Junbi Undo

By: David Lambert – IOGKF Australia

Our International Editor explains some of the history and philosophy behind the Junbi Undo of Goju-ryu and addresses the issue of it begin shortened or left out of the clubs of professional instructors...

Junbi  Undo, the simple but genius preparatory exercises of Goju-ryu developed by Miyagi Chojun Sensei himself have been the part of the forefront for the strengthening, development of co-ordinating, increase in flexibility as well as the maintaining of good stamina of so many skilled Karate-ka around the globe. But with so many instructors going professional with Karate and with the internet allowing easy access to many other methods of training that can cloud the path, is Junbi Undo slowly starting to disintegrate?

To determine this, we must first look at what Junbi Undo is. The founder’s description and explanation of Junbi Undo is as follows:

“Yobi Undo (Junbi Undo) – Preliminary Exercises: First, each individual part of the body is exercised systematically. Stretching exercises are performed which simultaneously strengthen the body and develop stamina. Each practice will be concluded with the same exercises, as the breathing is regulated and clam. After this the fundamental Kata – Sanchin, Tensho and Naifanchi (Shorin-ryu) are introduced. Yobi Undo has enabled the student to learn the fundamental Kata with greater ease and understanding.”

-Miyagi Chojun Sensei

(Okinawan Goju-ryu founder)

Description: Miyagi1.jpg

Chojun Sensei’s explanation, which was delivered in a speech prior to the World War II era, doesn’t go into detail about the order of the exercises or how they should exactly be performed, but he does highlight the overall goal of the system which is to strengthen the body and develop stamina.

As for the actual execution of the exercises, the correct explanations today come from Higaonna Morio Sensei. Chojun Sensei passed the actual execution of technique on to Anichi Sensei. I believe firmly that the system Higaonna Sensei teaches is effective, works and I would give a great deal of credit to the IOGKF’s high standard worldwide from good, strong Junbi Undo.

The preservation of Junbi Undo is something Higaonna Sensei is very passionate about and even at major Gasshuku’s or just standard Dojo classes he places a great emphasis on its practice.

However to create ‘better and bigger’ classes, many are cutting Junbi Undo training short or are even dulling down the hard work and replacing difficult exercises with easier and not relevant options.


Specificity is an important part of any athletes training and same applies for a Karate-Ka’s training. A few minutes of light stretching may loosen the body up quickly to get classes along to the ‘good stuff’ or ‘crowd pleasers’, however it will not really improve the Karate-ka to the point that strong Junbi Undo will.

Using the traditional Junbi Undo exercises and coupling them with some good old fashioned hard work, will benefit any Karate-ka greatly. For example, we use our toes as weapons in Kakie, for some kicks and to stop us in suri ashi movements; so performing toe exercises that promote flexibility and strengthen the small muscle groups is going to be not only beneficial but useful. The same can be said for exercises like Hiza Geri (knee kicking/striking), the fast twitch fibres can be heightened and power developed and the action can be used to improve strong kicking reactions – again, something that is beneficial.

Below is a video of Higaonna Sensei performing Junbi Undo exercises in 1995:

In less than 10 minutes, around the same time that it would take most to do some light stretching to loosen up to get to the ‘crowd pleasers’, Higaonna Sensei has performed dozens of exercises that are specific to the improvement of Goju-ryu movements. 10 – 15 minutes per class of these Goju-ryu specific exercises will aid any Karate-ka. 30 – 45 minutes will make drastic improvements.


Even though we have now briefly identified the specific Goju-ryu exercises, what is the best way or order to practice or teach them? High graded instructors around the world all have their different methods, but a few things can be identified between them all.

Firstly, Junbi Undo starts at the toes and works its way up to the highest muscle groups in the body. Secondly, that many of the movements are co-ordinated with long and short breathing – which are the underlying guidelines of Junbi Undo .

As for methods from this point, as I mentioned there are many different ones from many senior instructors around the world. Sensei Bakkies Laubscher explained the science behind how he teaches Junbi Undo in his DVD series –‘ guide to teaching classical Okinawan Goju-ryu’. He details that he believes there are 3 main phases to Junbi Undo :

1 – Increase body temperature and stretching.

2 – Conditioning of the main muscle groups.

3 – Breathing.

Another method I see and one I myself generally use, it to stretch the area then work, strengthen and condition it. For example: I will stretch my toes, move my knees, stretch my legs, hips and shiko dachi, working in an upwards fashion. Then I will perform exercises like Tai Otoshi, Ten Tsuki, Hiza Geri and Furi Yagi to strengthen and condition. After the whole body has been worked, then strength building and spirit exercises like Push ups, sit ups and squats can be performed.

There are other methods I have seen, such as lightly stretching the whole body from head to toe, then returning to the feet and working back to the top with conditioning exercises.

All these methods are just good as each other and will work as long as they use the specificity movements like the ones Higaonna Sensei has shown in the video clip earlier.

Simple or Genius?

Both. Miyagi Chojun Sensei was not a silly man. His wealth and his character made him quite a nobleman in Okinawan society. Be this luck or fate, Chojun Sensei used his position to consult with doctors, medical professionals and to purchase readings to increase his knowledge of the body, when creating Junbi Undo . No facet of the workings of the human body was too big or too small for him to learn about and it is widely known that Chojun Sensei even had a book called ‘the study of farts’!

Obtaining this knowledge of how the joints and muscle groups worked, along with the body’s cardiovascular system and the overall rhythm of the human body gave Chojun Sensei the opportunity to create a scientifically advanced set of warm up exercises. However what he did instead stands as a true testament to our system.

Chojun Sensei created simple movements that anybody could practice, rather than ones that take years to master. For example, Furi Yagi (leg swinging) is not an overly difficult exercise, you just lock you knee and swing your leg as high as you can. However getting you leg to be straight above Jodan height isn’t as easy as it looks.

Exercises like this which are simple in their nature and more challenging in their execution, suit the masses. As in free fighting scenarios and with all Goju-ryu training simple ideas and methods work; Chojun Sensei kept this ideal within our style when he creating Junbi Undo . This simple system was a stroke of pure genius.

I believe you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to do Goju-ryu, you just need to be a hard worker. If you work hard with your Junbi Undo and combine it with the other facets of our system, you will reap with the rewards and in doing so, keep this treasure piece of our style preserved and safe.