Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate is unusual in the martial arts world because it employs both hard and soft techniques with equal effectiveness. Yet the system is not limited to simply punching or kicking; it incorporates locks, holds, and throws which are strongly influenced by several of the Chinese animal forms.
Goju-Ryu can be traced to the Fukien Province of China. Though there are many theories as to how the art came to Okinawa, the person credited with its introduction is Kanryo Higashionna (1853-1917).
As a young man, Higashionna was a sailor on the Shinko-Sen, a ship which regularly traded with China. On one of these visits, he saved a drowning child who turned out to be the son of a noted pugilist named Liu. In appreciation, the grateful boxer began instructing the young Okinawan in the art of Chinese boxing. Higashionna remained and studied in China for approximately 15 years and then returned to teach on his native island. It was during this period in Okinawa that Higashionna modified the techniques learned in China to suit his people and thus created Naha-Te, derived from combining the name of the Okinawan city of Naha with Te, the native bare hand fighting technique. Among Higashionna’s top students were Chojun Miyagi, Seiko Higa and Juhatsu Kyoda.
Miyagi, being independently wealthy, was able to devote his life to the study of the martial arts, and he further developed and refined the principles set forth by his teacher. He created the simplified forms, Gekisai number one and two, as well as the open hand kata Tensho. Although a renowned technician, Miyagi’s major accomplishment was his formulation of a more cohesive system which would allow penetration into deeper and more advanced techniques of Naha-Te.
Additionally, Miyagi was responsible for creating the name Goju-Ryu. At the first martial arts convention held in Kyoto, Japan in 1930, Miyagi sent student Jinan Shinzato as his representative. Since there were many martial artists attending who represented schools with impressive sounding names, Shinzato, not wanting to feel humbled, had to invent the name Hanko-Ryu (half-hard style) on the spot for his art. Later, when Shinzato related this to his teacher, Miyagi decided to use the name Goju-Ryu (hard-soft style), which was taken from a poem in the ancient martial arts text Bubishi.
Miyagi’s curriculum consisted of four major components:-
👍Tee chikata mani This referred to the study of solo forms, the traditional kata which combined various karate techniques into a moving sequence. These forms included Koryu, or classical kata such as Sanchin, Saifa, and Seisan, which originated in China. Miyagi also developed the Hookiyu (standardized) and Kihon (basic) Kata to allow a more progressive approach to the Koryo (old) forms.
👍Kumite There was no freestyle Kumite (sparring) in Miyagi’s program, just prearranged combat practice enabling two persons to perform a Kata together in order to experience the physical meaning of the form, and to see how the techniques could be used against actual attackers. This form is accurately called Bunkai kumite. Both Kihon and Koryo kata have specific Bunkai kumite.
👍Te tochimani This study consisted of short, two-man prearranged fighting exercises, each with its own special ending technique. It was used as a beginning approximation for real fighting situations. In today’s practice, this form is also called Kiso Kumite.
👍Ikukumi This last component involved real combat practice, but was set up in such a way that the students were not injured. The junior was allowed to attack with any technique to any part of the senior’s body without restraining kicks or punches. The senior man could block or dodge, but was not allowed to initiate any counterattack. Finally, when he saw an opening, the senior jumped in and pushed the junior back with the palm of his hand. The senior student accordingly had to master a tremendous number of techniques in order to use them instantaneously. Since scoring points was of no interest, the senior’s counterattack had to be final and decisive. It generally took a minimum of ten years to reach this level.
In 1933, the Dai Nippon Butoukai (Greater Japan Martial Virtues Association) was formed and Miyagi was named the Okinawan representative. He presented his article, “An Outline of Karate-Do,” at one of the organization’s meetings and was subsequently awarded the title “Karate Master” by the emperor. Miyagi thus became the first master so designated in the karate world.
Miyagi had a number of talented, dedicated students such as Seiko Higa (who also trained with Higashionna), Seikichi Toguchi (Also trained with Seiko Higa),Eiichi Miyazato, and Meitoku Yagi, who have all developed esteemed reputations in their own right. In the years before Miyagi’s death, Toguchi remained with his instructor including Seiko Higa and other senior students and was given further insight into Miyagi’s principles and theories. Shortly after Miyagi’s death in 1953, Toguchi and Seiko Higa decided to carry on the principles of their teacher. Today many organization have followed this lineage (Tetsuhiro Hokama - Kenshi Kai) and (Yoshio Kuba Kembu Kai) and (Katsuya Izumikawa Seibu Kan) Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate-Do is practised in all these organizations and our organization trains and get guidance from all of them or have been guidance by all these great exponents. Toguchi and Higa opened the first dojo (school), and since it was very close to a U.S. Army base, many American GIs came to study. Because of the introduction of Westerners into the Okinawan dojo, Toguchi realized the need for more development of the existing system. The forms of Gekiha, Kakuha and, Bunkai were thus created.
Toguchi further developed Goju-Ryu by creating a number of advanced supplementary training methods.
A typical class in the late 50s (and still today) consisted of the following:
1. Preparatory exercises to warm up the body for karate movements.
2. Supplementary exercises to practice the basic techniques in Kata.
3. Kata, Bunkai, and Kiso Kumite practice.
4. Application of Kata techniques.
Toguchi also created Hakutsuru no Mai, a Kata adapted from the original Chinese white crane form which is performed to music. The Kata and subsequent Bunkai tell the story of a white crane fighting a snake. This beautiful form is rarely seen and is known only to a few Goju-Ryu practitioners.
Toguchi’s classes were noted for their strictness and discipline, a practice still common in Goju-Ryu today. His system did not utilize free sparring, but fighting on several forms, the most important and difficult being Ikukumi.
Proponents of the Kenbu Kai and Kenbu system believe their approach has several advantages when compared to styles which utilize mostly kata and Jiyu kumite (freestyle sparring), simply because of certain detailed studies which include: extraction and application of Kata techniques, logical progression of techniques, variety of advanced techniques, and safety of training methodology.
The meanings of forms are extracted and analyzed via a series of progressive Kata and their respective Bunkai Kumite. The Bunkai is arranged so that the student actually executes the specific self-defense application of each Kata with his partner. The student progresses through a series of Kata and Bunkai, each successive form building on the one before. This progression of techniques was originally designed by Miyagi and was further developed by Toguchi. In this way, the student learns new techniques but still practices, maintains, and sharpens earlier skills.
At the black belt level, students begin the Koryu Bunkai Kumite, which are the Bunkai to kata such as Seiyunchin or Seipai. At this stage, Kaisai Kumite is also introduced. Similar to Bunkai, Kaisai is an analysis of the application for a specific motion in the Kata.
According to Toguchi, a student first learns the mechanics, and then after a time the Kata becomes part of the practitioner. Only at this point can application of the motions become apparent and, more importantly, a part of the martial artist. At this level, the Kata has a meaning and is no longer a mere routine.
A good analogy of Kaisai might be learning to catch a ball: initially it requires a great deal of concentration. But with continued practice, catching becomes a natural reaction. With further refinement, if you were thrown a ball of fire, you would not only be able to react as if to catch it, but also to ascertain its nature and move out of the way. Achieving this state of subconscious action requires a great many years of practice, since Karate is not as simple as catching a ball.
A variety of techniques can be practiced using the Kenbu Kai and Kenbu system. By placing a significant emphasis on kata, Bunkai, and Kiso kumite, the Kenby Kai and Kenbu student practices all techniques alone and in forms with partners. This study includes unusual or dangerous techniques which cannot be practiced during a freestyle sparring match. Normally, freestyle sparring requires the use of techniques which are comparatively simple and applied only to limited target areas. Therefore, a karate student who engages exclusively in freestyle sparring will, for the most part, practice straight punches, a variety of high (above groin) kicks, and little else. While this approach might be good for tournament competition, targets and techniques more conducive to self-defence situations are not explored. On the other hand, the Kenbu Kai and Kenbu student practices throws, elbow techniques, locks, finger strikes, and more, with full power and without restraint. Since these techniques are executed with a partner, both offensive, defensive, and counter-offensive moves are explored.
Safety has always been an important part of the Kenbu Kai and Kenbu training method. Emphasis on prearranged sequences will mean less chance of injury, a common occurrence in many dojo. Injuries occurring in martial arts classes can usually be avoided if adequate measures to protect practitioners are taken. Training in martial arts should be beneficial, healthy, and fun.
Through many years of diligent practice of Kata, Bunkai, and Kiso Kumite, and a variety of advanced training exercises, the Kenbu Kai and Kenbu student absorbs a wide variety of techniques. These disciplined practices develop the student’s spirit, enlightenment and self-knowledge, the goal of all the martial arts.
We can look to many of the Okinawan karateka such as Seikichi Toguchi and see the real essence of karate-do goju-ryu – humility, happiness, health and sincerity – all of which were exemplified by the great Chojun Miyagi and Seiko Higa.
Today the Kenbu Kai has decided to floow the libneage of Seiko Higa and Seiicji Toguchi and it has deliberately trained and being mentored by Hanshi Yoshio Kuba, Soke Katsuya izumikawa and has inclyded in its training and teaching syllabus the Motobu Has Shito Ryu system of karate under Kokuba family lineage and the Kobudo of Matayoshi Lineage. Through the Izumikawa lineage we also inherit the Aikijujitsu system.
The Seibu Kan system which compliments the Kenbu Kai system [rovides the Kenbu Kai practiotioner a full range of Okinawan and Japanese Budo. The material provides:-
Kneading the body and, pre-arranged Kumite mainly the self-defense for the purpose of reverse (Gyaku-Te) technique ( grappling ) , throwing techniques, close battle teaching. The third generation Soke family is taught the secret secret of the Sagawa school Daito style by Mr. Keiyuki Yoshimaru, Goju style, it teaches a unique approach technique that includes the Daito-ryu Aiki technique.
In the Okinawa (Ryukyu) ancient martial arts classroom, teach the basics and patterns of Nunchaku ,Tonfa ,Bo and stick art.