Goju-Ryu translates as hard and soft, strong and gentle, or
block soft and hit hard system. The translations can prove difficult to
put into practice. Since language is a major factor to shape thinking
and therefore movement, the words "hard and soft" can lead to
confusion. Goju-Ryu may be viewed as being both str
ong and gentle as seen in the jungle cats, which move gently, but with strong force simultaneously. One ultimate goal of Goju-Ryu training is to achieve a balance of strength and gentleness, thus creating a harmony within the practitioner in all aspects of life. This is the "way" of Goju-Ryu karate.
Development of Okinawan Karate
Based on mans instinct of self-preservation, different fighting arts were developed in most cultures, especially in central Asia. The principles of the Asian martial arts are believed to have spread from Turkey to India, perhaps two thousand years before the Christian era. India was the birthplace of a barehanded martial art called, in Sanskrit, Vajramushti. Evidence seems to indicate that the Kshatriya, which was the Warrior Class of that time, and which can be compared to the Japanese Samurai and the medieval Knights of Europe, commonly practiced it.
It is said that the third child of King Sugandha of southern India was a member of the Kshatriya of Warrior Caste. However, after a few years a strong spirit led him to a small but dynamic Buddhist province south of Madres. He received his religious training from the Dhyna of Master Prajnatara. Under the master's guidance, the boy grew into a very wise man and advanced in the way of the Dhyana or Buddhist practice, and was given the name Bodhidharma. After his master's death, Bodhidharma traveled to China, where he taught. His life was centered on the Shaolin Temple and monastery located in Hunan Province. Tradition states that upon seeing the emaciated condition of the monks, Bodhidharma instructed them in physical exercise, to condition their bodies as well as their minds. The exercise was called, "Eighteen hands of Lo-Han". This exercise also included breathing; he knew that this physical activity was a means of body hygiene. Eventually the monks began to study the animals and form exercises that resembled their ways of fighting, and later it was known as Chuan-Fa, "The Art of the Fist". It is important to note that the motive of the practice was art, physical conditioning, and finally, self-defense.
During the Sui Period (589-618), bandits began to raid the monastery for the purpose of food and anything of value.
At this time the monks, in order to protect their lives and their beloved monastery, utilized their Chuan-Fa art and defeated the bandits. The reputation of the Shaolin Fighting monks spread, and many came to study the art along with Buddhism. Today there are hundreds of styles, and of course the philosophy has changed somewhat, depending on the personality of the headmaster of the styles. In 1609 the art was brought to Okinawa where it underwent many changes and became later known as Karate-do.
During the 14th century kempo (Chaun-Fa) is introduced into Okinawa. It wins popularity and is trained as an art of self-defense, under the name of 'tote' (= Chinese hand). At Okinawa the native fighting art 'te' was practiced long before the introduction of kempo. It is believed that 'te' was combined with 'kempo' by the Okinawans and developed to the martial art karate.
When Japan invades Okinawa 1609 the ban of carrying weapons (first pronounced by King Sho Shin in 1477) continues, but the Japanese also bans the practice of martial arts. Consequently, the Okinawans must continue with martial arts in secrecy.
During the next three centuries the martial art develops into its own character and is called 'Okinawa Te'. It is split into three main styles:
Shuri-te influenced by the hard techniques of kempo and characterized by an offensive attitude.
Naha-te Tomari-te influenced by the softer techniques of kempo including breath control and 'ki'. It was characterized by a more defensive attitude with grappling, throws and locking techniques.
influenced by both the hard and soft techniques of kempo. In the ending of the 19th century Shuri-te and Tomari-te were subsumed under the name Shorin ryu, which during the years has developed into several slightly different styles. Naha-te becomes known under the name Goju ryu (the hard and soft style) and has basically remained the same, however many organizations exist.
Grandmaster Kanryo Higaonna was born on March 10, 1853, in Naha, the capital city of Okinawa. Kanryo, worked as a merchant sailing between the small islands of Okinawa trading everyday goods. From a young age Kanryo Higaonna helped his father in this work and through the hard physical labor that was involved he developed a strong body.
Kanryo Higaonna was still in his teens when his father died suddenly. Kanryo decided he wanted to study the martial arts and he set his heart on traveling to Fuzhou, China for this purpose. He arrived in Fuzhou in 1869, at the age of 16. Once in Fuzhou he studied the Chinese martial arts under the great Master Ryu Ryu Ko. He soon became "Uchi Deshi" (private disciple) and he remained in China under the severe instruction of his teacher for approximately 13 years. In addition to studying empty handed martial arts he also becomes accomplished in weapons techniques and Chinese herbal medicine. Master Ryu Ryu Ko esteemed his pupil highly and sanctioned Kanryo's mastery of these arts - an honor which is accorded extremely rarely. Such was Kanryo's skill in the martial arts that his fame became widespread throughout Fuzhou and the surrounding area.
In the year 1881, after 13 years of diligent study with his teacher he returned to Okinawa and Naha where his martial arts became known as Naha-te (these arts were also referred to as "Tode" meaning martial arts from China). Kanryo Higaonna taught these martial arts to the people of Okinawa and at the same time continued his own research and practice. In order to teach the youth of Okinawa he developed a teaching method, which was specifically, designed to develop the mind and body; to improve both physical and spiritual well-being.
The first occasion on which the previously secretive art of Naha-te was "opened" to society in general, occurred in October 1905, when Kanryo Higaonna began teaching at the high school.
When teaching, Kanryo Higaonna was an extremely hard taskmaster. However in his everyday life he was a quiet and humble man and one who was renowned for his virtuous character. He was a man who had no need or desire for worldly things. He led a simple life, which was completely devoted to the study and practice of the martial arts. His great and distinguished work was in bringing the Chinese martial art forms from China to Okinawa, and they're spreading these arts among the people of Okinawa.
Kanryo Higaonna is now bestowed with the title, "Kensei (sacred fists) Higaonna Kanryo", a title that is eminently fitting. His name is synonymous with Okinawan martial arts and Naha-Te, and his spirit is destined to live on forever as a great and valued treasure within Okinawan culture.
Kanryo Higaonna's whole life was devoted to karate. He passed away in December 1915 at the age of 63.
Kanryo Higaonna was born on March 10, 1853 in the district of Nishimura in the city of Naha, Okinawa. He was the son of Kanryo and Makomado. His father, Kanryo, was a merchant dedicated to trade with food and clothes through the Ryukyu Islands. Since his second and third brothers died at an early age, and his first brother was weak and sick, Kanryo Higonna Sensei started to work with his father at the age of ten. At the age of 14 he was honored with the traditional ceremony of "katagashira" to celebrate his manhood.
Unfortunately not too long after; in 1867, his father died suddenly as the result of a fight. This shocked the young Higaonna so much that the only thought that he was able to keep was his desire for revenge for the death of his father. It is at this point of his life when he decided to travel to China to learn the deadly Martial Arts to avenge his father's death. However, in those days, traveling to China was restricted only to merchants, students or government officials, and permission to travel was only granted by the King of Okinawa, and the only port of departure was the port of Naha.
Kanryo Higaonna, with the help of the official Udon Yoshimura, was able to get the permit to travel to Fuchow, China, as a student; departing from the port of Naha in the year 1868, at the age of 15. The desire for revenge was traveling with him, too.
At his arrival to the city of Fuchow, Kanryo Higaonna was accepted in the Ryukyu Kan or lodge where all the students from Okinawa were living. Once in Fuchow, Kanryo Higaonna was introduced to the well renowned martial arts instructor Ryu Ryu Ko. Ryu Ryu Ko Sensei was tall and strong, and even at his old age his speed and power was admirable. Ryu Ryu Ko Sensei's family was part of the Novel Court of China before they lost their status as a result of the politic turmoil in the country. Ryu Ryu Ko Sensei worked in bamboo, his shop on the first floor of the building and his house on the second floor. He taught martial arts at his house only to a small group of selected students.
In the beginning, Kanryo Higaonna only performed duties in the yard of Ryu Ryu Ko Sensei and sometimes in his shop before he decided to start to teach him the martial arts. At first Kanryo Higaonna was instructed only in Sanchin kata. His motivation and dedication soon started to show up in the progress of his skills, and he became "uchi deshi" (live-in student). He moved out from the Ryukyu Kan and started to live and work at Ryu Ryu Ko Sensei's bamboo shop. He was introduced to the different traditional equipment such as chiishi, ishi sashi, nigiri game, tan and muning (variation of makiwara). The training was very severe.
The fame of Ryu Ryu Ko Sensei was wide. He learned the martial arts in the southern Shaolin temple in the mountains of the Fujian Province. His teacher was a Court Official from the Dynasty. Ryu Ryu Ko Sensei also instructed Kanryo Higaonna in the use of weapons such the Daito (long sword), Shuto (small sword), Sai and Bo. He also taught him herbal medicine. In a few years, Kanryo Higaonna became Ryu Ryu Ko Sensei's top student. Kanryo Higaonna practiced 14 years in China until Ryu Ryu Ko Sensei told him that it was time for him to go back home, and in 1881 Kanryo Higaonna returned to Okinawa.
He returned to difficult political times in Okinawa, and he established himself in the district of Nishimura in the city of Naha. He started as his father did in the past as a merchant traveling with his boat in between the islands of the Ryukyu chain.
He then started to teach a select group of students at his house. His instruction was very severe. In a short time he obtained in Okinawa the same good reputation that he developed in Fuchow. It wasn't too long before the King of Okinawa invited Kanryo Higaonna to teach him the martial arts.
In 1905 he was invited to teach his Naha-Te or Te from Naha (name called then) in the Naha Commercial School. The principal wanted to teach the students the spiritual and moral aspects of the martial arts. This was an important step in the Naha-Te, not only for the recognition of the benefits of the practice but also because until then, Te was taught as a martial art, with the skill to kill.
After his research, Kanryo Higaonna, decided to make an important change in the Sanchin kata. Until then, Sanchin kata was practiced with open hands, so he started to teach it with closed hands and slower breathing with the purpose of promoting the health benefits, rather than promoting lethal techniques at the school. Kanryo Higaonna introduced the closed fist to emphasize the physical strength more than the ability to kill. Tradition also played an important roll for this change because he noticed that a lot of young Okinawans, without acknowledgement of martial arts, naturally stood with closed fists when they were going to fight. He continued to teach the original way that he learned in China to his few students at his dojo.
After 1905, karate became a little bit more accessible to the general population because until then Te was practiced just by a selected group of people. Kanryo Higaonna Sensei passed away in October, 1915 at the age of 62.
Grandmaster Chojun Miyagi was born on April 25, 1888 to an aristocratic family. They were in the import/export business, and owned two ships, which made regular trips to Mainland China, placing them among the wealthiest families in the area.
He began training in karate under Kanryo Higaonna at the age of 14, in 1902. Like his teacher before him, because of his great natural talent and fierce determination, he progressed very rapidly. The training was severe beyond belief at times but he practiced ever harder with an enthusiasm unmatched by any of the other students. Chojun Miyagi became "uchi deshi" (private disciple) of Kanryo Higaonna. He studied with his teacher for 14 years before his teacher's death in 1915. That same year (1915) he journeyed to Fuzhou, China, the city where his teacher had studied the martial arts, to further his research. This was one of three trips he made to China during his lifetime.
On his return to Okinawa he began to teach the martial arts at his home in Naha. Later, he also taught at the Okinawan Prefecture Police Training Center, at the Okinawan Master's Training College, and at the Naha Commercial High School (where his teacher had once taught).
Chojun Miyagi worked hard to spread karate throughout Okinawa and mainland Japan, and to earn Naha-te a status equal to that of the highly respected Japanese martial arts of Judo and Kendo. To achieve this he traveled frequently to mainland Japan where he was invited to teach karate at Kyoto University and Ritsumei Kan University. In 1933 karate was registered at the Butokukai, the center for all martial arts in Japan. This was a milestone for karate as it meant that it was recognized on a level with the highly respected martial arts of Japan.
Chojun Miyagi dedicated his whole life to karate. He was responsible for structuring Naha-te (which he later named "Goju-Ryu") into a systematized discipline, which could be taught to society in general. This teaching system, which he formulated, enabled karate to be taught in schools for the benefit of the young, and to reach vast numbers of people throughout the world. However, his private teaching at his home remained strictly in adherence to the principles of his teacher, Kanryo Higaonna, and his teacher before him, Ryu Ryu Ko.
Chojun Miyagi died on October 8th, 1953, of either a heart attack (the most popular explanation) or a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 65.
The Name Goju ryu
The naming of Goju-Ryu came about more by accident than design. In 1930, one of Chojun Miyagi's top students, Jin'an Shinzato, while in Tokyo attending a Martial Arts convention was asked by numerous martial arts masters as to what school of martial arts he practiced. As Naha-te had no formal name he could not answer this question. Feeling his art would be looked down upon and given amateur status; he quickly picked Hankry-ryu, which means the Way of Half Hard. On his return to Okinawa he reported this incident to Chojun Miyagi. He liked Shinzato's idea and took it one step further. After much consideration, Chojun Miyagi decided on the name Goju-Ryu (hard and soft school) as a name for his style. This name he took from a line in the Bubishi (a classical Chinese text on martial arts and other subjects). This line, which appears in a poem describing the eight precepts of the martial arts, reads "Ho Goju Donto" (the way of inhaling and exhaling is hardness and softness). The whole poem reads as follows:
1. The mind is one with heaven and earth.
2. The circulatory rhythm of the body is similar to the cycle of the sun and the moon.
3. The way of inhaling and exhaling is hardness and softness.
4. Act in accordance with time and change.
5. Techniques will occur in the absence of conscious thought.
6. The feet must advance and retreat, separate and meet.
7. The eyes do not miss even the slightest change.
8. The ears listen well in all directions.
The Succession of Goju-Ryu
Jin'an Shinzato, an exceptional talent and the one whom Chojun Miyagi had chosen for his successor to the Goju School in Okinawa, was tragically killed during the Second World War. Later, after the war, Chojun Miyagi chose Meitoku Yagi Sensei to succeed him in Okinawa and Gogen Yamaguchi to succeed him in Japan under the Goju-Kai school, to pass on Goju-Ryu to the next generation.
Chojun Miyagi passed away October 8th, 1953, leaving a great legacy behind. He predicted that during the twentieth century karate would spread throughout the world. Today we can see that this prediction has been realized; karate is not only practiced in Japan, but it can be found throughout the countries of the world. Karate can no longer be referred to as a solely Okinawan or Japanese martial art, but it has become an art with no boundaries, an art for all nations and all peoples of the world.
Gogen Yamaguchi was born on January 20, 1909, in Kagoshima city on southern Kyushu. Already as a youngster he showed great interest in the Martial Arts. During his early school days he trained kendo, (Japanese fencing) and it was during this time that he started his karate training under the tutelage of Mr. Maruta, a carpenter from Okinawa. Mr. Maruta who was a Goju practitioner was drawn to the young Yamaguchi's serious attitude and his willingness to train hard. Mr. Maruta taught Yamaguchi all he knew about the Goju system.
During his college days as a law student, Yamaguchi established his first karate club at the Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto. It was during this period that Yamaguchi created the first stages towards what is known as jyu kumite (free fighting) and established rules to decide the winner of a match. Some of the rules are still in use today in what is known as sport or competition karate.
One of Master Yamaguchi's students, an American named Peter Urban, introduced Goju-Ryu to the USA in 1959, on the East Coast. He later formed the USA Goju Association.
In 1953 Peter Urban was a young sailor when he was introduced to karate in Yokohama, Japan. After training for one year with Sensei Richard Kim, Peter Urban traveled to Tokyo and was introduced to Gogen Yamaguchi. He was accepted as a student of Gogen Yamaguchi. In 1957, Peter Urban opened a small Dojo in Tokyo, Japan, and he competed in the all-Japan College Championships that same year. In 1959, Sensei Urban moved to America, and opened his first American Dojo in Union City, New Jersey. The following year, he opened another school on 17th Street in Manhattan.
Sensei Urban was reportedly one of the men responsible for establishing structured tournaments in America, with one of the first being the North American Karate Championships in 1962 held at Madison Square Garden. In 1967 Sensei Urban published his first book; The Karate Dojo, this made him the first karate-ka to author a nationally recognized book on martial arts with the first paperback edition in 1991. His second book, The Karate Sensei was published in 1984. These books are still available today. Sensei Urban opened his famous Chinatown Dojo in 1967, the Little Tokyo Dojo on Wooster Street in New York City. This made the Japanese art of karate open to the American public.
In the early 1970s, Sensei Urban returned to Japan to ask Gogen Yamaguchi for permission to establish in America a karate system separate from Japan's. Yamaguchi refused, saying the rules of Bushido stated that no white man could achieve Nirvana. Urban, dissatisfied with the decision, retorted that these same rules stated that Japan could never lose a war. This statement offended the Sensei Yamaguchi. Realizing this and not meaning any disrespect, Sensei Urban prepared to follow samurai custom and cut off his pinky finger in apology to his sensei. Yamaguchi's oldest son stopped him from doing this; however, the damage was done. Seeing this as a turning point, Urban returned to America and incorporated himself as the founder of American Goju.
USA GoJu is eclectic synthesis of the education, training, and experience of Sensei Peter Urban, the traditions of Yamaguchi GoJu, the fighting spirit of Oyama and the philosophy of Sensei Richard Kim, combined with the personality of the founder of USA GoJu, Peter Urban.