It is believed that the history of the martial arts started in Egypt, moved east to India and then to China. The Rekishi (history) of Goju-Ryu Karate-Do as an independent art can be traced back to the 1860’s.  Goju-Ryu Karate-Do is a direct descendent of Kung Fu.

Shaolin Da Mo

Shaolin Da Mo


Kanryo Higashionna

Chojun Miyagi

Eiichi Miyazato

DA MO (BODHIDHARMA): Da Mo, also known as Bodhidharma, was born in India sometime around 483AD. His last name was Chadili. He was an Indian Prince and a Zen Buddhist monk. In the early 1500’s he was invited to China to teach Buddhism. In 527AD he arrived at the Shaolin (young woods) Temple at the peak of the Songshan Mountain in Henan Province, China. Once at the Shaolin Temple he observed that the monks were in poor physical health. He then meditated in a cave for nine years after which he wrote two texts on Qigong (practice of internal and external universal energy) exercises entitled “Muscle/Tendon Changing”  and “Marrow/Brain Washing” classics which were designed to increase the monks’ Qi (universal energy) and physical fitness. What is known is that the monks of Shaolin eventually studied the fighting methods of animals (tiger, leopard, dragon, snake and crane) and incorporated Da Mo’s Qigong exercises into them. This was the birth of Kung Fu. In time, Kung Fu spread over China, Asia and, after World War II, the rest of the world. Many different styles of martial arts are offshoots of it.

RYU RYU KO (1852 – 1930) : The life of Ryu Ryu Ko is very unclear. Some scholars speculate that his name was Xie Zhongxiang and believed that Ryu Ryu Ko was born into a Chinese aristocratic family. It is also believed that as a young man he was a bricklayer and in the latter part of his life was a maker of Bamboo merchandise. It is also unclear with whom and where Ryu Ryu Ko studied the Martial Arts. The name of Ryu Ryu Ko’s instructor or instructors have been lost to history.  Most scholars believe that he studied at the Southern Shaolin Temple in the mountains of Fukien Province, China. Some scholars believe that he was a Master of White Crane and Southern Shaolin Kung Fu, while others believe it was Whooping Crane. What is known is that he was a famous Kung Fu Master who instructed in the City of Foochow, Fukien Province, China and was the teacher of Kanryo Higaonna.

KANRYO  HIGASHIONNA (1853-1915): He was born on the Island of Okinawa on March 10, 1853. He is also known as Kanryo Higashionna. It is believed that at the age of 14 he started training the martial arts under Mayaa Aragaki Sensei. In 1867 he went to China to study Kung Fu. Once in China he stayed at the Ryukyu Kan which was an Okinawan settlement in the City of Foochow. At the Ryukyu Kan he made acquaintance with a man named Kanpu Tanmei who introduced him to a famous Kung Fu Master in the City of Foochow named Ryu Ryu Ko. Ryu Ryu Ko accepted him as a student and after approximately one year of manual labour, to test his character, began to teach him.Kanryo Kigaonna trained very hard and eventually became Ryu Ryu Ko’s disciple and an Uchi Deshi (live-in-house student).In 1881, after approximately 14 years in China, Kanryo Higaonna returned to Okinawa.  Once in Okinawa he eventually began teaching the martial arts at his house in the City of Naha. It was around 1905 that he developed his version of Sanchin Kata. He passed away in 1915 at the age of 62.Kanryo Higaonna is considered to be the founder on Naha-Te (City of Naha Hand). His top student and successor was Chojun Miyagi Sensei.

CHOJUN MIYAGI (1888-1953) : Chojun Miyagi was born into an aristocratic family in the City of Naha, Okinawa on April 25, 1881. At the age of 11 he began training Karate under Ryuko Aragaki who was a famous Tomari-Te practitioner. In 1902 he was introduced by Aragaki Sensei to Kanryo Higaonna Sensei who accepted him as a student. As Ryu Ryu Ko had done with him, Higaonna Sensei first tested Chojun Miyagi’s character through manual labour before teaching him. Chojun Miyagi trained very hard and eventually became Kanryo Higaonna Sensei’s top student.In 1910, Chojun Miyagi was drafted into the Japanese military where he requested service in the medical corp. He did this so that he could study anatomy, the treatment of injuries, etc. This knowledge would eventually become instrumental in his development of Junbi Undo (supplementary exercises). In 1912, at the age of 24, he left the military and returned to Okinawa where he continued to study Karate under Higaonna Sensei. Kanryo Higaonna Sensei passed away in 1915 at the age of 62. Chojun Miyagi became his successor.After the death of Kanryo Higaonna Sensei, Chojun Miyagi made the first of three research trips to China. Between 1917 and 1921, he developed Tensho Kata which was based on a Kata called Rokkishu which he had learned in China. In 1930, Chojun Miyagi named his style of Karate “Goju-Ryu” (hard/soft style) after poem number three from the “Eight poems of the fist” found in the Kung Fu text TheBubishi. Poem three states that the “way of inhaling and exhaling is softness and hardness”.In 1930, he experimented, for a short time, with Iri Kumi (free style sparring). In 1933, he officially registered Goju-Ryu with the Dai Nihon Butoku Kai. Sometime around 1940 he created Gekisai Dai Ichi and Gekisai Dai Ni Kata.During World War II, Chojun Miyagi stayed in Okinawa. It was a hard time for him. During the war he lost several family members, friends, students and his top student and chosen successor, Jin’an Shinzato Sensei. Most of his research material relating to Goju-Ryu Karate-Do was also destroyed during the battle of Okinawa. In 1947, he resumed teaching Karate at the Police Academy and eventually started teaching at his house, the famous Garden Dojo.  Chojun Miyagi Sensei passed away on October 8, 1953. Ei’ichi Miyazato Sensei succeeded him as head of the Garden Dojo with Koshin Iha Sensei as his assistant.

JIN’AN  SHINZATO (1901-1945) : Was born on February 5, 1901. He started studying Karate under Chojun Miyagi Sensei in 1922 at the age of 21. He also studied Judo and earned a 4th Dan. Due to his dedication and hard work ethic, he eventually became Chojun Miyagi Sensei’s top student, assistant and chosen successor. He also taught Judo at the Okinawa Prefecture Technical High School. In 1939, on a recommendation from Miyagi Sensei, he received a Renshi title from the Dai Nihon Butoku Kai. Unfortunately Jin’an Shinzato Sensei was killed on March 31, 1945 during the Battle of Okinawa.

EI’ICHI  MIYAZATO (1922-1999): Miyazato Sensei was born in the City of Naha on July 5, 1922. His father Chojiro Miyazato was a former student of Kanryo Higaonna Sensei and was a friend of Chojun Miyagi Sensei. In 1936, his father began instructing him in Karate and eventually made introductions and requested Miyagi Sensei to accept him as a student in 1938. In the same year he also began studying Judo at the Ichu High School Judo Club. After he graduated from high school he became a police officer. During World War II he was drafted into the Japanese army. After Word War II, he returned to Okinawa and continued to study Karate under Chojun Miyagi Sensei and was the assistant instructor to Chojun Miyagi Sensei at the Garden Dojo, which was located at Miyagi Sensei’s house, and at the Police Academy. He also continued to practice Judo and eventually became All Okinawa Judo Champion and instructed Judo at the Police Academy and at Kadena Air Base. In 1953, after the death of Chojun Miyagi Sensei, Ei’ichi Miyazato Sensei succeeded Miyagi Sensei as head of the Garden Dojo. Koshin Iha Sensei was his assistant. He was also appointed to instruct Karate, Judo and arresting techniques at the Police Academy. In 1957, he established the Jundokan Dojo in the Asato district of Naha. He later founded the Okinawa Goju-Ryu Karate-Do Kyokai which eventually became a world wide organization. In 1988, he was appointed 10th Dan, Hanshi (master) in Goju-Ryu Karate-Do. He was also an 8th Dan in Judo. Ei’ichi Miyazato Sensei passed away on December 11, 1999. He was succeeded by Koshin Iha Sensei.

KOSHIN  IHA (1922 – ) : Koshin Iha was born in the City of Naha on November 24, 1925.  In 1939 he became a student of Chojun Miyagi Sensei. In 1953, after Miyagi Sensei’s death, he became the assistant to Ei’ichi Miyazato Sensei at the Garden Dojo and, in 1957, at the Jundokan Dojo. In 1969, he was appointed as Vice-President of the Okinawa Goju-Ryu Karate-Do Kyokai.In 1999, after the death of Ei’ichi Miyazato Sensei, he succeeded Miyazato Sensei as head of the Jundokan Dojo and became Chairman of the Okinawa Goju-Ryu Karate-Do Kyokai.In 2000, he was recognized as an Intangible Cultural Asset holder in the field of Okinawan Karate and Martial Arts with Weaponry by the Okinawa Prefecture Government.In April 2004, Koshin Iha Sensei retired from active teaching of Goju-Ryu Karate-Do and as Chairman of Okinawa Goju Ryu Karate do Kyokai.


Chojun Miyagi

Eiichi Miyazato

The oldest student of Miyagi Chojun Sensei, Shinzato Jin’an Sensei, once offered a kata exhibition at the tournament of every Japanese martial art. It was presented as part of the Hirohito coronation ceremony in 1930. After the exhibition, a kobudo master (traditional martial arts) asked Shinzato Sensei which karate school he belonged to. Shinzato Sensei was unable to answer the question due to the fact that there was no need for a name for each style of karate at the time. When Sensei returned to Okinawa, he told Miyagi Sensei of his encounter. Miyagi Sensei considered the problem for a time. Finally, he decided that it was necessary to give his style of martial arts a name in order to promote and spread it, as well as to cooperate with other schools of Japanese martial arts.

He called his art Goju-Ryu, which means ‘hard and soft’, following the eight laws of traditional Chinese Kempo, which can be found in the document titled “Bubishi”.


Goju-Ryu Karate-Do is a dynamic and diverse art. It consists of hand techniques (punches, strikes and blocks), foot techniques (kicks, stances and footwork), Chinese fast wrestling techniques (grabbing, throwing, takedowns, etc.) and Chin Na (seize and control) techniques (joint locks, pressure points, choke holds, etc.). It also incorporates a variety of ancient Chinese training implements which strengthens and tones the body. Although Goju-Ryu Karate-Do develops self-defence skills and physical fitness (flexibility, cardio and strength) its primary goal is the development of character.


Okinawa Goju Ryu Karate – Doh is a blend of Chinese soft and flowing dynamics of White Crane Kung Fu (from the Fukien Province in China), and the powerful and destructive techniques of Okinawan Kempo (way of the fist). Goju Ryu Karate-Doh literally means “The Way of the Half Hard , Half Soft System of Empty Hands”. Goju Ryu was developed by Miyagi Chojun O’ Sensei (1888 – 1953).