In the Karate-do Dojo of the Hare-Yama Ryu, we study the form of Goju-Ryu Karate-do that was taught by
What is Karate?
The martial art named karate, meaning simply "empty hand", emerged in Japan only in the 1920's. However, karate developed over many years and has its roots deep in the history and traditions of China, and the island of Okinawa.
Centuries before karate was born, Chinese monks whose religion forbade them from carrying weapons, had developed methods of unarmed self-defence. This was the only way they could protect themselves against armed robbers who operated along travel routes. In time, their self defence systems spread all over China and also blended with other martial arts in Asia, evolving into many forms.
In 1879, Japan annexed the island of Okinawa from the Chinese and the new Japanese rulers forbade the carrying of weapons by the islanders. However, the Okinawan fishermen had learned much about the Chinese unarmed self-defence methods. Therefore, in order to defend themselves against the Japanese soldiers, the Okinawans adapted these Chinese martial arts to include their own experience in unarmed combat. Various schools of self defence emerged and Okinawan-te, or Okinawan hand, began to flourish on the island. The forerunner of karate had been born. More specifically Naha-te, the hand of Naha (the capital of Okinawa), Shuri-te and others defined variations in this new martial art system.
Okinawan-te eventually spread to Japan through the efforts of Master Gichin Funakoshi, who by invitation of the emperor, demonstrated the Okinawan self defence art to the Japanese. The Japanese received this new martial art with enthusiasm and in 1924, Master Funakoshi opened the first Okinawan-te Dojo in Japan. He was followed by other Okinawan-te masters.
A few years later, the name Okinawan-te had changed to karate, "the empty hand", or more correctly karate-do, "the way of the empty hand". Karate grew to be Japan's most popular and famous martial art, and has now spread worldwide.
However, karate-do is not just another sport. "The way of the empty hand" involves more than simply learning to fight or to defend oneself, and brings to the karate-ka (the karate student), many other equally important benefits. Courage, fighting spirit to overcome any problem in life, courtesy, respect, self confidence, self control and self discipline are some of them.
Master Gichin Funakoshi summed this up in the statement:
The ultimate aim of karate lies not in victory or defeat but in the perfection of the character of its participants.
What is Goju-Ryu Karate-do?
The usual translation of karate is kara, empty and te, hand, hence empty hand, (however, some claim that kara derives from the name for China). But empty hand on its own means little so the relevance of the do in karate-do needs to be explained. Do in Japanese means way, from simple physical things like a road, to philosophical concepts like a way of thinking. So karate-do becomes the way of the empty hand. This partly relates to unarmed defence but also refers to the overcoming of other physical and even mental problems without having to reach for aids outside of yourself - such as addictive substances.
The Japanese word Ryu has a subtle meaning that we translate into English as style. The meaning of this style is, the way of doing things, or a school (of thought). This way of doing things will relate to the methods that the master of the Ryu devised to achieve the aims of karate-do. So the techniques of a specific Ryu will differ from other Ryu and will reflect the philosophy of the master of that Ryu. The philosophy of our karate Ryu is Goju
The Meaning of Goju
The earliest clearly traceable root of Goju-Ryu is Master Kanryo Higashionna. It is also known that one of his teachers was Seiso Aragaki who it is believed devised the kata Seisan, but the links to the development of Goju-Ryu are not clear. Master Kanryo Higashionna was known as the "Fist Saint of Naha". He taught Naha-te actively in Naha on Okinawa Island around 1870.
It was one of Master Kanryo Higashionna's students, Chojun Miyagi, who was to become the originator of a completely different form of Naha-te that became known as Goju-Ryu.
Goju-Ryu derived its name from go meaning hard (as in strong or direct), and ju meaning soft (more like flexible or yielding). The concept of mixing hard and soft techniques, go and ju, had probably been devised in earlier times by combining martial art forms like the Chinese Shaolin (go) and Pa Kua and Tai Chi (ju). The specific blend of hard soft called Goju, was developed in Okinawa by Master Chojun Miyagi. He had studied a number of Chinese martial arts on the mainland and merged them together to evolve a system that integrated all aspects of go and ju into a rounded, flowing martial art that has an important focus on breathing, called ibuki, to produce powerful and fast techniques.
Although Goju-Ryu was first established in Naha, Master Miyagi's star pupil, Gogen Yamaguchi later introduced Goju-Ryu to Japan. Master Yamaguchi modified Goju-Ryu as a result of his own studies and philosophy, and structured his system of teaching to make it suit Japanese requirements. He added new training forms and other aspects of Goju training that became identified as Goju-Kai, the Japanese Goju-Ryu system of Yamaguchi Sensei. He also added his special understanding of the relevance of karate-do (and especially Goju) to our everyday lives. His true teachings live on in but a few of his many students, including Deena Naidu Kancho, founder of Goshin Kan in Australian and the International Goshin-Kai. Japanese Goju-Ryu is quite distinct from the Okinawan Goju-Ryu system. Both these systems are still taught today and retain their differences as developed by their original Masters.
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Last updated 2014-08-28 15:19