I've recently started stufdying Goju Ryu. I have some training and a black belt in a few other styles.

One of the things that I miss with some masters here is their lack of historical and philosophical knowledge of the discipline they teach. I'd like to read up on the techniques that I'm studying to place them in their historical context and to understand what the underlying philosophy is in doing things the way I am.

I'm on the lookout for some good books on the art that I can read and digest as I learn it. There are several ones on Amazon but I'm not sure which ones are really good and which are just fluff.

  • 1
    I'm voting to close this for a few reasons (although I had to pick one in the interface). First, this seems like it's too broad, encompassing the entire philosophy and history of a martial art. Secondly, asking for book recommendations kind of comes under our "shopping" prohibition. Normally, I'd suggest chat for such "discussion" questions, but the chat rooms tend to be very quiet here. Might be worth trying, though. "Open Roda" is our current "general discussion" room, although you're welcome to open a specialized one to discuss Karate. Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 11:33
  • Related meta question for on-topicness
    – mattm
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 12:39
  • If you edit your question to read something like who are the most influencial people in Goju Ryu history, I would like to answer.
    – JoSSte
    Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 4:20

2 Answers 2


There is one main source you can base your knowledge about the art on:

Higaonna, M. (2001). The History of Karate: Okinawan Goju-ryu. Dragon Books.

Morio Higaonna is the current epitome of Goju Ryu, head instructor for decades, the highest-ranking practitioner, and a third generation student, taught by the students of the style's founder, Chojun Miyagi. If anyone knows about the philosophy and core principles of Goju-ryu today, it is him. This book includes the core text written by the founder of Goju-ryu:

Miyagi, Chojun (1934). "Karate-Do Gaisetsu. Outline of Karate-Do"

He also wrote four volumes on the fundamental techniques and all aspects of the kata of Goju-ryu between 1985 and 1990, called Traditional Karate-do: Okinawa Goju Ryu.

Another (obviously authoritative) source is the following, written by Morio Higaonna's teacher (and thus a first-generation student of Goju-ryu, Miyagi's senior student) in 1978:

Miyazato, E. (1978): Okinawa Den Goju Ryu Karate-Do (link to full text)

If you are even more historically inclined, there is also

RAVIGNAT, M. (2004). The history of Goju-ryu karate: New ideas on Goju-ryu’s direct Chinese ancestors (link, pp. 6-10)


I hope that your sensei has told you a part of this.

This is in abbreviated form. Read it and use the names as cues to further reading.

The roots of martial arts

Bodhidharma (Daruma) in Japanese traveled from India to a monastery in what we call the shaolin district of China and was met with monks who were in no physical condition to sit and meditate for the eight hours they were supposed to be meditating each day. Bodhidharma studied different animals, and created a training regimen based on their movements, to improve the condition of the monks.

This is the root of Tai chi, chi gong, yoga, and Kung fu.

Okinawa connection

Higaonna Kanryu sensei went to (I believe) fushau district, where Ryu Ryu kyu taught him Kung fu, more specifically the white crane (and maybe a little tiger) style.

The katas from saifa and onwards as well as sanchin (with turn, which is for sandan) and tensho can all be directly attributed hereto.

The Japanese spinoff

I'll come back to this...

The refinement

Chojun Miyagi sensei (the guy who was the inspiration of the original karate kid movies) refined sanchin and eliminated the turn, and also created geki Sai Dai ichi & geki Sai Dai ni (CA 1942), in order to have easier katas for beginners, and enabling teaching of bigger classes.


There is a book of the story of Chojun Miyagi sensei (written by him, if I am not mistaken) but I have not been able to find it myself, at a reasonable price... It has not been reprinted.

my recommendation to a fellow student

Talk to your sensei it is great that you want to read more and immerse yourself, but the tradition is that this is mainly retained and passed on mouth to mouth.

I normally tell. My students part of these things at the beginning or end of a lesson. It is part of the required knowledge for the theoretical part of the black belt exam, after all…

  • Thanks! This is useful. My sensei did give me some of this information and I did some personal research. All the information I got aligns with what you've mentioned it. I'd love to discuss this with you over email or something if that's fine? Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 5:39
  • 1
    With all due respect, the story about Bodhidharma being the source of all martial arts is nothing but a myth (also here) and probably one of the most intricate marketing tricks in history. Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 18:46
  • @PhilipKlöcking I bow to your wisdom, and appreciate your source. Nevertheless, the IOGKF examinations include him as part of the recognized history of Goju Ryu. I already discovered that the Kyushu part of the Dan examination is flawed as well. However we have to teach what is examined...
    – JoSSte
    Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 18:59

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.