For many it may seem strange to say that the Goju-Ryu Karate is descended from Chinese martial arts. As strange as that may sound, that is what happened. Born March 10, 1853, Kanryo Higaonna was the son of a sailing merchant who traveled between the islands of Okinawa. Being born into the life of hard labor helped Kanyro to develop a strong body. Shortly after his father’s death, Kanryo began his journey to Fuzhou, China to study Chinese martial arts under Master Ryu Ryu Ko. At the time, Kanyro Higaonna was only a teenager. Kanryo endured 13 years of intense training under his master before returning to Naha, Okinawa where his style of martial arts became known as Naha-Te.
During his time teaching in Okinawa, Grandmaster Kanryo Higaonna began the instruction of the then 14 year old Chojun Miyagi. Though his training was severe just as it had been for his instructor, Chojun Miyagi practiced with a spirit that would not be matched by other students. Because of this, he became “uchi deshi” or private disciple to Kanyro Higaonna. He studied the art of Naha-Te for up until Kanyro Higaonna’s death in 1915. Chojun Miyagi traveled to China, as his master had done, seeking more knowledge. While back in Okinawa, he sought to spread Naha-Te across Okinawa and mainland Japan. One of the ways in which the spread of knowledge was possible was because of Chojun Miyagi’s structuring of Naha-Te into a discipline which was easier to teach society as a whole. In 1930, Naha-Te was given the name Goju-Ryu after one of his students had been asked about the name of the style he learned from Chojun Miyagi. The name comes from “Ho Goju Donto” or the way of inhaling and exhaling is hardness and softness. Sadly, Jin’an Shinzato would not bear the mantel of successor to Chojun Miyagi. Jin’an Shinzato would lose his life during the second world war. This mantel would fall to another student, An’ichi Miyagi.
In February of 1948, 17 year old An’ichi Miyagi and three friends began their training in the garden dojo of Chojun Miyagi. At this time Chojun Miyagi was teaching in a police academy in Naha, and when not teaching there, he was free to teach from his own home. An’ichi took these opportunities to train with the Goju-Ryu founder. Only one year had passed before An’ichi was the lone student that trained in the garden dojo. Through his dedication not only to the practice of Goju-Ryu, but his dedication to Chojun Miyagi, it is no surprise that An’ichi would be considered “uchi deshi.” As Chojun Miyagi’s private disciple, An’ichi would learn kata and bunkai at a level that not even Jin’an Shinzato had learned before his death. It is through these teachings that the amassed knowledge of Goju-Ryu was passed to An’ichi Miyagi up until Chojun Miyagi’s passing. April 28, 2009 would mark the passing of Grandmaster An’ichi Miyagi, who like his own master would only have one student who would carry on the knowledge of Goju-Ryu.
At the recommendation of Tsunetaka Shimabukuro Sensei, 16 year old Morio Higaonna would begin his training in the style of Goju-Ryu. He would begin his training in the garden dojo of Chojun Miyagi under the instruction of Grandmaster An’ichi Miyagi. Similar in training experience, Morio Higaonna would battle through a regime that would require him to push his mind, body, and spirit. His training would move to the Jundokan in 1957, but he would earn his own place at Takushoku Univeristy in Tokyo. It is around this time that Dan grading had become offical. In 1960 Higaonna Sensei would be awarded 3rd Dan. Like past masters, Higaonna Sensei traveled the world to visit many countries that also practiced Goju-Ryu. In 1979 he, with help of his senior instructors formed the International Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate-Do Federation, or IOGKF. In 2007, Morio Higaonna Sensei received his 10th Dan ccertificate from An’ichi Miyagi. Around this time, he also received a special certificate recognizing him as a student in the direct line that has descended from Grandmaster Chojun Miyagi.
Due to this recognition, those who are learning from Master Morio Higaonna are within a direct path of learning Goju-Ryu. This path extends to the IOGKF’s current World Chief Instructor, Tetsuji Nakamura. Nakamura Sensei is a 7th degree black belt in Goju-Ryu who holds three world championships for sparring and kata. He was head assistant to Master Morio Higaonna from 1991 – 1997. At the IOGKF World Budosai, Nakamura Sensei was promoted to World Chief Instructor by his own instructor, Morio Higaonna.