Official Website for USA Goju Karate - Winter Haven - Florida
210 Cypress Gardens Boulevard, Winter Haven, FL
33884 ● 863-604-7455
Updated 4/29/2017 11:56:45 PM
karate is a world-wide sport and it is always best to look within
the history and lineage of the art so that the true spirit of
karate-do can be conveyed to our students and to future generations.
As karate has spread and
developed as a sport it has become a greater challenge for us as
teachers to see that our art is taught properly so as to preserve
the true spirit of the martial arts.
has often been said that to understand the future is to understand
the past. It is with that
frame of mind, understanding our history; honoring our founders and
preserving our Kata that we can best preserve and promote the true
spirit of the martial arts.
This writing is intended to be a history of
the USA Goju Karate Organization under the direction of Master,
William A. Liquori.
with Okinawa and following the migration of the art to Japan, then
to the United States and eventually to Orlando, Florida where Master
Liquori’s main dojo was located.
What is Goju?
(Japanese for "hard-soft style") is one of the main traditional
Okinawan styles of
featuring a combination of
hard and soft
which means hard, refers to closed hand techniques such as punching
and kicks and linear movements;
Ju which means soft
refers to circular techniques for blocking and controlling the
opponent, including locks, grappling, takedowns and throws.
Major emphasis is given to breathing correctly with deep breathing
from the stomach (hara). Goju-Ryu combines hard striking attacks
with softer open hand circular techniques.
Goju-Ryu was officially recognized as a
in Japan by Dai
Nippon Butoku Kai
in 1933, as a modern martial art, or
By 1998 the Dai Nippon
Butoku kai recognized Goju-ryu Karatedo as an ancient form of
martial art (koryu)
and as a
the 1300’s and the 1400’s trade and delegates were exchanges between
Okinawa and China.
Chinese delegates were masters of Chinese Kemp who taught their arts
to the Okinawa’s.
In 1477 the Sho dynasty came to power in Okinawa and the new
king Sho Shin banned the carrying of swords by everyone, and ordered
the confiscation of all weapons.
There was still a need for the population to learn how to
protect themselves so they continued to practice their art in great
secrecy. Japan invaded
Okinawa 1609 and the ban on weapons was reinstated.
Okinawa went on to become a
prefecture of Japan in 1879.
They referred to their art as Te meaning hand and over time
three different styles of Te developed in Okinawa that were simply
named after the city they lived in; Nahe-Te, Shuri-Te and Tomori-Te.
Eventually Te was replaced
with the name Karate meaning empty-hand.
Okinawa went on to become the
birth place of many styles of Karate such as: Goju-Ryu, Wado-Ryu,
Shito-Ryu and Shotokan.
March 10, 1853 – October 1916
Grandmaster Kanryo Higaonna was born on March
10, 1853, in Naha, the capital city of Okinawa. Master Kanryo
Higaonna helped his father in his work and with the physical labor
that was involved he developed a strong body.
began his study of Chinese Kempo at the age of sixteen, he learned
quickly, but longed to go to China to study the Chinese martial
Eventually he meets a Chinese statesman named Udon Yoshimura who
traveled to China often.
statesman then introduced him to the owner of a trading ship that
traveled to China.
the owner of the ship granted him passage to China.
November 1874 at the age of 22 Master Higaonna left the Naha port
and later arrived in Foocho, China.
He lived and worked in the settlement for a year before he
was introduced to a Kempo Master Ryu Ryu Ko Roshi.
Master Higaonna was not immediately accepted as a student. It was a
common practice in China that before a master accepted a student he
would have to study the discipline and character of the candidate.
As such, Master Higaonna was
given tasks of tending the garden and cleaning rooms.
After a long period Master
Higaonna was accepted as his personal disciple.
Master Higaonna spent fifteen years studying under Master Ryu Ryu Ko
Roshi and became "Uchi Deshi" (private disciple). By 1889, he
returned to Okinawa and Naha.
this point in time Te was no longer practiced in secret but was now
open to the public.
became the instructor of the royal family as well as the instructor
of the sons of Udon Yoshimura, the Chinese statesman who helped him
1905 Master Higaonna began teaching Karate at the Naha Commercial
High School and eventually his art became known as Naha-Te.
Master Higaonna became ill and passed away in the summer of 1916.
Master Kanryo Higaonna is known as the founder of Naha-Te.
He is considered one of the
earliest and foremost masters of Okinawa Karate and regarded as one
of the most influential Karate instructors in Okinawa history.
His most prominent and best student was Chojun
Miyagi, the founder of Goju-Ryu.
This Monument was dedicated to Master Kanro
Higaonna and Master Chojun Miyagi and is located
This Monument was dedicated to Master Kanro
Higaonna and Master Chojun Miyagi and is located
April 25, 1888 – October 8, 1953
Grandmaster Chojun Miyagi was born on April
25, 1888 and his family was in the import/export business, and owned
two ships, which made regular trips to China.
After fulfilling a host of chores (the traditional way of being
accepted as a student) he began training at the age of 14 in 1902
with Master Kanryo Higaonna.
training sessions were at night and even though the training was
harsh he had a great passion for karate.
Master Miyagi became "uchi deshi" (private disciple) of
Master Kanryo Higaonna.
studied with his teacher for 14 years before his teacher's death in
Master Chojun Miyagi became the successor to Naha-te and journeyed
to Foocho, China, in the Fukien province the same city where his
teacher had studied the martial arts, to further his research and to
discover the roots of Naha-te.
the old dojo had been destroyed during the war and Master Ryu Ryu Ko
Roshi had fled the city.
his return to Okinawa he began to teach the martial arts at his home
in Naha. Later, he also
taught at the Okinawan Prefecture Police Training Center, at the
Okinawan Master's Training College, and at the Naha Commercial High
School (where his teacher had once taught).
Master Chojun Miyagi worked hard to refine and popularize the art of
karate throughout Okinawa and mainland Japan, and to earn Naha-te a
status equal to that of the highly respected Japanese martial arts
such as Judo and Kendo.
1926, Miyagi Chojun Sensei established the Karate Research Club as a
means to unify Okinawa karate in order to preserve it as a cultural
treasure and as an inheritance of the Okinawa people.
He traveled frequently to
mainland Japan where he was invited to teach karate at Kyoto
University and Ritsumei Kan University.
By 1929 he went on to become
an instructor at the training center for the Okinawa Police
During the 1930’s, Miyagi Chojun Sensei actively developed and
promoted karate-do in Japan and throughout the world.
A Karate division was
established in the Okinawa Athletic Association and Sensei Miyagi
was appointed the division chief.
1930, one of Master Chojun Miyagi's top students, Jin'an Shinzato
was attending a Martial Arts convention in Tokyo.
He was asked by numerous
martial arts masters what school of martial arts does he practice.
As Naha-te had no formal
name he could not answer this question.
Feeling his art would be
looked down upon and given amateur status; he quickly picked
Hankry-Ryu, which means the Way of Half Hard. On his return to
Okinawa he reported this incident to Master Chojun Miyagi.
He liked Shinzato’s idea and
took it one step further.
Miyagi eventually decided on the name 'Goju-Ryu' (hard and soft) as
a name for his style.
took this name from a line in the Bubishi (a classical Chinese text
on martial arts and other subjects).
In the text there is a line that reads "Ho Goju Donto" (the
way of inhaling and exhaling is hardness and softness).
1934, a Hawaiian newspaper company invited him to Hawaii in order to
introduce and populate karate in Hawaii.
He also traveled to
Shanghai, China, in 1936 for further study of Chinese martial arts
at the Western Physical Cultural Association.
He was also awarded a
commendation by the Butoku-kai for his study in this field in 1937.
out break of World War II brought great hardship to Master Miyagi
and during this time he had to stop teaching.
During this period he lost a
son and endured the devastations of war and poverty.
Master Chojun Miyagi had
chosen Jin'an Shinzato as his successor to the Goju School in
Okinawa however Shinzato was tragically killed during the war.
After the war he was faced with the challenges of rebuilding his
home, rebuilding his town of Naha, bringing his family together and
re-establishing his teachings.
several occasions during the line up for rations, he would give his
place to an old woman or man and start all over again at the end of
the line. It was during this
time that Okinawa karate spread rapidly throughout mainland Japan.
He was soon appointed to an
instructor position at the police academy.
Eight years after the end of the war Master Chojun Miyagi died on
October 8th, 1953, at the age of 65.
When Master Chojun Miyagi passed away he left behind his family, his
wife and children and a great legacy.
Naha's Central Police
buildings were rebuilt near the Butoku-den, which was torn down in
the late l980's.
bust of Master Chojun Miyagi was put up in the Butoku-den and was
moved to the Naha Police Headquarters in 1987.
January 20th, 1909-May 20th, 1989
Master Gogen Yamaguchi was born on
January 20th 1909.
training in Karate he trained in kendo (Japanese fencing).
Around the age of 13 in 1922
he started his karate training under Mr. Maruta, a carpenter from
Okinawa and a student of Master Chojun Miyagi.
Master Gogen Yamaguchi invited Master Miyagi to visit Japan in 1929
and it was after that meeting that Master Yamaguchi later studied
directly with Master Miyagi.
Master Yamaguchi entered into the Ritsumei Kan University in 1930 as
a law student and graduated in 1934.
He continued his Karate training during his college years
and also co-founded the Ritsumei-Kan Karate-do Kenkyu Kai, which was
the first University Karate club in western Japan.
After graduating for Ritsumei Kan University in Kyoto (1934)
continued his training and teaching of Goju-Ryu.
In those days karate men
practiced only Kata (formal movements) they were unable to have
matches between each other since they did not hold back their
techniques. It was during
this period thatMaster Yamaguchi established the rules for Jyu
Kumite (free fighting).
of the rules are still in use today in sport or competition karate.
In 1935 he officially formed the All Japan Goju Kai Karate-Do
Association (known today as the I.K.G.A.).
Also in 1935 Master
Yamaguchi began working for the Japanese Government as an
With the beginning of World War II he began his military tour in
Manchuria and Master Yamaguchi was captured by the Russian military
(1942) and sent to a concentration camp in Siberia.
He spent just over two years
as a prisoner of war under harsh condition and after the war ended
in 1945 he returned to Japan and re-open his Goju-Kai karate school.
The Goju-Kai headquarters was officially relocated to Tokyo,
Japan in 1950.
Prior to his death in 1953Master Chojun Miyagi chose Master Gogen
Yamaguchi to succeed him in Japan under the Goju-Kai school, and
instructed him to pass on Goju-Ryu to the next generation.
Master Yamaguchi also went on to practice Yoga, the principles of
Zen and the Shinto religion.
was known throughout the world for his long hair and feline
expressions, which gave him the nickname “The Cat”.
Master Yamaguchi enjoyed
practicing karate and meditation, spending long periods out doors
and practiced a spectacular form of meditation while sitting at the
foot of a waterfall.
During his long stays in the mountains he would worship the forces
of nature and his training was aimed at discovering original purity
and the state of enlightenment.
Given his strong religious sentiment he went on to found the
Karate-Shinto, where they assimilated the principles of Zen, karate,
yoga and Shinto.
Later in 1964 Master Yamaguchi went on to form the All Japan Karate
Federation, which is still in existence today as the Japan Karate
decorated by the Emperor of Japan, in 1968, with the Ranju-Hosho
(Blue Ribbon Medal) and the Fifth Order of Merit for his
contributions to the Martial arts.
Master Yamaguchi also traveled to Australia in 1970 and 1972
too further promote Goju-Kai.
Yamaguchi was one of the most influential figures of modern day
karate. He passed away on
May 20, 1989 and is still revered today for his contributions to the
martial arts as well as his teachings and promotion of GoJu-Kai.
August 14, 1934 - April 7, 2004
Peter George Urban was born August 14, 1934 in Jersey City, New
Jersey but was raised and educated in Union City, New Jersey.
After graduating from
Emerson High School in 1952 he joined the United States Navy, and
was later stationed in Yokohama, Japan.
He began his training in the
martial arts in 1953 under Richard Kim. However, in 1954 he was
transferred to Tokyo, Japan and due to the great distance he was
unable to train with Sensei Kim.
it was through Sensei Kim that he was introduced and later began
training with Master Gogen Yamaguchi.
During that same year he was
also introduced to Master Masutatsu Oyama also of Tokyo, Japan.
Eventually he focused his training under Master Yamaguchi.
This period was shortly
after World War II and it was not uncommon for Master Urban to
suffer the prejudice of his classmates who saw their country
devastated by the very military in which he served.
As an American, he was
known to his classmates as gaigeen (the Japanese word for foreigner)
or round eye.
While still in the Navy Master Urban opened his first dojo in
1956 and began training the 212th MP who were also
stationed in Tokyo, Japan.
he was the first American to compete in the All Japan College Karate
was again chosen to compete by Master Yamaguchi in 1958, this time
at Chuo University where he fought the captain of the Chuo
University Karate team.
in that same year he married a Japanese woman named Meiko Ito.
time in the military was coming to an end in 1959 and he returned to
the United States after he was discharged from the Navy.
In that same year he opened
his first American dojo on 14th Street and Summit Avenue
in Union City, NJ.
grew and in 1960 he opened his second dojo on 17th street
in Manhattan, NY.
During this time Master Urban slept during the day and taught
classes and trained at night.
Manhattan Dojo was located on the second floor and the students
would enter through the stairs.
Urban entered through the elevator.
As he approached he would ring a gong to signal his arrival
and the students would line up to begin class.
When class was over he would dismiss the class by ringing
the gong and exit via the elevator.
After class the black belts were expected to listen to
lecture tapes that lasted 30-40 minutes and the tap machine was
behind a small stage with a curtain.
He went on to
establish structured tournaments in America, one of the first of
those being the North American
Karate Championships in 1962, held at
Madison Square Garden.
only child Julia was born in February 1963
and in 1964 he returned to Japan for further study and re-search.
Master Urban’s greatest accomplishment came when he published
his first book, The Karate Dojo, Tails and Traditions of A
Martial Art” in 1965.
these years he also went on to become president of New York City
Metropolitan Karate Society the Eastern Director of the Butokukai
Martial Arts Organization, and System Chief, Midwest Goju Karate
Master Urban believed that America deserved its own style of
Goju just as Japan had established its own style from Okinawa.
With that belief he traveled
back to Japan in 1966 to ask Sensei Yamaguchi for permission to
proceed with his plans. However, Master Yamaguchi told him no
stating that according to Bushi-Do that no white man can achieve
nirvana. This response
angered Master Urban who also quoted Bushi-do and relayed that
according to Bushi-do Japan can never lose a war.
An angry Yamaguchi and a
dejected Master Urban, they parted company.
Master Yamaguchi explained
that he would not change his position and Master Urban thanked
Master Yamaguchi relaying that he had been a great teacher.
Upon his return to the States Master Urban announced that he
would sever his ties with Goju Kai and would found the U.S.A. GoJu
He continued to
work under Master Richard Kim and the Butokukai but later went on to
form the U.S.A Goju Association (U.S.A.G.A) which is still in
Eventually he moved his Manhattan dojo to his now famous
Chinatown dojo in 1967 located at 232 Canal Street, New York City.
Also known as the Shanghai
Dojo, this was a bold move given that an American Sensei was
establishing an American dojo that was open to the public in the
heart of Chinatown surrounded by the Kung Fu masters.
Master Urban embraced changed and encouraged his senior
students to break off and form their own systems.
To this end Master Urban was
quoted as saying,
the evolution of the art.
change there is no progress, no development.
Change, by definition is
progress; I take great pleasure in knowing that changes are being
made, in seeing the many minds making those changes in Goju”.
If establishing Goju in America was not enough he made his
first trip to Europe in 1977 and established USA Goju in Italy and
again in 1978 he traveled back to Padova, Italy to teach and promote
tragedy struck in 1979 when his wife Meiko passed away.
received many awards during his life-time including the Presidential
Sports Award on May 9, 1997 signed by President Bill Clinton.
One of the last awards
bestowed upon Master Urban came in 2003 when Black Belt Magazine
Hall of Fame named him “Man of the Year” Master Urban later passed
away on April 7, 2004 leaving behind a lasting legacy with his many
students for years to come and is widely regarded as the father of
American Goju Karate.
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