Martial Arts Wisdom



Gogen Yamaguchi


Gogen Yamaguchi, also known by his nickname "The Cat", was born on January 21st, 1909. His first formal training was in Jigen Ryu kenjutsu, the style of the Satsuma samurai who invaded Okinawa in 1609. He later trained under Takeo Murata, a Naha-te stylist living in Japan.

Gogen Yamaguchi

He founded karate at Ritsumeikan University just prior to meeting Chojun Miyagi in 1929 on one of his visits to Japan, and went on to form the All-Japan Goju-Kai Karate-Do Association in 1935 as head of the Japanese Goju Ryu system.

He is credited with initiating Jiyu Kumite (free sparring) in 1936. This went on to become the basis of the sport karate systems in use today.

He was sent to Manchuria in 1939 as an intelligence officer, and was subsequently captured after the war by the Russians and imprisoned until 1947. He was treated very harshly by his captors, who tried but could not break his spirit. There is a well-known tale that he was locked in a cage with a hungry tiger, which he apparently killed bare-handed, but this story is very hard to substantiate.

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His son Gosen was among the first to open a Goju Ryu dojo in the United States in 1963. His other son Gosei followed in 1964, and still heads the Goju-Kai from San Fransisco.

He was instrumental in the creation of the All Japan Karate-Do Federation in 1964, which successfully unified some of the major schools of the time. He was awarded the Ranju-hosho from the Emperor in honour of his achievements. In 1966, he wrote "Karate: Goju-Ryu by the Cat". It is among the most sought-after (and pricey...currently $240. US!) publications available on the subject.

He died on May 20th, 1989 at the age of 80. His legacy lives on through his sons (Gosin, Gosei and Goshi) and his many students, notably Peter Urban, Seigo Tada, Alberto Evangelista and Bob Dalgleish. Click here for photo

The information included here regarding Mr. Gogen Yamaguchi and Goju-Kai Karate-Do was not provided or approved by Mr. N. Gosei Yamaguchi, son of the late Gogen Yamaguchi and National
Chairman of Goju-Kai Karate-Do, USA.