HISTORY OF OKINAWAN GOJU RYU KARATE DO
Higaonna Kanryo Sensei
Higaonna Kanryo Sensei was born in the city of Naha in 1853. As a youth he began learning kempo and very quickly ecame a master martial artist. 1868 he travels to Foochow in China. After some time he is introduced to the kempo aster Ryu Ryuko and is finally, after a long period, accepted as Ryukos personal disciple. Higaonna Sensei stays with Ryuko for fifteen years and becomes Master Ryu Ryukos most skilled disciple. Higaonna Sensei returns to Okinawa 1881. His fame as a martial artist quickly spreads and the Okinawans soon realize that the martial art of Higaonna Sensei exceeds anything they've seen before. Higaona Sensei opened his house as a dojo and continued to teach until his death in 1915. He is today honored as the founder of Okinawan karate.
The following historic review is based on Higaonna Senseis book "Traditonal Karate-Do - Okinawa Goju Ryu", Morio Higaonna, Sugawara Martial Arts inc. Tokyo 1993 (ISBN 0-87040-595-0).
Based on mans instinct of self-defence, different fighting arts were developed in most cultures, especially in central Asia, Egypt and Turkey. The principles of the Asian martial arts are believed to have spread from Turkey to India, where they were further developed to sophisticated arts ("kalaripayt").
According to legend, the Zen Buddhist monk Bodhidharma travelled to Hunan province in China around 500 A.D. He spent nine years in the Shao Lin temple, whereafter he started to teach different breathing techniques and physical exercises to the monks of Shao Lin. He also explained to the monks how to develop their mental and spiritual strength, in order to endure the demanding meditation exercises. Bodhiharmas teaching is considered as the birth of chinese kempo. When kempo is spread throughout China, it is divided in two main styles, the Northern and the Southerns style. The Northern style was characterized by straight and hard techniques, while the Southern had circular and softer techniques.The kempo techniques were often inherited within the family as a well-preserved secret.
During the 14th century kempo is introduced into Okinawa. It wins popularity and is trained as an art of self-defence, under the name of 'tote' (= chinese hand). At Okinawa the native fighting art 'te' was practised long before the introduction of kempo. It is believed that 'te' was combined with 'kempo' by the Okinawans and developed to the martial art karate. When Japan invades Okinawa 1609 the ban of carrying weapons (first pronounced by king Sho Shin in 1477) continues, but the Japanese also bans the practise of martial arts. Consequently, the Okinawans must continue with martial arts in secrecy. During the next three centuries the martial art develops into its own character and is called 'Okinawa te'. It is split into three main styles: Shuri-te influenced by the hard techniques of kempo and characterized by an offensive attitude. Naha-te influenced by the softer tehcniques of kempo including breath control and 'ki'. It was characterized by a more defensive attitude with grappling, throws and locking techniques. Tomari-te influenced by both the hard and soft techniques of kempo. In the ending of the 19th century Shuri-te and Tomari-te were subsumed under the name Shorin ryu, which during the years has developed into several slightly different styles. Naha-te becomes known under the name Goju ryu (the hard and soft style) and has remained basically unified.
Miyagi Chojun Sensei
The founder of Goju ryu karate, Miyagi Chojun , was born at Okinawa in 1888. At the age of twelve he started to train karate for Aragaki Ryuko Sensei. At the age of fourteen he was introduced to Higaonna Kanryo Sensei and was eventually accepted as Higaonna Senseis personal disciple. Together they devoted their lives to improvement and advancement of Naha-te, until Higaonna Senseis death in 1915. After his masters death Chojun Miyagi travels to China to develop his knowledge of the martial arts. After his return to Okinawa he begins to teach in his home, where he turns the garden into a dojo. He put a great effort in to spreading his knowledge, the ambition being to give karate the same status as judo and kendo. In 1933 the karate was offically accepted by Butoko Kai, the Japanese centre for martial arts. After WWII Miyagi Sensei begins to teach karate at the Police Academy of Okinawa and also at his home, among his students were Miyagi Anichi Sensei, and Aragaki Shuichi Sensei, whos grandfather introduced Miyagi Sensei to Higaonna Sensei. Students who trained before the war, such as Yagi Meitoku and Miyazato Eiichi, would come occasionally to pay respects. In his last years Miyagi Sensei devotes his time to pass on his heritage to future generations and chooses Miyagi Anichi Sensei as his personal disciple. Chojun Miyagi Sensei's life was devoted to karate. He structured the system of Naha-te, adapted it to the demands of modern society and made it available to the public.
The name Goju ryu
One of Chojun Miyagi Sensei disciples, Jinan Shinzato, was once on mainland Japan to demonstrate Naha-te. After the performance he was asked to what school of karate he belonged. He was unable to answer the question, since 'naha-te' was not the name of a style. At his return he told Miyagi Sensei about the occurence, who thought about the problem and decided that it should be advantageous to have a name for his martial art system in order to promote and spread it. He choosed the name 'Goju ryu' (the hard-soft style), inspired by the "Eight precepts" of Kempo, written in the Bubishi.
Miyagi Anichi Sensei
Anichi Miyagi was born in the city of Naha in 1931 and began to train for Chojun Miyagi Sensei at the age of 17. He devoted all his time to study and train Goju ryu and is later appointed as a personal disciple of Chojun Miyagi Sensei. He is the only student that is taught the complete system of Goju ryu. He follows the tradition and teaches the complete system of Goju ryu to only one student, Morio Higaonna Sensei.
Morio Higaonna Sensei
Morio Higaonna Sensei, 10th dan is the founder and current World Chief Instructor of the Traditional Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate-Do federation (T.O.G.K.F.), and also founded of the International Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate-Do federation (I.O.G.K.F.) , and was born in 1938 in the city of Naha. He began his training at the age of 14, and at the age of 16 he began training in Goju-Ryu under the guidance of Miyagi Anichi Sensei. From this stage on Morio Higaonna dedicated himself to the training and practicing of Goju-Ryu. After having being taught by good instructors, his fascination with karate led him to devote his entire life to enrichment of the spiritual depth and virtue of karate. In 1960, at the age of 21, he moved to Tokyo to study commerce at Takushoku University. He was invited to teach at Tokyos Yoyogi dojo, where he soon attracted a large following of dedicated karate-ka. Higaonna Sensei taught at Yoyogi dojo until 1981. During this time he established I.O.G.K.F., which is now established in 40 countries world-wide. His new organization (the T.O.G.K.F.) focuses on getting back to the roots of the Traditional Martial Arts to restore what has been lost in this modern time. Training has always been the central theme of Higaonna Sensei’s life. He has never sought the limelight in the martial arts and his reputation is simply the result of his superb skills and mastery of his art - a mastery which is only exceeded by his genuine modesty and humility.
J Lee Sensei
J Lee Sensei, is our Senior Advisor and Guest instructor at the OKD-ITK. He is the Head of Delaware T.O.G.K.F. (Traditional Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate Do Federation). Lee Sensei has been training in the martial arts for more than 54 years. Over the course of 45 years, he has trained members of the Military, Police as well as civilian students in Delaware and across the United States. He has officially been ranked, holding senior level Black belts not only in Goju-Ryu, but in two other martial art styles; Korean and Chinese. He has also held several positions in the I.O.G.K.F. (International Okinawan Karate Do Federation), including USA Regent (person in charge of technical and the way kata was done) and Higaonna Sensei’s board of director in 90s. He is a personal student and traveled with Higaonna Sensei
Lee Sensei is dedicated to his students' development, both spiritually and physically, in the tradition of martial arts. Personally, he continues to train as he too maintains the mindset of a student, always striving to learn and improve. He travels to Okinawa, Japan and China to further his own personal development, which he then passes on to his students.
He is training with the most esteemed practitioner, Morio Higaonna, the World Chief Instructor, of the T.O.G.K.F. and views karate as a path of continued learning and growing in mind, body and spirit.
Tale of loyalty
Years ago, after the passing of Chojun Miyagi Sensei, Anichi Miyagi Sensei was in charge of the garden dojo but he was told that someday Miyazato Sensei would return. When Miyazato Sensei eventually returned to the garden dojo Anichi Miyagi Sensei handed the dojo over. After some time had passed there was a difference of opinion and Anichi Miyagi Sensei decided to leave. Morio Higaonna Sensei left with Anichi Miyagi Sensei out of loyalty and respect for his teacher.
In the same vein Higaonna Sensei has formed the TOGKF and Lee Sensei has followed his teacher out of his loyalty and respect for Higaonna Sensei.