A tiny island by the name of Okinawa, located in the East China Sea, was the birthplace of karate. In the 11th century, the people of Okinawa developed their own fighting ability from the influence of Chinese Martial Arts and other Asian fighting systems. In the 17th century Okinawa was invaded by Japan and a ban was introduced on all weapons and farming equipment with blades, which left the people (almost) empty handed to defend themselves. Almost, because they still had some farming equipment they could use as weapons. These weapons can be called Traditional Karate Weapons. A few examples: Tonfa, Nunchaku, Bo, etc.
In those days, karate was practised by family members and clans at night in the dark to hide their identity. So the name, karate do, actually is ‘built’ out of a few words, KARA – empty – TE – hand – DO – way. It is the way of the empty hand.
Semi Detailed, Goju Ryu has a traceable lineage of almost 2000 years.
Goju Ryu Karatedo is said to display the oldest martial arts traditions and movements. Keeping the primitive traditional forms of martial arts yet full of fighting spirit. The system is based on a concept that hard and stiff is not good, however all soft and gentle can be equally harmful. The two should complement each other. This combination of the two gives Goju Ryu its beauty, disciplined movements, grace and flowing form. But lest anyone believe that Goju is merely a beautiful style of the dance with little of the art of defense, he need only watch two Goju players square off in Kumite against one another. Goju Ryu has received the most Chinese influence of all of the Japanese styles of Karatedo followed closely by Shorin Ryu and Shito Ryu. With the ‘Go’ (hard or positive) and the ‘Ju’ (soft or negative) in consistent harmony, one equalizing the other as with the rest of the universe. Through Goju Ryu training a simple act like blocking or striking will eventually occur naturally, a side effect of a pure of thought and mind and repetition.
Goju Ryu distinct postures do follow the standard philosophy of Chinese Martial arts in their resemblance and retaining the name of animals. A good description for the experienced Martial Artist (such as Shotokan Karatedo ka is to Goju Ryu compare to the regions of China and familiarize them with ‘Nan sen Hoku ba’. Southern China has many rivers and the North has many Mountain ranges and large plains. This is where the term ‘Nan sen Hoku ba’ comes from. The Kanji, when written means Southern Boats and Northern Horses. In the South (China) people were fisherman, sailors. They were accustomed to working and spending long amounts of time in boats or in the water (perfect for Sanchin). The Kempo in the South was developed and practiced in limited space so the techniques and foot movements developed small as well and was suitable for close range fighting. In the North (China), there existed Metropolis and Military. These tribesmen were accustomed to riding atop and fighting from horses (perfect for Kiba Dachi). Their Kempo evolved into a system with very large exaggerated movements, designed for long range fighting. So to sum it up, Hoku Ba = North Horse (Kiba Dachi) and Nan Sen = South Boats (Sanchin Dachi).
There are many primary characteristics of Goju Ryu:
One being of course being Go and Ju as explained above.
Goju Ryu also carries the characteristics more so of a Bujutsu rather that that of Budo including grappling and throwing techniques as well as sticky movements along with quick explosive motions generated from the hips.
Another is Ibuki (‘Ikibuki’ – YO & IN), the famous breathing techniques which have been developed in a way to place the mind and body in harmony, uniting them for a more efficient person, and stimulating the bodies internal organs bringing you to a total state of awareness. Imagine with every block you inhale and with every strike you exhale. This would be soft to hard. Reverse the order of breathing and call it hard to soft. There are many other principles of application for Ikibuki and most synchronize breathing with body movement.
Jiyu-Kumite (free fighting) developed for close range fighting utilizing Neko Ashi Dachi (cat stance or cat leg stance) to quickly and easily move to and from other body positions for a more effective fighter.
Buji which means the absence of conflict or peace, another way of saying this is although harmonized Goju Ryu is at all times seeking a better way, not saying there is something wrong with the way that anything is done however the possibilities are limitless!
Goju Ryu shares its roots with other styles of Karatedo developed over the centuries from the fighting arts of China and rooted through Okinawa. Many of the school’s movements are very soft, as in Chinese Kempo. In China, there were two counter parted arts of Chang, or fist. One is categorized as hard style, or External style. The other is Soft style or Internal style. Hard and External style represent Zen Buddhist initiated school such as various branches of Shaolin Chun, and Soft and Internal style represent Yee Chuen, Pai Kua Chang, and Tai Chi Chuen.
The Okinawa brand of Karatedo was originally imported from China more than 400 years ago, but had developed into a hard style during its years on the island by the influence of the Okinawa native arts. When these arts came to Okinawa, where they underwent changes and were combined with Okinawa Te. Many approaches to self-defence came into existence. Naha Te named after the city it was practiced in (Naha) over time developed in combination of other Te to become Goju Ryu. Kanryo Higaonna was known as the highest authority of Naha Te. He as well as his successor Chojun Miyagi (1888-1953) made several treks to Mainland China to absorb more skill and to hone their art. Miyagi for the most part undertook invented and standardized the training and modernization of the techniques, and created the first named style of Karatedo (other than that named after the city it was founded). He later (1928) introduced Goju Ryu to the Japanese mainland. There Gogen Yamaguchi Hanshi, his successor on the mainland trained in and propagated Goju Ryu.
Disciplining the body and mind in combination have always been part of Japanese culture and is clearly expressed in Karatedo and many other martial arts whose origins can be found in Japan including Goju Ryu. Oddly, much of the system can and has been based on geometric and mathematical formulas. Much of this based on the function in dimension, space versus time and can be demonstrated so via mathematics calculation.