Goju Ryu (Japanese for “Hard-soft style”) is a style of karate, so called as it allows a combination of hard and soft techniques. The development of Goju Ryu can be traced directly back to an Okinawan man named Kanryo Higaonna, (1850-1916), a native of Naha, Okinawa. At the age of twenty he sailed to Fuzhou (pronounced “Fu-chow”) in the Fukien Province of China and spent many years studying martial arts under the kung fu master Ryu Ryu Ko, who is said to have been a brickmaker. Even at this time Kanryo Sensei had become well known throughout the Fuzhou region as a great martial artist. Upon his return to Okinawa, Kanryo Sensei paid his respects to the owner of the ship, Yoshimura, and began teaching his sons the art he had learned.

As the word spread of his great skill, Kanryo Sensei soon was requested to teach members of the Royal Family. Later he opened his own dojo in Naha. The word “karate” was not in common use at that time and Kanryo Sensei’s style was known by the region in which he taught it, simply referred to as “Naha-te”. Kanryo Higaonna Sensei was especially known for his incredible speed, strength and power – it is said that when he performed Sanchin kata the wooden floor that he stood on would be hot from the gripping of his feet. Indeed, to the Naha community he was known by the name Ashi No Higaonna – “Legs Higaonna”. Even now, generations later, stories say that Kanryo Sensei could use his legs and feet in the same fashion that other men would use their arms and hands.

Kanryo Higaonna Sensei‘s most prominent student was Chojun Miyagi (1888-1953). At the age of 14, Chojun Miyagi met Kanryo Sensei and together they devoted their lives to the improvement and advancement of the art of Naha-te. They spent thirteen years together until Kanryo Sensei passed away in October 1916. Chojun Sensei’s family was part of the gentry. They owned two trading ships that imported medicine from China for both the government and private individuals. The same year that Kanryo Sensei died, Chojun Sensei left for China to discover the roots of Naha-te in Fuzhou. Unfortunately, all had fled during the Xinhai Revolutionary War (1911) and Sensei returned to Okinawa with limited information.

Chojun Miyagi Sensei was a man of strong will and excelled in his studies. Many of Kanryo Sensei’s students continued to train with him in the years after their teacher’s passing. Chojun Sensei trained daily, often with nature in harsh elements, and practiced various exercises to develop his senses. He created several katas and sometimes would receive instructions from his dreams.

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