Hawaii Karate Seinenkai
The Hawaii Karate Seinenkai Salutes:
Watoku Higa
December 19, 1888 to April 2, 1986

Born in Shuri, Okinawa, Watoku Higa was the nephew of Sokon "Bushi" Matsumura, the bodyguard and karate instructor to the King of Okinawa. Higa was apparently related on this mother's side of the family. One of Matsumura's students, Anko Itosu, introduced Karate to the Okinawan school curriculum around 1903.

Higa was fortunate to receive a good education in Okinawa. He loved to read books, and would often spend the day sitting under a tree reading. Karate was also part of his education. He began training at the age of 9 in Naha. He trained until he immigrated to Hawaii in 1905 at the age of 20.

When he arrived in Hawaii, Higa settled on the island of Oahu, working first at the Ewa Plantation and later at the Waimanalo Plantation (both were sugar cane plantations). Later, he started his own ginger and banana farm in Maunawili, Kailua.

Higa was familiar with the Okinawan Karate teachers. For example, he knew Choki Motobu. He said that when Motobu arrived in Hawaii (March 1932), he told the immigration official that he had come to teach Karate. This was not acceptable and he was therefore denied admission. Higa thought that it would have been all right if Motobu had said that he came to work on a plantation.

It is not believed that Higa taught Karate to anyone in Hawaii. He used to say that in the old days, Karate was not supposed to be shown - you did not want to let anyone know that you knew something. He did, however, occasionally give Karate demonstrations at family events such as weddings (many of the Okinawan seniors did this, usually performing Karate-odori, or dance).

According to Bruce Haines, Higa assisted in an April 1959 Karate demonstration sponsored by Chinei Kinjo, the editor of the Yoen Jiho Sha. Kinjo sponsored the 1935 visit to Hawaii of Chojun Miyagi. Kinjo's father, Chinzen Kinjo, was one of the original 26 Okinawan immigrants to Hawaii.

Once, when Higa attended a party, a group of rowdy teenagers tried to push him into a puddle. Higa let them push him and his clothes became wet and dirty. Later, his wife asked him why he had not punched the teenagers using his Karate. Higa replied that if he had punched the teenagers, they would have died. It was better to allow them to push him into a puddle - mud can be washed off.

The Hawaii Karate Seinenkai respectfully salutes Watoku Higa, a peaceful man and one of the most senior of Hawaii's issei Karate sensei.

The spirit of Karate is the Aloha spirit

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