Karate originated on the island of Okinawa off the southern coast of Japan. However fighting systems had existed in Asia for thousands of years before the name ‘Karate’ was ever used. When the various martial arts that existed in China were practiced on Okinawa, they were collectively known as Tode, or Chinese Hand.
Okinawa also had its own systems of combat known as Te; the main ones being Naha-te, Shuri-te and Tomari-te. It was the fusion and development of these arts that became widely known as Kara-te when a council of Okinawan-te masters agreed to the term in 1936.
Karate, or empty hand, was therefore never meant to be a ‘style’ in its own right; rather a global term to represent all unarmed fighting arts. Therefore, although the name ‘Karate’ is relatively new, the fighting art that we practice has a heritage of several thousand years.
The name Goju is derived from two contrasting terms: ‘Go’ meaning hard, and ‘Ju’ meaning soft. Goju differs from most other Karate systems in its proximity of fighting. Great emphasis is placed on striking and grappling at close quarters, both standing and on the ground, making it a good style for reality-based self defense.
Goju Ryu traced its roots to the late 19th Century, when an Okinawan islander named Kanryo Higaonna travelled to Southern China and trained under a White Crane master named Ryu Ryu Ko. On his return he taught his art to a number of students however his most prominent student was Chojun Miyagi.
After Higaonna’s death in 1915, Miyagi combined his knowledge of Chinese systems with his own native Okinawan fighting arts (Tode) to create Goju Ryu Karate.
Goju is a hard/soft style. The hard way (Go) teaches strengthening and toughening the body in preparation for combat. This way utilises blocks and hard strikes in order to defend oneself. Training always begins in this fashion. This is then followed by learning (Ju) softness. Here we rely on body movement, receiving and soft strikes to vulnerable areas, minimum force, maximum effect.Then follows the lifetime study of being able to use both, harmonizing both Go and Ju. Training advances from external to internal over 30 years or more.
Your karate should be forever changing. Just like the seasons, and just as we age. Stagnation will kill this living art..