HIchiya Yoshio – Dojo Tour 2

“Do not be struck by others, do not strike others”, the founder’s last teachings, held in his heart

Okinawa Goju-ryu Karate Association Hichiya Dojo, Yoshio Hichiya (Holder of the Intangible Cultural Asset of Okinawa Prefecture)

Do not be hit by others, do not hit others”. With this in mind, he ties his belt tightly around his Karate-gi. It’s this same moment when he stands tall, just as he did 63 years ago when he first encountered Karate. He is still standing at the Hichiya Dojo in Shuri, Ishinome-cho, Naha City, where he has a keen eye for teaching. He is respected for his overwhelming technique and gentle personality, and his dojo attracts Karateka from both Okinawa and abroad.

“Would you like to learn Te?” It all started when a friend of mine, who was doing Karate, said something to me. He was 23 years old at the time. “It was a difficult time for me and I wondered how I could make a living.” He refused, but the bus company he worked for finished its work in the morning and he had free time in the afternoon. So, he knocked on the door of the dojo where his friend was training.

The most distinctive feature of Goju-ryu is its breathing technique. He recalls, “I’d never done it before, so I just huffed and puffed at first“. He began to find it interesting, and at the age of 27, he studied under Miyazato Eiichi (1922-1999), a teacher of Goju-ryu, who said, “It’s not just huffing and puffing. You don’t do it that hard,” he said, recalling the rigors of his training.

He often practiced Seiyunchin, a kata that uses shiko-dachi and has no kicks. “Miyazato Sensei told me, ‘You have to do this,'” he said. He performed the kata for a crowd of spectators at an annual demonstration held at a theatre in Naha City. “The teacher didn’t praise us,” he recalls.

In his notebook, Mr. Hichiya has written down the last words of Chojun Miyagi (1888-1953), the founder of Goju-ryu, which says: “Do not be struck by others; do not strike others. Do not let others hold a grudge against you, and be kind to others”.

“If you think you’re in pain, you’re wrong. There are other people in the world who are in more pain”. If you think of it that way, it’s easier to get over things. Thanks to Karate, he says, he has come to see “difficulties as an asset“. Miyagi’s posthumous teachings are important lessons that he carries in his heart.

The dojo is now attended by his students, ranging in age from high school students to people in their sixties. Mr. Hichiya is known for his gentle personality, but there is an episode that is well known in other dojos. This is his method for instructing “Sanchin” which is a kata that emphasizes breathing techniques. It is said that he strikes his students’ shoulders to check if they have tightened their bodies. His student, Matayoshi Tadashi, 74, recalls, “When I was young, I tightened my body so hard I felt this stinging pain when I took a shower”.

He taught not only in Okinawa prefecture, but also in Europe, China, and other countries. He has made efforts to internationalize Karate, build an overseas network, train many talented students, and is highly regarded.

On March 31, twenty Karate practitioners from South Africa came to the dojo and said, “Thank you, Sensei“. All eyes were on Hichiya, trying not to miss his movements. Embodying the traditional techniques and spirit of the dojo, Hichiya spoke softly to them as they asked him to teach them. ‘All right,’ he said.

Profile: Hichiya Yoshio was born on July 11, 1930 on Kume Island. Began Karate at the age of 23 with the help of a friend. At 27 years old, he studied under Miyazato Eiichi. In 2013, he was certified as a holder of the Okinawa Prefecture’s Intangible Cultural Asset, in Karate and Kobujutsu.

Originally published on April 9, 2017 in the Okinawa Times