Higashionna Kanryo

 Miyagi Chojun & Kyoda Juhastu



Goju-ryu was founded by Miyagi Chojun, a student of Nahate master Higashionna Kanryo. Higashionna studied Nanpa Shorin-ken (the translation of the 5 kanji being “Southern School Shorin/Shaolin Fist) in the Fukushu City of Chinese Fujian Province. After returning to Okinawa, his heroic exploits became known to the public and he started to teach his art, raising many outstanding students like Miyagi Chojun. Other famous students were Kyoda Juhatsu who would later found Toon-ryu and Mabuni Kenwa who would found Shito-ryu.

One of Miyagi’s top students was Shinzato Jinan. In November 1930, Shinzato participated in a dedicatory demonstration at Meiji Shrine and performed Sanchin. Shinzato removing his top cloth to perform bare chest, the organizers expressed some complains, but Shinzato refuted the argument explaining that to do full justice to the kata he had to perform bare chest and so did he. As a result of his performance, he received a unanimous ovation from the audience and gained a favorable reputation for his art. As people asked the name of the school, Miyagi later named it “Goju-ryu” from the line “Ho go ju donto - Mi zuiji ouhen” (The way of inhaling and exhaling is hardness and softness – The body should respond at all times) taken from the “Ken no Taiyo Hakku” (8 summary poems of the fist) found in the Okinawa version of the Bubishi. It is thus the oldest school of karate.

Miyagi positioned Goju-ryu as follow: “the art known as Goju-ryu Karate (written Tang’s hand) Kenpo originates from the traditions of Chinese Fukken (Fujian) province’s systems and has been passed down due to diligent and earnest practice.” Miyagi aimed at establishing as a “budo” the empty-hand martial art (bujutsu) inherited in Okinawa since the Ryukyu kingdom era. The kata of Goju-ryu are as follow: Heishu-gata: Sanchin and Tensho; Kaishu-gata: Saifa, Seiyunchin, Shisochin, Sanseru, Sepai, Kururunfa, Seisan and Suparinpei (or Pechurin). Miyagi was also at the origin of the creation of the kata Gekisai-dai I and Gekisai-dai II for beginners and created Tensho as well.

In order for practitioners to develop thorough strength alongside to kata practice, Miyagi worked on implementing rational training and instruction systems through the organization of “Yobi-undo”, “Hojo-undo” and “Kumite”.

Yobi-undo or preliminary exercises aim at warming up all parts of the body before starting intense training. One aspect of Yobi-undo is to enhance flexibility. Another aspect is to regain physical harmony after training, regulating the body to allow it to rest calmly. Hojo-undo, or supplementary exercises, are conditioning (tempering) training drills using Chishi (written ‘hammer stone’ in Japanese), Sashi (written ‘lock stone’ in Japanese), kaami (written ‘seizing jar’ in Japanese), kongoken and other specific implements. It also includes “Kakie”, a close-quarter form of kumite among others. Through Hojo-undo, basic power needed in karate is cultivated, techniques found in kata are mastered and conditioning for kumite is acquired.

In the Kaishu-gata can be found many offense and defense techniques that are nicely connected together. Each technique should be trained so they fit their purpose, the main goal being to train so the mind and body are unified. Heishu-gata Sanchin and Tensho stress the importance of correct inhaling and exhaling through the tanden breathing method and applying techniques according to various tempo and speed. The characteristics of Goju-ryu technique are found in the various close combat techniques it contains.

Miyagi visited the Fujian Province of China in May 1915 and July 1917 to further study Chinese martial arts. In May 1934, he was invited by the “Hawaii Yokoku Jihosha” and stayed there until February 1935 teaching karate and giving lectures. In February 1936, he visited Shanghai with Go Genki and Aniya Seisho where he performed and deepened friendship with local martial artists. Goju-ryu spread in the 1930ies in the mainland Japan region of Kansai with Miyagi Chojun giving a lecture titled “Karatedo ni tsuite (about karatedo)” and performing at the Sakaisuji Meiji Firm auditorium in 1936.


Written by Higaonna Morio and Kadekaru Toru


Sources and references: "Karatedo Gaisetsu (Ryukyu Kenpo Karatedo Enkaku Gaiyo)" Miyagi Chojun, 1934, "Okinawa Karate Kobudo Encyclopedia", 2008


(Translation to English by OTKLB)