by Sean Wong
It was 1931. During the time when the United States were in the middle of prohibition and dealing with gangsters like Al Capone, the small island of Okinawa, in the Ryukyu archipelago of Japan, was enjoying their long history of a healthy drinking culture. An area of Naha City, Okinawa called Tsuji, was a well known party district often frequented by the rough and tough likes of sailors, drinkers, gamblers, and gangsters. Perhaps, one could believe it might have been the Port Royal of the Ryukyu Kingdom.
As a teenager, young Meitoku roamed these streets as a hard working young man who worked as a rickshaw. One can assume that he knew the ins and outs of these streets well. He began this job 3 years after starting his Karate training with the famous grand master Chojun Miyagi and had the confidence that he could handle himself easily in such a mixed company. He witnessed and studied a wide variety fistacuffs.
By his last and fifth year of middle school, in 1932 this future master already started his own peer Karate group made up of second year students from several middle schools all over the Naha region. They practiced to be physically strong and to be courageous. Even during an era of strong superstition and belief in the occult, young Yagi’s group would camp out in “haunted houses” and write their names on the wall in chalk as though to challenge the dark spirits.
Together, they must have felt invincible. A bunch of 18 – 20 year olds who were strong, skilled, and courageous. So much so, taking a stroll in Tsuji, possibly the “baddest” part of Naha at midnight in their geta (traditional wooden clogs) was literally as simple as a stroll in the park. However, instead of challenging the dark spirits of the occult, this time they often received dark challenges from those under the influence of the liquid spirits. Repeatedly however, despite the real risk of permanent injury and death, the young master to be and his students were skilled enough to defend themselves without causing permanent injury to the attacker and to themselves. Even in an era when there were no such thing as a Karate tournament, the young Dai Sensei to be made it a ritual to challenge himself with control and care for the individual.
Incidences like these helped to hone Dai Sensei’s judgement and combat skills. Combined with his knowledge of Tsuji, he would eventually become an able and powerful policeman. He went on to defend the underdogs of his community and stand up for what is right for the rest of his life.