The Theory of Goju-Ryu Karate

The name of Goju was developed from an ancient Chinese Classic on martial arts called “Bu-bi-shi”. It is the combination of ‘Go’ (stiffness or strength) and “Ju” (softness or flexibility).

Chojun Miyagi (1888-1953) - Founder of Goju-Ryu Karate

The fundamental forms of Goju are considered to be Sanchin and Tensho since they demonstrate “Go” and “Ju”. During the performance of Sanchin, every muscle of the body is fully strained. There is no unguarded point and the form is full of fighting spirit. This is the typical form of “Go”.

Tensho, however, does not disclose the fighting spirit; rather, it surges up out of the inside and shows the slow curved movement, as if it is waiting for the instant of the explosion hidden deep within the body. This is “Ju”.

There should be freedom and ease of transition from “Go” to “Ju” and vice-versa. In this way, moving in accordance with an opponent’s movement, the secret or fundamental principle similar to the purpose of  Zen philosophy can be found.

Attacks of “Go” should be met and conquered with “Ju”. Those with “Ju” should be countered with “Go” to disable the opponent. This secret is clearly shown in Sanchin and Tensho.

Gogen Yamaguchi (1909-1989) - Founder of International Karate-dō Gōjū-Kai Association

Breath, body and mind are closely related; therefore, it is essential to have proper breathing techniques. Exponents of the Goju school use their unique breathing before and after practice. Concentrating all muscular strength at one point and by consciously adjusting the breath, the body is led physically and mentally into a desirable form.

In Goju, there are a number of forms with animal names such as dog, cat, crane, etc. Even the breathing is reminiscent of a lion’s roar. The adapting of animal postures gives an opponent no opportunity for attack and, at the same instant, concentrates the fighting power of the whole body and spirit. No uneasiness or worry is displayed since concentration is entirely devoted to fighting the opponent. This is the secret for success. The body must be free from all thoughts in order to fight and overcome the opponent.

Goju Karate is considered to be displaying the oldest martial arts traditions. It retains and incorporates the forms of animals and unique breathing, keeping primitive traditional forms of martial arts full of fighting spirit. The “Go” is coordinated with “Ju” to attain the highest form in fighting.

Just like the everlasting universe, in which “Go” (positive) and “Ju” (negative) is found in perfect harmony, Goju Karate incorporates the same principles for the attainment of  a splendid, harmonious and elegant spirit. Thus, this is the way of Goju Karate.