History of Goju-Ryu Karate-Do

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 ShaoLin temple, whereafter he started to teach different breathing techniques and physical exercises to the monks of ShaoLin. He also explained to the monks how to develop their mental and spiritual strength, in order to endure the demanding meditation exercises. Bodhiharmas teaching is considered as the birth of chinese kempo. When kempo is spread throughout China, it is divided in two main styles, the Northern and the Southerns 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.


  During the 14th century kempo is introduced into Okinawa. It wins popularity and is trained as an art of self-defence, under the name of 'tote' (= chinese hand). At Okinawa the native fighting art 'te' was practised long before the introduction of kempo. It is believed that 'te' was combined with 'kempo' by the Okinawans and developed to the martial art karate. When Japan invades Okinawa 1609 the ban of carrying weapons (first pronounced by king Sho Shin in 1477) continues, but the Japanese also bans the practise of martial arts.
  Consequently, the Okinawans must continue with martial arts in secrecy. During the next three centuries the martial art develops 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 tehcniques 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 becomes known under the name Goju-Ryu (the hard and soft style) and has remained basically unified.


  Kanryo Higaonna 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 travels to Foochow in China. After some time he is introduced to the kempo master Ryu Ryuko and is finally, after a long period, accepted as Ryuko's personal disciple. Higaonna Sensei stays with Ryuko for fifteen years and becomes Master Ryu Ryuko's most skilled disciple.
  Higaonna Sensei returns to Okinawa in 1881. His fame as a martial artist quickly spreads and the Okinawans soon realize that the martial art of Higaonna Sensei exceeds anything they've seen before ("...his legs were as fast as lightnings and as strong as a horse..."). Higaona 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.

Chojun Miyagi

  The founder of Goju-Ryu karate, Chojun Miyagi, 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 improvement and advancement of Naha-te, until Higaonna Sensei's death in 1915.Training was very severe, with a lot of running and strength exercises. It is said that he sometimes passed out performing Sanchin kata, so demanding was Sensei Higaonna on his student's performance. He trained for 13 years in this manner until the death of Kanryo Higaonna, developing into a powerful karateka.
  After his masters death Chojun Miyagi travels to China to develop his knowledge of the martial arts. After his return to Okinawa he begins to teach in his home, where he turns the garden into a dojo. He put a great effort in to spreading his knowledge, the ambition is to give karate the same status as judo and kendo. In 1933 the karate was offically accepted by Butoko Kai, the Japanese centre for martial arts.
  After WWII Miyagi Sensei begins to teach karate at the Police Academy of Okinawa and also at his home, among his students were An'Ichi Miyagi 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 devotes his time to pass on his heritage to future generations and chooses An'Ichi Miyagi 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.
  He created the katas Gekisai Dai Ichi and Gekisai Dai Ni for the begginers and also the kata Tensho influenced by the kata Rokkishu, which he learned in the Fukien province.

The name Goju-Ryu

  One of Chojun Miyagi Sensei 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 occurence, who thought about the problem and decided that it should 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.

An'Ichi Miyagi

  An'Ichi Miyagi was born in the city of Naha in 1931 and began to train for Chojun Miyagi Sensei at the age of 17. He devoted all his time to study and train Goju-Ryu and is later appointed as a personal disciple(Uchi Deshi) of Chojun Miyagi Sensei. He is the only student that is taught the complete system of Goju-Ryu. He follows the tradition and teaches the complete system of Goju-Ryu to only one student, Morio Higaonna Sensei.

Morio Higaonna Sensei

  Morio Higaonna Sensei, 9th dan and Chief Instructor of the International Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate-Do federation (IOGKF) , was born in 1938 in the city of Naha. He began his training at the age of 14, and at the age of 16 he began training in Goju-Ryu under the guidance of Miyagi An'Ichi Sensei.
  From this stage on Morio Higaonna dedicated himself to the training and practicing of Goju-Ryu. After having being taught by good instructors, his fascination with karate led him to devote his entire life to enrichment of the spiritual depth and virtue of karate.
  In 1960, at the age of 21, he moved to Tokyo to study commerce at Takushoku University. He was invited to teach at Tokyo's Yoyogi Dojo, where he soon attracted a large following of dedicated karatekas. Higaonna Sensei taught at Yoyogi dojo until 1981. During this time he established IOGKF, which is now established in more than 40 countries worldwide.
  Training has always been the central theme of Higaonna Sensei's life. He has never sought the limelight in the martial arts and his reputation is simply the result of of his superb skills and mastery of his art - a mastery which is only exceeded by his genuine modesty and humility.