In Japan, Heaven is depicted as round, softness, and Earth is depicted as square, hardness. Goju Ryu is “The Way of Hardness & Softness”.
In the late 1800's, a fourteen-year-old Okinawan boy named Kanryo Higaonna lost his father when he was involved in a fight. Vowing revenge, he set out to learn the fighting arts he would one day use to avenge the death. And thus the seeds were sowed for the founding of Goju Ryu, an art which would become deeply ingrained not only in Okinawan culture but also in that of mainland Japan.
Higaonna eventually traveled to China and began his Martial Arts training under Ryu Ryuko, who would be his teacher for the next 13 years. Upon his return to Okinawa, Higaonna's need for revenge was assuaged, but his love for Martial Arts thrived. He developed his own style, which he called Naha Te, a name based on the city of Naha and the word “te”, meaning hand. His reputation as a master spread quickly and he began taking students, one the most famous of whom was Chojun Miyagi.
Miyagi studied with Higaonna until the latter's death and further developed the style by incorporating soft movements, such as breathing katas, and hard movements, such as dynamic tension exercises. Miyagi based the name for this new style on a poem stating, “The way of inhaling and exhaling is both hardness and softness.” In Japanese the line reads “Ho wa goju wo tondo su.” Goju literally means “hard/soft” and is the essence of the art, which blends hard and soft techniques together to develop mental awareness and spirituality as well as self-defense skills.