Yagi Meitoku, Dai Sensei (1912-2003)

In 1952, the founder of Goju-Ryu – Chojun Miyagi, gave permission to one of his senior students to open his own school. Today, this school remains as the longest running Karate Dojo under the banner of Okinawa Karate-do Goju-Ryu. This student is the late Meitoku Yagi who is known throughout the world of traditional karate as the Dai Sensei (Top Teacher).

Dai Sensei’s journey began at the age of 14 when he was introduced to Miyagi as the descendant of Jana Oyakata, one of Okinawa’s famous royal ministers and of the original Chinese family lines who emigrated to Okinawa. By the age of 18, Chojun Miyagi had already taught Dai Sensei all kata of the Goju-Ryu. Dai Sensei accomplished this when it was common at that time for all students to learn only Sanchin, Seiunchin, and/or Seisan. Even though Chojun Miyagi was a man of few words, he spoke highly of Dai Sensei and explained to the other students offer their support to him.

Chojun Miyagi had many students. He was known to be strict and only the most dedicated would remain loyal to him. Many students left before establishing an advanced competency of his curriculum. Dai Sensei had the opportunity to witness the different stages of Goju-Ryu and when he began Meibukan he decided to teach only the most advanced and difficult stage. Dai Sensei remained loyal to Miyagi until his untimely passing in 1953. Miyagi did not have the opportunity to appoint a successor but he did create the Goju-Ryu Advancement Society in 1952. Having already established a dojo, Dai Sensei was promptly installed as the president of the society after the grandmaster’s passing.

Prior to Grandmaster Miyagi’s passing, many senior students had already been teaching informally. Not having an officially established school name or organization prior, these students began to do so in the following years. In 1953 Seikichi Toguchi opened Shoreikan, Eiichi Miyazato opened Jundokan in 1954, and in 1960 Seiko Higa formed the Shodokan. In 1956, Dai Sensei initiated the formation of the Okinawa Goju-Kai which included the senior Goju-Ryu teachers at that time.

Zen Okinawa Karate-do Renmei founders (from the left) Kanei Uechi, Meitoku Yagi, Shoshin Nagamine, Yuchoku Higa.

Zen Okinawa Karate-do Renmei founders (front row from the left) Kanei Uechi, Meitoku Yagi, Shoshin Nagamine, Yuchoku Higa.

Miyagi’s family remembered the close student/teacher relationship he had with Dai Sensei. Teaching never stopped outside the dojo and often philosophy was on the agenda. In 1963, the Miyagi family chose an heir to the Goju-Ryu style of Karate. They considered all of the senior students before making a decision together. Meitoku Dai Sensei would become the Menkyo Kaiden and he received the belt and gi of Chojun Miyagi.

Dai Sensei also co-founded the Zen Okinawa Karate-Do Renmei with Shoshin Nagamine of Shorin-Ryu and later become its president in 1973. The purpose of this association was to culturally preserve Karate as an integral part Okinawa’s heritage. The association was successful in its quest and in 1977, both Dai Sensei and Shoshin Nagamine became the first living masters to receive their 10th dan Hanshi title for styles of Karate recognized as Okinawan.

Dai Sensei’s efforts through the Meibukan Hombu Dojo would continue to be recognized throughout the world. This earned him the following honours.

1986 Received Order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold Rays with Rosette
1993 Received 1st Karate-do Medal of Merit from the Ryukyu Shinpo
1997 Recognized as Intangible Cultural Asset holder in the field of Okinawan Karate and Martial Arts with Weaponry by Okinawa Prefecture
2000 Received Medal of Merit for Municipal Administration from Naha City

The spirit of Dai Sensei’s legacy of the Okinawa Goju-Kai and the All Okinawa Karate-Do Association is still alive in Okinawa through the efforts of the Meibukan Hombu Dojo. The Hombu is still an important contributor to these associations and still proudly represent the thousands of students through associate schools that were established while Dai Sensei was still alive. These schools are in Okinawa, Ibaraki Prefecture, India, Australia, USA, and Canada. It’s president since 1995 is Yagi Meitetsu, 10th Dan Hanshi.