We train as part of the International Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate-do Federation. Karate-do is a Japanese phrase that means “way of the empty hand,” while Goju-Ryu means “Hard-Soft Style.” Therefore, Goju-Ryu Karate-do carries with it the connotation that it is a balanced fighting style of soft and strong techniques, primarily relying upon the fighter’s own hands and feet to the weapons of combat.
The history of Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate-do dates back at least one thousand years and can trace its roots all the way back to the ancient fighting arts of China. However, it wasn’t until 1875 that the man who would later become a great Master, Kanryo Higaonna, first traveled to China from the island of Okinawa, eventually bringing back with him the newfound knowledge of Chinese martial arts. His style of fighting became informally known as Naha-Te, literally meaning “the hand of Naha” after the city of Naha, where Kanryo Higaonna Sensei lived. He would later pass on his entire knowledge of Naha-Te to his most senior student, Chojun Miyagi, who would carry on the legacy after him.
In the year 1933, Chojun Miyagi Sensei, deviating away from the less-descriptive Naha-Te, officially named his karate style. He chose the name “Goju-Ryu” to try to encapsulate the eight precepts of traditional Chinese Kempo found in the document known as “Bubishi”:
1. The mind is one with heaven and earth.
2. The circulatory rhythm of the body is similar to the cycle of the sun and the moon.
3. The way of inhaling and exhaling is hardness and softness.
4. Act in accordance with time and change.
5. Techniques will occur in the absence of conscious thought.
6. The feet must advance and retreat, separate and meet.
7. The eyes do not miss even the slightest change.
8. The ears listen well in all directions.
In addition to formally naming the style, Miyagi Sensei also developed the Junbi-undo (warm-up exercises), several kata (forms), and systemized the style in order to spread it throughout the world.
After Sensei Miyagi’s death in 1953, the style was carried on by his most dedicated student Sensei An’ichi Miyagi, who in turn passed it on to his top student, the founder of the IOGKF, Sensei Morio Higaonna. Sensei Higaonna has dedicated his whole life to preserving the essence of this traditional art and has traveled all over the world to make certain that all members of the IOGKF hold true to the fundamental nature of the art as it was originally intended to be studied. Recently, Sensei Higaonna named Sensei Tetsuji Nakamura to be his successor as he himself prepares to pass on the great legacy of his life’s work. Sensei Nakamura is currently the Chief Instructor of the IOGKF and works closely with Higaonna Sensei to honor the rich tradition that has been handed down to him.
For a more in-depth record of the history of Goju-Ryu Karate-do and the Sensei, please visit the IOGKF website by clicking this link: http://www.iogkf.com/.