Goju-Ryu Karate-Do is a mixture of Chinese martial arts and traditional martial arts in Ryukyu, which is now known as Okinawa (about 500 years ago).
During the Ryukyu age, weapons were not allowed for any clvilians because of the government's policy. These peasants who developed martial arts called Te, fought with bare foot and bare hands. In the process of spreading over Ryukyu, different kinds of martial arts were created, such as Naha-te, Shuri-te, and other Styles.
Kanryo Higaonna (1852-1915 ) was still in his teens when his father died. At the age of 14, he began his formal training in Chinese Kempo with Seisho Arakaki (1840-1920), who had studied the Fukien style.
Kanryo decided he wanted to continue his studies in martial arts abroad and he set his heart on traveled to Fuzhou, China for this purpose. It is said that he visited the port city in 1873 for fifteen years. Some martial arts historians explain his motive for visiting the city was to study the Chinese Martial Arts. Higaonna did, in fact, study a Southern Shaolin Chaun style with Sifu (instructor) Liu Liu Gung and remained there for 15 years, during his stay in that city.
As explained by other historians, his initial reason for visiting China was the result of his political involvements. He arrived in Fuzhou in the year 1869, he was 15 or 16. It is believed that Higaonna Sensei also studied the styles of Hung Gar-Shaolin Chuan, hard style Chinese martial arts of Chi-Chi and/or I-Chi as well with another master named "Woo". He began his studies with Ryuruko in 1876 at the age of 23 in Fujian Province, China, and he remained there under the severe instruction of his teacher for approximately 13 years. After he came back to Ryukyu, he combined both techniques and created a new style called To-dei . This martial arts was the beginning of Karate.
During this transitional period of time when this matrial art was becoming more popular in mainland Japan, it was called "Karate Kempou" which meant Chinese Hand Fist System. Later during 1930s Japanese practitioners changed the written kanji characters to Kara-te. The first word means "empty", and the second word means "hand". Its implication is to symbolize a pair of bare hands in combat for the sake of self defense against the armed hands. However, it was a Japanese political attempt to transform the body of the art with metaphysical insinuation so that the name can eliminate its national identity.
Goju-Ryu which originated from Naha-te was established by Chojun Miyagi (1888-1953) who was a disciple of Kanryo Higaonna. At the age of 16, Chojun Miyagi went to China and studied Karate under many renowned Karate masters. He also studied theory and completed special breathing way called "Kisoku no Donto".
"Go" means "hard" and "ju" means "soft", thus idiom Goju suggests any variation of hard and soft aspect. As for a historical point of view a major body of system was imported from Fukien Province in China, which the system called itself one half hard and one soft style in Chinese. The system also called Fukien Crane Chuan which was branched school from Five Ancestor Chuan .
Karate-Do was named officially during the 1930's in mainland Japan. The interpretation of the word "Do" literally means "way" as for "a way of life". Traditionally, all the martial arts that were recognized among the field claimed their specific name of school or style in order to identify their lineage within the art. Unlike its custom, the art of Karate-Do in Okinawa thus started claim to its name of style such as Goju-Ryu and Shito-Ryu . The interpretation of the word "Ryu" literally means stream which indicates lineage of branch. Among the various styles of Karate originally practiced on the Okinawa island, Goju-Ryu is known as the earliest institute of Karate that named its school by its specific style.
In 1937, Gogen Yamaguchi , a student of Chojun Miyagi, promoted the school of Goju-Ryu Karate in Japan. In 1950, he founded the national organization of All Japan Karate-Do Goju-Kai in Tokyo, Japan.
Gogen Yamaguchi has developed what we call "modern Karate". From a technical point of view, he had unified all Karate exercise by employing an extremly well organized method.
As a result of the introduction of free-style sparring, the art of Karate had became a more active and popular art in Japan as well as in other parts of the world. Although he studied such martial arts as Judo, Kendo, Iaido, Jo-do, and Kusari -gama (art of chain) in his younger days, Karate had from the beginning captured most of his enthusiasm.