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Onaga Yoshimitsu Kaichō, founder of the Shinjinbukan School

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Onaga Yoshimitsu Kaichō − Biographical Note

This is the first part of Onaga Yoshimitsu Kaichō’s biographical note, presented as a general timeline. The second part describes Onaga Kaichō as a Tichikayā: a person who holds the knowledge of Ti (手). This article is based on my personal research and perspectives and is not an official biography approved by Onaga Kaichō.   

Written by Jimmy Mora

Onaga Yoshimitsu Kaichō, founder of the Shinjinbukan School, is a Tichikayā: a person who holds the knowledge of Ti (手). He is considered one of the last masters able to understand and teach Ti, the ancient Okinawan martial art that preceded modern Karate.

Onaga Kaichō's family is originally from Shuri, the ancient capital of Okinawa. His parents moved to China, where Onaga Kaichō was born. After a couple of years the entire family returned to Okinawa.

As a teenager Onaga Kaichō started learning Karate from Taira Osahiro, who was a student of the famous teacher Higa Yūchoku Sensei. Eventually he met Higa Sensei and became his only Uchi Deshi, or disciple living in the Dōjō. After 35 years as an Uchi Deshi, through his intense practice and research, Onaga Yoshimitsu Kaichō achieved an understanding of Ti beyond those of his generation.

In 1988, Onaga Kaichō founded Shinjinbukan, a school dedicated to preserve and further develop Ti. This marked a distinct departure from the focus on Ryūha, or traditional Okinawan Karate styles. The Shinjinbukan Dōjō Kun (Dōjō Precepts) written during those years is a statement of his martial arts philosophy.

Upon opening his own Dōjō, Onaga Kaichō was invited by Yagi Meitoku Sensei to return to the Zen Okinawa Karate Dō Renmei (All-Okinawa Karate Dō Federation), also known as the Zenokikuren, and become the chairman of the Shōrin Ryū (Kobayashi lineage).

As a member of the Zenokikuren, Onaga Kaichō served in the following capacities:
  — Acting President
  — Ranking/Certification Executive Director
  — Shōrin Ryū Chairman
  — Kobayashi Ryū Representative

During those early years, Onaga Yoshimitsu Kaichō’s school was only known as the “Onaga Karate Dōjō”. The name Shinjinbukan was not used publicly.

In 1995, Onaga Kaichō co-published the book Michi (The Way), A Journey Through the History of Zenokikuren, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II.

In 2000, Onaga Kaichō and the Shinjinbukan School were featured in a documentary about the three original Karate styles, or Ryūha, from Okinawa: Shōrin Ryū, Gōjū Ryū and Uechi Ryū. This was the first time the name Shinjinbukan, instead of Onaga Karate Dōjō, was displayed in an international public venue. During the same year, Onaga Kaichō presented a new Obi (belt) embroidered with the name Shinjinbukan to his deshi in Okinawa and overseas.

Starting in 2001 Onaga Kaichō and his daughter Onaga Michiko Sensei were featured in numerous magazine articles about Karate in Okinawa.

In 2003, Onaga Kaichō resigned from the Zen Okinawa Karate Dō Renmei (All-Okinawa Karate Dō Federation).

In 2005, he taught his first Gasshuku (training camp) in Europe during a visit to Riga, Latvia.

In 2007, Onaga Yoshimitsu Kaichō became the Honorary Consul of the Republic of Latvia in Okinawa and also the first honorary consul from any European country in Okinawa.

In 2007, NHK, the Japanese national broadcasting company, produced a documentary about the Shinjinbukan School in Okinawa, featuring Onaga Yoshimitsu Kaichō and his daughter and most senior student, Onaga Michiko Sensei.

In 2009, Onaga Kaichō published the first two volumes in a five-volume series called Shinjinbukan Training Manual. Volume three was published in 2010.

For more than 30 years Onaga Kaichō has taught many Gasshuku and toured Japan, Argentina, Peru, United States, Canada, Latvia, Germany, Philippines and others countries. 2013 marked the celebration of Onaga Kaichō’s 75th birthday and the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Shinjinbukan School.

Onaga Kaichō has always kept a limited number of deshi or disciples, and Shinjinbukan has remained an exclusive organization with a few international branches. In 2014, he taught during a five-week European Gasshuku Tour visiting the Shinjinbukan branches in Spain, Latvia, Denmark, Germany and Italy.

See the second part of Onaga Kaichō’s biographical note, Tichikayā: a person who holds the knowledge of Ti (手).

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Onaga Yoshimitsu Kaichō, founder of the Shinjinbukan School

Above: Onaga Yoshimitsu Kaichō
Shinjinbukan Honbu Dōjō, Okinawa, 1993

The book -Michi- Calligraphy by Yagi Meitoku Dai Sensei

Above: The cover to the book Michi. Published in 1995
Calligraphy by Yagi Meitoku Dai Sensei

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Shinjinbukan.com is a free resource sponsored by the Shinjinbukan Foundation. The statements on this site represent my own personal understanding of Onaga Yoshimitsu Kaichō's teachings. Therefore, I do not claim to speak on his behalf. As one more of his students, I am eager to share his living and oral traditions. Jimmy Mora

Shinjinbukan.com is a free resource sponsored by the Shinjinbukan Foundation to share Onaga Yoshimitsu Kaichō's Ti: a living and oral tradition.