A decade after Karate became public, Dai Sensei Yagi Meitoku was born on March 6th, 1912. According to the lunar calendar, his birth coincided with the Goddess of Mercy and Buddha. He learned his calligraphy from a family elder named Norikyo who he called Ojiisan (grandfather). Norikyo-san was a scholar and holistic doctor who was educated in China. They spent of lot of time together and the young Meitoku was exposed to an academic and intellectual upbringing. As with certain men of the Meiji era, Norikyo-san was very much a renaissance man. He imparted to Dai Sensei a sense of purpose and equipped him with the start of a good education.
It was Ojiisan who introduced Dai Sensei to the great Chojun Miyagi. Around the age of 14, upon entering middle school, the then energetic boy began to show an interest in Karate. Ojiisan brought Dai Sensei to Miyagi Sensei where he was introduced as a descendant of Jana Oyakata Teido, the great martyr and general of Okinawa. The approximate 15 years between 1926 (when Dai Sensei began karate) and 1940 (Japan’s alliance with Germany and Italy – WWII), Dai Sensei was diligent student. Around the same time grand master Chojun Miyagi submitted the name Goju-Ryu to the Dai Nippon Butokukai, Japan’s head association for it martial arts, he also began teach Dai Sensei a series of kata. Unknowingly, Dai Sensei became the first person to learn the entire kata curriculum of what would be recognized as the first official style of Karate in the world.
After the interruption of the war, Dai Sensei continued to visit his teacher until his untimely passing. He remained committed to his Ryukyu home, became an important voice for Okinawa Karate, and worked hard to protect it as part of Okinawa’s heritage. He was integral in creating the Okinawa Goju-Kai and the All Okinawa Karate-do Association. His efforts have earned him to be among the first men to receive recognition by his country and his prefecture for his contribution to Okinawa Karate, including the highest civilian award of Ningen Kokuho. A title as Japan’s national living treasure.
After living a full life and contributing to world, he sadly passed away on February 7th, 2003. May he rest in peace and may we all continue to practice Okinawa Karate in his memory today.