Gōjū-ryū, Japanese for “hard-soft style,” is one of the main traditional Okinawan styles of karate, featuring a combination of hard and soft techniques. Both principles, hard and soft, come from the famous martial arts book used by Okinawan masters during the 19th and 20th centuries, the Bubishi Gō, which means hard, refers to closed hand techniques or straight linear attacks; jū, which means soft, refers to open hand techniques and circular movements. Gōjū-ryū incorporates both circular and linear movements into its curriculum, combining hard striking attacks such as kicks and close hand punches with softer open hand circular techniques for attacking, blocking, and controlling the opponent, including locks, grappling, takedowns and throws.
Major emphasis is given to breathing correctly in all of the katas but particularly in the Sanchin kata which is one of two core katas of this style. The second kata is called Tensho, meant to teach the student about the soft style of the system. Gōjū-ryū practices methods that include body strengthening and conditioning, its basic approach to fighting (distance, stickiness, power generation, etc.), and partner drills.
In 1933 the Japanese Government officially recognised Go-Ju as a modern martial art.
Later in 1998 the Nippon Kobudo Kyokai (NKK, Japan’s Traditional Martial Arts Association) formally recognised Gōjū-ryū Karate-do as an ancient form of traditional martial art (koryū) and as a bujutsu. Until 1998, the only karate styles recognized as Koryū Bujutsu were newer styles founded in mainland Japan.
The founder of the style, Chojun Miyagi, believed that “the ultimate aim of karate-do was to build character, conquer human misery, and find spiritual freedom”. He often said “There is no first strike in Karate!” Miyagi chose the name Gōjū-ryū, to emphasize that his style integrated both “hard” and “soft” styles. Goju applies not just to karate, but to life in general; only hardness or only softness will not enable one “to deal effectively with the fluctuations of life”. When blocking, “the body is soft and inhaling”; when striking, the body is “hard and exhaling”