Hawaii Karate Seinenkai
Mitsugi Kobayashi was born in Luihui, Kauai, on October 15, 1923. His family moved to Oahu before he started kindergarten. He began his martial arts training at the McCully Japanese Language School where he learned Judo from Yukiso Yamamoto (who later became an Aikido teacher). Yamomoto's dojo was called the Meidokan.
In his late 20's, Kobayashi went to Okinawa to work. He lived there from about 1951 until 1959, coming back to Hawaii from time to time. One day, he went to the dojo of Seko Higa, a student of Kanryo Higashionna (a leading instructor of Naha-Te) and Chojun Miyagi (1888 - 1953) (the founder of the Goju-Ryu form of Karate). See Chojun Miyagi's 1934 Visit to Hawaii. Kobayashi and a few others sought to become students. Higa called his art Goju-Ryu or Kenpo.
Kobayashi said that in those days, the instructor might curse at or strike a potential student, just to see how he reacted (would he remain calm or become angry?). The instructor might even spit on the student. Just from his demeanor, Higa could tell that Kobayashi had studied Judo. Kobayashi confirmed that he had studied with Yamamoto Sensei and, along with a few others, was accepted as a student. One by one, the other students quit, leaving Kobayashi as Higa's only student.
Kobayashi said that Higa was a relative of Anko Itosu and that Higa had trained with him. Kobayashi remembers learning the Pinan kata from Higa and thought that Higa had learned the kata from Itosu. Higa's father was a friend of Kanryo Higashionna and asked him to teach his son.
Even though Higa was very poor, he would not accept tuition payments from Kobayashi. Once, Kobayashi gave Higa $50, which at that time in Okinawa was a large sum of money. Higa saw an old woman picking up broken pieces of glass outside of the dojo and gave her all of the money. He himself did not even have enough money for the bus ride home!
One of Higa's students was Kanki Izumigawa (1908-1969), who had learned from him on Saipan. Izumigawa visited Hawaii in 1961 and 1964. Three of his students in Hawaii were George Miyasaki, Kenneth Murakami and Tomu Arakawa.
Kobayashi often accompanied Higa when he visited other karate instructors. One of the seniors he visited was Choshin Chibana (student of Anko Itosu and founder of the Kobayashi-Ryu form of Shorin-Ryu). Kobayashi often appears in photographs of Karate seniors during the 1950's and is usually is identified as "unknown".
When he returned to Hawaii in 1959, Kobayashi gave a demonstration of Goju-Ryu that was sponsored by Chinyei Kinjo of the Yoen Jiho Sha. The demonstration was in late April. Kinjo had been a student of Chojun Miyagi while attending Naha Shogyo Kozo Gakko (Naha High School). Kobayashi's father and Kinjo were good friends. Kenneth Murakami participated in the demonstration and Watoku Higa assisted.
Around 1960 or 1961, Kabayashi taught Goju-Ryu classes at the Manoa Japanese School. He found that it was difficult to find dedicated students and after about 3 years, he told everyone to quit. Although he stopped teaching after that time, other Goju-Ryu instructors in Hawaii would visit him to learn and correct their kata. Because he rained in Okinawa for so many years, he practiced the full kata curriculum.
Early members of the Hawaii Karate Congress. Front: Jimmy Miyaji,
Kenneth Murakami, Robert Igarashi, Winfred Ho. Back: Mitsugi
Kobayashi, unknown, unknown, Walter Nishioka, Carlton Shimomi.
Kobayashi was a founding member of the Hawaii Karate Congress.
Kobayashi learned Goju-Ryu before the dan ranking system was established. Chojun Miyagi himself never gave dan ranking or a black belt to any of his students. While he did not have a dan grade, Kobayashi was awarded Shihan Menkyo (a certified teaching license) by Higa Sensei.
Once a 9th dan in Goju-Ryu was visiting Hawaii. A dinner was given in his honor and Kobayashi was invited. Sitting at the head table, the guest recognized Kobayashi in the back of the room. The guest's face turn white. He jumped up and spoke to the host. "I cannot sit up here if Kobayashi Sensei is back there." "He has to sit on the head table."
"That's just Kobayashi," said the host. "He doesn't have any rank."
"There was no rank when he trained!" said the guest. "He is my sempai (senior)."
Kobayashi was one of the first supporters of the Hawaii Karate Museum and donated several priceless books and photographs to its collection. He also helped the Hawaii Karate Seinenkai to identify senior Karate instructors in Hawaii. In August 2004, the Hawaii Karate Museum arranged for him to meet with Morio Higaonna, who was visiting Hawaii to conduct research on the history of Goju-Ryu. In October 2005, Kobayashi taught a class on the Tensho kata (Rokishu) at the Hikari Dojo.
The Hawaii Karate Seinenkai salutes Mitsugi Kobayashi, one of Hawaii's most senior Goju-Ryu instructors and a generous supporter of the art.
The spirit of Karate is the Aloha spirit
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