Gojyu-Ryu History

History of Goju-Ryu Karate

Karate is an ancient discipline designed to teach it’s followers not only how to defend themselves, but also how to improve your character and increase your awareness of the world around you.

Many people take Karate for different reasons. Some people are interested in increasing their personal ability, others are interested in self defense, while others are interested in an exciting way to get fit and to stay in shape. Karate offers all of this, plus more. Often, new Karate students begin their training with only basic expectations, and are shocked to find out just how far reaching the benefits of the martial arts can be. Like any worthwhile activity, the more you put into your training, the more you will get out of it.

Contrary to popular belief, Karate is not a fighting sport. In fact, it is an art of self defense. The objective of Karate is not to learn how to fight, but to learn how not to fight. In the event of a fight, the objective is not to learn how to win, but to learn how not to lose. As the master Dai Sensei Meitoku Yagi said:

“Do not put your main purpose in mastering Karate technique itself. You should study the way of life through Karate. This is our goal.”


A Brief History of Okinawan Karate

When looking at the development of the traditional Okinawan styles of Karate, we can gain a valuable insight into the art by illuminating some of the surrounding influences that played a significant part in shaping the culture of the Okinawan people.

Okinawa,is a small island off of the southern tip of Japan.  Te was practised through out the land. In 1392, 36 families from China immigrated to Kume village in Naha, Okinawa. Each of these families were specialized in such a way as to cultivate the development of this tiny island. As they settled and their culture combined with the people of Okinawa, a new culture was born. The Okinawans, or Uchinanchu, grew into a courteous and peaceful race, distinct from both China and Japan. The settling of these families is undoubtedly how the Chinese fighting traditions were initially transmitted to Okinawa. Dai Sensei Meitoku Yagi can actually trace back his family’s ancestral roots to this Kume settlement.

In 1609, the members of the Satsuma Clan invaded and conquered Okinawa for the Japanese empire. After this time, a ban on the possession of weapons by the Okinawan people was put into effect. This did a lot to encourage the development of an unarmed fighting art in Okinawa, which eventually turned into the different styles of traditional Karate we see today. However, since the Satsuma also banned martial arts training, students had to train in secret, often in the middle of the night in the back yards of their Sensei’s home.

The Satsuma military occupation lasted nearly three centuries until 1879, when Okinawa became an official part of the Japanese empire.

With time, Karate became a more openly practiced art. It was no longer necessary to train in secret, and around the turn of the twentieth century the martial arts were introduced into the island’s school system as a form of physical exercise, due to the influence of Karate enthusiasts led by Itosu Anko. The Japanese felt that young men who aquired healthy bodies and good moral character through martial arts training would be more productive in the Japanese military culture.


Miyagi Sensei & Goju-Ryu Karate

Miyagi Chogun Sensei is the founder of Goju Ryu Karate Do. He was born April 28th, 1888 to a wealthy Okinawan family. He began his Karate training under Aragaki Ryuko Sensei in 1900, at the age of 12. In 1902, when Miyagi Sensei was 14 years old, Aragaki Sensei introduced him to Higashionna Kanryo Sensei, master of Naha Te Karate. Higashionna Sensei accepted him as a student, and the two trained together until the death of Higashionna Sensei in 1915.

From here, Miyagi Sensei travelled to China to increase his knowledge of the martial arts. He studied the principles and philosophies of many Chinese styles in order to increase his knowledge and understanding. Eventually he formulated his own style of Karate which combined the hard external fighting styles with the soft internal styles into a close range, highly efficient method of self defense. The brutal efficiency of the style was designed strictly for health andself defense, and not for sport.

In 1930, Miyagi Sensei named his style Gojyu-Ryu Karate-Do, meaning hard and soft style. This name was taken from one of his favourite poems, the Kempo Hakku, or the eight laws of the fist. “HO WA GOJYU WO TONDO SU.” “The way of inhaling and exhaling is both hardness and softness.”

Miyagi Sensei died on October 8th, 1953. After his death, his teachings were carried on by Dai Sensei Meitoku Yagi and three other senior students of his.


Goju-Ryu after Miyagi Sensei

Grand Master Meitoku Yagi

Yagi Meitoku Sensei was born on March 6th, 1912. He was a direct decendant of the original 36 families of Okinawa. He began his Karate training with Miyagi Sensei in 1926, at the age of 14. By the time of Miyagi Sensei’s death in 1953, Yagi Meitoku Sensei was the only student of Goju Ryu Karate to learn all of the kata from Miyagi Sensei.

In 1963, Miyagi Sensei’s family presented Yagi Sensei with his teacher’s gi and belt, and gave him the Menkyo Kaiden, naming him the official successor to the Gojyu Ryu Karate system. Until his death on February 7th 2003, Yagi Sensei continued to teach and enrich Goju Ryu Karate Do, creating new kata and adding weapons training to the school.

Master Meitatsu Yagi Sensei

Until very recently Goju Ryu Karate Do was presided over by Yagi Meitatsu Sensei, the oldest son of Yagi Meitoku Sensei. He began his Karate training in 1949 at the age of 5, and trained under his father for over 50 years.

Yagi Meitatsu Sensei travelled the world to teach Meibukan Karate Do practicioners, including visits to Canada, the United States, India, Israel, Italy, England, France, Czech Rep, Slovenia and South America. He is also a founding member of The Okinawan Traditional Karate Do Kobudo International Study Center, located in Yomitan, Okinawa. Here martial arts students have a chance to practice Karate Do in the place of it’s birth.

Yagi Meitatsu Sensei’s two sons, Akihito Yagi Sensei, Akihiro Yagi Sensei, are now President and Vice President of IMGKA.


For More information on Okinawan Gojyu-Ryu Karate please visit the IMGKA main site www.imgka.com