Goju Ryu

Murakami Katsumi wrote:

CHOJUN MIYAGI, the originator and founder of Okinawa Goju-ryu Karatedo, said, "You must, above all, learn the art of true and real patience. Follow the WAY of patience to the 7th power and never be in a hurry to learn. Always think first and avoid acting rashly. Never harm anyone or let yourself be harmed." - Miyagi Chojun

The following is a translation of the Okinawan goju-ryu precepts as taught by

Chojun Miyagi.

Okinawa Goju-ryu-no-kun

Choju Miyagi (1888-1953), the originator of Okinawan style goju-ryu, is often referred to by the title of "Bushi" Miyagi. The title of "Bushi" is translated to mean "a gentleman warrior" of whom Chojun-sensei was indeed a role model for all to follow. Chojun-sensei (normally, Miyagi was not referred to by his family name but by his given name as a term of endearment) will go down in Okinawan and karate history as a person who brought karate into the 20 th century. He is a human being that is indeed worthy of note and so was bestowed the title of "Bushi."

Chojun-sensei, although an educated man, always spoke in simple language so that his precepts would not be misunderstood. He would explain that "bujutsu" meant not only "martial arts" but a WAY to live one's life to the fullest. He would explain to the students the right "WAY" to live and how it corresponded to the order in Nature's Law. Chojun-sensei always sought the TRUTH through his training in the martial arts and would push himself and his students in seeking the truth of the "sanchin" (the three conflicts).

There are many seniors still alive who have received the rigid discipline of Chojun-sensei's training and have now succeed to passing on his legacy. We, his disciples and students, must be aware that Chojun-sensei will always be with us through our training. We must therefore severely discipline ourselves in order to pass on to the future generations this precious legacy.

The students of modern goju-ryu should regard their training as if it were a diamond, at first rough and dull (unshining). But through hard, austere, and relentless training (or polishing) our style will begin to shine. Even after we have accomplished this, it is important that we do not become lazy and/or discontinue our training. This will then cause this diamond to lose its sheen and once again become dull. The student must above all understand that goju-ryu needs constant polishing in order to keep it bright and sharp. We should apply this basic philosophy not only to our goju-ryu training but also to the development of our minds and hearts.

The following are the precepts of goju-ryu Karatedo as taught by Chojun-sensei and passed down to modern-day goju-ryu stylists:
It must be understood that the secret principles of goju-ryu exist in the kata.

Kata and kata training is the essence of goju-ryu Karatedo. This essence can be seen in the twelve orthodox forms that exist and are to be passed on to future generations. One must train hard in kata and have a beginner's mind (shoshin) so that one absorbs this essence. Through hard training one will eventually reach the gokui (the secret of the essential teachings).
Goju-ryu Karatedo is one's own self in harmony with the universe. "As supple as a willow, as solid as Mount Tai (a mountain renowned in Chinese poetry)." This saying denotes the truth of the hard and soft of goju-ryu. By merging the two, the harmony of heaven and earth will evolve and we will become one with the universe.
Goju-ryu seeks the WAY of martial virtue (bu-toku). Goju-ryu training teaches and cultivates the ideal human nature of a physical and spiritual union. This union is also to heighten one's own virtue and to master the strategy of "winning without fighting." The following is the goju-ryu song that is required singing at parties andsocial gatherings. {For those interested, I'll sing it for you! ed.}

Okinawa Goju-ryu no Uta

l. Karate narau nara choito Okinawa goju-ryu yoi Hana no miyako no Hana no miyako no mannaka de sore Sanchin Tensho yoi Sanchin Tensho yoi

2. Karate narau nara choito Okinawa goju-ryu yoi Hana no miyako no Hana no miyako no mannaka de sore Gekisai Saifa yoi Gekisai Saifa yoi

3.Karate narau nara choito Okinawa goju-ryu yoi Hana no miyako no Hana no miyako no mannaka de sore Seipai Seisan yoi Seipai Seisan yoi


In l985 I had the privilege of meeting the most senior student of Chojun Miyagi, Meitoku Yagi (Hanshi 10-Dan). I also had a very enjoyable time with his two sons, Meitatsu Yagi (presently a Hanshi 9-Dan Hanshi) and Meitetsu Yagi (Kyoshi 8-Dan). Both the younger Yagi's spoke excellent English and were quite open and friendly. I also received a number of history lessons concerning some of the little known facts about Okinawan goju-ryu and its founder.

Chojun Miyagi began teaching under the guidance of his teacher, Kanryo Higaonna. An unusual fact about Miyagi's training was that he never had a mirror in the dojo. He often told his students that a mirror was used by women for fixing their hair and for men to see if they were dressed correctly. In the dojo, the teacher was and is the student's mirror. He felt that there was no room for a mirror in a traditional goju-ryu training hall. Too often, Miyagi would say, the mirror was not a tool but a distraction and hence it had no place in a dojo.

Meitoku Yagi follows his teacher's teachings and has a small mirror in the dressing room so that the women students can fix their hair and for the men to see if they are dressed correctly. There is no mirror in the training area of the Meibukan School of Okinawan Goju-ryu Karatedo.

An Outline of Karatedo

Originally, this article was called A General Explanation of Karatedo and was written by Chojun Miyagi-shihan. This article was read to the membership of the Dai Nippon Butokukai in Osaka, Japan, on May 28, 1936. It was edited and given to me by Yuichi Kuba, Goju-ryu Shoreikan Renshi 6-Dan. Kuba runs a dojo in Koza City, Okinawa. He indicated that he was more than willing to share Chojun Miyagi's words with anyone interested in learning "the true meaning of Okinawan Karatedo."


Karate is an art, which cultivates courage and develops physical and mental health through its practice. In addition, karate training enables the individual to defend himself against physical aggression without reliance upon weapons. It is also possible, however, to use certain tools or instruments in one's defense depending on the circumstances. People often see the breaking of many thick boards or the smashing of several roof tiles with the bare fist and mistake these feats for the true purpose of karate training. This technique is only a minor one. For just as in any other martial art, the essence of karate training is the eventual attainment of enlightenment.


The name karate is a special term in Okinawa, and if we look for its origin, we find it can be traced back to Chinese boxing. Due to the lack of literature on the subject, the birthplace of Chinese boxing cannot be definitely established. According to the oldest theory, it originated in Turkey and the Middle East with the rise of civilization and slowly spread to India and China.

There are, however, many theories. It is said that Chinese boxing was already in existence about 5,000 years ago during the Kou Dynasty, which built a great civilization along the basin of the Yellow River. In any case, Chinese boxing belongs to ancient times, and it is not hard to imagine that it came from man's fighting or competitive nature.

Traditional branches of Chinese boxing were all designed to imitate the fighting movements of animals and birds. This is evident from the fact the different styles have the names tiger, lion, monkey and crane.

It was only later that Chinese boxing was divided into the southern and northern styles. Furthermore, both styles branched out into two types of boxing: naika kempo (internal family boxing) and gaika kempo (external family boxing). The main characteristic of naika kempo was its softness. Buto kempo represented naika kempo. The main characteristic of gaika kempo was hardness. Shorinji kempo (Shaolin Temple boxing) was typical of gaika kempo. In the Tou and Sou Dynasties, there was a golden era of Chinese boxing in which many great martial artists appeared.

How was Chinese boxing introduced to the Ryukyu Islands? There is no definitive historical evidence, but there are many theories. The three main theories are:
(1) The 36 men theory: This theory asserts that in 1392, 36 Chinese men came to the Ryukyu Islands and introduced Chinese boxing to the Ryukyuan people.

(2) The Oshima Note theory: In 1762 a Ryukyu ship bound for mainland Japan was forced ashore by a storm at Oshima in Tosa, a province of Shikoku Island. Among the crew was an intellectual named Shiohira Pechin Seisei, who talked about the Ryukyu Islands and their people to a native scholar of Tosa Province, Choki Tobe. The latter recorded the conversation in a notebook, which was titled Oshima Hikki (The Oshima Note). In the third volume of the Oshima Note, a section of gossip entitled "Skillful Boxer" relates that a Chinese boxer by the name of Kusanku traveled to the Ryukyu Islands with his students and practiced what, at that time, was called kumiai-jutsu (combat literature about the origins of karate in the Ryukyu Islands.

(3) The Keicho theory: In the year Keicho 14 (1609), the Satsuma Clan conquered the Ryukyu Islands and established a regime based on brutal repression. Official policy prohibited ownership or use of weapons. One theory has it that for lack of a better means of protection, the art of karate developed naturally among the defenseless Okinawans. Another theory asserts it was during this time of crisis that karate was actually introduced. One thing is certain: a martial art combining foreign-introduced boxing and the native "te" (hand) style developed rapidly under the unique circumstances of the times. There are several other theories, but they are popular versions that are not very reliable. As we can see, there is no one proven theory, only this fact: karate was evolved from the past into its present form.


The origin of the name "karate" in Okinawa is uncertain, but it is true that it

was named not so very long ago. In the past, it was called "te." In those days karate or "te" was practiced secretly according to forms, which were passed down from master to only the best and highest student. If there was no qualified student, a form was never passed down and was lost with the passing of the master's generation. As a result of this practice, many forms have disappeared. After the late 19 th century, with the advent of many experts and a new teaching method more suited for the times, the old policy of secrecy was abandoned and training was conducted in the open. Gradually, karate was recognized by the public, and for the first time there was a ray of hope for karate in the future. Karate was accepted as part of advancing civilization; its physical, educational and cultural values were confirmed. It had completely won public approval.

In 1904, karate was officially adopted as part of the physical education program in Shuri Elementary School. This was the first group instruction in karate history. In April 1906, karate clubs were established at Okinawa Prefectural Middle School, Naha Municipal Commercial High School and Okinawa Prefectural School.

During the same period, karate clubs were also established in the Okinawa Agricultural, Technical and Fishery School. In 1922, karate was first introduced at the Okinawa Police Academy and then officially accepted as a regular curriculum subject like other Japanese martial arts such as judo and kendo. In March of 1926, the Okinawa Karate Club was established. On November 21, 1930, it was assimilated by the Okinawa Athletic Society and became one of that organization's departments.

The Dai Nippon Butokukai (the Greater Japan Martial Virtue Association) approved karate as one of the Japanese martial arts on December 26, 1933. In mainland Japan, karate clubs were also founded in various schools after 1924.

It is noteworthy to tell of the honorable events which have occurred in the karate world: Hirohito, the present Japanese Emperor, then prince, stopped by Okinawa enroute to Europe and watched our karate demonstration at the Okinawa Teachers School on March 10, 1921. Also, Prince Chichibu-no-Miya saw a karate exhibition at the same school in May of 1925, when he stopped in Okinawa on his way to England.

In 1930, karate people participated in an exhibition of the Japanese martial arts on the occasion of the opening festival of Meiji Jingu Shrine in Tokyo. In May of 1932, there was also a karate demonstration at the martial arts festival of Saineikan. In April of 1933, Prince Fushi-no-Miya and Prince Kuni-no-Miya visited Okinawa as part of the combined fleet of the Japanese Imperial Navy; we had a great honor to demonstrate karate for them.


According to traditional legends, karate was taught in the past mainly as a self-defense art, indicating only slightly its cultivating content through the slogan: "karate ni sente nashi (there is no first offense in karate)." But in reality, I have observed the neglect of this kind of spirit constantly. However, with the stream of time, that teaching policy has slowly improved and now the old erroneous report of the body being main and the mind being next has vanished. Karate training has now reached the stage of having the articles of faith, unity, fist and Zen; that is, mind being first and body being next. This gives hope that karate will receive the acclaim of a true martial art.

Qualified people now teaching karate in Okinawa and in mainland Japan include:

*In Okinawa Prefecture: Kentsu Yabu, Chomo Hanashiro, Chotoku Kyan, Anbun Tokuda, Jyuhatsu Kyoda, Choshin Chibana, Jinse Kamiya, Shinpan Gusukuma, Seko Higa, Kamato Nakasone, Jinan Shinzato, and Chojun Miyagi.

*Outside of Okinawa (mainland Japan): Gichin Funakoshi, Choki Motobu, Kenwa Mabuni, Masaru Sawayama, Sanyu Sakai, Moden Yabiku, Nisaburo Niki, Koyu Konishi, Shinji Sato, Mizuho Mutsu, Kamesuke Higaonna, Shinjun Otsuka, Shinken Taira, Koki Gusukuma, and Kanbun Uechi.


Presently there are many who theorize about styles of Ryukyu karate, but they are all without firm research and almost all of their claims are vague speculations. It seems like fumbling in the dark. One of the popular theories states that there are shorin-ryu and shorei-ryu karate, the former suitable for people with small physiques and slight physical strength, people who are as thin as a willow tree, the latter suited for big people with large physiques.

However, the only theory in which we can trust is that, in the year Bunsei 11 (1879), Chinese Fukien style was brought to Okinawa by Kanryo Higaonna and became goju-ryu karate boxing after continued improvement. The group, which is heir to that legitimacy, still exists and conducts regular training successions on Okinawa today.


The advantages of karate are as follows:
It can be practiced in a small area.
It can be practiced alone or in a group.
It does not take a long time to practice.
It can be practiced according to body strength, choosing appropriate forms regardless of sex and age.
It can be performed with simple tools which do not require great expense, or can be conducted while empty handed.
It is effective as a means of exercise for maintaining robust health.
As a result of mind and body training, it can build an indomitable spirit.


The era of secrecy in karate-jutsu (the art of karate) is already gone, and the time for public training in Karatedo (the way of karate) has come. However, the method of this approach is still unformed. We should stop calling karate a secret martial art, which has been hidden, in the small world of the Ryukyu Islands.

Karate should be open to the public and should ask for criticism and study by all martial artists. Also in the future, hope for the completion of the long pending task of protective equipment for competition. I strongly feel karate must reach the stage of being able to compete at the same level as other martial arts and join the spirit of general Japanese martial arts.

At the present time, deep interest is nationally shown toward Karatedo. The enthusiastic study of Karatedo has sprung up all over Japan: in Tokyo and Osaka especially, and from the north of Hokkaido to southern Taiwan. There are also tendencies among the martial artists to study karate competitively. Karate enthusiasm abroad is unexpectedly high. And there is a person who has gone to Europe to advertise Karatedo and devote himself to its study after graduating from a university in Tokyo.

Furthermore, karate enthusiasm in Hawaii is extremely vigorous. And in May of 1935, at the invitation of residing influential people and a newspaper company, I went there to spread and develop karate. Already we are witnessing the establishment of study circles on many of the Hawaiian Islands.

As I have stated, Karatedo has already reached the state of flourishing and developing from a martial art peculiar to Japan to a worldwide martial art.


The development of man's muscles is varied according to the way in which they are used. Because of this, in the beginning of each karate session, one should do warm-up exercises to prepare and develop the muscles so that it will be easier to do correct karate movements. Next, one should be taught the basic forms, complementary exercises, open hand forms (classical kata) and kumite (sparring) exercises, in that order. Following is the general explanation of this method:

• Junbi Undo (Preparation Exercises): Exercise various parts of the body to soften the muscles and, at the same time, to develop strength and durability. These exercises lead to the understanding of karate's basic forms of Sanchin, Tensho and N aihanchin. Then, after practicing other forms, perform the exercises again to relax the muscles, and rest quietly by doing the breathing exercises.

• Kihon Kata (Basic Forms): The kata Sanchin, Tensho and N aihanchin are all basic forms, their object to develop a strong body and martial art spirit by harmonizing the breath and the power in a correct posture.

• Hojo Undo (Complementary Exercises): These are exercises designed to help the student learn forms better, since the movements are the various techniques taken from kata (forms).These are done with many kinds of equipment to develop the body strength and muscles necessary for karate techniques.

• Kaishu Kata (Advanced Forms): There are between 20 and 30 kinds of these forms, many named according to their originators. Kata consist of many gymnastic movements in which various offensive and defensive techniques are arranged harmoniously. The movements allow the student to understand the relationship between spirit and body, since forms are designed to develop them effectively.

• Kumite Undo (Sparring Exercises): After having mastered several kata, the student should study the true meaning of the forms' movements and then proceed to apply those techniques in sparring exercises as if he is in an actual fighting situation. In summation, the teaching method of karate is designed to cultivate a good martial art spirit through practicing the materials such as kihon (Sanchin, T ensho and Naihanchin), Kaishu kata, and kumite exercises.

Miyagi Takeshi

Takashi Miyagi, Okinawan goju-ryu Hanshi 10-Dan, presently resides and teaches Okinawan goju-ryu in Tokyo, Japan. He was born in l9l9 and began studying goju-ryu from his father, Chojun Miyagi, in l934. He continued his studies until the death of his father in l953. At that time he moved to Japan and opened a small dojo in Tokyo. He is presently the director and headmaster of the Karatedo Goju-ryu Federation. Takashi Miyagi 's kata order:

Sanchin: Three conflicts

Tensho: Rotating hand(s)

Gekisai dai-ichi: To destroy, number one

Gekisai dai-ni: To destroy, number two

Seinchin: To march quiet and far

Shisochin: Looking four ways peacefully

Saifa: To rip and tear

Sesan: Thirteen

Sanseru: Thirty-six

Sepai: Eighteen

Kururunfa: Stopping peacefully, but ready to rip

Suparinpei: One hundred and eight

Miyagi adopted his present ranking/grading system in 1960 (based on the All Japan Karatedo Association's rules and regulations) and includes the following:

10-Dan ranking: a solid red belt

6-Dan to 9-Dan: a red and white belt

1-Dan to 5-Dan: a solid black belt

1-kyu & 2-kyu: a solid brown belt

3-kyu & 4-kyu: a solid green belt

5-kyu & 6-kyu: a solid purple belt

Beginner: a solid white belt

Takashi Miyagi identifies the various kicking methods as follows:

In goju-ryu the front kick is called the shomen geri (front kick) and was especially developed for goju-ryu by the founder, Chojun Miyagi. It was developed as a combat-effective kick with no sports orientation hence, it cannot be used as a "sparring tactic." It is performed a little bit higher than horizontal to the ground and it is aimed straight to the center of the body. It is performed by hitting with the ball of the foot and the heel simultaneously.The ball of the foot hits the belly button area while the heel hits the groinarea. This is how it was originally developed but then modified by modern day practitioners.

Today there are two other well known methods of using the front kick as developed by the originators of shorin-ryu and Uechi-ryu. The Uechi-ryu method of the front kick is done by using the toe-tip method and it is taught by kicking at the belly button level and no higher.

The shorin-ryu kicking method is also similar but the aim is between the belly button and the solar plexus. It is also performed by using the toe tips. Both Uechi-ryu and shorin-ryu use the snapping methods while goju- ryu uses a thrusting method.

Originally, Kanryo Higaonna taught both the heel and toe tipped kick but stressed the heel method because it was easier to learn and to teach. As an effective combat method, the toe tipped kicking system takes three to five years to develop. The other styles indoctrinate their students in both methods but focus on the toe kick as their main weapon.

Miyagi Yasu

The following is a translated article written by Yasu Miyagi, the daughter of Chojun Miyagi. The article was translated by Keiko Hall. My name is Yasu but when I was a child I was called Tsuru meaning crane. When I was small I was a tomboy and wanted to imitate my father. I remember one day when a friend told me to study karate and I thought that was a good idea. So I began to watch and imitate my father when he practiced at home. I remember this very clearly -- practicing the movements of my father. I loved to imitate him and this also made my father feel good.

My father had four daughters and the rest were boys. Altogether there were ten (10) children. The number one sister became a teacher in a nursing home. My husband was a principal of a school. When I was 28 years old my first daughter died at childbirth. As number two daughter there was four years difference in our age. When my father was 21 years old he went into the army. When he came back, that's when I was born and that is why there is a four year difference in our ages. My father was 25 years old when I was born. I had a sister that I was close to that was two years younger. Then the first male child was born. I am seven years older then the first born son but my father was very happy and paid a lot of attention to the boy. When I was young I was very jealous and always beat him up and made him cry. When my parents weren't home I'd lock him in the closet just to make him cry.

The youngest of the 10 children is Kimbo and there was a 19 years age difference. Many times I remember taking him for a stroll and people would remark that they did not know I had gotten married and had a child. I told them no, that this is my youngest brother.

My father loved children and was very good to us. This morning I was cutting my fingernails and this immediately brought back a memory of my father. Every Saturday my father would shampoo all the children's hair and then cut their fingernails and their toenails. This happened every Saturday. Sometimes my father would cut our fingernails very, very close and it would hurt a lot. So when I got older I made sure that my fingernails and toenails were always cut close. My father was also very strict about neatness. He would become angry if something was out of place at home. He would be very stern with us even if our school books were not properly put away. When my father was very young he was considered sickly and very weak. Because of his poor constitution, the family decided that he must study karate to strengthen himself. My father also learned the use of Chinese herbs and would often buy Chinese medicine. He would look for the herb that we called "sweet grass." He used the "sweet grass" for medicine and would give it to my mother as a tea. He would also mix it with wine if one needed sleep. My father came from a very rich and extended family and he was known as a "honke." (A "honke" is someone who is adopted into a family.) His uncle did not have an heir and was the head of the Miyagi Clan so it was decided that he would adopt my father even though he was the first born of his father. This was a common practice at that time and needed to pass on the lineage of the oldest. At that time my father was called Machu but when he was adopted his name was changed to Chojun Miyagi. He was then 3 or 4 years old. My father first learned karate from Ryuko Aragaki and then began studying under Kanryo Higaonna when he was 14 years old. I remember when I was three years old and my father would come home after training with Higaonna-sensei. He would be very tired and bruised. During this time the family would be very quiet so as to not to disturb my father's peace. Karate comes from China and my father would always talk about going to China to learn the old ways. He wanted to go to train with the old teachers so as to be sure to learn the true and old ways of the martial arts. When he did go to China the Chinese people would not teach my father. So he would continue to come and watch and finally they consented and taught the old martial arts of China to my father. He brought this back to Okinawa. My father always looked forward to learning more and more. To him learning was the most important thing in his life. He continued to learn until his death at the age of 66.

My father had students all over Japan and when he was dying we sent telegrams to a number of Okinawan medical students in Kyoto. They were his students. On hearing that he was dying they went back to Okinawa to see their teacher. He was very happy that they came to see him. Then he died. My father was 66 years old when he died. He had hoped to have lived longer and firmly believed that he would. It was a known fact that the karate men fromNaha all lived long lives and my father believed that too. While he was alive he also collected a large library of martial art books. He had hoped to write about his system and about the Okinawan martial arts and many people would often asked him when he would write a book. He would tell them that he needed more time. He wanted to go back to China one more time so as to study and investigate certain teaching that were considered important to Goju-ryu. But then the war came and he never completed his wishes. During the war all of his books and manuscripts were destroyed when the family home was burned down.

Meitoku Yagi is a man of character. He was a classmate of mine in school and we were the same age. I remember when first meeting him that he told me that Imust respect him because he was a boy and I was a girl. But I was a tomboy and felt that respect must be earned and not just given. I respect him very much and so does the Miyagi family. Upon my father's death, the family met to discuss who would succeed my father as head of Goju-ryu. The decision was based on who studied the longest, and who was the most dedicated and loyal to my father. It was then that Meitoku Yagi was decided on to head Goju-ryu. At that time it was then decided to formally recognize him by giving him my father's karate uniform and belt. My younger brother then asked my mother that since he had studied karate under my father that it was his right to assume the head of Goju-ryu. He was the oldest son and seven years younger than me but when notified that my father was dying he stated that he could not leave and come to Okinawa. Even when my mother died he did not show up. At that time he was living in the mainland and was busy with business. The family felt that he had an obligation to come back to Okinawa when his father was dying but he chose not to. So instead of giving him the uniform and belt it was then decided to present it to Meitoku Yagi. And this was a good choice. Meitoku Yagi began training with my father when he was 14 years old. Three years before my mother's death the family decided to present the "do-gi" to Yagi-sensei. My younger brother stated that he was the senior family practitioner and that he was entitled to be heir. But the family did not think so. The "do-gi" was named Miyagi Shihan and it was felt that Yagi-sensei was the best person to carry on the teachings of my father. So he was asked to continue the teachings of my father and also to expand on the teachings so that everyone would know Goju-ryu .