Yagi opened the first Meibukan dojo in 1952. He was the first student of Miyagi recorded to be given permission. He was given the calligraphy (Oku myo zai ren shin). Yagi is the recognised Menkyo Kaden of the Goju-ryu style as he was the recipient of Miyagi's gi and obi in 1963.
Meibukai karateka practice Goju-ryu kata as well as a set of kata known as the Meibuken kata.
Meibukan Goju-ryu Syllabus
- Sanpo Aruite Tensho
Tenchi’s name is taken from the first line in a poem in the Bubishi, "Jin shin wa Tenchi ni Onaji." This means "the mind is one with heaven and earth." Originally, Tenchi was composed of two kata, Fukyu kata ichi and Fukyu kata ni. They were eventually combined, and now Ten no kata represents the first half, while Chi no kata is the second half.
The kata are named after Chinese constellations: Seiryu means azure dragon, Byakko means white tiger, Shujaku means vermillion bird and Genbu means black turtle. Meitoku Yagi got the idea after seeing these names bannered on war flags during the Tsuna-Hiki (Tug of War Festival) held each year in Naha.
As well, Taikyoku patterns are practiced. They can be done alone; as well as with a partner (Renzoku kumite), which is done in a straight-line pattern; or with three or five people altogether (Kakomi kumite), in which one karateka is surrounded by the others. There are no traditional Meibukan weapons forms; however, Yagi did adapt some Meibuken Kaishu kata to bō and sai, and are commonly referred to as Meibuken Kobudo. They are as follows.
- Geki Sai Ichi Bo
- Geki Sai Ni Bo
- Saifa Bo
- Geki Sai Ichi Sai
- Geki Sai Ni Sai
- Saifa Sai
- Shisochin Sai
In Goju-Ryu Meibu-kan, Dojos practice forms of Yakusoku Kumite only. Yakusoku Kumite means pre-arranged sparring. There is no practice of Jiyu Kumite or free sparring. There has never been free fighting in classical Okinawan Goju-Ryu.
In Jiyu Kumite, Karate becomes a sport, and classical Karate is not a sport. Okinawans practice Karate-Do, meaning the way of the empty hand. Also Jiyu Kumite can hinder the development of good Karate techniques, especially in Okinawan Goju-Ryu, where the emphasis is ending the fight with one devastating technique (Hito Tsuki).
IMGKA and the Hombu Dojo
Currently, Yagi's eldest son, Meitatsu, is Chairman of the IMGKA (International Meibukan Goju-ryu Karate Association) and travels the world frequently. Presently he is the most senior active Meibukai student of Meitoku Yagi. There are branches in Australia, Canada, USA, England, India, Iran, Philippines, Russia, Georgia, Brazil, Israel and Hong Kong. Meitatsu universally conveys the philosophical message that some teachers of budo in the world teach how to fight, we of Meibukai rather teach how not to fight. In other words, Meibukai does not practice the emphasis of how to win but rather how not to lose.
The Meibukan Hombu Dojo was founded by Meitoku Yagi in 1952 prior to the death of Goju-Ryu founder, Miyagi Chojun. Since then, the Meibukan Hombu Dojo has been an integral part of Okinawa Karate. Yagi was a founding father of the Okinawa Goju-Kai and All Okinawa Karate-Do Association both of which the Meibukan Hombu Dojo has been actively a part of since their formation. While Yagi was alive, he appointed international representatives that are still practicing Meibukan today and are still recognized by the Meibukan Hombu Dojo. These representatives are Shiki Tadanori of Ibaraki, Japan, Anthony Mirakian of USA, Yonamine Yasunori of South America, Rajesh Thakkar of India, and Cristofi Clemente of Australia. Note however, that Johannes Wong was also a long serving student and instructor of Goju-ryu Meibukan directly under Yagi since the mid-1980s in Australia. The Meibukan Hombu Dojo also recognizes the members of the Canadian Meibukan Goju-Ryu Association as representative of the Hombu. The Meibukan Hombu dojo also has satellite branches in Okinawa, Japan that includes Matsugawa, Tsukayama, Naha, Tsuji, Kume, and Nagata.
Yagi's second son, Meitetsu, currently is president and head instructor of the Meibukan Hombu Dojo in Naha, Okinawa and has travelled the world. He has been invited to India, Hawaii, Australia, and USA to share his knowledge of Meibukan. The Meibukan Hombu Dojo maintains an important role in keeping Yagi's legacy alive through the participation and support of the Okinawa Goju-Kai and the all Okinawa Karate-Do Association.
There are four suffixes to "Meibu" used: kan, kai, ka, and ken. Meibukan is the "house of the pure-minded warrior." This refers the style of karate practiced. Meibukai is the association. Meibuka describes a karateka practicing Meibukan. Meibuken is, roughly translated, the "law (or fist) of the pure-minded warrior." The last one is used in association with the kata.
Meanings of Meibukan
The Meibukan crest is the kanji "mei," which is the first kanji in the first names of Yagi and his two sons. Meitatsu’s two sons, Akihito and Akihiro also share the kanji. The following are three interpretations of the crest.
- The kanji mei is a combination of the kanji for sun and the kanji for moon. Using them as separate kanji, you can say "hi to tsuki," which literally means "sun and moon." However, by this pronunciation, it can be interpreted as an expression meaning "one punch." The idea is that a karateka must train with the mindset that he or she may only have one opportunity to end a conflict—the karateka must train seriously and with a sharp mind.
- The kanji represent the dualities of nature. The moon is slender, flexible and always changing in the sky. The sun is thick and constant. These ideas are physically represented in the crest—the sun half of the kanji is much thicker than the moon. A karateka must be both like the sun—able to stand ground and be strong—and the moon—be adaptable and soft.
- "Ah" and "Um." Again, two dualities. Um represents defensive nature. When one inhales one must relax and be prepared. Inhaling is for conserving energy and being ready to receive an attack. Ah is the other side of the coin. Exhaling represents attacking, tension and release of breath.
There are several maxims used in Meibukan—some are particular to the style, while others are common to other styles of Goju-ryu and karate. The following are some of the more common sayings.
- Oku myo zai ren shin. "Practice with a good heart."
- Oku myo zai hyaku ren sen tan. "Train a hundred times, train a thousand times."
- Nangi go gokui. "The secrets of training are revealed through hard work."
- Ryu su fu sen kyo. "Running water in a stream faces no barriers."
- Kan chiku fu sho. "The pine tree bends in the wind. The bamboo is hard in the cold."