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GOJU RYU HISTORY

 
It was the Okinawan Master Kanryo Higaonna (1853-1915) through his intensive studies in Fuzhou, China (Fujian province, 1867-1881), who laid the foundation for what would become Goju-Ryu Karate-Do. Kanryo Higaonna set sail for the city of Fuzhou in the autumn of 1867, when he was 15, and settled in the Okinawan community known as the Ryukyu Kan, an area compromising a microcosm of Okinawan life. Kanryo Higaonna was eager to study the Chinese martial arts and was introduced to the Chinese Master Ryu Ryu Ko.  The devotion of Kanryo Higaonna was such that he eventually became Ryu Ryu Ko's, uchi-deshi (senior student), learning his entire martial system. He also studied weapons, and traditional Chinese medicine. It is not exactly clear in what year Kanryo Higaonna began teaching the martial arts in Okinawa, but it is known that he did not begin teaching until a few years after his return from China.  He had many notable students and eventually his most dedicated student, Chojun Miyagi, succeeded him as the leading Master of Naha-te (Chinese or Okinawa hands).

 

Chojun Miyagi (1888-1953) is the founder of today's Goju-Ryu Karate-Do; he was responsible for taking the Naha-te of his teacher and formulating it into his own martial arts system.  Miyagi was Kanryo Higaonna's most talented student and his chosen heir. Miyagi came from a wealthy family of ship owners who imported medicines from China and supplied them to the royal family, the government and leading Okinawan trading houses.

 

After the death of Higaonna Kanryo, Miyagi, dedicated himself full-time with the study of martial arts. Miyagi traveled to Fuzhou. Back on Okinawa, Miyagi became friends with two tea-merchants from Fuzhou Wu Xianhui and Tang Daiji. Both merchants were famous martial arts teachers. Wu Xianhui (1886-1940) came to Naha in 1912 to teach White Crane Kung Fu.  Tang Daiji (1887-1937) a Tiger Boxing (Hu Quan) master who also emigrated from Fuzhou to Naha. 

Miyagi dedicated his whole life to the development of what was called Toudi- Jutsu ( China hand art) or simply 'te' on Okinawa. In 1921, Crown-Prince Hirohito visited Okinawa and witnessed a demonstration of Naha-te by Chojun Miyagi.  In 1925 Miyagi demonstrated the style for prince Chichibu-Nomiya and, in 1926, founded the Okinawa Karate Kenkyu-Kai (Okinawa Karate Research Club) together with Chomo Hanashiro (Shuri-te), Choyu Motobu (Tomari-te) and Kenwa Mabuni. One year later, Chojun Miyagi demonstrated to Jigoro Kano (the founder of Judo), grappling, locking and throwing techniques and the correct use of breathing. 

 

In 1933, Chojun Miyagi registered his Toudi-Jutsu officially as Goju-Ryu at the prestigious Dai Nippon Butokukai, (All Japan Martial Arts Association). Miyagi, recognized by the Ministry of Physical Education for his art, received the highest honor of the Dai Nippon Butokukai and was appointed representative to the Butokukai department for Okinawa. Goju-Ryu Karate-Do was the first and the oldest karate-tradition recognized by the Dai Nippon Butokukai and the founder, Chojun Miyagi, was awarded significant accolades. 

 

Gogen Yamaguchi (1909-1989) was born Jitsumi Yamaguchi on January 20,1909.   In 1930, Yamaguchi and his instructor Sensei Jitsuei Yogi, were the primary cofounders of the Ritsumei-Kan Dai-Gaku Karate Kenkyu Kai, the first Karate club at Ritsumei-Kan University. Soon the dojo became famous in the city, known for it's hard training. In those days karate men practiced only kata (formal movements) and yakusoku kumite (prearranged sparring) and were unable to have matches between each other since they did not hold back their techniques. It was during this period that Yamaguchi created the first stages towards what is known as jiyu kumite (free fighting) and established rules to decide the winner of a match. Some of the rules are still in use today in what is known as sport or competition karate.    In 1928 Chojun Miyagi visited Japan to teach his style of karate. He had taught in the Judo Club of Kyoto University in which Yamaguchi attended. He came back to teach in Japan on other occasions, and in 1931, Gogen Yamaguchi was introduced to him.  In 1937, he was entrusted by Master Chojun Miyagi with the task of popularizing and developing Goju-Ryu Karate-do on the Japanese mainland.  Yamaguchi continued his relationship with Miyagi through visits to 

Okinawa and short instructional visits by Miyagi while touring Japan.  Master Yamaguchi succeeded in uniting many karate schools in Japan into a single union which resulted in the formation of The Federation of All Japan Karate-do Organization (F.A.J.K.O.) in 1964. The Kokusai Budo Renmei (The International Martial Arts Federation) in Japan, whose chairman was Prince Higashikuni of the Japanese Imperial Family appointed Master Yamaguchi as Shihan (Master) of the organizationís karate division. He added to the Japanese Goju system other kata, including the Taikyoku forms, - training methods for the beginner students to prepare them for the more advanced kata.   "The Cat" is Yamaguchi's nickname. There are several reasons given for this, such as his long hair, which resembles a lion's mane, his movements which resemble those of a cat, or his use of the cat stance in sparring. Yamaguchi himself explained it to interviewer Rolland Gaillac, of the French magazine "Karate" (April 1977 edition), in the following words: "Even today, young man, if you were to face me in combat, I would be able to determine in a second the strength of your Ki. Immediately I would know if you were a good opponent. It is this quality, and no other, which has given me the name of The Cat."

 

In 1953 Peter Urban (August 14, 1934 - April 7, 2004) was a young sailor when he was introduced to karate in Yokohama, Japan. After training for one year with Sensei Richard Kim, Peter Urban traveled to Tokyo and was introduced to Gogen Yamaguchi. He was accepted as a student of Gogen Yamaguchi. In 1957, Peter Urban opened a small Dojo in Tokyo, Japan, and he competed in the all-Japan College Championships that same year. In 1959, Sensei Urban moved to America, and opened his first American Dojo in Union City, New Jersey.  Sensei Urban was reportedly one of the men responsible for establishing structured tournaments in America, with one of the first being the North American Karate Championships in 1962 held at Madison Square Garden.  In the early 1970s, Sensei Urban returned to Japan to ask Gogen Yamaguchi for permission to establish in America a karate system separate from Japan's. Yamaguchi refused, saying the rules of Bushido stated that no white man could achieve Nirvana.   Urban, dissatisfied with the decision, retorted that these same rules stated that Japan could never lose a war. This statement offended the Sensei Yamaguchi. Realizing this and not meaning any disrespect, Sensei Urban prepared to follow samurai custom and cut off his pinky finger in apology to his sensei. Yamaguchi's oldest son stopped him from doing this; however, the damage was done. Seeing this as a turning point, Urban returned to America and incorporated himself as the founder of American Goju.  USA GoJu is an eclectic synthesis of the education, training, and 

experience of Sensei Peter Urban. There are three primary influences of USA GoJu. Chogun Miyagi, the Founder of Goju-Ryu Karate, Gogen Yamaguchi - the Founder of the first GoJu Karate School in Japan and Peter Urban - founder of the USA GoJu Karate System, he was a student of the following martial arts Masters Gogen Yamaguchi, Richard Kim, and Mas Oyama. Although his style of USA GoJu/Urban GoJu is closely related to that of Yamaguchi's Japanese GoJu Ryu, Sensei Urban infused several styles of Karate together to form USA GoJu Karate. He was the 10th Dan Grand Patriarch of all USA GoJu systems. He is the father of the American GoJu Karate in America. He is also responsible for the development of several Martial Arts systems throughout the world.

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