Seitoku Higa is one of Okinawa's most highly respected karate and kobudo instructors. He is the president of the All Okinawa Karate and Kobudo Rengokai. Higa was born in Naha City on January 20, 1921. At the age of 10, in 1931, he began his study of traditional Okinawan karate under Kijun Kishimoto. Later in 1932 he studied under Koro Kishimoto. Kishimoto had studied under the Shuri-te expert named Takemura who had been a student of Matsumura the Bushi.
In 1937, Higa was advised by his teacher, Kishimoto, that he was ready to give instructions in Okinawan karate. By 1940 Higa had moved to Japan and had participated in his first public karate demonstration in Kawasaki, Japan, with his first master teacher, Kanken Toyama.
Later, Higa journeyed to Mount Fuji in order to cleanse himself in a formal manner to become an apprentice instructor under Kanken Toyama. Based on the training that he received from Toyama, Higa was awarded the coveted Menkyo Kaiden from Koro Kishimoto in 1943. In 1945 Higa received the Shihan Menkyo from the hands of Kanken Toyama at the latter's Shudokan School of Okinawan karate. Shortly after the end of World War II, Toyama sent Higa to Sumatra to practice in the mountains and to gain experience in teaching Okinawan karate.
In 1947 Higa received his 7th Dan Kyoshi rank from Toyama and from the All Japan Karatedo Association. In 1948 he opened a karate training hall in Kumamoto, Japan. Also in 1948 he studied under a peer of Kanken Toyama, Chotoku Henshi of Sento-ryu Karatedo . Higa was taught the kata seisan and all of its secrets. At the same time Higa was appointed the Vice President of the All Japan Karatedo Association.
In 1950 his students began teaching his style in Shuri, Okinawa. Also in 1950 Higa received instruction in the Tawada Patsai of Choshin Chibana. In 1951 Higa opened up a dojo in the Naha area and taught both in Shuri and Naha City.
In 1956 Higa was accepted as a student of the Yamane-ryu school of Okinawan Bojutsu and also became a private student of its third generation founder, Masame Chinen, Yamane-ryu Hanshi. In 1960 Chinen awarded Higa the Menkyo Kaiden of the Yamane-ryu school of Okinawan Bojutsu.
In 1961 Higa formed the Okinawa Kobudo Association and was also accepted as a student of bojutsu under Seikichi Uehara of Motobu-ryu. In 1962 Higa had the privilege of learning the kata gojushiho from Chozo Nakama, Hanshi 9-Dan and a senior student of Choshin Chibana. In the same year, Shigeru Nakamura, founder of Okinawan Kenpo Karatedo gave private instruction to Higa in the Itosu style pinan kata. In 1963, because of his vast knowledge of Okinawan Karatedo, he was invited to demonstrate in Kumamoto, Japan with members of his association.
In 1964 Higa received his certification as a Hanshi (High Master) 8-Dan from the Dai Nippon Butokukai. In 1966 he received two honors: his promotion to Hanshi 9-Dan in Bugeikan-ryu and a special Menkyo Kaiden certification in Yamane-ryu school of Okinawan Bojutsu.
In 1967 Higa became the first president of the All Okinawa Karate Kobudo Rengokai. In 1968 he formally changed the name of his dojo to the Bugeikan (The House of the Fighting Arts) and named his style Bugeikan-ryu.
In 1973 Higa became president of the Okinawa Motobu-ryu Kobu-jutsu Association. In 1975 he was formally elevated to his present rank of Hanshi 10-Dan.
Higa states that kobudo began in Okinawa over 1000 years ago. Over time each instructor developed their own methods of passing on their techniques of fighting. He further states that these methods are being lost and if the trend for sport karate continues, that much knowledge will eventually be lost. With this in mind, Higa feels that there is a real need to preserve the ancient training methods and kata for the future generation of Okinawa kobudo.
Presently, on Okinawa, there are many styles of karate which include the following: Chibana shorin-ryu, goju-ryu, Uechi-ryu, Motobu-ryu, Okinawa kenpo, Matsubayashi-ryu, Ryukyu shorin-ryu, Kojo-ryu, Kushin-ryu, Matsumura shorin-ryu, Shorinji-ryu, etc - at least 16 different ryus. Higa is familiar with the basics of all these ryus!
In teaching Okinawa karate, Higa feels that the most important things to pass on to a student is spirit and correct attitude.
Higa presently teaches the following traditional kata of Okinawan Karatedo: Matsumura's naihanchin series (shodan, nidan and sandan), Itosu's pinan series (shodan, nidan, sandan, yondan and godan), Shuri seisan, sochin, jitte, niseishi, chinto, patsai-dai and patsai-sho, Tawada patsai, kusanku-sho and kusanku-dai, gojushiho, Motobu seisan, Matsumura seisan, jissen, suchin, rufa, nidan-bu, sanpabu-ryuha, jion and ananku.
Higa's kobudo kata include the following traditional weapon forms: shushi-no-kun, sunakake-no-kun sho and dai, sakugawa-no-kun, tunfa, sai-no-sho and dai, nunchaku-sho and dai, nicho-no-nunchaku, kanegawa-no-tekko, maezato-no-tekko, Ogushiku-no-bo, Tsuken-no-bo sho and dai.
Location of the interview: the Okinawa Shorin-ryu Kyudokan Dojo located at 60 Tsuboya, Naha City, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan. The interview took place on October 12, 1987 at the Kyudokan dojo of Yuchoku Higa, Chibana-style Shorin-ryu Hanshi 10-Dan. Assisting in the interview was Higa's nephew, Oscar Higa. Oscar Higa is presently ranked a Kyoshi 7-Dan under his uncle and resides in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He was presently on vacation in Okinawa so as to upgrade his training and knowledge of Chibana-style shorin-ryu. The interview was conducted in Japanese and Spanish! It should be noted that Oscar Higa has lived in Argentina since 1959 and speaks fluent Spanish.
Oscar had initially indicated that he, as well as his late father, had originally been students of Shoshin Nagamine (the present headmaster of Matsubayashi-ryu). His father, Jintatsu Higa, was ranked a Renshi 6-Dan and was the South American Branch Chief for the Matsubayashi-ryu style. In 1980 Jintatsu was formally accepted as a student of his older brother, Yuchoku-sensei. Jintatsu Higa died in 1985 and was then ranked a Kyoshi 8-Dan.
The Kyudokan Higa Dojo is very difficult to almost impossible to locate without some good directions. The directions were provided by Mr Nakasone of Shureido.
NAME AND HISTORY
My name is Yuchoku Higa and I am Chairman of the Board of Directors for the All Okinawa Karatedo Association and I am also president of the All Okinawa Karate-Kobudo Association. I was born on February 8, 1910, in Naha City, Okinawa. Presently, I hold the title of Hanshi 10-Dan in Chibana-style Shorin-ryu. I am also the president of the Shorin-ryu Kyudokan Higa Dojo.
I initially started the practice of Okinawan karate-jutsu in 1925 under Chojun Miyagi's senior student, Jinan Shinzato. The style was goju-ryu which was then called shorei-ryu. Around 1933 Miyagi formally changed the name of the style to what it is called now, goju-ryu.
Chibana registered the name shorin-ryu during the same time. This was with the Dai Nippon Butokukai (The Greater Japan Martial Virtue Association). This was in March or April of 1933. When Shinzato died during the battle of Okinawa, in 1945, I then began as a formal student of Chojun Miyagi.
Lessons with Miyagi took place in the yard of his home. He did not have a formal dojo at this time but taught at the old Butoku-den which is now a police training hall. The old Butoku-den was one of the few buildings left standing after the Americans destroyed Okinawa.
Miyagi did not teach much after the war so I began learning shorin-ryu, Chibana-style, in 1951. I was formally accepted as a student of the Daidokan Chibana Dojo -- Chibana was the chief instructor -- on January 2, 1951. At that time no one really had any rank and Chibana was a shihan of karate -- this meant he was above rank and could award the black belt designation. Miyagi was also a shihan but he chose not to award the black belt but simply said, "Ok, you can wear the black belt now."
On January 2, 1965, Chibana awarded me the first shorin-ryu Hanshi 9-Dan in his style. I was 55 years old and had been training for 40 years, which I think is about average. I also represented him at the Okinawa Karatedo Association due to the fact that he had resigned in 1961 because of political problems. Plus, he wanted to devote more time to shorin-ryu and to his senior students.
Chibana asked me to continue with the association and act as his chief representative. Presently, I am still active with the Association but I act more as an advisor than one who decides where to go. My responsibility is to my students, my karate family, first and others second.
During the 1930's, 1940's and even into the 1950's, karate training was always done outside. Miyagi's dojo was his backyard. Chibana also practiced outside. It wasn't until the late 1950's and early 1960's that it became common to practice indoors. It was a lot easier to practice indoors than outdoors but even if you had an indoor dojo, many of the students would choose to train outside. Nowadays, people like to train indoors and say that outdoor training is for the poor and not fashionable. So now I can say that only the "old timers" train outdoors.
SHORIN-RYU KYUDOKAN KATA
I teach the following kata at my Kyudokan Dojo: naihanchin shodan, nidan and sandan; pinan shodan, nidan, sandan, yondan and godan; patsai-dai, patsai-sho; kusanku-dai, kusanku-sho; chinto, chinte; jutte, wanshu, jion; gojushiho, seisan, sochin.
These forms are the old, traditional kata of shorin-ryu. The last seven forms were originally shorin-ryu kata but did not exist in the Chibana-style. I added these kata as my contribution to the system. But I must state that I did not make these kata up! These are real kata that have existed but have fallen into disuse for one reason or another.
Many of my peers did not like what I did and complained. Now, they are doing the same thing but instead of researching the old, traditional kata of shorin-ryu they are developing new kata. I do not like that -- after all, there are traditional kata that are lost but can be researched and brought back out into the open. Instead they develop new kata for their egos -- but now they don't complain anymore.
I do not teach the kihon kata as a required form because they are exercises that were developed by Itosu and defined by Chibana. They exist in our style but they are not required-for-promotion kata. They are simple exercises and we practice them.
Chibana taught naihanchin sandan, pinan godan, patsai-sho and kusanku-sho, chinto, patsai-dai and kusanku-dai. He did not teach gojushiho. He usually had others teach naihanchin shodan and nidan and pinan shodan through yondan. He felt that the naihanchin sandan and pinan godan were the most important kata of the kihon series. So he personally taught them.
The Chibana-style kihon series of kata consisted of the naihanchin and pinan series. This teaches the trainee the fundamentals of the style and must be mastered before a trainee can say he trains in Chibana-style shorin-ryu.
The kata names are like this -- naihanchi shodan, naihanchi nidan and naihanchi sandan. Chibana would always call it this way -- "Naihanchi ichi, yonju-ban, yoi." The correct name is naihanchin shodan but it is pronounced as naihanchi shodan (without the "n"). I think Nakazato says naihanchi ichi, ni and san. You must remember that Chibana did not have a very formal education and he made a number of mistakes when speaking. He was a very home-spun person, very down to earth.
Formally, it is pronounced as naihanchin shodan, nidan and sandan. The pinan series are shodan, nidan, sandan, yondan and godan. The Okinawan pronunciation for patsai is "pa-tsai." Foreign people don't use the "ts" sound very much and say "passai." It is very close but it is not correct. It is "patsai" and not "passai."