Okinawa Goju-Ryu Karate is very well defined in its history and lineage. From the teachers of Chinese Kempo master RuRuKo to Kanryo Higa(shi)onna (1853-1915), to his successor and most devoted student Chojun Miyagi (1888-1953), the founder of Goju-Ryu Karate, to his most devoted student, elected successor, and founder of the JUNDOKAN Ei'ichi Miyazato (1922-1999), to its present chairman Koshin Iha, Okinawa Goju-Ryu has remained largely unchanged from its original Chinese combative roots . 

Because of Okinawa Goju-Ryu's 400 years of traceable, unbroken history, in 1998 the Dai Nippon Butokukai, the society that governs all Japanese and Okinawan martial arts in Japan, recognized Okinawa Goju-Ryu as the ONLY form of Karate, Japanese or Okinawan, as an ancient martial art. Placing Goju-Ryu alongside other Japanese arts like jujutsu and  kenjutsu, which have lineages of over 900 years, is a huge accomplishment.  Secondly, since Karate is Okinawan by birth, such an honor by Japanese society makes that distinction that much more impressive.


Chatan Yara - (1668 - 1756) Master of Okinawan Weapons, studied in China at age 12 and was considered one of the famous Masters of the early 1700's.
Takahara Pechin - (1683 - 1762)
Responsible for the early training
of Karate Sakugawa, studied in China and under Master Chatan Yara.
Satunuku « Tode » Sakugawa -
(1733 - 181 5) Developed the Kata Ku Shan Ku, studied under both Takahara Pechin and the Chinese Master Ku Shan ku.
Sokon  “Bushi” Matsumura - (1796 - 1893) Created the Kata Shinto and Seisan. Studied in China
and under Karate Sakugawa for ten years.
Ryu Ryu Ko,July 1852 - February 1930.
Kanryo Higashionna,1851 - December 23, 1915.
Chojun Miyagi - April 25,1888 - October 8th, 1953.
Gogen Yamaguchi, January 20th 1909,

Chatan Yara is a legendary figure in the Okinawan Martial Arts legacy. He travelled to Fukien\China in order to learn Chinese Kempo and weaponry and stayed there for 20 years. His teacher was Wong Chung-Yoh.

He created the kata: "Chatan Yara No Sai," "Chatan Yara Sho No Tonfa," and "Chatan Yara No Kon" & are widely practiced today.

Takahara was a monk, mapmaker and astronomer. Takahara Peichin was born in the village of Akata Cho in Southern Shuri. Takahara who 67 at the time and was a famous warrior of the Okinawan fighting arts. Sakugawa respectfully asked Takahara to become his student, and was accepted. He studied under him diligently.

He belonged to an upper class family of Okinawan society. The term "Peichin" stands for "senior". Some sources claim that he was a Buddhist monk from Shaolin and Martial Art expert. He was well educated person. His expertises were astronomy and mapping and he indeed mapped Okinawa. Takahara traveled a lot during his lifetime. He was well known as a great fighter who emphasized ethical principals as "Ijo" (compassion, humility and modesty), "Fo" (seriousness, devotion and dedication) and "Katsu" (deep understanding and essence of techniques). Takahara regarded Martial arts as way of life and he is considered as "father of Okinawan Karate".

Takahara attributed a major importance to Kata and it's significances. He saw Kata as an efficient instrument to understand and improvement fighting techniques.

He was a student of Chatan Yara and his most famous student was "Tode" Sakugawa.

"Tode" Satunuku Sakugawa
(first Teacher of Okinawan Karate)
One of the first great masters of Okinawa was Tode Sakugawa. Tode Sakugawa was born in Shuri in 1733 and died in 1815. At the age of 17, Tode Sakugawa began his martial arts training under an Okinawan monk named Peichin Takahara. At age 23, Sakugawa was advised by Takahara to go and train under Kusanku, a Chinese master in Kung Fu. For the next six years, Sakugawa learned all that he could. Sakugawa learned valuable lessons from karate and became a great master. Tode Sakugawa was an important factor in the development of TE on the Okinawan Islands. Tode Sakugawa was credited with forming several Bo katas which are still practiced today. In addition, Sakugawa also created Dojo Kun which has become a tradition with many styles, including our Shito-Ryu Karate-Do Genbu-Kai!

Sokon Bushi Matsurmuras - (1796 - 1893) first teacher was seventy eight years old and a past student of both the great Takahara Pechin (Pechin is a title of status) (1683-1760) and Kusanku (Chinese official). His name was "Tode" (Chinese hand way) Sakugawa (1733-1815). Matsumura was the last of many students of Sakugawa but became the most famous. Many years later "Bushi" Matsumura studied with a Chinese trader named Chinto. It is believed Bushi Matsumura created the kata Chinto after his teacher from the movements he had taught him. The Royal family of Sho acquired "Bushi" Matsumura for their service. There he became Chief Tode Instructor and a bodyguard of the King. Some time later around 1830 he traveled to China to study Shaolin Gong-fu (Kempo or Fist method). Most secret of what Bushi Matsumura learned was the White Crane method. This system he taught only to his son, Nabi Matsumura (1860-1930). As part as an envoy of the King he had the opportunity to travel into the Chinese province of Fukien. It is believed while there he studied under Ason and Iwah, both military attaches. The title "Bushi" was given to him by King Sho for his great accomplishments. Many times Bushi Matsumura had to prove his ability against foe, though never was he defeated.

Tode was the system of Te practiced among the upper class. The art of Te (hand) as it was known in Okinawa had three names. Each representing the township it was taught in. They were Tomari-te, Naha-te and Shuri-te. Bushi Matsumura being in the township of Shuri taught Shuri-te. After many years the name Shuri-te was replaced with Shorin-Ryu. Bushi Matsumura retired and moved to Sakiyama village in Shuri. He had many students, among them were Yasutsune Azato, Yasutsune Itosu, Choshin Chibana, Choki Motobu, and Chotoku Kyan. It would be his son who would pass on his purest teachings known as Shorin-Ryu. Later this system was passed onto Nabe Matsumura's nephew, Sokon Kohan (1889-1920).

Ryu Ryu Ko, (also known as Xie Zhong Xiang) - July 1852 - February 1930. Ryu Ryu Ko was born in Chang-le, Fujian. In his early years, he followed in the footsteps of "Pan Yuba" to study Ming He Quan. He was a first generation master (Shi) of Whooping Crane Boxing.

The founder of Whooping Crane (sometimes mistaken with its counter part 'Feeding Crane' another Crane style Gung Fu which emphasizes aggressive and offensive techniques). In 1866, Ryu Ko formally started teaching his form of Te. In 1883, he set up a martial arts center and started to receive students and pass on his style of Wushu. His Chinese boxing style Quan Fa had its own special and unique characteristics.

Whooping Crane closely resembles Goju Ryu and definitely plays an important role in many Okinawan as well as Goju Ryu Kata. This resemblance can be seen particularly in Suparunpei, Kururunfa, Saifa, etc.; those Kata brought back to Okinawa from China each demonstrate specific movements from White Crane. Many scholars use this similarity in the kata to trace the line of history of Goju Ryu, which is still somewhat confusing due to the destruction of written materials during the Second World War. RyuKo is given credit for being Kanryo Higashionna's main teacher as well as teacher to other well known turnof-the-century Okinawan masters.

Kanryo Higashionna, (also spelled Higaonna) -March 10th, 1851 - December 23, 1915. A leading nineteenth century Karate master, combined the techniques of Naha-te and the teachings of Shuri-te plus added different moves from the Chinese art, Shao Lin Chuan to create a new art. He was regarded as the highest authority and foremost masters of Naha-Te as well as Okinawan Karate and regarded as one of the most influential Karate instructors in Okinawan history. Higashionna was a student of Ryu Ryu Ko.

In 1866, at the age of 15 or 16 he sailed from Okinawa to further his studies abroad in Fuzchou China in the arts of Chinese Kempo with Sifu Liu Liu Gung and remained there for 10 to 15 years. It is believed that Higashionna Sensei studied the styles of Hung Gar-Shaolin Chuan, hard style Chinese martial arts of Chi-Chi and/or I-Chi with another Chinese master only known as 'Woo'. He returned to Okinawa during the middle of the Meiji era (1868- 1911) and introduced many new effective hand and kicking techniques, distinguished from other styles by its integration of Go- no (hard) and Ju-no (soft) Kempo into one system. His fame as a martial artist quickly spread and the Okinawans soon realized that the martial art of Higaonna Sensei exceeded anything they've seen before.

Higashionna Sensei opened his house as a dojo and continued to teach until his death in 1915 in Naha Okinawa.

Much credit is given to Kanryo Higashioanna for the development of Okinawan Karate-do and today he is honored as the founder. Arguably, however, it was through Miyagi Chojun, the founder of Goju Ryu, that Higashiaonna's name and efforts became so entrenched in the history of modern Karate-do. Chojun Miyagi became one of Kanryo Higashionna's greatest disciples and he succeeded him after his death at 63 in 1915.

Chojun Miyagi - April 25,1888 - October 8th, 1953.
Chojun Miyagi was born in Higashi-Machi (Naha-shi) Okinawa of a wealthy family who's business was import/export. Originally Miyagi Chojun was born as Miyagi Matsu however his name was changed to Chojun at the age of 5 by his uncle whom adopted him after the death of his father in 1893. His family owned two ships which made regular trips to mainland China, placing them among the wealthiest families in the area and enabled a young Miyagi Chojun Sensei to travel to China to study the style of his instructor and develop the style of Karate we call Goju Ryu today. However his original Martial Arts training started with his neighbor Ryu Ko Aragaki (one of the very few fighters ever to beat the legendary Choki Motobu) at 11 years old. Ryu Ko Aragaki Sensei, before moving his family to Taiwan, later introduced him to Kanryo Higashionna, and he began training at the age of 17 in the fall of 1905 after fulfilling a host of chores for his new sensei (the traditional way of being accepted by an instructor).

Because of his outstanding ability and incredible determination, he progressed very qiuckly. The training he received was rigorous beyond belief but he practiced ever harder with an enthusiasm unmatched by any of the other students. Chojun Miyagi became "uchi deshi" (private disciple) of Kanryo Higaonna. Chojun Miyagi, as successor to Naha-te pushed himself to the limits of ability in his desire to emulate the extraordinary skill of his teacher.

After training approximately 15 years with Higaonna Sensei Miyagi made his first trip to China to study Chuguko Kempo (Chinese Fist) in Fouchow, Fukien Province, from 1915 to 1917. Miyagi made many trips to China during his lifetime in order to futher his knowledge of the martial arts. During his travels in China he studied not only the building blocks of his teachers art Hung Gar-Shaolin Chuan Chi-Chi, but also I-Chuan, Pa Kua Chang and Tai Chi Chuan. It was at this time he learned the form (kata) Rokkishu which later became the foundation for the Kata he would later create called "Tensho".

He returned to Okinawa in 1915 due to the sudden death of Higaonna Sensei. Miyagi Chojun Sensei arranged for Higaonna's funeral and paid all expenses. A short time later Chojun Miyagi decided to return to China in search of Higaonna's teacher but was unable to find him or his dojo.

Upon his return to Okinawa Miyagi began to teach from his home where he turned the garden into a dojo. 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). However, his private teaching at his home remained strictly in adherence to the principles and traditions of the teacher, Kanryo Higashionna. Blending the strong snap techniques of the Okinawan style and the dynamic and free techniques of the soft Chinese Kempo, his style was complete.With his extensive martial art training in Okinawa-te, Naha-Te and the hard-soft arts he learned in China, Miyagi Sensei developed a refined form of empty hand self-defense. He also organized the additional movements to strengthen the body through dynamic tension, exercise, and calisthenics.

He began to teach his new style of Karate to a large number of people in and around Naha, and to lecture and demonstrate throughout Japan Miyagi-Sensei subjected the art of Naha-te, as received from Kanryo Higashionna, to scientific examination. He mastered the basic Go (Sanchin) and the six rules and created the Ju form (Tensho), combining soft and hard movements. The principals of Naha-Te and the hard and soft styles of Chinese martial arts became the basis of the Miyagi school of Karate.

In 1929 one of Chojun Miyagi Sensei disciples, Jinan Shinzato, was in mainland Kyoto, Japan for a large martial arts convention to demonstrate Naha-te. After the performance he was asked to what school of karate he belonged. He was unable to answer the question, since 'Naha-te' was not the name of a style. At his return he told Miyagi Sensei about the occurrence, who thought about the problem and decided that it should be advantageous to have a name for his martial art in order to promote and spread his system. He chose the name "Goju Ryu"(the hard-soft style), inspired by the "Eight precepts" of Kempo, written in the Bubishi. Quoting from the third verse of a Chinese Bubishi poem, Eight Poems of the Fist: "The way of inhaling and exhaling is hardness and softness." It is from this that the art Miyagi studied and taught got its name. Goju-Ryu, the way of hard and soft.

Indeed, the term Goju means hard-soft. Go is the Japanese word for hardness and Ju is the word for softness. Go-Ju are also the numbers "5 and 10", which could be interpreted as half and half (half hard and half soft). After many years of studying, teaching and utilizing the principles his Sensei taught him, the Miyagi school of Karate was now being called the Goju-Ryu school of Karate. This system is based on the Oriental concept that all hardness and stiffness is not good. At the same time, all softness and too much gentleness can also be harmful. The two should always complement each other as inseparable, but equal forces.

The teaching system, which he formulated, enabled karate to be taught in schools for the benefit of the young people, and to reach vast numbers of people throughout the world. In 1936 Miyagi became the first person in Karate to receive the "kyoshi" grade from the Dai Nippon Butokukai (Greater Japan Martial Arts Virtues Association).

The Second World War really took a toll on Miyagi, his family and students, during the bombing raids in the battle of Okinawa he lost in many of his books, manuscripts and other martial arts relics. He also lost several students, one of them being his most likely successor, Ji'an Shinzato, was tragically killed during the bombings. Jin'an Shinzato, an exceptional talent and the one whom Chojun Miyagi would have probably chosen as his successor to the Goju school in Okinawa.

Chojun Miyagi passed away October 8th, 1953, leaving his family of 10 children, wife and a great legacy behind. He dedicated his entire life and fortune to Karate. He predicted that during the twentieth century karate would spread throughout the world. Today we can see that this prediction has been realized; karate is not only practiced in Japan, but it can be found throughout the countries of the world. Karate can no longer be referred to as a solely Okinawan or Japanese martial art, but it has become an art with no boundaries, an art for all nations and all peoples of the world. Even today its Whooping Crane Chinese Gung Fu roots can still be seen in its forms or Kata. He put a great effort into spreading his knowledge, the ambition being to give karate the same status as judo and kendo.

After Miyagi's sudden death there was much disagreement amonst the senior members over how Goju-Ryu should be taught and by no means did all accept Higa, Miyazato or Yagi as his successors. The senior students formed an organization named the All Okinawa Goju Kai, which was a reorganization of the old Goju Rui Shinko-Kai and established a promotional ranking system for the art of Goju Ryu Karate Do. Chojun Miyagi Sensei sought to teach because he believed that the more that people would know about selfdefense, confidence, moral responsibility the better it would be for all of Okinawa and eventually the world.

Eiichi Miyazato trained under Chojun Miyagi for the longest of all the seniors, since 1937, and took over as the head of Okinawa Goju-Ryu until he formed his own school called Jun Do Kan Goju in 1957. Seiko Higa temporily carried on as his successor (Higa received the "Renshi" grade from the Dai Nippon Butokukai in 1939). The leadership was then passed on to Meitoku Yagi and in 1963 he received Miyagi's gi and belt from the Miyagi family along with the Menkyo Kaiden (inheritor of a style) and was officially named the successor of Okinawan Goju-Ryu. Today Meitoku Yagi calls his organization Meibukan Goju Ryu. Seiko Higa formed the Shodokan Goju Ryu, Seikichi Toguchi formed Shorei-kan Goju Ryu. Other noteworthy students of Miyagi's were: Yoshio Itokazu, Seikichi Toguchi, and his nephew Anichi Miyagi. Debate continues to the present day as Miyagi's other senior students opened their own schools as well. Gogen Yamguchi had already been designated as Miyagi's successor in mainland Japan and head of Japanese Goju-Ryu.

Gogen Yamaguchi (The Cat)was born Oshimi Yamaguchi on January 20th 1909, in the city of Agoshima on the southern end of Kyushu Japan. His father Tokutaro Yamaguchi was a merchant and later a school teacher and Superintendent, his mother Yoshimatsu was his fathers' assistant. Gogen Yamaguchi was also known in the world of Karate as 'the Cat'.

Yamaguchi was a small man, just over five feet and a mere 160 pounds, however he projected the impression of great bulk and solemnity and was first dubbed "the Cat" by American GI's for his gliding walk and flowing hair.

It was somewhere around 1930 or 1931 that Gogen and his then teacher and friend Jitsuei Yogi wrote to Miyagi and invited him to come to Japan. This meeting proved to have a profound affect upon Yamaguchi's understanding of Karate. Previously he had only considered the hard aspect of Goju but after his meeting with Miyagi Sensei he was determined to train himself spiritually as well as physically. It was around this time that Gogen Yamaguchi began to study for a short time directly with Miyagi Sensei. Miyagi Sensei thought highly of Yamaguchi who seemed to have mastered the hard aspect of Goju. In 1937 Miyagi gave Yamaguchi the nickname "Gogen", meaning "Rough". He then appointed Gogen Yamaguchi as his successor and representative of the Goju school in Japan.

During his long career Yamaguchi Sensei made many important contributions to Japanese Karate-do. Yamaguchi Sensei organized the system by adopting traditional Japanese administrative procedures. It was Yamaguchi who implementated the "kyu-dan" (white to black belt) ranking method by expanding on the system that was being used by Jigoro Kano Sensei in Judo and originated jiyu-kumite (free-sparring). He added to the Goju system the Taikyoku Kata forms, - additional training methods to prepare students for the more advanced katas. In 1935 Gogen Yamaguchi became head of Japanese Goju Ryu and established "The All Japan Goju Kai Association" in Kyoto, Japan.

In the late 1930's, after the system of Goju-Ryu had taken shape in Japan, Yamaguchi and his senior students felt the need for a symbolic insignia and created what would become the legendary of the clenched fist that is still used as the official emblem and uniform patch of many of different Goju Ryu schools today. He simply modeled it after the right hand of Chojun Miyagi's clenched fist, slightly crooked because of a previous injury.

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