The following historic review is based on:
Higaonna Sensei’s book “Traditonal Karate-Do – Okinawa Goju Ryu”, Morio Higaonna, Sugawara Martial Arts inc. Tokyo 1993 (ISBN
Origin based on man’s instinct of self-defense, different fighting arts were developed in mostcultures, especially in central Asia, Egypt and Turkey. The principles of the Asian martial arts are believed to have spread from Turkey to India, where they were further developed to sophisticated arts (“kalaripayt”). Chinese Kempo according to legend, the Zen Buddhist monk Bodhidharma travelled to Hunan province in China around 500 A.D. He spent nine years in the Shao Lin temple, whereafter he
started to teach different breathing techniques and physical exercises to the monks of Shao Lin. He also explained to the monks how to develop their mental and spiritual strength, in order to endure the demanding meditation exercises.
Bodhiharma’s teaching is considered as the birth of Chinese kempo. When kempo spread throughout China, it divided in two main styles, the Northern and the Southern style. The Northern style was characterized by straight and hard techniques, while the Southern had circular and softer techniques. The kempo techniques were often inherited within the family as a well-preserved secret.Okinawa during the 14th century kempo was introduced into Okinawa. It won popularity and was trained as an art of self-defence, 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 into the martial art karate. When Japan invaded Okinawa in 1609, the ban of carrying weapons (first pronounced by king Sho Shin in 1477) continued, but the Japanese also banned the practice of martial arts. Consequently, the Okinawans had to continue with martial arts in secrecy. During the next three centuries, the martial art developed 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, 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. Tomari-te, 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 became known under the name Goju ryu (the hard and soft style) and has remained basically unified.
Higaonna Kanryo Sensei was born in the city of Naha in 1853. As a youth he began learning kempo and very quickly became a master martial artist. In 1868, he travelled to Foochow in China. After some time he was introduced to the kempo master Ryu Ryuko and was finally, after a long period, accepted as Ryuko’s personal disciple. Higaonna Sensei stayed with Ryoko for fifteen years and became Master Ryu Ryuko’s most skilled disciple. Higaonna Sensei returned to Okinawa 1881. His fame as a martial artist quickly spread and the Okinawans soon realized that the martial art of Higaonna Sensei exceeded anything they’d seen before. Higaonna Sensei opened his house as a dojo and continued to teach until his death in 1915. He is today honoured as the founder of Okinawan karate.
Miyagi Chojun Sensei, the founder of Goju ryu karate, was born at Okinawa in 1888. At the age of twelve he started to train karate for Aragaki Ryuko Sensei. At the age of fourteen he was introduced to Higaonna Kanryo Sensei and was eventually accepted as Higaonna Sensei’s personal disciple. Together they devoted their lives to the improvement and advancement of Naha-te, until Higaonna Sensei’s death in 1915. After his master’s death, Chojun Miyagi travelled to China to develop his knowledge
of the martial arts. After his return to Okinawa, he began to teach in his home, where he turned the garden into a dojo.
He put a great effort into spreading his knowledge, the ambition being to give karate the same status as judo and kendo. In 1933 the karate was offically accepted by Butoko Kai, the Japanese center for martial arts. After WWII Miyagi Sensei began to teach karate at the Police Academy of Okinawa and also at his home. Among his students were Miyagi Anichi Sensei, and Aragaki Shuichi Sensei, whose grandfather introduced Miyagi Sensei to Higaonna Sensei. Students who trained before the war, such as Yagi Meitoku and Miyazato Eiichi, would come occasionally to pay respects. In his last years,Miyagi Sensei devoted his time to pass on his heritage to future generations and chose Miyagi Anichi Sensei as his personal disciple. Chojun Miyagi Sensei’s life was devoted to karate. He structured the system of Naha-te, adapted it to the demands of modern society and made it available to the public.
The name Goju ryu
One of Chojun Miyagi Sensei’s disciples, Jinan Shinzato, was once on mainland Japan to demonstrate Naha-te. After the performance he was asked to what school of karate he belonged. He was unable to answer the question, since ‘naha-te’ was not the name of a style. At his return he told Miyagi Sensei about the occurrence. Miyagi Sensei thought about the problem and decided that it would be advantageous to have a name for his martial art system in order to promote and spread it. He choosed the name ‘Goju ryu’ (the hard-soft
style), inspired by the “Eight precepts” of kempo, written in the Bubishi,