Teach Methods & Traditions – An Interview with Higaonna Sensei

Goju Ryu and Uechi Ryu, according to some, were originally inspired from the same Chinese Quan Fa, or even two techniques from the same tradition.

Higaonna: Yes, that’s possible.

In any case, of the two, Goju Ryu is in a certain sense the more austere (Physical), and from a theoretical point of view the one that seems simpler. Uechi Ryu seems to preserve a deeper imprint of the original Quan Fa.

Higaonna: Absolutely. In my opinion, Uechi Ryu follows Quan Fa as it once was. There are forms of tigers and other animals, and techniques such as Rakanken and Tsuruken.

True. There are animal forms like the tiger, the dragon, the heron and others, that appear just as they are. You can also find forms in Goju Ryu and Shorin Ryu such as the heron and the tiger, but they’re not as evident as in Uechi Ryu.

Higaonna: They are hidden. As they say, they hide their claws. In ancient times, techniques of this kind were passed on. These days, however, the fervour to hide them has transformed the kata (laughs regretfully). Just look at our training, for example that of “mawashiuke”: at the beginning it is practiced with wider movements. When we have learned it well, in real combat it is used in the form of a tiger, rotating our hands in a more reduced and incisive way. As a training method, we say that it’s like sharpening a pencil. Initially we create the form with wide strokes, and then curb the corners and refine the details until we get a result that’s quite beautiful.

And the person who established that method of teaching was...

Higaonna: ...Master Miyagi Chojun.


Goju Ryu was the first school to receive its own denomination in Japan: apart from its name, the basis for the teaching methods of modern Goju Ryu were also laid down by Master Chojun, isn’t that right?

Higaonna: Exactly. It was Master Chojun who established a teaching tradition. First with the two “Gekisai ichi” and “ni”, and then “Sanchin”. Before the war, All of the masters only practiced Sanchin.

Then they trained with each other and they learned many things. This is why differences were gradually created as the teaching was transmitted from person to person.

Just like in the game Chinese Whispers! (laughs)

Higaonna: That’s right. Just like in the game Chinese Whispers! (laughs)