What Is “Goju Ryu”?

The philosophy of Goju-Ryu is one of balance and harmony. Not surprisingly, this is similar in fashion to that of Asian philosphy. As there is night, there is also day. As there is fire, there is also water. As there is dark, there is also light. The founder of our style, Grandmaster Chojun Miyagi, created Goju-Ryu by following similar precepts found in the Chinese martial arts. “Go” means to be hard or resilient, while “Ju” means to be soft or yielding. In this way, Goju-Ryu is the school of “hard/soft.” While this philosophy applies to the technical and physical aspects of Goju-Ryu, it is also the underlying feeling. In the study of Goju-Ryu, we hope to attain balance and harmony not only in our practice, but also in our mind, body, and spirit.

The History of Goju Ryu

The history of Goju-Ryu is one that is routed in the form and style that Grandmaster Chojun Miyagi founded, but our history does not stop simply with the founding of the style. Goju-Ryu traces its origins back to the island of Okinawa where there had only been three styles of karate. These styles were Tomari-Te, Shuri-Te, and Naha-Te. Over time Tomari-Te and Shuri-Te were combined into one school of training known now as Shorin-Ryu, while the style of Naha-Te remained in its form and became known as Goju-Ryu. Though it may appear as if Goju-Ryu has not changed greatly over time, the evolution and changes of the style are interwoven with the history of the masters of Goju-Ryu.

During his time teaching in Okinawa, Grandmaster Kanryo Higaonna began the instruction of the then 14 year old Chojun Miyagi. Though his training was severe just as it had been for his instructor, Chojun Miyagi practiced with a spirit that would not be matched by other students. Because of this, he became “uchi deshi” or private disciple to Kanyro Higaonna. He studied the art of Naha-Te for up until Kanyro Higaonna’s death in 1915. Chojun Miyagi traveled to China, as his master had done, seeking more knowledge. While back in Okinawa, he sought to spread Naha-Te across Okinawa and mainland Japan. One of the ways in which the spread of knowledge was possible was because of Chojun Miyagi’s structuring of Naha-Te into a discipline which was easier to teach society as a whole. In 1930, Naha-Te was given the name Goju-Ryu after one of his students had been asked about the name of the style he learned from Chojun Miyagi. The name comes from “Ho Goju Donto” or the way of inhaling and exhaling is hardness and softness.

The development of Gōjū-ryū goes back to Higaonna Kanryō, (1853–1916), a native of Naha, Okinawa. Higaonna began studying Shuri-te as a child. He was first exposed to martial arts in 1867 when he began training in Luohan or "Arhat boxing" under Arakaki Seishō, a fluent Chinese speaker and translator for the court of the Ryukyu Kingdom.

Today we see Goju Ryu in many countries all over the world and the styles taught from Dojo to Dojo vary very little from Shojun Miyagi's original teachings.