Shorin Goju: The Meaning of Our Name.

Robert Barton 

            The word Shorin is a compound word that literally means ‘new forest’ or ‘little forest’ and is commonly used by the Japanese and Okinawans to reference a specific temple in China of that name. The temple in China and related satellite temples being referenced are also known as Shaolin or Si lum in China and Shorin is a direct translation of the Chinese name.

            The founder of Naha-Te and the founder of Goju Ryu both traveled to China to study these martial arts and brought back with them a set of kung–fu forms which became the foundation kata of their schools in Okinawa. We use the word Shorin in our name because we use these kata and our style descends directly from the Naha-te school through the Goju tradition. Most of our kata come from China specifically from Shaolin related forms and so we acknowledge this is our name. 

            The term Goju is also a compound word which translates as hard/soft. This was the name used by Chojun Miyagi when he returned to Okinawa from his studies in China and established his school. Because we use the kata associated with that school and we descend from that school we use the word Goju.

            The term Karate is usually translated as ‘empty hand’ and at some point in the very early 20th century the characters used to write this word changed and took on that meaning. However as was pointed out by Chojun Miyagi in 1936 the word was originally spelled with the characters to mean ‘China hand’ and it is this older use of the word that we embrace.

            Our name is Shorin Goju Karate literally means New Forest Hard/Soft China Hand and identifies our school of Goju. We are not the only style that uses these terms and we are very closely related to other Goju styles which share our kata. We are not in any way directly related to the system known as Shorin Karate. There are some styles of karate which use the name Shorin we are distantly related to these styles since we share some kata in common and some history.

            It should be acknowledged that we are very closely related to the martial arts styles of Southern China especially, monk system, crane system, tiger system, five ancestors system and dragon system and we have kata in common with all of these systems and we share some kata with the five ancestors style.  In fact, karate of Okinawan heritage is far more closely related technically and philosophically to the Buddhists martial tradition of southern China than it is to the native martial traditions of Japan.

            We consider our school of martial art to be Chinese and Okinawan due to the blending of the methods of China with the early native martial skills of Okinawa. We do not consider Shorin Goju Karate to be a newly developed or invented system of martial arts we have no big changes and no newly invented or acquired kata. We use traditional kata in the same way they were formulated and we merely are a continuation of Southern Chinese martial systems through the Naha-te and Goju schools and carry on those traditions. Our new name was necessitated by the politics of the modern martial arts world when we chose to extricate ourselves and our students from a politically charged situation. Shorin Goju Karate is not to be considered to be a new Ryu of karate so much as it is to be considered to be a new Ryuha or subsystem of Goju Ryu

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