Martial Arts Wisdom

The History of Goju Ryu

Goju Ryu Karate was founded in the late 1920's by Chojun Miyagi. He was born on April 25, 1888 in Naha, Okinawa. At age 11 his mother introduced him to his first Sensei Aragaki Ryuko and at age 14 he was introduced to Kanryo Higaonna, the founder of Naha-te.

Miyagi Chojun trained with Higaonna Sensei for 15 years and then, upon the death of Master Higaonna, travelled to central China to study the martial arts as his Sensei before him had done. Upon his return to Okinawa he continued to study and teach karate. Miyagi Chojun Sensei formulated his own system of karate, utilizing the principles his Sensei had taught him. It was not until 1930 that Miyagi Chojun Sensei finally gave his system the name Goju Ryu.

"Go" is usually translated as hard, and "Ju" as soft, hence Goju Ryu is translated as "Hard and Soft Way". Another translation "Go" is stiffness or strength and "Ju" is flexibility, after the precepts of traditional Chinese Kempo. The name is based on the Oriental concept of Yin and Yang or the law of opposites, which says that within hardness there is softness and within softness there is hardness. Being totally hard or totally soft is not good and Goju seeks to find the proper balance.

Goju is a blend of Okinawan Te (hard) and Shoalin Kung Fu (soft) with emphasis on the White Crane style. Other Chinese influences include Pakua Chang, I Chuan and Tai Chi Chuan, which Sensei Miyagi studied on several trips to the Chinese mainland.

Goju Ryu is a close-range self-defense system, characterized by circular blocks, joint manipulations and kicking techniques to lower body targets. Dynamic tension and breathing are major elements in its training, incorporated in many of the kata.

 In 1933 the art of Miyagi Sensei was formally registered as "Goju Ryu" with the Butoku-kai, the Japanese Martial Arts association. In 1934, Miyagi Sensei was made the head of the standing committee of the Okinawan branch of the Butoku-kai Association.

On October 8, 1953, Sensei Miyagi died of either a heart attack (the most popular explanation) or a cerebral haemorrhage at the age of 65. Following this, four of his senior students opened their own schools.Seiko Higa carried on as Sensei Miyagi's immediate successor, Meitoku Yagi formed the Meibukan,Seikichi Toguchi the Shorei-kan and Eiichi Miyazato the Jundokan. Later, in 1963, Meitoku Yagi would receive his gi and belt from the Miyagi family along with the Menkyo Kaiden and officially become head of the Goju Ryu system.

An offshoot of the Okinawan Goju Ryu system was Gogen Yamaguchi, who studied with Chojun Miyagi and promoted the style in Japan, forming the Japan Karate-Do Federation Goju-Kai. One of his students, Peter Urban, introduced Japanese Goju Ryu to the United States in 1959, later forming the U.S.A. Goju Association. Gosei Yamaguchi, the son of Gogen, followed in 1964. He moved to San Fransisco and established the Goju-Kai Karate-Do U.S.A.