Higa, Yuchoku (1910 ~ 1994)
Yuchoku-sensei, 10th Dan Hanshi, was one of the most important Shorin-ryu instructors in Okinawa and perhaps the least known internationally. Higa was born in 1910 and, in 1965, he was the first person to receive a Hanshi 9-Dan promotion from Choshin, Chibana. Higa later left Chibana's Okinawa Shorin-ryu Karate-do Association to form his own organization and also to assume the leadership of the Okinawa Karate-do Association as its third president. Higa sensei was still an active instructor at his Shorin-ryu Kyudokan dojo located in Naha City until just a few few months prior to his death at the age of 84.
After the war, Higa became a student of Choshin Chibana who then lived in Chinen Yashiki-mura. Higa was again studying Shuri-te. In October of l948, Higa opened a dojo in Shuri-Gibo machi at Noei Miyagi's home. Higa was also an apprentice teacher under Chibana at the Shuri City Police Station and assisted Chibana in opening ten Shorin-ryu dojo.
When Chibana organized the Okinawa Shorin-ryu Karate-do Association, Higa was his first Vice President. Higa taught karate at the same address since he moved to Naha after the war. He was the president of the Shorin-ryu Kyudokan Association and Chairman of the Board of Shihans for the All Okinawa Karate-do Association. He was also president of the All Okinawa Karate and Kobudo Association with a membership of 34 dojo.
The Master Yuchoku Higa was born in Naha, Okinawa, February 4, 1910. His first master was the sensei Jiro Shiroma, who was a specialist in Shuri-te, and who trained him for 6 years utilizing intense practice of Kihon and Kata as his basis. Only in the final phase of the relationship with J.Shiroma, did Y.Higa carry out the Kumite exercises.
On the death of the master Shiroma in 1933, and after training alone for 1 year, he became a pupil of the masters Jinnan Shinzato and Seiei Miyahira. With the former, who was in his turn a disciple of master Chojun Miyagi and belonged to the Naha-te school, Y.Higa learnt the characteristics of the style which is nowadays known as Goju ryu, eventually incorporating the kata Seisan into the school he was later to set up. Apart from broadening his knowledge of Shuri-te, Y. Higa learnt from Master Miyahira the punching techniques, in which S.Miyahira had become an expert.
In 1941 Y.Higa started teaching karate to the employees at the Town Hall in Naha, and in the same year he started teaching from home.
In 1943 he met Master Choshin Chibana, a direct disciple of Master Anko Itosu, and in a short time became his main pupil. From the very hands of Master Chibana, Yuchoku Higa was to receive his Hanshi 9th Dan, thus becoming not only the first pupil to have this grade conferred on him by Master Chibana , but also one of the greatest exponents in the history of karate-do.
In 1945, with his police-officer qualification, Master Y.Higa worked at Yonabaru police headquarters, being transferred 2 years later to the Naha police headquarters.
In the same year (1947) he inaugurated the Kyudokan Karate Dojo and applied himself to perfecting and developing everything that he had learnt from his masters, and especially from Choshin Chibana, with whom he continued to practise. In 1961 when the first Shorinryu Karate-do Association of Okinawa was formed, presided over by Master Chibana, Y.Higa was assigned the role of vice-president. During that period he alternated his political affairs with his role as karate master. As well as having a role in the Okinawa House of Representatives, as either president or member, on eight successive occasions, he was also president of the Okinawa Federation of Karate and Kobudo, chief adviser for the Okinawa Association of Masters of Karate-do etc. Y.Higa also received countless awards, among which there was one for illustrious individuals who were invited to the Royal Palace in Tokyo, by the Emperor Hirohito. In 1976 he received his Hanshi 10th Dan, the highest rank to which a master can aspire.
In 1992, along with other great masters, he took part in one of his last and most memorable exhibitions at the Shuri Castle. The following year, in February, he received the karate-do Merit Prize awarded by the Ryu Kyu press.
Master Yuchoku died on November 6, 1994, in Naha, at the age of 84.
In an age when competition didn't exist, Master Y.Higa was the star of numerous Kakidamishi (combat challenges), increasing his physical, mental and spiritual attributes through intensive training sessions.
His punch technique was so famous on Okinawa island, where it was known in the local dialect as "Yuchoku no tijikun", i.e. Yuchoku's punch. He dedicated several hours of his practice every day to makiwara exercises, and contrary to what most people might imagine, he wasn't a hard and insensitive character. He was passionate about bonsai trees, and kept numerous examples at the entrance to his dojo; he alternated this pursuit with his keen interest in bird-life.
He himself maintained that these hobbies were fundamental for the growth of his spiritual sensitivity. His encouragement of the upkeep of tradition and the cultural heritage of Okinawa can be synthesized in the following sentence: "I would like the essence of Bujutsu Karate not to be lost; it is our sole inheritance from our native land and one which our forefathers left to the world with such pride". Synthesizing his thoughts about karate-do he stated; "up to a certain time I thought being strong was the most important thing. In time I realized that the most important thing is to be ready to give assistance to others. Moreover it is important not to set oneself limits, therefore I now preach Kyudo Mugen - the study-trail is never-ending. The karate pathway is as immensely vast, profound and boundless as the heavens that go on for ever beyond all limits.