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Born in Wakayama city, Ujita Shozo Hanshi was one of the Head Shihan in the early ...... full article

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Articles Home » 空手道 Biographies » Gogen Yamaguchi Hanshi
Gogen Yamaguchi Hanshi

剛柔会 Gogen Yamaguchi Hanshi

January 20th, 1909-May 20th, 1989

Already as a youngster Gogen Yamaguchi showed strong interest in the Martial Arts. Prior to his training in Karatedo he studied Kendo (Japanese fencing). His first taste of Gojuryu Karatedo however wasn't until his large family moved to Kyoto while he was in his teens when he began the serious study of Karatedo with Takeo Maruyama Sensei at the Maruta Dojo. Takeo Maruta aka Takeo Maruyama who was a Gojuryu practitioner, was drawn to the young Yamaguchi's serious attitude and his willingness to train hard. It is said that Mr. Maruyama taught Yamaguchi all he knew about the Goju system.

  • January 20th, 1909 - Born to parents Mr. Tokutaro Yamaguchi and Mrs. Yoshimatsu Yaguchi and named Jitsumi Yamaguchi in Miyakonojo Shonai near Kagoshima City in the Miyazaki Prefecture, Kyushi - Japan. The third son of ten siblings. His father Tokutaro Yamaguchi was a merchant and later a school-teacher and Superintendent, his mother Yoshimatsu was his fathers’ assistant.
  • 1922 - Moves to Kyoto with his family and begins training in what is then called Toudi Kempo with Takeo Maruyama at the Maruta Dojo in Miyazai Kyushu Japan.
  • 1927 - Receives an intorduction to Chojun Miyagi.
  • 1928 - Studies Law at Kansei University.
  • 1929 - Enters Ritsumeikan University.
  • 1929 - Forms the Karatedo Club with Jitsuei Yogi at Ritsumeikan University [informal date].
  • 1929 - Studies directly with Chojun Miyagi after he and friend Jitsuei Yogi wrote to Miyagi inviting him to come to Japan.
  • 1930 - Sensei Yogi, together with Gogen Yamaguchi as the primary, co-founded the Ritsumei-Kan Dai-Gaku Karatedo Kenkyu-Kai, the first Karatedo club at Ritsumei-Kan University.
  • 1931 - According to Gogen Yamaguchi in his autobiography, this is the year that Jitsuei Yogi Sensei introduced Gogen Yamaguchi Sensei to Chojun Miyagi (although he was first invited in 1929).
  • 1932 - Graduates from Ritsumei Kan University in Kyoto earning a degree in Law. Gogen Yamaguchi remains in the Kyoto area operating a Law Firm, teaching Gojuryu Karatedo and remains coach of the Ritsumeikan Karatedo club.
  • 1934 - Formulates Jiyu-Kumite which has become known today as sport and tournament Kumite.
  • 1935 - Officially formed the All Japan Gojukai Karatedo Association (now today’s J.K.G.A.).
  • June 25th 1935 - the first son of Gogen Yamaguchi, Norimi Gosei Yamaguchi, is born.
  • 1937 - Receives the name "Gogen" from Chojun Miyagi and legally changes his name to Gogen Yamaguchi as registered in the Kagoshima court system.
  • May 1938 - Receives a request of the famous Shogun, General Kanji Ishihara (1889-1949), a personal friend and Nichiren Buddhist, to travel to Manchuko as an official of the Kyowakai.
  • 1939 - Travels to Manchuko as an official of the Kyowakai.
  • 1940 - Japan celebrates her 2,600th anniversary. Gogen Yamaguchi is chosen President of a mission [while on duty in Manchuko] to return to Japan leading a Seventy [70] member mixed Martial Arts mission consisting of Chinese Kempo, Bo-Jutsu, Wushu, Mongolian Wrestling, Gungfu, Karatedo and other martial arts.
  • 1940 - Kishio Gosen Yamaguchi, 2nd son of Gogen Yamguchi is born.
  • 1940 - Awarded his Title of Renshi by the Butoku-Kai.
  • 1940 - Returns to Manchuko to continue duties with Kyowakai for Japan and formally begins teaching in Shinkyo [Honkeiko] Manchuko.
  • September 28th 1942 - Hirofumi Goshi Yamaguchi is born in Shinjing [Shinkyo], Manchuria (This portion of China was at that time a Japanese state).
  • 1942 - Tranfers to Kanto Province [then - near Tomanko River at the borders of Korea and USSR]
  • 1944 - Transfers to the Nekka Province [near the borders of Mongolia and China] of Manchuko to assume new duties of service of the Kyowakai.
  • June 3rd 1945 - Sucessfully helps defend U-City against communist attack.
  • August 15 1945 - Japan's Emperor surrendered and Japan accepted the Potsdam Declaration by the Allied Powers thereby ending the Pacific Conflict of WWII.
  • September 1945 - Is separated from his family and forced to gather in Shotoku Camp in Nekka Province [Manchuko] and taken prisoner by the G.P.U. [Gossudarstvennoye Politicheskoye Upravleniye / Obyedinennoye], a strong national division of the Russian Police. Family members [non-government commissioned] are allowed to return Japan.
  • November 15th 1947 - Is released from Russian POW camp and boards a Koan Maru [Cargo ship converted for passengers] in Siberia bound for Hokkaido Japan.
  • November 18th 1947 - Arrives in Hakodate [Hokkaido] Japan via a converted Japanese Barge. Upon his return he immediately returns to his birth-town in Kagoshima remaining there for ten days before departing to Post-War Tokyo and finally reunited with his family in Aoyama.
  • April 1948 - Obtains a permit for a training facility by stating to S.C.A.P. officers that the training was a simple form of boxing that included the use of the legs.
  • 1949 - Opens a Dojo in the Taito ward of Asakusa, then part of Nihonzatsumi now known as Tokyo.
  • 1950 - Opens the Asakusa Senzoku dojo and officially relocates Gojukai Headquarters to Tokyo Japan which contributed to an almost triple in membership to 450,000.
  • 1955 - Due to enrollment of foreigners returning to their countries, Gogen Yamaguchi officailly charters the International Karatedo Gojukai Association [I.K.G.A.]
  • 1964 - Unifies all the major Karatedo associations in Japan to form the All Japan Karatedo Federation which is still in existence today as the Japan Karatedo Federation (JKF).
  • 1966 - Visits Hawaii to assist hosting the USA Gojukai Championships hosted by Masaichi Oshiro Sensei.
  • 1966 - Is honored by then Emperor Hirohito with the "Ranju-Hosho"; the Blue Ribbon Medal.
  • 1973 - Opens the Suginami Gojukan Dojo.
  • May 20th 1989 - Gogen Yamaguchi Sensei passes away due to natural causes [heart complications] at the age of 80 years old. In 1929 Gogen Yamaguchi invited Mr. Miyagi to visit Japan after a long wait he was introduced to Chojun Miyagi by Jitsuei Yogi (September 27, 1912 - November 1997). 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 Master 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 gave him the nickname Gogen, meaning `Rough'. 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 Karatedo Kenkyu-Kai, the first Karatedo club at Ritsumei-Kan University. During his college days as a law student, Yamaguchi established his first karatedo club at the Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto. Soon the dojo became famous in the city, known for it's hard training and fierce breathing exercise and Karatedo Kumite. In those days Karatedo 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 Karatedo Kenkyu-Kai was the first University Karatedo club in western Japan. Both Yogi and Yamaguchi attended Ritsumei-Kan University during which time Chojun Miyagi visited and Chojun Miyagi stayed in Sensei Yogi’s apartment. In the early 1930’s Mr. Yamaguchi sketched out what would become the legendary signature Gojuryu fist. It is modeled after the right hand fist of Chojun Miyagi. During the years to follow after completing University studies and before traveling to Manchuko, Gogen Yamaguchi often spent long stays at Mount Kurama where he subjected himself to ascetic exercises and hard training with Sanchin, Tensho, meditation and fasting. Between 1939-1945 he was sent to Manchuko on government and military assignments with the Kyowakai. On several occasions during assignment in Manchuko, he could thank his skills in Karatedo and his mental training that he stayed alive. During the Sino-Japanese-Russian War [1937-1945] 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 his Gojuryu karatedo. During his military tour in Manchuko, 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. With his identity and training revealed, the heiarchy of the Russian Military utilized Gogen Yamaguchi's knowledge of karatedo to teach 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 Manchuko war camp and finishing his tour from World War II, he returned to Japan where he reopened his Karatedo dojo and posted a sign outside reading Gojukai. Many people thought his school was forever closed and that he had been killed in the war. Upon his return to Japan, Yamaguchi became one of the most exciting figures in Karatedo 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 Gojuryu 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 Karatedo empire Mr. Gogen Yamaguchi established Gojukai Headquarters to Tokyo, Japan next to the legendary Giho-Kai Judo Institute. Yamaguchi effectively had Gojuryu formally registered into the Butoku-Kai, the official governing body and ‘Government’ Headquarters for the Japanese Martial Arts. A family man. Though a calm, sensitive person, Midori Yamaguchi displayed during that period the quiet strength and strong will characteristic of her. Many have said that if Gogen Yamaguchi hadn't had Midori at his side during all those years he wouldn't have been able to organize his association. Some students have felt greater affection for Midori Yamaguchi than for the Gogen Yamaguchi. During the years of vigorous training at the height of Gojukai’s influence Midori Yamaguchi played the part of a virtual Dojo Mom. 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 Gojukai 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 major Karatedo associations in Japan to form the All Japan Karatedo Federation which is still in existence today as the Japan Karatedo Federation (JKF). The Five Secrets of Japanese Gojuryu by Gogen Yamaguchi Move quickly. Sound, calm mind. Be light in body. Have a clever mind. Master the basics. Prior to his death, Gogen Yamaguchi 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 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. When the film was mass distributed it marked the image of Gojuryu 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. Yamaguchi was a small man, just over five feet and a mere 160 pounds, however he projected the impression of great bulk and solemnity and was first dubbed “the Cat” by American GI’s for his gliding walk and flowing hair. He alone is primarily responsible for the spread of Gojuryu in the world today. Before passing away of natural causes Jitsumi Gogen Yamaguchi had become a Lawyer, Military officer, a highly decorated war hero, a Shinto priest, an influential Yoga Practitioner (collaborating the significance of Karatedo to that of Yoga) as well as a Karatedo Master, father and Husband. Master Yamaguchi's contributions to Gojuryu Karatedo and to Karatedo in general have been enormous. Under his leadership, both the All Japan Gojuryu Karatedo Association [J.K.G.A.] and the International Karatedo Gojuryu Association [I.K.G.A.] emerged. The organizations have increased in popularity both in Japan and other Asian and Western countries around the world, today there are about 35 countries teaching Gojukai karate. Master Yamaguchi succeeded in uniting all the Karatedo schools in Japan into a single union, which resulted in the formation of The Federation of All Japan Karatedo Organization F.A.J.K.O. in 1964. He added to the Goju system the Taikyoku Kata forms, - training methods for the beginner students to prepare them for the more advanced kata's. In combining his religious practices with Karatedo training, he incorporated both Yoga and Shinto into Gojukai Karatedo and founded in his last years Goju-Shinto. He stated that both body and mind are interrelated and through proper breathing and concentration we will be able to understand the essence of the Martial Arts. This is the reason why the Goju school uses the unique breathing exercise called ibuki. Concentrating all the muscular strength at one point, bringing mind and body into a coherent whole. 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 Karatedo division. Never before has a single man had such profound effect on the development and propagation of Karatedo . Master Gogen Yamaguchi, 10th dan, a man of intense dedication and determination can truly be called a Karatedo 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. Of his Children there were five (5). Three sons; Norimi Gosei Yamaguchi, Kishio Gosen Yamaguchi, Hirofumi Goshi Yamaguchi, and two daughters Gokyoku [aka "Wakako"] Yamaguchi and Makiko Yamaguchi.
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