Goju-ryu - Technical Details

Miyagi Chojun Sensei chose the name Goju-ryu from the 'Eight Precepts' of traditional Chinese Kempo found in the document 'Bubishi' and these are as follows:

  • The mind is one with Heaven and earth.
  • The circulatory rhythm of the body is similar to the cycle of the sun and the moon.
  • The way of inhaling and exhaling is hardness and softness.
  • Act in accordance with time and change.
  • Techniques will occur in the absence of conscious thought.
  • The feet must advance and retreat, separate and meet.
  • The eyes do not miss even the slightest change.
  • The ears listen well in all directions.

These eight precepts are the essence of the martial arts and are the elements one strives to achieve in training Goju-ryu Karate-do.
Goju-ryu combines hard striking attacks like kicks and punches with softer circular techniques for blocking and controlling the opponent, including locks, grappling, takedowns and throws. Goju-ryu’s specialty is in fighting or close-quarter combat. Major emphasis is given to breathing correctly. Goju-ryu is one of very few Karate styles that practice methods of which include body strengthening and conditioning, its basic approach to fighting (distance, power generation, etc.) and its partner drills. Goju-ryu incorporates both circular and linear movements into its curriculum.

Okinawan Goju-ryu Kata
A Kata is a set of pre-arranged movements that simulate a fight. Each movement can be interpreted as a different technique and its application. They serve as the basis upon which Goju-ryu is taught.
The practice of Kata itself provides the practitioner with a sense of structure and possibilities to use in a real fight. Bunkai, on the other hand, is the analysis or interpretation of Kata movements. Techniques within techniques are revealed through constant practice of Kata and Bunkai. The Kata taught in Goju-ryu are rather traditional and are emphasised more than actual Kumite (or free sparring). This emphasis in Kata is also an emphasis in Bunkai, the actual self-defence application of the Kata movements. The self-defence approach explains why Gojo-ryu does not emphasise free sparring and its limiting rules.

Gekisai Dai Ichi (To destroy introduction number 1)
Created in 1940 by Miyagi Sensei to popularise Goju-ryu within Okinawan high schools. The Kata finishes with a step forward and it is said that this is an analogy to the country moving forward (the Kata was created during the time that Japan was at war).
The Gekisai Kata [Gekisai Dai Ichi and Gekisai Dai Ni] are usually first taught at yellow to green belt. Gekisai Kata integrates kicking with blocks, strikes, and punches. It introduces the use of tensho technique, how to move in eight directions, side-stepping, back-stepping, and the use of the cat stance. In some schools there are now three versions of this Kata, Gekisai Dai Ichi, Gekisai Dai Ni and Gekisai Dai San. Gekisai Dai Ni incorporates slightly "softer" techniques, although it follows a similar pattern to that of Gekisai Dai Ichi. Gekisai Dai Ni involves the use of techniques of higher difficulty (especially open-handed techniques), thus making it applicable to only blue, brown and black belts in some schools.

Gekisai Dai Ni (To destroy introduction number 2)
This Kata was created at the same time as Gekisai Dai Ichi. It introduces open hand techniques and Neko-ashi movements, an important feature of many advanced Goju-ryu Kata.

Saifa (To destroy by pounding/pulverising)
Saifa utilises Tai-sabaki (Body Shifting) and many escape techniques.

Seiyunchin (Grasping, pulling, unbalancing)
Seiyunchin is unusual in that it does not employ any kicking techniques. It contains several escape techniques.

Shisochin (To destroy in 4 directions)
This Kata is said to have been the favourite of Miyagi Sensei in his later years. The Kata employs joint locking and close quarter fighting techniques.

Sanseru (36 hands or movements)
Sanseru employs many entry, joint attacks and defences against kicking attacks.

Seipai (18 hands or movements)
Seipai uses many movements that require co-ordination between the hips and hands. It contains many varied techniques.

Kururunfa (Holding on long and striking suddenly)
Kururunfa employs a great deal of Neko-ashi movements and in-fighting techniques.

Sesan (13 hands or movements)
Sesan contains many unusual techniques and demonstrates the difference between Go (Hard) and Ju (Soft) A different version is practised in Shotokan (Hangetsu) and in Wado-ryu (Seishan).

Suparimpei (108 hands or movements)
This is the most advanced and intricate Kata of the Goju-ryu.

Sanchin (3 battles)
The name Sanchin or 3 battles refers to the conflict between mind, body and spirit during the practice of this Kata. There are two versions of Sanchin, Higaonna Kanyro Sanchin and the version developed by Miyagi Sensei. Sanchin Kata is the foundation to all other Goju Kata, it is also the foundation of body conditioning.

Tensho (Rotating palms)
Miyagi Sensei developed this Kata from his research in Fuzhou, southern China during the period 1917 to 1921. It is also known as Rokkishu.

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