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Karate-Do, Kobudo & Okinawa:
Many people believe that Karate has strict Japanese origins. In fact, Karate originated on Okinawa long before it was part of Japan. Over years through the trading networks that Okinawa shared with China, many forms and parts of Kung-Fu, (also known as Gung-Fu or Quan-Fu), found their way to Okinawa. As time passed the teaching of the island diverged from the Chinese teachings and became known as “Okinawa Fist”.
Rulers changed and Okinawa was taken over by Japan. This begins the history of modern Karate. Eventually Okinawa Fist became the official Martial Arts of the Okinawan police force. Around this time, weapons were banned from use on the Island. This is where many believe the meaning of Karate is rooted. When translated, “Kara-Te-Do” means “Empty-Hand-Way”. Farmers also developed a way to defend themselves from Samurai that would try to raid small fishing villages with swords, bows and spears. Because weapons were banned they used farming tools. This became known as “Kobu-Do” and included such tools as the Sai, Tongfa, Jo, Oar, Kama and Bo.
Karate developed into three different stylesa: Naha-Te, Shuri-Te and Tomari-Te. These styles were named after both the village they originated and the family that developed them.
Modern Karate was not formally established in Japan until 1922. Prior to this it was not widely practiced on the mainland. It was brought from the Island by Gichin Funakoshi who began to formalize it. At this point it was gaining popularity and school began teaching it as part of the curriculum. After World War 2 many North Americans who were stationed in Japan brought it to America, England, Canada and many other parts of the West where it has grown in popularity. It is now one of the most practiced Martial Arts in the world.
This is the style of Karate practiced at Bell’s Martial Arts. “Go-Ju-Ryu” translates to mean “Hard-Soft-Style”. It incorporates hard linear strikes as well as circular deflections from Naha-Te, Shuri-Te as well as Tomari-Te. This style has a heavy emphasis on breathing, rooting and conditioning. An old Goju saying is “Sweat in the Dojo so you don’t bleed outside”. But most importantly it centers on balance. A central idea is that the hard and the soft have to work in tandem. It originates from Okinawa and was developed and establish by Miyagi Chojun. He was Goju-Ryu’s founder.
Much of Goju-Ryus style and philosophy was influenced by oldest instructor Kanryo
Higashionna. Higashionna was one of the first on Okinawa to merge soft and hard ideas together. He was trained in not only Whooping Crane Kung-Fu but also Monk Fist Boxing. These two styles having opposing hard soft philosophies. Through his training Miyagi was also introduced to the “Bubishi”, and ancient text passed from
instructor to student for generation. In fact the Name “Goju” comes from a line in a poem from the text. It reads “Ho wa Gōjū wa Donto su” meaning “the way of inhaling and exhaling is hardness and softness,” or “everything in the universe inhales soft and exhales hard.”
The concept of Goju is meant not only to apply to the practice of Karate but to life as well. Being all hard or all soft all the time will only allow a person to deal effectively with life half the time. One must find balance and know when to use each side of them self. Goju’s symbol of the fist shows this philosophy. Notice how it is half open and half closed. The fist was introduced by
The “Forms” or “Kata” practiced in Goju-Ryu reflect this. Not only will you see strikes and hits, but deflections, circular movements as well as joint manipulations, locks, holds and take downs.
The symbol of Goju-Ryu is a fist. You can see the original at the top of the section. It has Kanji that say “Goju-Ryu, Karate-Do’ or “Hard Soft Style, Empty Hand Way”. The fist is depicted as being half open and half closed to show this. The fist belongs to Gogen Yamaguchi. He and Chojun Miyagi made the fist Gojus symbol in the 1930s.
Goju-Ryu was formally recognized as a style of Budo in Japan in 1933 by the Dai Nippon Butoku-Kai. In 1998 Goju-Ryu was also accepted as an ancient form of Martial Arts. Until that year, only Martial Arts developed on main land Japan and practiced by Samurai were considered ancient Martial Arts but the Butoku-Kai.