Treasured for centuries by karate's top masters, The Bubishi is a classic Chinese text on philosophy, strategy, medicine, and technique as they relate to the martial arts. Referred to as 'the bible of karate' by the famous master Miyagi Chojun, for hundreds of years The Bubishi was a secret text passed from master to student in China and later in Okinawa. All of karate's legendary masters have studied it, applied its teaching or copied passages from it. No other classic work has had as dramatic an impact on the shaping and development of karate as The Bubishi. - Patrick McCarthy, "The Bible of Karate: Bubishi"
The Bubishi is an ancient Chinese martial art book. It literally means "martial-equipped intention or spirit". It contains the origin of the White Crane style and its teaching, instructions in techniques, vital point charts, Chinese medicine and martial art strategy. It was preserved at a temple in Naha, Okinawa. It is said that it was brought from Fujian, China, to Okinawa by a Chinese settler or through a cultural exchange between two countries several hundred years ago.
The book was, by Karma, handed to Master Chojun Miyagi, perhaps after his karate study in China in 1916-1917. Because of his Chinese martial arts knowledge, he truly appreciated it’s value. It is well known that master Miyagi composed the kata "Tensho", and named his style as "Goju-Ryu" after his study of the Bubishi book. According to the legend, he also created a way to pass on the knowledge of the Bubishi to succeeding generations. His most senior disciples were chosen to make and receive a copy of the ancient Bubishi text and together with his official recognition were directed to maintain the orthodox Goju-Ryu Karate and continue the lineage.
This tradition continues to be an important and vital part of the essence of Goju-Ryu and each succeeding generation of accredited Bubishi masters has sought to maintain the highest standard of Goju-Ryu knowledge, techniques and spirit.
In 1979, I received my Bubishi copy, together with the recognition of my master, Masashi Sudo, and I am honoured to become a 5th generation Bubishi master. Now it is in turn, my opportunity and responsibility to pass on the traditions to the next generation.
Kenshu Hideo Watanabe
All over the world today - particularly in Australia and Japan - there are many practitioners of Goju-Ryu Karate. When I came to Australia in 1977 I found that Goju-Ryu was already very popular, and Mr Gogen Yamaguchi's style had spread Australia wide in preference to many other Goju-Ryu styles practised in Japan and Okinawa.
Historically there were seven major disciples from the founder of Goju-Ryu, Mr Chojun Miyagi in Okinawa. They are Mr Higa, Mr Yagi, Mr Yogi, Mr Miyazato, Mr Iha, Mr Shinzato, and Mr Uehara. These disciples received Bubushi from Mr Miyagi after having mastered Goju-Ryu Karate, and have been faithful to their master. The origin of Shubu-Kai and Gojukensha Goju-Ryu came from one of these disciples, Mr Higa.
A tradition of Bubishi degree still exists among the traditional Goju-Ryu masters. In my case, for example, I am a fifth generation Goju-Ryu Bubishi holder. From the founder Miyagi to Higa, to Izumikawa, to Ichikawa, to Sudo and then to me, Watanabe. The first three masters have passed away, so our headmaster is Mr Ichikawa, who now lives in Tokyo.*
Through my observation in the past, I see most Goju-Ryu instructors in Australia and overseas, still practise the hard style of Goju-Ryu, perhaps because they are young and strong, or simply because they just don't practise the soft style. Actually, the hard style of Goju-ryu is much easier than the soft style. Usually a soft Goju-Ryu comes after some 10 years or so of training hard-style Goju-Ryu.
I would like to give some advice about the Goju-Ryu to every Karate practitioner:
Techniques with hard hardness, or weak softness, are no good. Tenacious hardness and firm softness is the principle of good Goju-Ryu techniques.
For example: Use the sharp offensive and tenacious defensive techniques like a Japanese sword, spring, whip, tentacles, manta ray, and cottonwool. To classify soft Goju-Ryu are "whip" (called Muchi-te or whipping). "tentacle" (toko-te or adherence). "manta ray" (hobaku-te or envelope) and "cottonwool" (watano-te or yielding).
When you use these Goju-Ryu Techniques, add these elements:
Your mind must be fully concentrated (called Mu) on the opponent and void (called ku) to yourself. Your body and limbs are filled by a spirit (Ki). Read and opponent's mind and intention. Move your body and limbs as a unit (ittai). When the technique is applied, these elements must work as one. As you are aware, proper timing (ma) and distance (maai) between opponents is also very vital.
These soft techniques are very effective with infighting but, unfortunately, are not really suitable for tournament style sparring. To master a soft Goju-Ryu, you need at least 20 years of constant training.
According to Bubishi, every technique is a combination of the hard and the soft, or inhalation and exhalation. The founder, Chojun Miyagi, found the above phrase from the Bubishi, then he named his Karate as Goju-Ryu. This was in 1936.
Goju-Ryu is only 48 years old from the founder, and still needs to be practised and refined by the real practitioners from generation to generation.
I would like to pursue the way of Goju-Ryu for the rest of my life in Australia and look forward to someone following the tradition of Goju-ryu Karate. When the day comes, I would like to give him or her a Bubishi Degree, to prove that they are traditional Goju-Ryu practitioners.
One of the Goju-Ryu strategies from the Bubishi tells:
If you know the enemy and know yourself, you will win every battle; If you know yourself but not the enemy, you only have a 50 precent chance of winning; If you don’t know the enemy and don’t know yourself, you will lose every battle.
Therefore, knowing yourself is the key point in our Goju-Ryu. You have to find yourself through your daily life and your training of Karate-do. When you have experienced 10 years of training, you will see your opponents clearly. After 20 years of training you will understand all kinds of people.
So, afterwards you are able to live in a peaceful environment. However this is not our main aim, as neither is the victory. The most important aim in our Goju-Ryu Karate is the sacrifice. You will eventually understand this when you become a master of Karate-do. In addition, Goju-Ryu Karate to me is like a flower, or love. This is the happiness I would like to share with all the people in the world.
Written by K. H. Watanabe in 1984
* Mr Ichikawa passed away in March 2005