Goju-Ryu Karate-Do Kyohan
The History and Fundamentals of
by Yamaguchi Gogen "The Cat"
was the legendary and colorful early 20th century karate master who founded
Japanese Goju-Ryu -- one of Japan's largest and most successful karate
organizations. Among the many famous martial artists who were influenced
by his teachings was Mas Oyama, who went on to form his own organization,
Kyokyushin karate. Such organizations as Seido Juku karate, founded by
Tadashi Nakamura, one of Oyama's top students, still practice many goju-ryu
kata. One of Yamaguchi's American students, Peter Urban, helped introduce
goju-ryu into the United States, but later broke away to found his own
American Goju-Ryu Association.
Editor's Note: This and two following excerpts from the book
by Yamaguchi were to appear as one article in the seventh and final edition
of Bugeisha Magazine that did not go to press. They appear on FightingArts.com
with permission of Bugeisha's editor, Angel Lemus, and Mastersline/Rising
Sun Video Productions. Lemus is now a Site Advisor to FightingArts.com.
Part two in this series is "The
Significance of Kata", and part three is "Practice
Fighting" will be posted soon.
Karate-do was born combining kakutojutsu [fighting martial arts], which
had been studied in Okinawa 500 years ago, and kempo, which was introduced
from China. As you can see in many countries, fighting martial arts have
been handed down in each country. Some remain a national sport and others
remain just a sport among others.
In Okinawa, for a long time, using any kinds of weapons was prohibited
because of a policy of prohibiting weapons. For that reason, they had
to invent toshukuken, the way to fight without a weapon. This was especially
true in the beginning of the 17th century since it was thought that fighting
martial arts, referring to Chinese kempo, was invented among Ryukyu [Okinawa]
samurai because their weapons were banned. In Okinawa, before it was called
karate, it had two names, one was Naha-te and the other was Shuri-te.
These are the names of regions. The source of present day styles are
these two te. Naha-te was invented by Tono [Higaonna] Kanryo Shihan, who
went to Fuku-ken-sho [also Fuken-sho, Fujian Province] in China and learned
Chinese kempo, which was combined with Naha-te and named Shorei-ryu.
Shuri-te was represented by Matsumura Soken Shihan. It has been separated
as Matsu-Toukan-ryu, Shito-ryu, and Wado-ryu. The history of Goju-ryu
begins with Miyagi Chojun Shihan who is an unparalleled saint [fuseishutsu
Miyagi Shihan was born in Meiji era 20  to a famous house in Naha,
Okinawa. He had practiced karate since he was 14-years old with Tono Kanryo
Shihan. In Meiji 36 , when he was 16 years old, he was ordered to
go to Fuku-ken-sho, China, and practiced Chinese kempo.
In China, Miyagi received rough and strict training. At the same time
he studied theory from old books. After he came back from China, he compared
Chinese kempo and Okinawa-te. Miyagi adopted his unique and effective
way of breathing, which he called ikibuki [also ibuki], a way of preliminary
exercise that is necessary for mastering karate-do. Ikibuki is also a
supportive scientific exercise that is related to the structure of the
body and its movement.
After that, Miyagi continued studying and reorganized both Chinese kempo
and Okinawa-te's merits and added his own ideas. This is how Goju-ryu
was born. Goju-ryu's name was extracted from the Bubishi, a Chinese documentary
One of eight Kyo phrases (precepts of Chinese martial arts) in the Bubishi
(the once secret White Crane and Monk Fist Boxing text owned by many Okinawan
karate masters) is called "Hogoju." Because it means "the
method of absorbing and releasing hard [go] and soft [ju]," the style
was named Goju-ryu. Miyagi taught karate at an Okinawan police training
school, a Naha public business school, an Okinawan teachers' school, and
an Okinawan health centre. In Showa 4 , Miyagi was invited by a
karate club at Kyoto University and by Kansai University, with honor,
to become an advising teacher. He was then invited to teach permanently
by Ritsumeikan University. Over time, Miyagi spread his methods throughout
Japan and took the initiative of Goju-ryu.
By that time, the author of this book was recognized by Miyagi Shihan
and was left the responsibility of spreading Miyagi's method of guidance,
creating a family of Goju-ryu, and organizing the All-Japan Karate-do
Goju Association. Moreover, Miyagi Shihan was invited to Hawaii by a newspaper
company, where he taught karate for one year and contributed to Goju-ryu
karate-do in and outside of Japan. After World War II, Miyagi went back
to Okinawa and quietly worked for the civil administration as a physical
education coach. In October of Showa 28 , he passed away.
Fundamental Idea of Goju-Ryu Karate-Do
Goju-ryu karate-do is composed of Yo [Yang], which is positive; and In
[Yin], which is negative, as the ideographs [kanji] "Go" and
"Ju" indicate. This is why the fundamental idea is so unique
and has beauty. The eternal life of the universe develops with positive
and negative working together. This is the same for the lives of humans.
Life has Yo and In, or Go and Ju, both sides for all our lives, sometimes
connected by becoming the will and harmony. The ancients who chose karate
as a means of fighting endured their strict and rough practice to protect
themselves and to win.
You can see that Goju-ryu is still keeping a primitive form for actual
fighting when you practice the Sanchin and Tensho kata, which represent
Go and Ju. In Sanchin, you make the whole body, all the nerves, etc. extremely
tense and do not let your guard down even for a moment. On the other hand,
in Tensho, you do not show a gush of fighting spirit, you keep it inside
your body and wait for a chance to use it. As a result, Tensho draws a
gentle curve and flows. The techniques of Goju-ryu use its own unique
method of breathing, which is called ikibuki. The technique can be changed
from Go to Ju or Ju to Go; and while you move without distraction, you
still go along with the movements of the opponent. If the opponent comes
by Go, you respond with Ju and restrain him. If the opponent comes by
Ju, you use Go and temper him. Ikibuki is the way of breathing that controls
conscious breathing from ordinary unconscious breathing. You go with the
movement and breathing of the opponent and lead your physical condition
to most advantageous situation. It is useful for concentrating your muscles
Goju-ryu has many postures that use the names of animals, like the cat,
dog, crane, tiger, and dragon. In ikibuki, you imagine that a lion is
roaring. When animals stand ready to fight, they are on their guard and
all their power is concentrated for fighting. That form does not have
anxiety or fear. They are just thinking about defeating the enemy. There
is no desire of self-gratification and no dishonesty. You can say that
they are desperate. The reason that the color of the old budo is very
strong in modern budo is that we see the importance in the forms and the
ikibuki of these animals. These aspects are the original aspects of Go,
however, it is not perfect to emphasize the aspect of Go, in other words,
the height of the form. If a strife of Go is one side, there has to be
Ju on the other that avoids strife. That is how character building can
be accomplished by Goju-ryu.
In the future, karate-do should not be a technique to defeat humans.
When it gives an edge to others and yourself, then initially, it becomes
a precept as Do and practice becomes valuable. In modern times, there
is a method of instruction and a way of studying karate-do as a sport,
but I do not know how the readers interpret karate-do, as a budo or just
a sport in common with the West. Certainly, you can think that there is
no difference from other sports when you refer to the rules of the game.
Also, the main purpose of sports is to train the mind and body at the
same time. It applies to budo as well. Yet, it is difficult to say that
the many events that have been invented in the West are simply sport and
that only Japanese ancient grappling games are called budo. Presently,
there are Olympic games and many kinds of events. Judo, kendo, and karate-do
have been introduced as sports. Their sporting elements are emphasized
and introduced by many people and have also been reformed to become a
sport. Still, there will be a big difference in the mental attitudes between
people who practice karate as a sport and as a budo. This is because our
society is formed into many organizations, sometimes in a family, school,
or workshop. In these societies, the purpose of sports is to make healthy
minds and bodies, to bring together a sense of cooperation to make a member
of society adapt to this human society. Moreover, it promotes the improvement
of a member of society. By having characteristics common to all by sports,
the events are used to encourage making peace in the world.
What about budo? Budo did not originate in a peaceful atmosphere. It
was necessary to protect one's life at the time, and to learn how to use
budo as a weapon and achieve one's responsibility as a warrior. It was
the warrior's duty to develop spirit. This rule was established in the
hierarchy. It was the theory of a warrior to desire winning a war.
Modern budo is not the extension of ancient budo. Right now, there is
no hierarchy like in samurai society. Society does not force you to destroy
human life; however, one of the conceptions of ancient budo is skill inherited
in modern budo. Before, warriors practiced budo and respected it as Do,
suffering, and facing death. In spite of the fact that death is the destiny
of all human beings, the idea of death is dreadful. I do not doubt that
the ancient budo philosophy was resisted by human beings facing death
and yet also the way of character building to learn to overcome death.
For a living thing, instead of knowing that life is the most precious
thing, death was the naught. As a result of putting oneself in the naught,
they could ignore their fear of death.
In the ancient budo book, Hagakure, it is written that budo is death.
In these words, you can find the spirit of budo, which is superior to
death. In other words, an object of the fear of death is neither others,
nor weapons -- it is oneself. As a result, it was necessary to obtain
a technique to protect oneself and one had to have a strong spirit to
correspond to that. When one could overcome a conception of death, there
was an improvement of a human being as a samurai. When it was developed,
karate-do was used in place of weapons and studied that way so that the
spirit of the samurai was needed at the beginning of its conception to
learn karate. Now there are rules, but the techniques and elements have
goal of many sports is competition; however, there is a sense of entertainment
or hobby. On the other hand, karate is the fight against one's self without
having an object. In sports, records are saved and defeating these records
becomes the success. They are introduced to many people as a means of
character building and harmonizing mankind, and they are kept. In karate-do,
there is nothing to be recorded. The more superior is judged by the technique
used. Now, karate is the battle against one's self and a means of the
way of one's life not to defeat others or to die. This solitary fight
is to know one's own spirit and the desire to the naught that is superior
to the limitation of the body. If one's aspiration is a formal victory
or defeat, that is just a stage of learning techniques, not a faith of
kyo or mu. As an author, I also studied Yoga and Shinto to seek this faith.
I also trained myself to get closer to the strictness and mystery of Do.
In conclusion, it is not necessary to be strong even though you practice
karate-do. You want to be stronger than others because you compare your
strength with others. The object of karate-do is Do, not comparing with
someone else, and this Do will continue forever and ever.
Part 2: The
significance of Kata
Part 3: Practice
This excerpt from Yamaguchi's book, "Goju Ryu Karate Do Kyohan,"
was submitted by Masters Publications. This is the fourth book in the
Limited Edition series translated from Japanese into English and published
by Masters Publication; the first was "To-Te Jitsu" by Funakoshi
Gichin, followed by "Okinawan Kempo" by Motobu Choki and "Wado
Ryu Karate" by Otsuka Hiroki.
For more information contact:
Mastersline/Rising Sun Video Productions
310-477-7604 fx 310-383-3135