation was that the tournament, which should have been a showcase for traditional karate - it already had stringent safety measurres: the aforementioned mandatory body protection, plus the rules which disallowed any contact and further stipulated that in all categories for beginners (8th kyu and below) and the children's under 10 years of age classes, no attacks would be allowed to the face or head area - took on the appearance of a full-contact meet.
It can be imagined, of course, how popular this ruling was with competitors who had never worn restrictive helmets, nor had their feet encased in cumbersome and distance destroying 'marsh-mallows.' If it was any consolation to the traditional competitors, the I.O.G.K.F. were equally as 'pleased' at having this debilitating imposition forced upon them. Alanna Higaonna told me that after an extensive search she found that most insurance companies in the U.S.A. were unwilling to insure karate tournament competitions at all! The next best offer she got, to the one she had to finally accept, was for spectator liability only. Well the Holiday Inn's insurance policy already covered this aspect and they, regardless of whether the organisers were willing to take the risk with regard to participants, were not. The I.O.G.K.F. just had to take what they were offered ... their alternative was to cancel the tournament. So the tournament was conducted and the competitors and officials had to make the best out of what they were stuck with. This they all did and it is a measure of the respect and loyalty felt for Higaonna Sensei that everyone present understood and accepted the predicament and just got on with it.
A feature of tournaments in the U.S.A. is that there are categories for everyone who can don a uniform. If it hasn't been done already, I'm sure an enterprising yank will soon devise a little event in which the mums, dads and grandparents who are non-karate ka, can take a swipe at each other for a trophy. This is not meant as a criticism, merely an observation because the fact is that both the competitors and the spectators appear to love it. Virtually the whole family can 'have a go.'

Iri Kumi
Combatants in the new style Iri Kumi sparring move into grappling range.

Sunday October 22nd was the senior finals day of the competition. Every contestant in the Kumite had to wear head, hand and foot protectors.

Tai Chi
A scene from one of the graceful but gruelling Tai Chi seminars, led by Master Yang Ling Xing.

Just three of the outstanding Masters at the Festival. Left to right, Osamu Ozawa, Hirokazu Kanazawa and Morio Higaonna.

The programme's original quota of 58 events was actualised, once all the entries were in, to 45. Of these, 19 were Open Kata divisions catering for every age, gender and grade: For example, Kata Division 1 was for beginners of age 7 and under (boys and girls) ... Division 7 was for advanced contestants of 11-13 years of age (boys only) ... Division 15 was for intermediates aged 14-17 (girls only) ... Division 24 was for black belts aged 18 and up (ladies only). A further 4 categories of Goju Kata made up a very comprehensive kata section.
The remaining 22 divisions were all for kumite and these included the same breakdown of elegibility as in the kata classes ... yes, the first two divisions for age 7 and under (beginners and intermediates) were mixed - boys and girls.
Unaware of this mixed pairings being part of the 'equal rights' movement in America, I promptly stopped a match before the first exchange had been made. Just as I was about to reprimand the referee for not noticing he had a little boy fighting a little girl, it was hurriedly pointed out to me that this was O.K. in the U.S.A. I blamed jet-lag (I'd been there a week already) and said that, of course, I already knew that.
I know what you want to know now ... yes, one little girl, Amy Martinez (Shito-Ryu, Chula Vista, California) did very well and was runner up in the Intermediate/Advanced division of the Age 7 and Under.
There was a Senior Team Kumite, (comprising three-man teams of brown/black belt status) and two divisions of a new style of sparring called Iri Kumi. This is a new concept in tournament fighting, at a traditional karate event anyway, in which competitors tight for one minute non-stop and the points are tallied up at the end of the match. Iri Kumi is designed to make for a continuous and, hopefully, more realistic shiai (contest) in which competitors can execute a variety of techniques in combination without being constantly checked by the 'Yame' ('Stop') of the usual style karate tournaments.
A competitor can therefore score points immediately after being struck by his opponent. This type of shiai is particularly well-situated to Goju-Ryu stylists who throw techniques in continuation and from close-in, a range that, in competitions governed by W.U.K.O. and other World Karate organisations, it is extremely difficult to score in, due to the match invariably being stopped once such close proximity occurs between the fighters.
The eliminations for the Iri Kumi were actually held on the Friday, prior to the tournament proper at the weekend. Probably just as well to keep this concept, whilst it still has a lot of rough edges to smooth over, out of the general public's view.
The idea in principle is a good one and once the I.O.G.K.F. has fully developed this type of sparring throughout its many affiliated countries, I'm sure it will catch on and become very popular. The initial problem of competitors not really knowing what was expected of them, allowing for the fact that they were suddenly 'armoured up' made for a number of heated and wild exchanges during the eliminating rounds. As Kanazawa Sensei observed after watching the inaugural bouts "Once they put it on (the armour) their minds change."
The competitors from England were the best at the new style of sparring and this was obviously due to the fact that Higaonna Sensei had introduced it to them, some months earlier, on a week-long Gasshuku. English competitors like Paul Coleman, Ernie Molyneux, Gary Davis, Roy Flatt, John Boyle, Linda Marchant and Debbie Edwards showed that, given some experience, the concept of Iri Kumi is a good one and that this form of shiai can be controlled and developed to a high degree.
All the divisions were completed on the Saturday, with the exception of the Black Belt finals. The adjudicating and the overall standard of competition was very high and the fact that the whole tournament ran smoothly and without a hitch, spoke volumes for the amount of preparation and organisation that had obviously gone into the event. Sunday's finale to the festival attracted a 1,000 strong audience and the finals of the senior competition, along with some stupendous demonstrations by an array of top-ranking masters made for a spectacular show.
Speaking to Higaonna Sensei the following day, he told me how extremely pleased he was with the festival. He was surprised and delighted that the attendance was so great and varied from so many countries around the world. Not only was there great support from his own I.O.G.K.F. members but from many other styles and organisations as well. He asked me to include in my report how appreciative he was of the help and support he had received from everyone concerned - all the sensei who gave such excellent seminars and demonstrations; all the I.O.G.K.F. instructors and instructors from other styles who gave of their time and talents to make the tournament a success; the staff of organisers and scorekeepers; and of course the competitors who all worked hard and gave their best effort.
An'ichi Miyagi Sensei made the comment to him that "Seeing everyone working so hard together to make this festival such a success would make Grandmaster Chojun Miyagi very happy."
I'll conclude this report with some comments that Higaonna Sensei made when I asked him if he had any parting message to the festival participants:
"Kata is martial arts and must be kept traditional. We must practice it as it was originally intended. Kata is the basis of Karate and where the true meaning is to be found.
Kumite, on the other hand, is the individual's own expression and as such it may be researched and developed by the individual. Variations to kata application in kumite are limitless. There is the potential for an infinite number of techniques according to the different situations involved, the practitioner himself/herself, and the opponent that one faces.
Kumite can also be adapted to sport - hence this type of tournament. Sport Karate (tournament) is fun and can do a lot to bring people together and promote friendship through karate. Even here we can learn: we must learn to control our feelings, and mind, in order to control our techniques.
"For me the festival's true worth was that even with all the varied styles and countries, the feeling of togetherness and harmony was unmistakable - a true martial arts family."

Plans are already underway for a follow-up festival in Oct/Nov 1990 ... advance details of this will appear in these pages.


A separate report on the Master's Seminars will appear in the next issue of F.A.I.

Senior results


Men's Black Belt Open Kumite:

  1. Ernie Molyneux (IOGKF, England)
  2. Kevin Nason (IOGKF, England)
  3. Jose Guanchez (IOGKF, Venezuela)
  4. Ron Gordines (Shorin-Ryu, California)

Men's Black Belt Open Kata:

  1. Alejandro Castro (Venezuela, SKI)
  2. James Tawatao (Shotokan, Las Vegas)
  3. Richard Takahashi (Shorin-Ryu, California)
  4. Mike Kimzey (SKI Way of Japan, California)

Men's Advanced Kata:

  1. Jose R. Silva (IOGKF, Venezuela)
  2. Jean Couto (IOGKF Oceanside, Calif.)
  3. Scott Beavdry (Shotokan, Las Vegas)
  4. Chris Bold (Shoreikan, Canada)

Men's Advanced Kumite:

  1. Mirko Buchwald (IOGKF, England)
  2. Antony Foran (IOGKF, New Zealand)
  3. Philip White (IOGKF, England)
  4. Ron Campbell (IOGKF, New Zealand)

Men's Intermediate Kumite:

  1. Michael Bean (IOGKF, Bermuda)
  2. Robert Gaddis (IOGKF, Texas)
  3. Vim Huynh (Shito-Ryu, UCSD)
  4. Randy Lyle (Kenpo Julian, Calif.)

Women's Black Belt Open Kumite:

  1. Romania Clavira (SKI Way of Japan, Calif.)
  2. Kerry May (IOGKF, New Zealand)
  3. Cyndy Anselmo (Shito-Ruy, Calif.)
  4. Carol Signorolli (SKI Way of Japan, California)

Women's Black Belt Open Kata:

  1. Kathy Quan (Shotokan, Quan's Karate, Calif.)
  2. Karen Lundeen (Shito-Ryu JKO, Calif.)
  3. Cyndy Anselmo (Shito-Ruy, Calif.)
  4. Catherine Davis (Shorin-Ryu, NM)

Women's Advanced Kata:

  1. Francesca Buzzolo (IOGKF, Chile)
  2. Debbie Mathews (ITK IOGKF, San Marcos)
  3. Deborah McCormick (Shorin-Ryu, Las Vegas)
  4. Patty Truman (Shotokan, Las Vegas)

Women's Advanced Kumite:

  1. Yvonne Murillo (IOGKF, Venezuela)
  2. Brit Fredricksen (IOGKF, Denmark)
  3. Francesca Buzzolo (IOGKF, Chile)
  4. Regina Petzold (IOGKF, Chile)


Men's Black Belt:

  1. Paul Coleman (IOGKF, England)
  2. Jose Guanchez (IOGKF, Venezuela)
  3. Ernie Molyneux (IOGKF, England)
  4. Gary Davis (IOGKF, England)

Women's Black Belt:

  1. Kerri May (IOGKF, New Zealand)
  2. Terry Reynaga (IOGKF, Calif.)
  3. Linda Marchant (IOGKF, England)
  4. Debbie Edwards (IOGKF, England)


Men's Black Belt:

  1. Luis Nunes (IOGKF, Spain)
  2. Carlos Gimenez (IOGKF, Spain)
  3. Katsuya Yamashiro (IOGKF, Okinawa)
  4. Takafumi Hamabata (Goju-Ryu, Calif.)

Men's Brown Belt:

  1. Jose R. Silva (IOGKF, Venezuela)
  2. Robert Joe (IOGKF Honbu, New Zealand)
  3. Andrew Lock (IOGKF, New Zealand)
  4. Antony Foran (IOGKF, New Zealand)

Women's Black Belt:

  1. Hitomi Okada (IOGKF, Japan)
  2. Kerry May (IOGKF, New Zealand)
  3. Helen Giragosian (Chuck Merriman Karate International, Calif.)
  4. Christine Garnier (Shito-Ryu, Los Angeles)

Women's Brown Belt:

  1. Britt Fredriksen (IOGKF, Denmark)
  2. Sharon Clinch (IOGKF, England)
  3. Yvonne Murillo (IOGKF, Venezuela)
  4. Becky Kuhn (Japan Goju, San Diego)


1st IOGKF Venezuela

Jose Guanchez, Alejandro Castro, William Verde, Mario Toro.

2nd IOGKF England 'A'

Paul Nolan, Ernie Molyneux, Graham Davis, Steven Black.

3rd SKI Way of Japan

Jeff Johnson, Chris Perkins, Steve Wong.

IOGKF Belgium

Johnny Harms, Johan Stevens, Alain Raes.

If there would be any complains from F.A.I. about this article I absolutely ready to discuss it

Article orriginal source : http://www.geocities.com/nick_the_knell/texts/cmm1989.html1

Fri 3, Nov 2006 23:12:00 by Fraser | Comments(0)


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