Kanryo Higaonna (founder)

Kanryo Higaonna was born in Naha, Okinawa on 10 March 1851. Despite being born as a descendent of a prominent family line, his family was impoverished. They earned their living transporting firewood from the Kerama Islands in a small junk.

As a boy, he was small for his age, but very quick and nimble, and showed keen interest in the fighting arts from an early age. At the age of fourteen he began his formal training in Chinese Kempo from a local who had studied the Fukien style. He longed to travel to China and study there, and eventually achieved that aim in 1866, when he convinced the owner of a ship bound for China to grant him passage.

After a year in residence at the Okinawan settlement in Foochow, he was introduced to Ryu Ryuko. He was not allowed to train right away, and had to follow the age-old custom of personal service to his master by attending the garden, cleaning and doing odd chores. After he had satisfied his master's expectations, he was accepted as a disciple.

He assisted him at his trade as a bamboo craftsman during the day and trained in the evenings. Training, as was the norm at the time, was very severe. He trained in Sanchin kata and developed his musculature through weight training with the traditional implements we see today in Okinawan styles. The training took its toll, but he was to gain a reputation among the locals as one of Ryu Ryuko's most skilled students.

After thirteen years of training, he left Foochow and returned to Okinawa, and began private lessons to the sons of the man who had granted him passage to China. He went back to his old job as a merchant, but his reputation was growing. Sailors and travellers from China brought back stories of his prowess that they had heard there, and before long, many would seek to become his disciples. Training was severe, as he had learned, and only a few who began would continue for longer.

In 1905 he began teaching at a public high school, and was considered along Itosu to be the foremost karateka in Okinawa. He is responsible for developing the Naha-te style, and many of his students went on to form their own systems based on his teachings.

He died on 23 December 1915 at the age of 63. His legacy lives on through his followers, most notably Chojun Miyagi, the founder of Goju Ryu, and Kenwa Mabuni, the founder of Shito Ryu.

Chojun Miyagi (founder of Goju Ryu)

Undefined Goju-Ryu Karate was founded in the late 1920's by Chojun Miyagi. He was born 25 April 1888 in Naha, Okinawa. His teacher was Kanryo Higaonna, the founder of Naha-te.


"Go" means hard and "Ju" means soft - hence Goju Ryu is translated as the "Hard and soft way". It is a blend of Okinawan Te (Hard) and Shaolin Kung Fu (Soft) with emphasis on the White Crane style.

Other Chinese influences include Pakua Chang, I Chuan and Tai Chi Chuan, which Sensei Miyagi studied on several trips to the Chinese mainland. Goju Ryu is a close-range self-defence system characterised by circular blocks, joint manipulations and kicking techniques to lower body targets. Dynamic tension and breathing are major elements in its training, incorporated in many of the kata.

Sensei Miyagi died on 8 October 1953 of either a heart attack (the most popular explanation) or a cerebral haemorrhage at the age of 65.

Following this, four of his senior students opened their own schools.  Seiko Higa carried on as Sensei Miyagi's immediate successor.  Meitoku Yagi formed the Meibukan;  Seikichi Toguchi formed the Shorei-kan and Elichi Miyazato the Judokan.  Later, in 1963, Meitoku Yagi would receive his gi and belt from the Miyagi family along with the Menkyo Kaiden and officially became the head of the Goju Ryu system.

An offshoot of the Okinawan Goju Ryu was Gogen Yamaguchi, who studied with Chojun Miyagi and promoted the style in Japan, forming the Japan Karate-Do Federation Goju-Kai.  One of his students, Peter Urban introduced Japanese Goju Ryu to the USA in 1959 later forming the U.S.A. Goju Association.

Gosei Yamaguchi, son of Gogen, followed in 1964 establishing the Goju-Kai Karate-Do U.S.A. in San Fransisco.

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