Karate was born when peace, the heart of the Okinawan people, was incorporated with the spirit of Zen as embodied in Chinese Shorin Temple boxing. Its aim, therefore, is completely different from any other martial art. Whereas the chief aim of all other martial arts is killing and wounding as many opponents as possible, karate's primary concern is simply self-defense. Of course, defense and offense cannot exist without each other. Consequently, training in superior defensive techniques necessitates training in superior offensive techniques.
Now, the growing interest in karate results not from the excellence of its technique or the Oriental mystique; rather, the interest stems from an ever-increasing appreciation for the spirit of Zen Buddhism and the Okinawan spirit of peace.
History of Okinawan Karate-Do
Okinawa, an island country with few natural resources to support its large population, has historically imposed great physical and political hardship on its inhabitants. In spite of this, the people maintained an indomitable will to survive. When unprovoked persecution and hostility greeted them, these basically peace-loving people drew on their inherent martial arts spirit. They then fought weaponless against armed opponents, using only their bare hands in a self-defense method called karate-jutsu. Their hands and feet, normally occupied with nonviolent activities, became, in themselves, weapons through the use of these techniques. The technique called shuto (chop), still in use today, is a vestige of those early times when hands first functioned as swords.
Though much of their defense was unarmed, the Okinawans occasionally used weapons against armed opponents. These weapons included the nunchaku, a neck of stringed instruments used as a wooden sword, and reels which were through as missiles. Perhaps the prohibition of weapons by Lord Shoshin in 1488 and the famous battle of Keicho in 1609 were factors in the development of these karate weapons. In the battle of Keicho, the people of Shuri City, lacking weapons utilized instruments of daily life. The nunchaku began as a horse bridle or wagon shaft, tonfa came from a potato digger or crop grinder, and timbei came from a pot cover.
Some have argued that development of Okinawan Karate techniques resulted from the use of these weapons, particularly at the battle of Keicho. This, however, was not the case. Karate techniques facilitated use of these weapons, not vice versa, and presupposed their utilization at the battle of Keicho. In fact, deprivation of the right to bear arms stimulated the development of karate-do in Okinawa
The Development of Modern Karate-Do
In the beginning, karate was simply called tee (hand). When, in the late 1800's, tee was incorporated in Okinawan junior high school physical training programs, it was given the name karate (empty hand) to distinguish it from todee (Chinese hand), a form of tee introduced from China. Literally, karate means "bare hands and naked fists."
The two original styles of karate, developed in the regions of Shuri-Tomari and Naha, were called Shuri-te and Naha-te, respectively. Many karate masters contributed to these styles but the two considered the fathers of modern karate are Master Anko Itosu of Shuri-te and Master Kanryo Higashionna of Naha-te. They are often called the matchless twin-stars. IN the early 1900's, Master Itosu introduced and taught karate as a regular course in the physical education programs of Hana normal and junior high schools. Master Higashionna did the same in the police schools and other junior high schools in Naha. In this manner, they carried karate from the fighting methods of the past to its modern stature as a martial art. The Shuri-te style of Master Itosu eventually became Shorin-Ryu, while Master Higashionna, using Shuri-te as his point of departure, eventually developed Naha-te, the predecessor of today's Goju-Ryu.
The Origin of Goju-Ryu
Although his study of Shuri-te began during his childhood, as a young man, Master Higashionna also traveled to China where he took instruction in Chinese boxing. When he finally returned to Okinawa, he began combining the stronger elements of tee with what he had learned in China. the result was a new martial art form, informally called Naha-te, more suited to the needs of his country
When, in 1929, delegates assembled in Kyoto for a national martial arts convention, Master Higashionna asked Master Chojun Miyagi, his most respected student, to represent him. Master Miyagi, however, was also unable to attend so he, in turn, appointed one of his pupils, Mr. Shinsato, as his replacement.
Martial artists from schools with impressive names flooded the convention. Mr. Shinsato, though, had no ready reply when asked the name of his style. Admitting his style had no formal name would damage the reputation of Naha-te and lower him to mere amateur status in the eyes of his fellow martial artists. Having no choice at all, then, Mr. Shinsato groped for an impromptu name and dubbed his style, hanko-ryu (half-hard style).
When Mr. Shinsato returned to Master Miyagi, he told him of the hastily chosen name. The master, finding quite reasonable, quoted from the Chinese Eight Poems of the Fists: "Everything in the universe is breathing hard and soft . . . ," and so Naha-te formally took the name of Goju-Ryu.
Goju applies to society and karate alike. Only hardness or only softness creates an inability to deal effectively with the fluctuations of life. Courtesy is a small example of this. Its use can soften an otherwise hard transaction. In karate, too, hardness and softness combine in successful techniques. When preparing to block, the body is soft and inhaling. When attacking or punching, it becomes hard and exhaling. This existence of both hard and soft characterizes Goju-Ryu karate..
Karate's Mission and Aim