The general public´s perception of karate is often hyper-inflated as a result of the sensational press, television and movie attention our martial art attracts. Karate, (the name being a combination of two Japanese Kanji characters "Kara" and "Te" literally meaning "Empty" and "hands"). It comprises of an unarmed combat system wherein the body as a whole is trained and developed, along with deliberate mental toughening to develop aspects such as tenacity, will-power, concentration and self discipline.
If one goes back to the late part of the 19th century in Japan, each martial art would be taught under a strict regime by a revered master to a select few of his chosen students. The teaching methods all shared a common lineage traceable back to the Shaolin monks of China, but over the centuries each master had developed regional differences that defined their particular style. "Karate" as a name for a martial art is credited as arising from the island of Okinawa in the early part of the 20th Century. The liberalisation of Japanese culture allowed the martial art masters of this time to travel more freely and it was inevitable that they should start forming alliances that would begin the process of consolidating the many different styles into just the handful of authentic traditional variants that come under the generic umbrella term of karate we recognise today, namely:
Goju Ryu - Chojun Miyagi Sensei
Shorin Ryu - Sokon Matsumura
Uechi Ryu - Uechi Kanbun Sensei
Shotokan - Gichin Funakoshi Sensei
Wado Ryu - Hironori Otsuka Sensei
Shito Ryu - Kenwa Mabuni Sensei
This list is not exhaustive, and it will vary according to the historical perspective one starts from. If you spend a few hours researching the origins of Karate on the Internet, one will quickly discover there are a surprising number of different martial art styles, often claiming direct lineage to a particular Japanese or Okinawan teacher who founded that particular style in the last few hundred years.
Goju Ryu is one such style and we can trace its origins back to the teachings of the founding master, Chojun Miyagi Sensei, who was born in 1888. In an age where change and rapid technological development is the norm, it is strange to think that someone studying Goju Ryu karate today can be fairly confident they are being taught the same effective fighting system and value-set of an Okinawan master who lived in the last century. It should be remembered that Chojun Miyagi Sensei´s own fighting skills would have been taught to him by a line of masters who preceded him … probably going back to the Chinese Shaolin monks who are credited with starting the process in the Far East.
The only difference with Chojun Miyagi Sensei is that he lived at a time of significant social change in Japan, not least of which was the profound change brought about by the presence of the occupying forces after the Second World War. During this time a lot of service men rotated through Japan and when they returned home they brought back with them some of the Japanese culture they had experienced. This naturally included all of the Japanese and Okinawan martial arts. In one short decade, Goju Ryu went from a very secular martial art being taught in Japan, to a world wide phenomenon that is still growing today.
Many attribute the continuing success of Goju Ryu to the fact the style has stuck true to the original methods of teaching karate. This is an important consideration at a time when so many other styles have lost their way and foundered after the initial worldwide expansion of the 1950´s. A martial art always needs new students to thrive and prosper. Students tend to recognise when a martial arts instructor has compromised his or her standards and succumbed to commercial pressures or the desire to convert a fighting system into a tame sport. The corruption is easily recognised and not surprisingly students drift away to other styles that fulfil their expectations of a more complete and effective martial art.