Dear IOGKF members,
It is with a very heavy heart that I feel I must write this message in response to a recent letter by Higaonna Sensei, someone I have respected, admired, and followed for almost my entire adult life.
I also understand that when incidents like this happen, there are always different views depending on which side you stand.
However, whichever side you stand, facts are facts – they don’t change.
So, when it comes to false accusations and personal attacks, I will not accept it. I am writing this to clarify the facts of the past not to start an argument or a fight between brothers and sisters.
In this letter, I will only respond to the false accusations in the recent letter published on the TOGKF Website and posted on Facebook on February 20th, 2023
I will not go into all details of what happened to our organization since last June until now. I have shared this information with country leaders through series of online meetings since last September. We are currently working on creating one detailed document for our members and this will be available shortly.
I have several areas that I wish to address:
- IOGKF, the proof of generation change
- IOGKF Constitution
- Meeting in Okinawa
IOGKF, the proof of generation change
After reading Higaonna Sensei’s letter several times, I felt that the most important message that he has tried to emphasize is “I did not appoint Mr. Nakamura as my replacement, and I never relinquished any of my authority as the overall head of the IOGKF”.
This is inaccurate. As you can see in the attached message, Higaonna Sensei wrote both in Japanese and English on the pamphlet of the World Budosai 2012, that he had stepped down from his position as a chief instructor and became the Saiko Shihan, which is an advisory position to the organization.
Here are his own words, “I am stepping down from my position as the chief instructor of IOGKF. I will be watching the organization as an advisor hereafter. It is important for the development of Okinawa Goju-Ryu to trust in the next generation and pass the responsibility on to them. I believe this is the time.”
His words state clearly that he will only be advising the organization after this point in time, inferring he will not be involved in the running of IOGKF organizational matters any longer. Higaonna Sensei was aware of the outcome of his decision at the time, and everybody praised Higaonna Sensei’s decision as such a wise move, as many masters usually cling to their power until the end leaving their organizations fractured after the passing of their founders. Nobody would have thought that the current split in IOGKF would happen eleven years later.
In his message, Higaonna Sensei mentioned “I discovered that in 2012, as soon as I had appointed Mr. Nakamura and the EC members to their positions, they had drawn up a document titled the ‘IOGKF Constitution’……the new IOGKF Constitution stripped me of all decision making authority concerning IOGKF. Had I understood the full implications of this wording in 2012, I would never have agreed that Mr. Nakamura, Mr. Molyneux and Mr. Larsen should be involved in managing the IOGKF”.
However, the IOGKF constitution (previously called IOGKF rules & regulations) was not created in 2012. It was originally created by Higaonna Sensei himself many years before. He, together with his advisors, made many revisions throughout the years. I have attached a copy of IOGKF rules and regulations (revision 10) from 1997 as well as the constitution from 2012. You can see that the roles Higaonna Sensei created match the responsibilities of the roles in place today, nothing has been changed.
Since the establishment of IOGKF the role and responsibilities of the World Chief Instructor (Shuseki Shihan) have never changed. The Chief Instructor has the responsibility for all technical matters and administration of the IOGKF. Supreme Master (Saiko Shihan) is an honorary position that was created by the same Higaonna Sensei for An’ichi Miyagi Sensei originally. This position is an honorary and advisory position and there is no organizational role or responsibilities.
IOGKF has been run by this new generation for over a decade during which the membership has grown and the quality of training has improved. Through all these years, we have shown utmost respect to Higaonna Sensei as a Saiko Shihan, informed and asked for his advice for any important matter, yet Higaonna Sensei was never involved in any organizational matters during this period and has never expressed any concern or doubt with the functioning of IOGKF nor has he communicated in any way that he has been unhappy with the work of the Executive Committee or myself.
Higaonna Sensei claims that I had methodically transferred all of his copyrights and trademarks out of his name and registered them into the name of the IOGKF. However, neither IOGKF nor I ever possessed the copyrights to any of Higaonna Sensei’s books. Higaonna Sensei owns the copyrights for all books that have been published. IOGKF only has publishing rights for the following Higaonna Sensei’s books.
Traditional Karatedo Okinawa Goju-Ryu Vol 1-4, originally published by Minato Research and Publishing Co.,LTD. in 1985.
The original books were published in 1985. However, Higaonna Sensei never received any royalties from the publisher for the sales of these original books.
An intellectual property rights lawyer helped us to secure the publishing rights and we republished this book series in 2016.
IOGKF sent all the profits from the sale of these books to Higaonna Sensei. We have financial records to prove this. Neither IOGKF nor I ever profited from the book sales, even though the IOGKF and volunteers had contributed hours of labour and effort to get the books printed, sold, and delivered
If we hadn’t acquired the publishing rights, Higaonna Sensei might never have received any royalties for these books.
The History of Karate, originally published by Dragon Books, Mr. David Chambers in 1996.
In 2016, an intellectual property rights lawyer helped us to secure the publishing rights for this book. Before republishing many IOGKF members volunteered their time to edit and proofread the text, and refresh and rearrange photos and graphics. But before we could republish, Sensei resigned from IOGKF and we halted the project.
In his letter, Higaonna Sensei says “I know that the documents state that I was effectively giving up my copyrights for the sole remuneration of US$10.”
This is partially correct, However Higaonna Sensei was aware that this was a mere formality required to complete the paperwork for IOGKF, so the books could be put into print again. Also, IOGKF acquired the publishing rights, not copyright.
IOGKF spent a lot of time and money on these projects. We did it because we wanted to support Higaonna Sensei’s work. Therefore, it was very sad to hear him saying that IOGKF stole his copyrights. IOGKF has the legal documents to prove that Higaonna Sensei retains all the copyright. I will gladly sign the legal documents to also transfer the publishing rights to Higaonna Sensei or TOGKF.
During the time when Higaonna Sensei was a chief instructor, each country was encouraged to register the IOGKF logo in their own country for protection. However, there are legal and registration costs for trademark registration. As a result, not many countries ended up registering the logo. Trademark law is very complex. There are many different categories of trademark registration.
As IOGKF continues to grow bigger, we have seen many examples of the logo being misused by third parties. There were also issues when individual members who had registered the logo under their name left the IOGKF.
When very convincing fake copies of the IOGKF grading certificates, using the IOGKF logo, hit the online market, we sought legal advice. A global trademark was the recommendation.
IOGKF office asked countries that have their own registration to sign a document to transfer the right to IOGKF international, this included Japan where the logo was registered under Higaonna Sensei’s name. I explained our intention to Higaonna Sensei in Japanese, he understood the need for what we were doing, and he signed the document with his registered stamp.
The IOGKF logo is the property of IOGKF and its members. It is our duty to protect the logo for future generations.
Meeting in Okinawa
Regarding the meeting in Okinawa, Higaonna Sensei said “The meeting ended and Mr. Nakamura and the three EC members all stood up and walked out of Honbu Dojo, without bowing to Shomen. This was the most hurtful thing to experience, even behavior showed complete disrespect for the dojo and for the founding fathers of Okinawa Goju-Ryu, as well as a total lack of understanding for what the martial arts are all about. If their intention was to make the point that they do not recognize me as having any authority over the IOGKF or them, then made their point clearly. The disrespectful way they acted in leaving the dojo is not acceptable behavior within traditional karate.”
This comment was clearly made simply to cause division and it is completely inaccurate.
At the meeting in Okinawa, Higaonna Sensei insisted that he wanted to return as World Chief Instructor. Our proposal was that we want Higaonna Sensei to come back to the position of Saiko Shihan where he was successfully for the past 11 years. After discussion, we concluded that we couldn’t reach an agreement. Then, we each stood up, bowed to Higaonna Sensei, and thanked him. As we left the Dojo, all of us bowed to shomen as is tradition. Some of our instructors have trained for over 50 years – longer than IOGKF itself. This practice is engrained in all of us. It is as much a habit as it is a choice. We will always show respect to those who came before us.
Finally, I note that Higaonna Sensei has declared that the Executive Committee members and I are no longer his students. I am sorry to read this statement. I moved countries and my home several times in my adult life to follow Higaonna Sensei and served him with utmost loyalty and respect. I am very hurt to see what has become of our relationship. I dedicated my life to him and to our common project.
I have always told my students that Higaonna Sensei is the best karate master on the planet, and my view remains the same. I am grateful for all his teaching during the past 30 + years.
I wish Higaonna Sensei good health and success. I also wish TOGKF members all the best in their training and martial arts journey.
IOGKF members and I are committed to getting on with our original goals and objectives of our organization since its establishment in 1979 respectfully and professionally.