Gōjū-ryū (剛柔流), Japanese for “hard-soft style,” is one of the leading 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. , which means hard, refers to closed hand techniques or straight linear attacks; , which means soft, refers to open hand techniques and circular movements. Gōjū-ryū incorporates both circular and linear motions into its curriculum. It 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 joint locks, grappling, takedowns, and throws.

It emphasizes breathing correctly in all of the katas, particularly in the Sanchin kata, one of two core kata of this style. The second kata is called Tensho, meant to teach the student about the soft form 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.

The symbol of Goju-Ryu is a fist. It has Kanji that say “Goju-Ryu, Karate-Do” or “Hard Soft Style, Empty Hand Way”. The fist is half open and half closed to show this. The fist belongs to Gogen Yamaguchi. He and Chojun Miyagi made the fist Goju symbol in the 1930s.

Chōjun Miyagi

April 25, 1888 – October 8, 1953)

Chōjun Miyagi was an Okinawan martial artist who founded the Gōjū-ryū school of karate by blending Okinawan and Chinese influences. He first learned martial arts from Ryuko Aragaki, who then introduced him to Kanryo Higashionna. Under his tutelage, Miyagi underwent a very long and arduous period of training. His training with Higaonna was interrupted for two years while Miyagi completed his military service, 1910–1912, in Miyakonojō, Miyazaki. After Kanryo Higaonna's death ( in Oct 1915), he traveled to Foochow, China. In this trip, Miyagi studied some local Chinese martial arts. In this trip, he observed the Rokkishu (a set of hand exercises rather than a formal kata, which emphasizes the rotation of the forearms and wrists to execute offensive and defensive techniques), which he then adapted into the Tensho Kata. From the blending of these systems and his native Naha-te, a new system emerged. However, it was not until 1929 that Chōjun Miyagi named the system Gōjū-ryū, meaning "hard-soft style."

After several months in China, Chōjun Miyagi returned to Naha, where he opened a dojo. He taught for many years, gaining an enormous reputation as a karateka. Despite his reputation, his most significant achievements lie in the popularization and the organization of karate teaching methods. In recognition of his leadership in spreading karate in Japan, his style, the Goju-Ryu, became the first style officially recognized by the Dai Nippon Butokukai. He introduced karate into Okinawa police work, high schools, and other fields of society. He revised and further developed Sanchin - the hard aspect of Goju, and created Tensho - the soft element. These katas are considered to contain the essence of the Goju-Ryu. The highest kata, Suparinpei, is said to include the full syllabus of Goju-Ryu. Shisochin was Miyagi's favorite kata at the end of his years.