Goju-Ryu Karate-Do History

Translation of the word KARATE is “empty-handed” or “weapon-less” defence.

In Karate the human body is trained to become all the weapons a man or woman may need for self-defence.

To prepare the body to become effective systematic thorough warming-up exercises are practiced; beginning at the feet, moving upwards tensing and relaxing the muscles and finishing at the head. Performing these exercises is said to improve the performance of the lungs, heart and digestive system.

There are also a large number of floor based exercises such as press-ups and involving prolonged tension of the muscles in the head, arms, chest (pectoral muscles) stomach and legs. These techniques are combined with breathing exercises to develop “KI”, which is the Japanese translation of the Chinese word “CHI”. The suppleness and strength gained from these exercises is essential for the students to continue to progress satisfactorily.

Karate teaches the student how to use the body as a weapon. The body’s arsenal is used in a bewildering way to defend oneself against an attacker. Good posture is essential to Karate training. The variety of techniques in the Karateka’s armoury is delivered mainly from closed fists and the feet, though also from the elbows, knees and even the head!

There are various ways to strike different areas of the human body. Karate training highlights the type of strike necessary to produce maximum effect to any given part of the antagonist’s anatomy. The major techniques are fatal blows to the body’s vital points.

A Brief History


Karate originated on a small island between Japan and China called Okinawa. In 1477 the King of Okinawa banned the carrying of all weapons in a bid to end civil war. With this the people of Okinawa turned to neighbouring China and combined some Chinese forms of empty-handed self-defence with their own form of martial art.

From these roots three main styles of Karate evolved: “NAHA-TE” which is now called “GOJU-RYU” and “SHURI-TE and “TOMARE-TE” both of which now come under the name of “SHORIN-RYU”.

Kanryo Higaonna (Founder
of Naha-te) 1851-1915

Kanryo Higaonna was born in Naha, Okinawa on 10 March 1851. In 1866 he travelled to Foochow Southern China to study the Chinese martial arts.

After a year in residence at the Okinawan settlement in Foochow he was introduced to Master Ryu Ryu Ko a renowned master of Southern Chinese arts.

After following the age-old custom of service to his master he was accepted as a disciple and trained with his teacher for thirteen years before returning to Naha Okinawa where his martial arts became known as Naha-te. Kanryo taught these martial arts to the people of Okinawa. He died on 23 December 1915 at the age of 63.

Chojun Miyagi (Founder of
Goju Ryu) 1888-1953

Chojun Miyagi was born on 25 April 1888 in Naha, Okinawa. He began training in karate under Kanryo Higaonna at the age of 14, in 1902. He studied with his teacher for 14 years before his teacher’s death in 1915. In the same year he journeyed to Foochow China to further his research into the martial arts. This was one of three trips he made to China during his lifetime. On returning to Okinawa he began to teach at his home in Naha.

It is said that the naming of Goju-Ryu came about more by accident than design. In 1930 Chojun Miyagi’s top student, while in Tokyo was asked by numerous martial arts masters as to what school of martial arts he practiced. As Naha-te had no formal name he could not answer this question. On returning to Okinawa he reported the incident to Chojun Miyagi. After much consideration Miyagi decided on “Goju-Ryu” (hard and soft style) as the name for his style. “Go” means hard and “Ju means soft. It is a blend of Okinawan Te (hard) and Shaolin Kung Fu (soft). Chojun Miyagi died on 8 October 1953 at the age of 65.