Goju-ryu (“hard-soft style” in Japanese) is one of the main traditional Okinawan styles of karate, combining hard and soft techniques. Created by Chōjun Miyagi, Goju-Ryu Karate enjoys a significant influence in Southeast Asia and has spread all over the world. Just don’t go confusing him with Master Miyagi from the Karate Kid.
Chōjun Miyagi (1888-1953) was born in Naha City, Japan. He began learning the Naha city style of Karate. He would then travel to China in 1904 to train with Chinese kung fu masters. In 1915, Miyagi travelled to Fujian Province, China to learn Chinese kung fu. It is for this reason why Goju-ryu Karate shares some characteristics with Chinese Southern Fist (Nan Quan).
As its name shows, Goju-ryu Karate features characteristics combining hard and soft techniques. It pays a lot of attention to the proper breathing methods. It can be confused as not being as powerful as Shotokan Karate, but that way of thinking clearly misses the point.
The style has its own unique Katas, the “three battles” and the “rotating palms” form, developed by Master Miyagi. These forms clearly reflect the hard (go) / soft (ju) elements of the system. Three battles is inherently ‘go’ or hard and Rotating Palms is ‘ju’. This idea borrows a lot of from yin yang theory in Daoism. Yin is the soft, or yielding force, whereas Yang is hard and external. These opposites can also be explained by light / dark or positive / negative.
In fact, Goju-Ryu Karate borrows so much from Chinese martial arts that it directly took the tiger, leopard, dragon, snake and crane animal forms. The Goju-Ryu Katas also incorporate breathing exercises and can be considered a type of moving qigong in parts.
Here’s a great video explaining the history and development of Goju-Ryu Karate
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