Unsu & Niseishi
Kanryo Higaonna was born on March 10, 1853 in the district of Nishimura in the city of Naha, Okinawa. Son of Kanryo and Makomado. His father was a merchant trading food and clothes through the Ryukyu Islands. At the age of 10, Kanryo Higaonna Sensei started to work with his father, since his 2nd and 3rd brothers died at early age, and his 1st brother was weak and sick.
At the age of 14 he commenced his formal training in Chinese Kempo with Seisho Arakaki, who had studied the Fukien style. Unfortunately not too long after, his father died as the result of a fight. This shocked the young Higaonna so much that his thoughts were filled with a desire for revenge. This was when he decided to travel to China to learn the deadly martial arts to avenge his father’s death.
At that time, travelling to China was restricted only to merchants, students or government officials. Permission to travel was only granted by the King of Okinawa, and the only port of departure was the port of Naha.
Higaonna, with the help of the official Udon Yoshimura, obtained a permit to travel to Fuchow, China, as a student. He departed from the port of Naha in the year 1866, at the age of 15.
On his arrival in Fuchow, Higaonna was accepted in the Ryukyu Kan or lodge where all the students from Okinawa were living. After a year in residence he was introduced to the renowned martial arts instructor Ryu Ryu Ko (also known as Xie Zhongxiang). Ryu Ryu Ko Sensei earned his living making bamboo baskets, working from the ground floor of his house. At the time he taught martial arts to only to a small group of selected students.
Kanryo Higaonna was not permitted to train immediately, and had to follow the age-old custom of personal service to his master by attending the garden, cleaning and doing odd chores. After he had satisfied his master’s expectations, he was accepted as a disciple.
At first Kanryo Higaonna was instructed only in Sanchin kata. His motivation and dedication soon started to show, and as his skills progress he became a “uchi deshi” (live-in student). He moved out from the Ryukyu Kan and started to live and work at Ryu Ryu Ko’s bamboo shop. Training took place at night starting with the practice of Sanchin and was severe. He was introduced to the different traditional equipment such as chiishi (stone weights), ishi sashi (stone padlocks), nigiri game (gripping jars), tan (barbell) and muning (variation of makiwara).
The fame of Ryu Ryu Ko Sensei was widespread. He learned the martial arts in the southern Shaolin temple in the mountains of the Fujian Province. His teacher was a Court Official from the Dynasty. Ryu Ryu Ko Sensei also instructed Higaonna in the use of weapons such the Daito (long sword), Shuto (small sword), Sai and Bo. He also taught him herbal medicine. In few years Higaonna became Ryu Ryu Ko Sensei’s top student. Higaonna trained for 14 years in China. In 1881 he returned to Okinawa with the promise to his teacher than it would never abuse the skills he had learnt.
He settled back in the district of Nishimura in the City of Naha and like his father, in the past, became a merchant, travelling with his boat in between the islands of the Ryukyu chain. He began to teach a select group of students at his house. His instruction was very severe. In a short time he obtained the same good reputation that he had developed in Fuchow. It wasn’t too long before the King of Okinawa invited Kanryo Higaonna to teach him the martial arts.
In 1905 he was invited to teach his Naha-Te (Te from Naha) in the Naha Commercial School. The Principal wanted to teach the students the spiritual and moral aspects of the martial arts. This was an important breakthrough, not only for the recognition of the benefits of the practice but also because until then Te was taught as a martial art with the skill to kill.
After his research, Kanryo Higaonna, decided to make an important change in the Sanchin kata. Until then, Sanchin kata was practiced with open hands, so he started to teach it with close hands and slower breathing with the purpose of promoting the health benefits, rather than promoting lethal techniques at the school. Higaonna introduced the closed fist to emphasise the physical strength more than the ability to kill. Tradition also played an important role for this change because he noticed that a lot of young Okinawans, without any knowledge of martial arts, naturally stood with closed fists when they were going to fight. He continued to teach the original way that he learned in China to a few students at his dojo.
After 1905 Karate became a little more accessible to the general population. Up until then, Te was taught to a selected group of people.
Kanryo Higaonna Sensei passed away on 23rd December 1915 at the age of 62.
Grandmaster Chojun Miyagi was born on April 25, 1888 to an aristocratic family. They were in the import/export business, and owned two ships, which made regular trips to Mainland China, placing them among the wealthiest families in the area.
He began training in karate under Kanryo Higaonna at the age of 14, in 1902. Like his teacher before him, because of his great natural talent and fierce determination, he progressed very rapidly. The training was severe beyond belief at times but he practiced ever harder with an enthusiasm unmatched by any of the other students. Chojun Miyagi became "uchi deshi" (private disciple) of Kanryo Higaonna. He studied with his teacher for 14 years before his teacher’s death in 1915. That same year (1915) he journeyed to Fuzhou, China, the city where his teacher had studied the martial arts, to further his research. This was one of three trips he made to China during his lifetime.
On his return to Okinawa he began to teach the martial arts at his home in Naha. Later, he also taught at the Okinawan Prefecture Police Training Center, at the Okinawan Master's Training College, and at the Naha Commercial High School (where his teacher had once taught).
Chojun Miyagi worked hard to spread karate throughout Okinawa and mainland Japan, and to earn Naha-te a status equal to that of the highly respected Japanese martial arts of Judo and Kendo. To achieve this he traveled frequently to mainland Japan where he was invited to teach karate at Kyoto University and Ritsumei Kan University. In 1933 karate was registered at the Butokukai, the center for all martial arts in Japan. This was a milestone for karate as it meant that it was recognized on a level with the highly respected martial arts of Japan.
Chojun Miyagi died on October 8th, 1953, of either a heart attack (the most popular explanation) or a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 65.
Gogen Yamaguchi was born on January 20, 1909, in Kagoshima city on southern Kyushu. During his college days as a law student, Yamaguchi established his first karate club at the Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto. Soon the dojo became famous in the city, known for it's hard training and fierce breathing exercise. In those days karate men practiced only kata (formal movements) and yakusoku kumite (prearranged sparring) and were unable to have matches between each other since they did not hold back their techniques. It was during this period that Yamaguchi created the first stages towards what is known as jyu kumite (free fighting) and established rules to decide the winner of a match. Some of the rules are still in use today in what is known as sport or competition karate.
In 1931, at the age of 22, Gogen Yamaguchi was introduced to the founder of the Goju style, - Master Chojun Miyagi. This meeting proved to have a profound affect upon Yamaguchi's outlook on karate. Previously he had only considered the hard aspect of Goju but after his meeting with Master Miyagi he was determined to train himself spiritually as well as physically. Master Miyagi thought highly of Yamaguchi who seemed to have mastered the hard aspect of Goju so well and gave him the nickname Gogen, meaning `Rough'. He then appointed Gogen Yamaguchi as his successor of the Goju School in Japan.
Master Yamaguchi's contributions to Goju-karate and to karate in general have been enormous, the karate schools in Japan into a single union, which resulted in the formation of The Federation of All Japan Karate-do Organization F.A.J.K.O. in 1964. He added to the Goju system the Taikyoku Kata forms, - training methods for the beginner students to prepare them for the more advanced Kata’s.
In combining his religious practices with karate training, he incorporated both Yoga and Shinto into Goju-kai karate and founded in his last years Goju-Shinto. He stated that both body and mind are interrelated and through proper breathing and concentration we will be able to understand the essence of the Martial Arts. This is the reason why the Goju School uses the unique breathing exercise called ibuki. Concentrating all the muscular strength at one point, bringing mind and body into a coherent whole.
The Kokusai Budo Renmei - The International Martial Arts Federation in Japan, whose chairman was Prince Higashikuni of the Japanese Imperial Family had appointed Master Yamaguchi as Shihan (master) of the organizations karate division. Never before has a single man had such profound effect on the development and propagation of karate-do. Master Gogen Yamaguchi, 10th Dan, a man of intense dedication and determination can truly be called a karate legend. A master of Yoga and a Shinto priest, he truly united both aspects of go and ju into a concerted union.
In 1955, he was introduced to Master Masatatsu Oyama, also in Tokyo, Japan, and becomes a full time student of Master Oyama. In 1956, Young Sensei Urban teaches the 212th "MP" Military Police Corps in Tokyo Japan. In 1957, Sensei Urban was chosen by the Late Master Yamaguchi to compete in the first all Japan Collegiate Championships in Tokyo. In 1958, Sensei Urban was again chosen to participate by Master Yamaguchi; this time at Chuo University where he fights the captain of the Chuo University Karate team. In 1959, he departs from Japan and establishes his first Goju-Ryu Dojo- school at 14th St. Union City, New Jersey. At the time, he also had a dojo at the Hoboken YMCA, where he would teach on week-ends. At the end of 1960, he taught Goju-Ryu at a dojo that belonged to the Judo twins. He then establishes his first Goju-Ryu Dojo in New York at 20 East 17th St. This is where Master Urban founded The American Goju-Ryu Karate Assoc.
Peter G. Urban, a Greek-American, was truly a pioneer of the martial arts. He is widely regarded as the father of American Karate. While training in Japan, he learned from three of karate’s greatest masters—Gogen Yamaguchi, Masutatsu Oyama, and Richard Kim, respectively. In 1959, he opened his first karate academy in Union City, New Jersey. Later, he opened his famous Chinatown Dojo in New York City, first at 213 Canal Street, and later at 1 Crosby Street.
He was responsible for the development of some of the great Goju-Ryu stylists of the era. These individuals include:Frank Ruiz, Harry Rosenstein, Ronald Taganashi, Johnny Kuhl, Ric Pascetta, Gerald Orange, and many others. Furthermore, he had a hand in the development of many organizations including: The United States of America Goju Association (USAGA), Nisei Goju-Ryu, The World Sansei Koryu Goju-Ryu Karate Organization, Hispanic Goju, Kanzen Goju, and Neko-Do Goju-Ryu.