Goju-Ryu (剛柔流), (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 Bubishi (Chinese: wu bei ji), used by Okinawan masters during the 19th and 20th centuries. Go which means hard, refers to closed hand techniques or straight linear attacks; Ju which means soft, refers to open hand techniques and circular movements.
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 (ju) style of the system. Goju-Ryu practices methods that include body strengthening and conditioning, its basic approach to fighting (distance, stickiness, power generation, etc.), and partner drills. Goju-Ryu incorporates both circular and linear movements into its curriculum. Goju-Ryu combines 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.
The Goju-Ryu founder, Chojun Miyagi believed that “the ultimate aim of karate-do was to build character, conquer human misery, and find spiritual freedom”.
He stated that it was important to balance training for self-defense with “training the mind, or cultivating the precept karate-do ni sente nashi (‘there is no first strike in karate’)”; he also emphasized the importance of “cultivating intellect before strength”.
Miyagi chose the name Goju-ryu (“go” meaning “hard” and “ju” meaning “soft”), 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.