About Yamaguchi Gogen Sensei


Gogen Yamaguchi was born Yoshimi Yamaguchi on January 20th 1909, in the city of Kagoshima on the southern end of Kyushu Japan. His father Tokutaro Yamaguchi was a merchant and later a schoolteacher and Superintendent, his mother Yoshimatsu was his fathers' assistant. Already as a youngster he showed great interest in the Martial Arts. During his early school days he trained kendo, (Japanese fencing) and after his large family moved to Kyoto he started his karate training with Sensei Takeo Maruta at the Maruta Dojo in Miyazai Kyushu. Mr. Takeo Maruta was a carpenter by trade and student of Chojun Miyagi.

Mr Maruta was drawn to the young Yamaguchi's serious attitude and his willingness to train hard. Mr Maruta taught Yamaguchi all he knew about the Goju system.

Yamaguchi later studied directly with Mr. Miyagi in 1929 after he and his then current teacher and friend Jitsuei Yogi wrote to Miyagi and invited him to come to Japan. In 1929 Gogen Yamaguchi invited Mr. Miyagi to visit Japan after a long wait he was introduced to Chojun Miyagi by Jitsuei Yogi. Upon Chojun Miyagi's visit to the Japan, he toured the schools of Kansai, Osaka, Ritsumei, Kyoto, and Doshisha Universities while Gogen attended Ritsumei Kan University. Yamaguchi Sensei studied law and of course in 1930 Sensei Yogi, together with Gogen Yamaguchi as the primary, co-founded the Ritsumei-Kan Dai-Gaku Karate Kenkyu Kai, the first Karate club at Ritsumei-Kan University. During his college days as a law student, Yamaguchi established his first karateclub at the Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto. Soon the dojo became famous in the city, known for it's hard training and fierce breathing exercise. In those days karate men practiced only kata (formal movements) and yakusoku kumite (prearranged sparring) and were unable to have matches between each other since they did not hold back their techniques. It was during this period that Yamaguchi created the first stages towards what is known as jyu kumite (free fighting) and established rules to decide the winner of a match. Some of the rules are still in use today in what is known as sport or competition karate. The Ritsumei-Kan Karate-do Kenkyu Kai was the first University Karate club in western Japan and was infamous for its hard style training and fierce Karate fighters. Both Yogi and Yamaguchi attended Ritsumei-Kan University during which time Chojun Miyagi visited and Chojun Miyagi stayed in Sensei Yogi's apartment. Chojun Miyagi later named Mr. Yamaguchi the leader of the Goju Ryu on mainland Japan.

After graduating for Ritsumei Kan University in Kyoto (1934) That same year Yamaguchi Sensei invented Jiyu-Kumite which has become known today as sport and tournament Kumite; In 1935 he officially formed the All Japan Goju Kai Karate-Do Association (now today's I.K.G.A.). Also in 1935, Mr. Yamaguchi began his travels with the Japanese government as an intelligence officer and the first son of Mr. Yamaguchi (Norimi Gosei Yamaguchi) is born (June 25th, 1935). During the years to follow Gogen Yamaguchi often spent long stays at Mount Kurama where he subjected himself to ascetic exercises and hard training with sanchin, meditation and fasting. Between 1938-1945 he was sent to Manchuria on government and military assignments.

During the Japanese-Russian war, Yamaguchi was taken prisoner of war and sent to a prison camp in Mongolia. He was kept there under harsh conditions for two years. Once again his strength and skill were severely put to the test. During all these years he still continued to train and develop Goju karate. During his military tour in Manchuria Yamaguchi was seized by the Russian military (1942) and so begins the fabled tales of Gogen Yamaguchi's infamous time in the Russian Concentration camp. . Gogen Yamaguchi had been slated for hard labor in the Russian POW camp. But the man impressed even his Russian captors.

When they found out who he was, they had him give Karate lessons to the Russian troops. And so the captive became the master of the captors, who became his students. In 1945 after coming out of the Manchurian war camp and finishing his tour from World War II, he returned to Japan where he reopened his Karate Dojo and posted a sign outside reading Goju Ryu Kai. Many people thought his school was forever closed and that he had been killed in the war. After his release and return to Japan, Yamaguchi became one of the most exciting figures in karate history. He decided to hold big weeklong exhibitions in Tokyo featuring all the various Chinese arts he had discovered during his years there as well as the traditional Japanese arts. His school reopened and began a rapid expansion through a network of independent Goju Ryu schools that had went on to teach without formal leadership. Through this expansion and with his unmistakable flair that, if it were in any other field, he would have to be described as a showman he built it into a powerful, sprawling Karate empire Mr. Gogen Yamaguchi established Goju-Kai Headquarters to Tokyo, Japan next to the legendary Giho-Kai Judo Institute. Shihan Yamaguchi effectively had Goju-Ryu formally registered into the Butoku-Kai, the official governing body and 'Government' Headquarters for the Japanese Martial Arts, similar to our own pentagon.

Mr. Yamaguchi was actually awarded his Title of Renshi by the Butoku-Kai in 1940 although not returning to Japan for residency until 1945. In 1950 Goju-Kai Headquarters was officially relocated to Tokyo Japan which contributed to an almost triple in membership to 450,000. Five years later he officially chartered the I.K.G.A. Later in 1964 Mr. Yamaguchi unified all the Karate Dojo in Japan to form the All Japan Karate Federation which is still in existence today as the Japan Karate Federation (JKF). Prior to his death (in 1968), he was decorated by the Emperor of Japan with the Ranju-Hosho (Blue Ribbon Medal) and the fifth order of merit for his contribution to the martial arts. In his most pictorial fame Yamaguchi produced and distributed a short film on training in Taikgyo or Waterfall training. In the winter of 1965, the outdoor excursion was held on the slopes of Mt. Nagano Ontake. Each day started off with Yamaguchi and his followers pouring ice water over themselves. During one of his mountainside excursions in the dead of winter heading a group of followers, without shoes and clad only in a thin Gi.

This 'waterfall' involves practicing the Kihon Gata Sanchin and or Tensho as well as SanchinTensho, utilizing the Yo and In practice of Ibuki breathing. The power of the water fall forced the performers to maintain themselves there by when the film was mass distributed it marked the image of Goju Ryu Kai players as being close to invincible as was their reputation. In 1966 his Organization counted more than 1,200 Dojo and clubs and 600,000 members claimed for the Goju Ryu system.

Master Yamaguchi's contributions to Goju-karate and to karate in general have been enormous. Under his leadership the International Karate-do Goju-kai Association I.K.G.A (kai=organization) emerged. The organization has increased in popularity both in Japan and other Asian and western countries around the world, today there are about 35 countries teaching Goju-kai karate. Master Yamaguchi succeeded in uniting all the karate schools in Japan into a single union, which resulted in the formation of The Federation of All Japan Karate-do Organization F.A.J.K.O. in 1964.

The Kokusai Budo Renmei - The International Martial Arts Federation in Japan, whose chairman was Prince Higashikuni of the Japanese Imperial Family had appointed Master Yamaguchi as Shihan (master) of the organizations karate division. Never before has a single man had such profound effect on the development and propagation of karate-do. Master Gogen Yamaguchi, 10th dan, a man of intense dedication and determination can truly be called a karate legend. A master of Yoga and a Shinto priest, a man that truly has united both aspects of go and ju into a concerted union.


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Williams School of Goju Ryu7617 Elkhorn Mountain Trail
Austin, TX 78729

Telephone: 512.876.1790