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History of Goju Ryu Karate | Heritage Martial Arts
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History of Goju Ryu Karate

The history of Goju Ryu began in the mid-eighteen hundreds with grandmaster Kanryo Higaonna. Higaonna studied the art of Kempo and then added it in to the Okinawan Art of Naha-Te. Sensei Higaonna was born in the city of Naha in 1853 and as a youth he trained in Kempo karate. In 1868 he travelled to Foochow China and met Ryu Ryuko and became his personal student for the next 15 years. He returned to Okinawa in 1882 where his art and teaching spread very quickly. Sensei Higaonna died in 1915 and is considered the founder of Okinawan karate.

In 1888, Chojun Miyagi, who would become the founder of Gojy Ryu karate, was born in Okinawa. He started his training at the age of 12 under Sensei Aragaki Ryuko and at the age of 14 was introduced to Higaonna at which time he became his student. Together they both devoted their lives to Naha-Te until Higaonna’s death in 1915. Sensei Miyagi returned to China to continue his training. Upon his return to Okinawa, he began teaching in his home. The Japanese Botuku Kai accepted the art of karate as an official martial art in 1933 because of the great effort and ambition of Sensei Miyagi and others. Sensei Miyagi was invited to Japan in 1930 and 1932 to demonstrate at some tournaments where he was asked what the name of his karate was. Sensei Miyagi could not answer, but thought that it should have a special name.

The name Goju Ryu came from the Chinese text called Bubishi. In this text there is a poem of eight fists in which the third precept reads “the way of inhaling and exhaling”.  “Go” means hard and “Ju” means soft. This style is a combination of both hard and soft and that is how Goju Ryu got its name. In 1940 Sensei Miyagi created the katas Geksai Dai Itch and Geksai Dai Ni.

In 1946, after the end of WWII, he resumed his training teaching the police academy and opening a backyard dojo. It is here that An’ichi Miyagi, Seiko Higa, Meitoku Yagi, Ei’ichi Yagi, Seikichi Toguchi as well as many other notable karate ka trained. In 1953 Miyagi passed away at the age of 65 from either a heart attack or cerebral haemorrhage.

Gogen Yamaguchi was born January 21, 1909 and was also known by the nickname “the Cat”. In 1935 he became the head of the Japanese Goju Ryu system and was also credited with starting the practice of Jiyu kumite. In the war, Sensei Yamaguchi served as an intelligence officer and became imprisoned in 1947. His son was among the first to open a dojo in the United States in 1963 and his other son would follow in 1964. Yamaguchi also helped to form the Japan Karate Do Association in 1964 which helped to unify some of the major schools of the time.  He also wrote the book “Karate: Goju Ryu by the cat”.

Sensei Yamaguchi passed away on May 20, 1989 at the age of 80. However, his legacy lives on through his sons (Gosin, Gosei and Goshi) as well as in many of his students, such as Peter Urban, Seigo Tada, Alberto Evangelist and Bob Dalgleish.


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