Gogen Yamaguchi was born on January 20th 1909 in Kagoshima city on southern Kyushu, Japan.
He began his martial arts training at an early age under Toshiaki Kirino of the Jigen Ryu school of the sword. Because of his serious attitude to training, he was taken as a student by a carpenter from Okinawa, Mr Takeo Maruta, who taught him all he knew about the Goju Ryu system of karate.
Yamaguchi enrolled in university in 1928, studying Law, first at Kansei University, then in 1929 at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto. It was while at Ritsumeikan that Yamaguchi opened his first karate club. Soon this dojo became famous for it’s hard training and fierce fighting spirit.
In 1931 aged 22, Yamaguchi met Chojun Miyagi, the founder of the Goju Ryu. This meeting had a profound effect on Yamaguchi who until this meeting had only practiced the hard side of the art, and after the meeting became determined to study the “soft” side of the system as well as the spiritual aspects of martial arts.
Miyagi was so impressed with Yamaguchi’s training that in 1937 he gave Yamaguchi the nickname Gogen, meaning rough (his real name was Jitsumi Yamaguchi, but from that point on became known as Gogen Yamaguchi). He then appointed Yamaguchi as head of the Goju Ryu in Japan.
From 1938 to 1945 Yamaguchi served in the Imperial Japanese army in Manchuria. During this time he had many “opportunities” to test his karate skills. He was taken prisoner during the Japanese / Russian war and spent two very harsh years in a prison in Mongolia.
He returned to Japan after the war, and continued his study and teaching of karate. In 1950 he established the Zen Nihon Karatedo Goju Kai in Tokyo which welcomed students from all over the world to come and train in the art of Goju Ryu. In 1951 Yamaguchi Hanshi was awarded 10th Dan. In 1969 Yamaguchi Hanshi was honored by Emperor Hirohito of Japan with the the Blue Ribbon Medal, the Ranju-Hosho (medal of honour), for his services to the martial arts.
Yamaguchi Hanshi, a master of Yoga and a Shinto priest, as well as a consumate martial artist was a man that truly united both aspects of go and ju into a concerted union. He died on May 20th 1989.
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