Masaji Taira is a leading teacher of Okinawa Goju Ryu Karate Do, in the manner of the Jundokan dojo in Okinawa and of his teacher Ei'ichi Miyazato. He heads the Okinawa Goju Ryu Kenkyukai. He is best known as a researcher and practitioner of the bunkai of the Goju Ryu kata. He is unusually open in his teachings, feeling that the techniques and learning must be shared, for their preservation and to test their effectiveness.
Taira Sensei was raised on Kume Island. His family were farmers, growing sugarcane and rice. In his third year of high school the family moved to Naha, where Taira Sensei finished his schooling.
When he was young on Kume Island the kids all used to do Okinawa Sumo. They would go to the sand pit when they were in school and do that during break times. There were always Okinawa Sumo competitions and tournaments between the different villages.
At 16 Taira Sensei started training in Goju Ryu Karate at the Jundokan dojo of Miyazato Ei'ichi Sensei. There was a break in his Karate training when he joined the Japanese police force. He has trained continuously at Goju Ryu Karate since he was 21.
He joined the Japanese Police Force when he graduated from High School. As part of his riot police training he was required to learn Judo. He achieved his Judo black belt in 3 months, when 6 months was more common. He attributes this to his childhood Okinawa Sumo training. He is currently 4th dan in Judo.
His day as a member of the riot squad ended at 5pm whereby he would make the journey from Gushikawa City where he was stationed to the Jundokan in Naha where from 6pm to 10pm every night he would pursue his karate training with an equal dedication under the guidance of the late Eiichi Miyazato Sensei, founder of the Jundokan and heir to Chojun Miyagi Sensei.
While in his early years at the Jundokan he met a senior in the Dojo called Shinko Gima Sensei. Gima Sensei is a very wiry, extremely strong man whose kata exudes power. Although a slight man, he is formidable in his speed and execution of technique. Realising they were on a similar path the two men teamed up and spent their time in the dojo training together. Both hating to lose there were many battle scars received on both sides. After the dojo on many occasions, taken by the spirit of perfecting their technique, they would make their way to the hills of Madanbashi approximately an hours walk from the Jundokan. There they would spend their time training until sunrise on some occasions. Being the hills and given Okinawa's tropical climate, the mosquitoes were always in abundant supply giving them all the more reason to keep moving.
Most of Taira Sensei's Karate career has revolved around his focus on the bunkai of the kata. He has painstakingly dissected the kata and trained his body to the point where he has mastered the inner workings of Goju Ryu kata. Taira Sensei's bunkai is unusual in his insistence on working the kata in sequence, rather than picking techniques from the kata in isolation. He is also adamant that the kata do not be changed to perform bunkai.
Taira Sensei's first overseas seminar was held in Seattle, Washington in 1997 and hosted by Jundokan Seattle. Since then he has been travelling the world giving seminars on his interpretations of the bunkai of the Goju Ryu kata. He has presented seminars in Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Europe.
The main focus of Taira Sensei's training is the application of Goju Ryu kata techniques to self defence, as bunkai. Unlike many other teachers he does not cherry pick techniques from the kata. He believes that the kata were designed as complete fighting systems, with logical transitions from one technique to another as a complete and complex defensive flow.
It is important not to mistake his complete kata bunkai to mean that the entire kata needs to be performed. Any single technique can be used to finish a fight. The kata works as a template to prepare the student with entry and exit points for defensive and counter moves. With a complete knowledge of the system a practitioner should be able to response to almost any attack and have a start and end point from that attack.
Taira Sensei was promoted to 9th dan by Kishaba Chogi, founder of the Ryukyu Bujutsu Kenkyu Doyukai and one of the few remaining students of Miyagi Chojun Sensei, and a junior to Miyazato Eiichi Sensei. Taira is also a student of Kobudo, studying with Kinjo Masakazu Sensei of the Ryukyu Kobudo Hozonkai.