Goju Ryu Karate Do / Goju Kai Karate Do - Part 1
(A note —- I apologize for cluttering your dash, and if you’re not interested in martial arts, please skip ahead of this post.)
Lately a few people have asked me about what style of Karate it is that I study, what takes place in learning karate, and how it’s different from other styles. I decided to put a little something up for those who care to read it.
The style that I am a practitioner of (I studied in a dojo for 7-8 ish years) is found under the name of Goju Ryu Karate Do, or Goju Kai Karate Do (we’ll get to the naming in a minute). Like all traditional styles of Karate, this one was founded in Okinawa (one of the Ryukyu Islands, the capital of the islands was once a city called Shuri), part of modern day Japan. The capital of Okinawa is a city called Naha.
Before Karate systems diversified as widely as they do today, there weren’t specific names for different martial arts, so they were typically named after the area in which the art was developed such as “Naha-Te” and “Shuri-Te”. The Goju system is derived from Naha-Te, the word “Te” meaning “hand”.
All the styles from Okinawa are derived from Chinese arts (which actually stem back from India), and Goju has it’s roots in Southern Chinese styles such as White Crane Kung Fu.
It’s important to note that as people of several different styles traveled for work or study, and spent time with practitioners of other styles, they incorporated different techniques or new aspects to their style, so there are a vast number of things that are the same (or very very similar) in different arts.
Many martial arts are classified as being “hard” or “soft” styles. Karate usually falls into the “hard” family, the moves are explosive and powerful, usually move in straight lines. Soft styles usually use smooth circular motions, and open hand techniques, often with swift footwork.
Goju style is a bit different than other Karate styles in that it is meant to be a balance of the hard and soft schools. In fact, “Go” means hard and “Ju” means soft, “Ryu” (in this context) means school (or style). “Kara” means empty, “Te” like we stated above, means hand, and “Do” means way, or path.
So, put together, Goju Ryu Karate Do means “the hard-soft way of the empty hand”. The school was founded by Chojun Miyagi, who started studying martial arts at age 11 (in 1899), and Naha-Te/Karate in particular at age 13. He studied under his sensei for 15 years, at which point his sensei passed away. Miyagi then traveled to China in search of his teacher’s teacher, where he studied with many different teachers.
In 1929 one of Miyagi’s students entered a demonstration and required a name for his style. Miyagi eventually chose “Hard Soft Style”, from a line of poem in The Bubishi (a Chinese text on martial arts and medicine).
Also in 1929, Gogen Yamaguchi (who had studied Goju Ryu for roughly 10 years under another instructor) began studying directly with Miyagi. Yamaguchi was said to have sketched Miyagi’s fist in an almost clenched position (half hard - half soft) which became the style’s crest.
Gogen Yamaguchi eventually oversaw the opening of many dojos, and eventually founded the Goju Association of Japan (“Kai” being the word for association), and helping found the All Japan Karate Federation with the chairmen of Wado-Ryu, Shito-Ryu, and Shotokan Karate.
So, Goju Ryu is the style, Goju Kai is the association (though there are non-affiliate Goju Ryu dojos as well). So, that’s some of the history of the Karate I’ve studied. In the future, I’ll post some of the things that I personally experienced in the dojo, and how classes are structured.
This is a great look at the history of Goju-Ryu and Goju-Kai
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These first few posts were just a few diagrams showcasing some of Goju-Ryu’s signature kata’s/techniques.