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Thread: Okinawan vs. Japanese Goju Ryu

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    Okinawan vs. Japanese Goju Ryu

    I know this is asking for generalities, but how does Okinawan Goju Ryu compare to Japanese Goju Ryu, specifically from the YAMAGUCHI Gogen Sensei lineage? I asked because I like Sensei Peter Urban's books and tend to think about Japan style Goju Ryu when I think of the style. But I also read that Yamaguchi Sensei didn't study that long with Miyagi Sensei, and that there has to be lineages of students in Okinawa who studies for a longer period.

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    Re: Okinawan vs. Japanese Goju Ryu

    Well, this is a bit of a touchy topic, or it can be. There is some controversy not only about the length of time Yamaguchi studied with Miyagi, but also whether he studied with him at all depending on whom you ask. Certainly the Goju-kai side says he studied about 5 years with Miyagi. That said, Yamaguchi did study with Yagi, one of Miyagi's top students, so I'm not sure if it ultimately makes too much of a difference. (Not sure how long the Yagi connection lasted...)

    I am not a big fan of Urban-descended Goju-ryu. While I think he deserves a lot of credit for popularizing karate on the East Coast in his day, I see little in USA Goju today that resembles what I practice myself.

    As for what characterizes JKF Goju-ryu from Okinawan Goju-ryu:


    • Yamaguchi added a series of H pattern forms called the Taikyoku kata. I believe they were likely lifted from Shotokan karate and then were modified to add Goju stances and techniques such as shiko dachi. I think they have 12 total which seems like a lot of basic forms to me. Some older tae kwon do systems practice variations of the Shotokan Taikyoku kata; they're generally called 'kibon' or 'kicho' hyung.
    • Practice of kobudo is generally more prevalent among Okinawan Goju-ryu
    • Generally, hojo undo (traditional body strengthening exercises using tools like sand-filled jars or stone rods - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hojo_und%C5%8D) is found in Okinawan Goju-ryu but not JKF Goju
    • Various small variations in kata such as use of angles in the end of the Gekisai kata
    • JKF Goju-ryu uses one steps; Okinawan Goju-ryu tends to use two man kata bunkai sets which explain the meaning of the kata
    • JKF Goju-ryu tends to be more sport-flavored; they participate organizationally in the various tournaments, including WKF

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    Re: Okinawan vs. Japanese Goju Ryu

    Quote Originally Posted by dancingalone View Post
    I am not a big fan of Urban-descended Goju-ryu. While I think he deserves a lot of credit for popularizing karate on the East Coast in his day, I see little in USA Goju today that resembles what I practice myself.
    I don't know about his technical stuff, but I like reading his books. I think the one I am thinking about is karate dojo, where he explains the levels of students and what different ranks mean. It was a good starting point to understanding the path and how different level focus on different things.


    Quote Originally Posted by dancingalone View Post
    Yamaguchi added a series of H pattern forms called the Taikyoku kata. I believe they were likely lifted from Shotokan karate and then were modified to add Goju stances and techniques such as shiko dachi. I think they have 12 total which seems like a lot of basic forms to me. Some older tae kwon do systems practice variations of the Shotokan Taikyoku kata; they're generally called 'kibon' or 'kicho' hyung.
    Those were FUNAKOSHI Yoshitaka Sensei's creation and he introduced those into the Shotokan curriculum. When GM LEE Won Kuk went back to Korea, he brought those along with him. I believe he referred to those as the "Taeguek" hyung, which is the korean pronunciation of Taikyoku. The Kuk Mu Kwan I believe calls them the Kuk Mu hyung, while the Moo Duk Kwan called them kibon or kicho hyung.

    I believe that Moo Duk Kwan founder GM HWANG Kee (who studied with a Chung Do Kwan student, GM HYUN Jong Myun and made it to Chung Do Kwan White Belt 6th guep) changed the name of the form to Kicho or Kibon because he had studied Tai Chi in Manchuria. Tai Chi is also pronounced "Tae Guk" in Korean, and so I believe that GM Hwang didn't want to call those forms that. But that is just my speculation, a theory that I have yet to confirm. I know that there is a Tai Chi form in the Moo Duk Kwan curriculum.

    But when JKA Chief Instructor Nakayama Sensei came back, they got rid of the Taikyoku kata. They also got rid of another kata from Yoshitaka Sensei, whose name escapes me at the moment. I believe the Shotokai resurrected that.

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    Re: Okinawan vs. Japanese Goju Ryu

    Quote Originally Posted by dancingalone View Post
    Well, this is a bit of a touchy topic, or it can be. There is some controversy not only about the length of time Yamaguchi studied with Miyagi, but also whether he studied with him at all depending on whom you ask. Certainly the Goju-kai side says he studied about 5 years with Miyagi. That said, Yamaguchi did study with Yagi, one of Miyagi's top students, so I'm not sure if it ultimately makes too much of a difference. (Not sure how long the Yagi connection lasted...)

    I feel like I have been led to believe that Yamaguchi Sensei was the successor to Miyagi Sensei. I don't know why I have that in my head. But if he only studied for five years or less, then it would be improbable that Miyagi Sensei would make him his successor, especially if there were students in Okinawa who studied longer, including Yagi Sensei, who I have never heard of.

    Unrelated topic, but how much of the Kyokushin Kai curriculum is based on Goju Ryu? I understand that Oyama Sensei studied Shotokan and Goju Ryu as his main karate influences. I wonder if Oyama Sensei was the one who brought the Taikyoku kata to Yamaguchi Sensei.

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    Re: Okinawan vs. Japanese Goju Ryu

    Quote Originally Posted by puunui View Post
    I feel like I have been led to believe that Yamaguchi Sensei was the successor to Miyagi Sensei. I don't know why I have that in my head. But if he only studied for five years or less, then it would be improbable that Miyagi Sensei would make him his successor, especially if there were students in Okinawa who studied longer, including Yagi Sensei, who I have never heard of.
    There was no official successor named By Miyagi Sensei. It is speculated that the closest thing Miyagi had to a senior student was Shinzato, Jinan, but he died during WWII. Shinzato may have been responsible for naming Goju-ryu. He was demonstrating his karate in Japan and when he was asked to name his style, which here-to-now had never had an identifying name other than Higashionna's karate or Miyagi karate, he reportedly said Goju-ryu or Hard Soft Way.

    The senior students of Miyagi at his death included:


    1. Higa, Seiko
    2. Miyazato, Ei'ichi
    3. Yagi, Meitoku
    4. Toguchi, Seikichi


    Higa was somewhat of an 'in between' man. He was only 10 years younger than Miyagi himself and thus he was old enough to have studied with Higashionna, Kanryo who was Miyagi's own teacher. After Higashionna passed away, Higa began to study with Miyagi, arguably Higashionna's senior student. I've always wondered why Higa was not acclaimed the head of Goju-ryu after Miyagi's death, but I guess we'll never know the full story as those who do know either are dead themselves or they aren't talking.

    Miyazato generally was acknowledged as the leader of Okinawan Goju-ryu after Miyagi died. Whatever that means since it's obvious that Goju-ryu was never as high cohesive and organized as some other martial arts were. (Note: My teacher was a student of Miyazato, so I am naturally biased here.) Miyazato probably spent the most time with Miyagi Sensei out of his students (other than the deceased Shinzato) and he was one of the few that actually practiced karate with Miyagi post-war. Understandably, most Okinawans had other things on their minds than karate, like eating and surviving. Miyazato was also a Kodokan Judo 7th dan during his lifetime which is impressive in of itself.

    Yagi was acknowledged as a kata expert among his peers. He was the first chairman of the Karate-do Goju-ryu Association established on Okinawa after Miyagi's death. Yagi created some kata unique to his lineage. There was an article about them in the Journal of Asian Martial Arts a few years ago. They are designed such that one forms the matched pair to the other. I'd like to learn all of the Yagi kata some day.

    Toguchi started as a student of Higa's and later moved to Miyagi's dojo. He did a lot to spread Okinawan Goju-ryu teaching for a time in Japan before ultimately emigrating to Canada. His Shoreikan version of Goju is particularly popular in frozen tundra as a result. Toguchi also created a few new kata as well as the so-called kiso kumite and bunkai sets used in his lineage.


    Quote Originally Posted by puunui View Post
    Unrelated topic, but how much of the Kyokushin Kai curriculum is based on Goju Ryu? I understand that Oyama Sensei studied Shotokan and Goju Ryu as his main karate influences. I wonder if Oyama Sensei was the one who brought the Taikyoku kata to Yamaguchi Sensei.
    Well, they do practice some Naha kata like Geikisai Dai Ichi and Dai Ni, Saifa, Seiunchin, Seipai, Seiryu, and Tensho. Oyama is said to have stated that all you need to know about his martial arts is expressed in Tensho, a creation of Miyagi, Chojun.

    <shrugs> Kyokushin people perform these kata pretty differently than Okinawan Goju-ryu stylists. I'd say the system favors more the Shotokan influence than the Goju-ryu side, which isn't surprising at all given the dominance of the Taikyoku and Pinan kata in their kyu-grade syllabi.

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    Mushi Mushi Re: Okinawan vs. Japanese Goju Ryu

    quote=dancingalone
    There was no official successor named By Miyagi Sensei. It is speculated that the closest thing Miyagi had to a senior student was Shinzato, Jinan, but he died during WWII.
    I think that it is without doubt that Shinzato would have been the sucessor if he had survived. However, there was a successor appointed to head the organisation. At the first meeting of the Karate-do Goju-ryu Association in 1955, Miyazato was elected to head the organisation. Yagi obviously thought he should be the successor as he was the longest serving student but he received no nomination for the role. Miyagi's family later confirmed that it was Miyagi's wish for Miyazato to take over. Miyazato actually took charge of training at the Garden Dojo after Miyagi's death in 1953 and remained there until he established the Jundokan in 1957.
    Higa was somewhat of an 'in between' man. He was only 10 years younger than Miyagi himself and thus he was old enough to have studied with Higashionna, Kanryo who was Miyagi's own teacher. After Higashionna passed away, Higa began to study with Miyagi, arguably Higashionna's senior student. I've always wondered why Higa was not acclaimed the head of Goju-ryu after Miyagi's death, but I guess we'll never know the full story as those who do know either are dead themselves or they aren't talking.
    Higa obviously was on good terms with Miyazato as he was the only surviving student of Miyagi to be mentioned in Miyazato's book, 'Okinawa Den Gojuryu Karate-do'.
    I think that Higa probably was well established elsewhere having established his own dojo in 1931.
    Yagi was acknowledged as a kata expert among his peers. He was the first chairman of the Karate-do Goju-ryu Association established on Okinawa after Miyagi's death.
    Apparenly Yagi had been given Miyagi's Gi and belt and may have assumed that this was the authority to take over the organisation. I don't know if politics was alive and well in karate circles back then but he had no support from his peers when the election of Miyagi's successor took place.

    Yamaguchi's role is interesting. Although we thought he was really the student of Miyagi when I started training Goju Kai years ago, I since believe he actually only trained a matter of weeks under Miyagi directly. Miyagi called him 'Gogen' or 'rough' and reading between the lines, I think Miyagi was happy to see him established in Japan. He learnt kata from one of Miyagi's students but I haven't been able to establish which one.

    Yamaguchi really put Goju on the map and he focussed on the sport aspect. He added the Taikyoku kata which are based on the Shotokan version, only simplified. The Shotokan kata have real application whereas the Goju Kai version is a collection of basic techniques. Funakoshi was a highly skilled master when he developed his kata. I don't believe Yamaguchi had the same understanding at that time.

    He also changed the kata quite substantially. This may have been to make the kata more appealing in the competition arena.

    Sparring in the Japanese style is competition based whereas the Okinawan concept is one of close combat. Okinawan karate includes more locks, holds and throws whereas the Japanese style is at long range. Here is a quote from Miyazato's book regarding sport karate:
    "The uniqueness of Karate is that it does not regard place, gender and strength of body. I want to make a point that the training, therefore, can be done for a long time. Presently, in Okinawa, there are many Karate practitioners that guard the ancient traditions of Karate culture. They have no interest in the 'Japanised' sports Karate."
    Personally, my journey has take me from the Japanese Goju Kai back to the Okinawan form as trained at the Jundokan. I believe that this is as close as we can get to the traditional Karate as practised by Miyagi Sensei.
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    Re: Okinawan vs. Japanese Goju Ryu

    What about Miyagi Sensei's sons? Where do they fit into the picture? I have a book from one of the sons. Also what about Higaona Sensei? Where does he fit into the picture? He has a four book series called Okinawan Goju Ryu.

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    Re: Okinawan vs. Japanese Goju Ryu

    Quote Originally Posted by puunui View Post
    What about Miyagi Sensei's sons? Where do they fit into the picture? I have a book from one of the sons. Also what about Higaona Sensei? Where does he fit into the picture? He has a four book series called Okinawan Goju Ryu.
    From what I understand, none of Chojun Miyagi's children studied karate seriously, but if anyone has contrary information I'd be glad to hear it.

    Higaonna Sensei is a top Goju man in skill, and I've been fortunate to interact with him a few times in seminar. He of course is a full generation or two behind men like Miyazato so he could not have been in consideration for leadership at that point.

    His IOGKF organization is very successful today with high membership numbers as far as Okinawan karate groups go, since they tend to be smaller and more intimate compared to other arts.

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    Mushi Mushi Re: Okinawan vs. Japanese Goju Ryu

    Quote Originally Posted by puunui View Post
    What about Miyagi Sensei's sons? Where do they fit into the picture? I have a book from one of the sons. Also what about Higaona Sensei? Where does he fit into the picture? He has a four book series called Okinawan Goju Ryu.
    Miyagi had 6 sons and 4 daughters. One was killed in the war and I believe one may be still living in Okinawa. The boys probably all learned a little karate but, to the best of my knowledge, only two of the older boys had much training. Although they put their hands up to be the successor, they obviously did not have enough experience for the task. Yagi sought to take the reins but he did not have the support of his peers. Miyazato was appointed to be the successor.

    An'ichi Miyagi (no relation) was one of Miyagi Sensai's students post war. He began training under Miyagi Sensei in 1948 and continued until about 1959 under Miyazato Sensei. Apparently they had a disagreement and An'ichi Miyagi and Morio Higaonna left the Jundokan. An'ichi Miyagi seems to have had some ideas that he should have been head instructor as he claims Miyagi Chojun taught him all the Goju kata, bunkai etc. This seniority to me seems unlikely as he was only 22 when Miyagi Chojun died. He had been training for 8 years compared with Eiichi Miyazato who had been training for 18 years.

    Morio Higaonna began training in 1955 under Eiichi Miyazato and, reading between the lines, trained mainly with An'ichi Miyagi. Higaonna received his Black Belt from Miyazato Sensei in 1957. When Miyagi left the Jundokan in 1959 I think Higaonna might have left as well and in 1960 he left Okinawa for Japan.
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    Mushi Mushi Re: Okinawan vs. Japanese Goju Ryu

    Sorry, just found this.

    Takashi Miyagi, Okinawan goju-ryu Hanshi 10-Dan, presently resides and teaches Okinawan goju-ryu in Tokyo, Japan. He was born in l9l9 and began studying goju-ryu from his father, Chojun Miyagi, in l934. He continued his studies until the death of his father in l953. At that time he moved to Japan and opened a small dojo in Tokyo. He is presently the director and headmaster of the Karatedo Goju-ryu Federation.
    That would have made him 33 at the time of his father's death but obviously not at the same level as a number of the other students. The other thing was, according to his sister Yasu, he had been living in Japan and did not return to Okinawa even when he knew his father was dying. That would indicate he was not living in Okinawa and did not study under his father until 1953 as written above. Seems to be another instance of the rewriting of history.
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    Re: Okinawan vs. Japanese Goju Ryu

    Quote Originally Posted by dancingalone View Post
    He was demonstrating his karate in Japan and when he was asked to name his style, which here-to-now had never had an identifying name other than Higashionna's karate or Miyagi karate, he reportedly said Goju-ryu or Hard Soft Way.
    The way I remember the story is that when Shinzato (or someone else, I can't remember) came back to Okinawa and told Miyagi of the question, it was Miyagi Chojun himself who decided on the name Goju. If I remember correctly, Shinzato suggested Hanko ryu (half-hard). I could be wrong, because I find trying to keep at least some sort of track of all the various Shorin ryu variants way too hard, so I don't want to add Goju ryu history into the mix also
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    Re: Okinawan vs. Japanese Goju Ryu

    Quote Originally Posted by TimoS View Post
    The way I remember the story is that when Shinzato (or someone else, I can't remember) came back to Okinawa and told Miyagi of the question, it was Miyagi Chojun himself who decided on the name Goju. If I remember correctly, Shinzato suggested Hanko ryu (half-hard). I could be wrong, because I find trying to keep at least some sort of track of all the various Shorin ryu variants way too hard, so I don't want to add Goju ryu history into the mix also


    I've heard two versions. One where he gave the name of Goju-ryu impromptu and another one where Miyagi Sensei told him to call it Goju-ryu. Now three with the Hanko-ryu variation.

    Incidentally, I think 'Hanko-ryu' also shows up in Shito-ryu history. If I recall correctly, Mabuni Sensei used the name for a while before ending up with 'Shito' to honor his teachers.

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    Re: Okinawan vs. Japanese Goju Ryu

    Quote Originally Posted by dancingalone View Post


    I've heard two versions. One where he gave the name of Goju-ryu impromptu and another one where Miyagi Sensei told him to call it Goju-ryu. Now three with the Hanko-ryu variation.

    Incidentally, I think 'Hanko-ryu' also shows up in Shito-ryu history. If I recall correctly, Mabuni Sensei used the name for a while before ending up with 'Shito' to honor his teachers.
    As far as I know Uechi ryu started of as Pangai Noon (?) which also means "half hard" as does "Hanko-ryu". Seems many Masters where on the same track.


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    Re: Okinawan vs. Japanese Goju Ryu

    Quote Originally Posted by Haze View Post
    As far as I know Uechi ryu started of as Pangai Noon (?) which also means "half hard" as does "Hanko-ryu".
    I know I am splitting hairs, but doesn't Pangainoon mean "half-hard half-soft"? At least that's how I remember reading about the name.
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    Re: Okinawan vs. Japanese Goju Ryu

    Quote Originally Posted by TimoS View Post
    I know I am splitting hairs, but doesn't Pangainoon mean "half-hard half-soft"? At least that's how I remember reading about the name.
    That's my understanding too. Supposedly groups outside of the Uechi family started using the Pan Gai Noon name at their request after Uechi Kanbun's death. I have also heard that the Pan Gai Noon groups have been blending more southern Chinese material back into their system and it is on a course of divergence from "classic" Uechi-ryu.

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