KANRYO HIGAONNA (HIGASHIONNA) – Higaonna was born in 1853, in Okinawa. He was small, but his skill and hard training more than made up for his deficiency in size. He started the serious study of the martial arts when he was about sixteen years old. He learned Chinese Kempo and became well known in Naha, Okinawa. He was fascinated by the Chinese fighting arts and began looking for an opportunity to travel to China. In November of 1874, he finally had the chance to go to China with a group of merchants. He left Okinawa and spent fifteen years in China. When he finally returned to Okinawa, he was thirty-seven years old. In spite of his many years of training in the Chinese martial arts, he did not want to teach upon his return. Even after he was convinced to open a dojo by those people who had heard of his reputation in China, he would teach his martial arts only to the most serious students. He taught martial arts in the most traditional manner to those who would learn, not to those who wanted to be taught. Thus Higaonna was credited with bringing martial arts to Okinawa. Many would be students came to Higaonna and many more were sent on their way. However, one boy by the name of Chojun Miyagi did not only stay, but was eventually to succeed his teacher and became the founder of Goju-Ryu in Karate.
CHOJUN MIYAGI – Chojun Miyagi was born in 1888, in Naha, Okinawa. When he was fourteen years old he started to study Karate with Grandmaster Higaonna. Through his dedication to the study of the martial arts, Miyagi was credited with making the system solid and well respected. He was such a dominant force in modern Karate that he became well known not only as the founder of Goju-Ryu Karate but also as the true leader of Okinawan and Japanese Karate. This is why the roots of modern Karate are traced back to this man. Master Chojun first came to Japan in 1928, and instructed at the Kyoto University in Kyoto. In 1932, he became an instructor in the Kansaugakuen in Osaka, thirty miles from Kyoto. By 1937, Karate was fully accepted by the Japanese public, yet the study of it was isolated to military bases and a handful of universities. Miyagi introduced Goju-Ryu Karate to Hawaii in 1934. In 1937, Chojun Miyagi received the first doctorate degree in Karate. He became Shihan of the Okinawa Shihan (teachers) School in 1953. Chojun Miyagi died at the age of 65 years in 1953.
GOGEN (ROUGH) YAMAGUCHI – In 1931, at the age of 22, Gogen Yamaguchi was introduced to the founder of the Goju style, Chojun Miyagi. This meeting proved to have a profound affect upon Yamaguchi's outlook on karate. Previously he had only considered the hard aspect of Goju but after his meeting with Chojun Miyagi he was determined to train himself spiritually as well as physically. Master Miyagi thought highly of Yamaguchi who seemed to have mastered the hard aspect of Goju so well and in 1937 gave him the nickname Gogen, meaning 'Rough'. He then appointed Gogen Yamaguchi as his successor of the Goju school in Japan. Mr. Miyagi presented Yamaguchi with his Renshi in 1940, and in 1951 presented him with Hanshi, tenth Dan (Grandmaster). Yamaguchi founded the first Goju school in Japan at the site of Shinsengumi's post at Mibu, Kyoto, in 1929. In 1933, Yamaguchi established the All Japan Karate-Do Goju-Kai and founded branches throughout Japan and the United States. Gogen Yamaguchi died in 1989 at the age of 80 years.
SEIGO TADA – Tada was born in 1922 in Kyoto, Japan. He started training in the art of Karate in Shanghai, China in 1935, at the age of thirteen. In 1939, he entered the Ritsusmei University and studied Goju-Ryu Karate-Do under the master and founder of the style, Mr. Chojun Miyagi. He entered Ritsumei University nine years after Yamaguchi started the Karate club in Ritsumei-Kan. In 1943 he was nominated as a coach of the Ritsumeikan University Karatedo Club. He opened the Torimaru Dojo in Kyoto in 1945, right after World War II, which is also when Yamaguchi returned from Manchu.Mr. Tada also established the Nihon Seigo-Kan Karatedo shikai (SAJKA), Nihon Gojuryu Karatedo shikai and Nihon Seigokai in Kyoto. At one point there were 120 Seigo-Kan domestic dojos and branches, as well as University clubs and overseas dojos. During that period, Seigo-Kan was the largest Gojuryu Kai-Ha in Japan. In 1964, Master Seigo Tada joined as one of the promoters and executives in establishing and organizing the All Japan Karatedo Federation, Kansai District Karatedo Federation and Kinki District Karatedo Federation. He established competition rules and developed the original protector in 1952 for the purpose of modernizing Karatedo as a sport. In 1981, he won the Hyogo Prefecture Athletic Award of Merit. Tada continued to enjoy teaching Karate and was able to see the 40th anniversary of his Seigo-Kan Karate Academy before his eventual death in late September of 1997. His legacy, Seigo-Kan remains one of the largest Goju-Ryu organizations in Japan.
MOTOO YAMAKURA – Motoo Yamakura was born in Kyoto, Japan in 1943. At the age of 8 years, Yamakura studied Karate in the Temple of Kyoto where many Karate schools were to be found and later, at age 14, joined the Tojukuji Dojo a branch of Seigo Tada's organization, Yamakura entered the all Western Goju-Ryu Seigo Kan tournaments, and he was champion in both kata and kumite in 1965 and 1966. In 1967, Mr. Yamakura entered the prestigious Henry Cho's All American Karate Tournament held in Madison Square Garden, New York and won the light weight championship. After one final goodwill tournament in Muskegon, Michigan, he retired from competition. When Mr. Yamakura came to the United States in 1967, there was no precedent in the immigration codes for his field of expertise. A new category was created and Mr. Yamakura was one of the first people to receive permanent residency status in the specially skilled labor category of Combat Fighting Specialist. In 1969, he enlisted in the armed services and was assigned to the Special Forces teaching hand-to-hand combat. He demonstrated his martial arts skills for trainees at war games, battalion gatherings, for the Green Berets, and at his own graduation which was attended by the Undersecretary of State. In 1974, Motoo Yamakura ended his military obligation as a Staff Sergeant. Mr. Yamakura wants to be an international person. He was born in Japan but traveled to the United States and became an American Citizen. He studied English literature while in Japan. He graduated from the foreign studies department where he also learned Spanish and studied Chinese as it relates to Japanese characters. He studied Kobudo in his youth, Judo in his school days, and has studied Karate and martial arts for over thirty-five years. While in Japan, he studied the styles of, Shotokan, Shito-Ryu, and Wado-Ryu and practiced Shorinji-Kempo. He studied and taught Goju-Ryu, Uechi-Ryu, Tae-Kwon-Do and experienced Chinese martial arts while in the United States. Mr. Yamakura is the author of Goju-Ryu Karate-Do, Fundamentals for Traditional Practitioners, Volumes I and II. MotooYamakura is Shihan, and Hachi Dan, and since 1983 has been the Chairman of the Goju-Ryu Karate-Do Kyokai International. The GKK is one of the largest, and oldest, Goju-Ryu organizations in the United States and also has programs in Canada, Mexico, South America, Europe, India, Sri Lanka and the Middle East.
TERUO CHINEN – Teruo Chinen: Born in 1941, in Kobe, Japan. He moved to Okinawa in 1946. He began his training in Goju-Ryu under Chojun Miyagi Sensei and Ei'ichi Miyazato Sensei. In 1953, after Miyagi Sensei's death, he practiced under Eiichi Miyazato at the Jundokan dojo in Naha, Okinawa. Between 1958 and 1969 Chinen assisted Morio Higaonna Sensei at Tokyo's Yoyogi dojo. In 1969, Sensei Chinen moved to the United States and began teaching Okinawan Goju-Ryu in Spokane, Washington, where he currently resides. Beginning in 1973, he traveled to Europe, South America, and South Africa. Chinen Sensei founded Jundokan International in honor of his teachers, Chojun Miyagi and Eiichi Miyazato. Jundokan International dojos now operate throughout the United States, South Africa, Canada, South America, and Europe. Chinen Sensei spends much of his time traveling the world lecturing and teaching traditional Okinawan style karate. He has become a highly sought after speaker and practitioner, lecturing and teaching groups from all styles of karate.