Friday, 31 October 2014

Dojo Closed for Culture Day

The Gojuryu Karatedo Yoyogi Ryushinkan Dojo is closed November 3 for Culture Day (文化の日), a national holiday in Japan.  The holiday originally celebrated the birthday of the Emperor Meiji, who was born on this date in 1858.  The national holiday was reintroduced in 1948 to commemorate the post-war constitution established by the occupying US forces, which is still an issue of debate even today.

With the Dojo closed, students should at the least do some stretching and practice sanchin kata.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Website Difficulties

The website of the Gojuryu Karatedo Yoyogi Ryushinkan Dojo is experiencing technical difficulties and not currently available.  We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and hope to have more details in the future.  In the meantime, I will continue to provide information, updates and comments through this personal blog.

Autumn Shibuya Tournament

Karateka from the Gojuryu Karatedo Yoyogi Ryushinkan Dojo will participate at the Shibuya Autumn Tournament on Sunday, October 26. The tournament is open to all dojos in the Shibuya area, so there are many different styles on show, with competitors coming from school and university clubs as well as regular “machi” dojos.  Unlike the spring tournament, which features additional "master" and "senior" categories for older participants, the autumn event format is limited to kata and kumite for children or adults.  

The tournament is held at the Shibuya City Sports Center at 1-40-18, Nishihara The center is 6 minutes from Hatagaya station on the Keio New Line, and 15 minutes from Yoyogi-Uehara Station on the Odakyu Line.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014


Shikodachi is a stance seen in sumo wrestling, and appears in many of the Gojuryu kata.  It is used for pulling opponents down or off balance, as seen in saifa and seiunchin. It's also ideal for getting beneath an opponent's guard to deliver strikes, whilst minimizing body exposure. Shikodachi is one of the lowest stances and it requires a lot of practice and endurance to develop a strong and stable stance.

Key points to observe for shikodachi are:
  • The feet should be at the same angle to each other as in musubidachi - around 90 degrees; any wider and the stance will not be stable
  • Weight should be evenly distributed between the legs
  • Knees should be bent almost to a right angle (leave a very slight slope down from the thigh to the knee) with the knees turned outwards and the inner thighs rotated upwards
  • Looked at side on, the top of the head, shoulders, hips, knees and feet should be vertically aligned with one another
Here is a helpful diagram for the feet positions, center of gravity, etc (it is available with further detailed explanations at this website);

Friday, 17 October 2014

Circular Movement

As symbolized in the mark of the Gojuryu Karatedo Yoyogi Ryushinkan Dojo (shown below), one of the outstanding features of this style of karate is its use of circular movement, especially when blocking. As this site puts it: 

The martial art of Okinawan Goju-ryu as developed by Chojun Miyagi is a true combat art, not at all suited to modern day sport karate competition. Goju-ryu is a counter-attacking system based on a synthesis of hard linear type techniques with softer circular movements. Goju-ryu’s circular blocking actions and evasive body movements not only deflect and/or absorb an opponent’s energy, but serve to wind up the body like a spring in order to unleash the art’s explosive counter-attacks.  

For example, when an opponent starts an attack, a circular movement can be used to forestall the blow, depriving the opponent of his or her power.  If a punch is fast but not very powerful, it is possible to block it directly with a straight movement. But it is much more difficult, if not impossible, to block a fast and powerful punch directly. Therefore, such a punch must be blocked or diverted with a circular movement. This may include rotation of the wrists and forearm as well as the hips in order to deflect the attack. The feet, too, are moved in a circular (or elliptical), sliding motion, whether moving forward or backward.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Dojo Closed for Health and Sports Day

The Gojuryu Karatedo Yoyogi Ryushinkan Dojo is closed October 13 for Health and Sports Day (体育の日), a national holiday in Japan.  The holiday was introduced in 1966 to commemorate the first Tokyo Olympic games held 50 years ago, and now takes place on the second Monday of October.

With the Dojo closed, it is recommended that students at least practice some warming-up stretches and loosening exercises at home, and then run through sanchin kata three or more times, initially focusing on posture and form, then abdominal muscle tension and breathing, and finally performing the kata at full strength.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Goju Ryu Kata

The kata taught and practiced at the Gojuryu Karatedo Yoyogi Ryushinkan Dojo are as shown. Sanchin kata is listed as kihon, or the fundamental kata.  The “kaishu kata” (applications) are

Gekisai Dai Ichi
Gekisai Dai Ni
Seiunchin (or Seiyunchin)

Tensho, the “soft” counterpart to sanchin kata, is listed at the end.

For beginners, fukyugata (or “no grade” kata) can also be taught. According to Wikipedia:
“In 1940, Hayakawa, governor of Okinawa, assembled the Karate-Do Special Committee, composed by Ishihara Shochoku (chairman), Miyagi Chojun, Kamiya Jinsei, Shinzato Jinan, Miyasato Koji, Tokuda Anbun, Kinjo Kensei, Kyan Shinei, and Nagamine Shoshin. The goal was to create a series of Okinawan kata to teach physical education and very basic Okinawan 'independent style' martial arts to school children. This type of kata is not traditional Gōjū-ryū kata, [but] "promotional kata," simple enough to be taught as part of physical education programs at schools and part of a standardized karate syllabus for schools, independent of the sensei's style.

Nagamine Shoshin (Matsubayashi Shorin-Ryū) developed fukyugata dai ichi, which is part of current Matsubayashi Shorin Ryu syllabus; Miyagi Chojun developed fukyugata dai ni, which is part of current Gōjū-ryū syllabus under the name gekisai dai ichi. Some Gōjū-ryū dojos still practice fukyugata dai ichi."

Note 1: Seiunchin is generally considered the initial kata for black belt level and is thus taught to brown belts (2nd and 1st kyu).  Gekisai Dai Ichi, Gekisai Dai Ni and Saifa are taught to white, yellow and green belts (9th through 3rd kyu).
Note 1: Gekisai Dai Ichi and Gekisai Dai Ni are also referred to as Gekisai Ichi and Gekisai Ni.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

The Naming and Philosophy of Goju Ryu

In 1930, Shinzato Jin'an, a student of Miyagi Chojun, the founder of Goju Ryu, gave a demonstration of kata at an All-Japan Martial Arts Tournament celebrating the emperor's coronation. When a master of kobudo (traditional martial arts) asked him the name of his karate style, he was unable to answer, for at that time there was still no need to have names for the various "schools" in Okinawa. When Miyagi Chojun heard about this, he decided that a name would be beneficial in order better to promulgate his style of karate throughout the world.  He chose the name Goju Ryu, meaning "hard and soft," based upon the "Eight Precepts" of traditional kempo (or kung fu) and which are found in the Bubishi, the classic Chinese work on philosophy, strategy, medicine, and technique as they relate to the martial arts. (For more, see here)

The Eight Precepts in Chinese (right to left)
The eight precepts are:
  1. The mind is one with heaven and earth.
  2. The circulatory rhythm of the body is similar to the cycle of the sun and the moon.
  3. The way of inhaling and exhaling is hardness and softness.
  4. Act in accordance with time and change.
  5. Techniques will occur in the absence of conscious thought.
  6. The feet must advance and retreat, separate and meet.
  7. The eyes do not miss even the slightest change (see the unseen) .
  8. The ears listen well in all directions (expect the unexpected).

Based on these precepts, I think it is important to see that the cyclical unity of opposites is not limited to hard and soft alone, but extends to in and out, strength and suppleness, motion and stillness, advance and retreat, seen and unseen, and so on.  This reconciliation of opposites has a common expression in oriental philosophy as Yin and Yang.  For more on this idea, listen to philosopher Alan Watts here

Friday, 3 October 2014

The Power of Goju-Ryu Karate

The power of hard and soft, strength and suppleness, speed and steadfastness.