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Gojuryu History

Goju Ryu Karate-do History


(Kanryo Higashionna, the origional Okinawan pronounciation)

Founder of Naha-Te

He was born on March 10, 1853 in the district of Nishimura in the city of Naha, Okinawa. His father, Kanryo, was a merchant dedicated to trade with food and clothes through the Ryukyu Islands. In 1867, his father died suddenly as the result of a fight. Higaonna decided to travel to China to learn the deadly Martial Arts to avenge his father's death. However, in those days, traveling to China was restricted only to merchants, students or government officials, and permission to travel was only granted by the King of Okinawa, and the only port of departure was the port of Naha.  Kanryo Higaonna, with the help of the official Chomei Yoshimura, was able to get the permit to travel to Fuchow, China, as a student; departing from the port of Naha at the age of 15.

At his arrival to the city of Fuchow China, Kanryo Higaonna was accepted in the Ryukyu Kan or lodge where all the students from Okinawa were living. Once in Fuchow, Kanryo Higaonna was introduced to the well renowned martial arts instructor Ryu Ryu Ko.

Ryu Ryu Ko (Xie Zhonhxiang in Chinese) was the founder of (Whooping) Crying Crane Gong Fu.  He was a student of Pan Yuba who was in turn the student of Lin Shixian, a master of White Crane Gong Fu. In 1870 he accepted Kanryo Higaonna as a student. Higaonna trained with him until he returned to Okinawa in 1881.

Ryu Ryu Ko Sensei worked in bamboo, his shop on the first floor of the building and his house on the second floor. He taught martial arts at his house only to a small group of selected students. In the beginning, Kanryo Higaonna only performed duties in the yard of Ryu Ryu Ko Sensei and sometimes in his shop before he decided to start to teach him the martial arts. At first Kanryo Higaonna was instructed only in Sanchin kata. His motivation and dedication soon started to show up in the progress of his skills, and he became "uchi deshi" (live-in student). He moved out from the Ryukyu Kan and started to live and work at Ryu Ryu Ko Sensei's bamboo shop. He was introduced to the different traditional equipment such as chiishi, ishi sashi, nigiri game, tan and muning (variation of makiwara). The training was very severe. The fame of Ryu Ryu Ko Sensei was wide. He learned the martial arts in the southern Shaolin temple in the mountains of the Fujian Province. His teacher was a Court Official from the Dynasty. Ryu Ryu Ko Sensei also instructed Kanryo

Higaonna in the use of weapons such the Daito (long sword), Shuto (small sword), Sai and Bo. Kanryo Higaonna became Ryu Ryu Ko Sensei's top student. Kanryo Higaonna practiced for 13 years in China and in 1881 Kanryo Higaonna returned to Okinawa.

He returned to difficult political times in Okinawa, and he established himself in the district of Nishimura in the city of Naha. He started as his father did in the past as a merchant traveling with his boat in between the islands of the Ryukyu chain. He then started to teach a select group of students at his house. His instruction was very severe. One of those students was Chojun Miyagi. In a short time he obtained in Okinawa the same good reputation that he developed in Fuchow. It wasn't too long before the King of Okinawa invited Kanryo Higaonna to teach him the martial arts. In 1905 he was invited to teach his Naha-Te or Te from Naha (name called then) in the Naha Commercial School. The principal wanted to teach the students the spiritual and moral aspects of the martial arts. This was an important step in the Naha-Te, not only for the recognition of the benefits of the practice but also because until then, Te was taught as a martial art, with the skill to kill.

After his research, Kanryo Higaonna, decided to make an important change in the Sanchin kata. Until then, Sanchin kata was practiced with open hands, so he started to teach it with closed hands and slower breathing with the purpose of promoting the health benefits, rather than promoting lethal techniques at the school. Kanryo Higaonna introduced the closed fist to emphasize the physical strength more than the ability to kill. Tradition also played an important roll for this change because he noticed that a lot of young Okinawans, without acknowledgement of martial arts, naturally stood with closed fists when they were going to fight. He continued to teach the original way that he learned in China to his few students at his dojo. After 1905, karate became a little bit more accessible to the general population, until then Te was practiced just by a selected group.

Kanryo Higaonna Sensei passed away in October 1915 at the age of 62.



Founder of Goju Ryu Karate-do.

He was born on April 25, 1888 in the city of Naha, Okinawa. He began his practice at the age of 12 with Aragaki Ryuko Sensei. Aragaki Ryuko's approach was only to teach the fighting itself and not too much emphasis was placed on the martial art.

After seeing the dedication of Chojun Miyagi, Aragaki Ryuko decided to introduce him to Kanryo Higaonna. In 1902, at the age of 14, Chojun Miyagi Sensei started to practice with Kanryo Higaonna Sensei. At the age of 20, Chojun Miyagi became Kanryo Higaonna's top student and around that time is also when he got married. At the age of 22, he traveled to the main island of Kyushu for his military service. After 2 years of service he returned to Okinawa. For the next 3 years Kanryo Higaonna taught him privately until Kanryo Higaonna died in 1915. He studied with his teacher for 14 years.

As successor to Naha-te, Chojun Miyagi pushed himself to the limits of endurance in his desire to emulate the extraordinary skill of his teacher. To this end, that same year (1915) he journeyed to Fuzhou, China, the city where his teacher had studied the martial arts, to further his own research. This was one of three trips he made to China during his lifetime.

With his death, Chojun Miyagi decided to follow the steps of his Sensei and travel to Fuchow, China, where he learned the martial arts. In his first trip in 1915, he went to Fuchow and trained for two months with a student of Ryu Ryu Ko Sensei. The old man was very impressed with the skill of Chojun Miyagi. Chojun Miyagi went to visit the grave of Ryu Ryu Ko Sensei as well as to the temple were he trained. It was easy to see the footmarks on the patio from the training. Between 1920 and 1930 Chojun Miyagi traveled to China for the second time. This was not a productive trip because the relations between China and Japan were not good in those days. In his third trip to China, in 1936, he was able to contact the Shanghai Martial Arts Federation. This was instrumental in helping him do his research in the martial arts. On his return to

Okinawa, he began to teach the martial arts at his home in Naha. Later, he also taught at the Okinawan Prefecture Police Training Center, at the Okinawan Master’s Training College, and at the Naha Commercial High School (where his teacher had once taught).

In the early 20's Chojun Miyagi developed the characteristic Goju Ryu warming up exercises or Yunbi Undo with the help of a friend of his, who was a doctor. This series of exercises were based not only on martial arts fundaments but also on medical research. It iIs also around this time that Chojun Miyagi also developed the kata Tensho, and began to teach in high school in Okinawa. In 1925, Chojun Miyagi, Hanashiro Chomo, Mabuni Kenwa and Motobu Choki formed the Karate Kenkyu Kai or Karate Research Club at Naha, with the idea of preserving and practicing karate with members of other lines of Te. Unfortunately the club disbanded in 1929.

In 1930 Chojun Miyagi sent his top student, Jihan Shinzato, to perform a demonstration of Te at the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo. Upon his return to Okinawa, Shinzato asked his Sensei about the name of the style of karate that they practiced because a Kobudo Sensei present at the demonstration inquired the same of Shinzato. Shinzato Sensei could not answer because until then they only referred to karate as Te (hand), To (China) or Bu (martial art). Chojun Miyagi decided for the first time to call his style Goju Ryu. The meaning was extracted from the Bubishi or book of the poems where there are references to different subjects including the martial arts. The name Goju Ryu identifies the style as the style of the hardness and softness. In this way Goju Ryu became the first style of karate named.

Miyagi worked hard to spread karate throughout
Okinawa and mainland Japan, and to earn Naha-te a status equal to that of the highly respected Japanese martial arts of judo and kendo. To achieve this, he traveled frequently to mainland Japan where he was invited to teach karate at Kyoto University, Kansai University and Ritsumei Kan University. In 1931, Goju-Ryu Karate-Do was officially registered in the Butokukai.

Chojun Miyagi Sensei teaching kata to students.

In 1934, Chojun Miyagi was appointed as the representative of the Butoku Kai in Okinawa. Also in this year, Chojun Miyagi was invited to travel to Hawaii to teach karate to the Okinawans living on the island. He remained in Hawaii for 6 months. 

In 1937 Chojun Miyagi was honored, he received the title Kyoshigo (Master) from the Butoku Kai. This was the first time in history that somebody in karate received this honor. During World War II, Chojun Miyagi lost his top student Jihan Shinzato as well as two of his daughters. Chojun Miyagi predicted that during the twentieth century karate would spread throughout the world.

Apart from Ji'an Shinzato, other noteworthy students of Miyagi's were: Meitoku Yagi, Seiko Higa, Ei'ichi Miyazato, Yoshio Itokazu, Seikichi Toguchi, Koshin Iha and Eiko Miyazato.

hojun Miyagi Sensei passed away on October 8, 1953 at the age of 65.




Founder of the Jundokan and the Okinawan Gojuryu Karate Kyokai (OGKK).

He was born on July 5th, 1922, he began Karate-do training at age 13 with his father training with Makiwara and Chishi and became a student of Chojun Miyagi after introduction by his father in early 1938 at the age of 15. Except for a short time during WWII, Miyazato Eiichi remained with Chojun Miyagi until his death in 1953. Miyazato often assisted Chojun Miyagi teaching at the Garden Dojo and under his guidance Miyazato Eiichi also taught at local high schools.

He succeeded Sensei Miyagi as instructor at the Ryukyu Police Academy where he also taught Judo. Following Miyagi's death in 1953, Miyazato inherited all of Miyagi's Hojo Undo and at the request of his fellow students and Miyagi's family, he continued teaching at the Garden Dojo (Miyagi's Dojo).

Miyazato Sensei was chosen as his successor in a meeting of the Okinawa Gojuryu General Committee in 1954. He also assumed the responsibility of preserving the Katas, principles and the future of his teacher's Karate-do system. Miyazato Hanshi opened his own Dojo in 1954 also built the Jundokan (House for the Following in the Footsteps of the Father) in the Asato district of Naha in 1957 a 3 story structure which comprised of both the Jundokan dojo and his home on the top floor. Miyazato Sensei founded both the Jundokan and the Okinawa Gojuryu Karate-do Kyokai (OGKK). In addition to Goju ryu, Miyazato Ei'Ichi Hanshi also studied Judo (7th Dan) with Itokazu Shoko Sensei. He won the All Okinawa Judo Championship and the Championship of the All Japan Police Judo.

Over the years a number of well known Gojuryu practitioners made their start in the Jundokan under the guidance of Miyazato Sensei – among them are Morio Higaonna and Teruo Chinen, together they founded the International Okinawan Gojuryu Karate-do Federation (IOGKF). Teruo Chinen left the IOGKF and founded his own organization the Jundokan International.


Before his death, Miyazato Ei'Ichi Hanshi was Chairman of the All-Okinawa Karate-do Federation, the Okinawa Gojuryu Karate-do Association and The World Jundokan Association.

Ei'ichi Miyazato Sensei passed away December 10, 1999 at the age of 77.


Ei'ichi Miyazato with students Teruo Chinen (left) and Morio Higaonna (right). 

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