A Brief History of Goju-ryu
In the early part of this century, Master Chojun Miyagi developed his style of karate and eventually named it Goju-Ryu (the hard/soft style). Goju-Ryu is Miyagi Chojun’s personal interpretation of his main teacher, Higaonna Kanryo’s Naha-Te, and his own research into the Southern Chinese Kungfu styles. It is evident that Tiger and Crane style techniques are found in Goju-Ryu, and hence its focus on close quarters attacks, power and a heavy focus on conditioning, focusing on short range attacks, low kicks to the joints and its circular blocks.
Master Miyagi (1888 – 1953) was from a wealthy family which had allowed him in later years to devote all his time to study and travelling to promote the martial arts.
Master Chojun Miyagi
(White Crane master)
At the age of eleven, the strongly built youth began training under karate master Aragaki Ryuko. At the age of fourteen, Miyagi was introduced to Kanryo Higaonna (1853-1916), karate master of Naha-Te, who had studied a form of Crane Fist style in China before returning to Okinawa, where he became very well known as a teacher of the martial arts. Miyagi studied under Higaonna for fifteen years and became the successor to the art form that eventually evolved into the present form of Goju-Ryu.
Soon after his teacher’s death, Master Miyagi made his first trip to China, going to Fuzhou to continue his research into the kungfu styles of Southern China, accompanied by his friend Gokenki (1886-1940) who taught White Crane Fist style in his tea shop in Naha. Gokenki’s influence on the young Miyagi may be seen in the katas that were developed for Goju-Ryu.
Whilst in China, Master Miyagi would come into contact with other crane styles, Tiger and Monk Fist styles. To describe his system, Miyagi compared it to a willow tree standing against the wind, remaining stable because of its strong roots, while the branches flow and give with the force.
Among those who studied under Miyagi and later carried on his original teachings were Seiko Higa, Meitoku Yagi, Seikichi Toguchi, and Eiichi Miyazato. Another student, Jitsuei Yogi, was the teacher of Gogen Yamaguchi, who went on to gain fame in his own right with the development of Japanese Goju-Kai.
Higa, who had trained under Higaonna since the age of thirteen and assisted Miyagi when Miyagi became successor to the Naha-Te system. Higa established his own Shodokan dedicating to what he had learnt from both Higaonna and Miyagi.
After Miyagi died in 1953, various schools of Goju-Ryu were opened, with Yagi teaching at his Meibukan school, Toguchi at Shoreikan, and Miyazato at Jundokan. Eventually, all three senior students of Miyagi, as heads of their respective Goju-Ryu organizations, were elevated to the rank of tenth degree black belt.