Preparing the future by preserving our past
Today, karate is a world-wide sport and it is always best to look within the history and lineage of the art so that the true spirit of karate-do can be conveyed to our students and to future generations. As karate has spread and developed as a sport it has become a greater challenge for us as teachers to see that our art is taught properly so as to preserve the true spirit of the martial arts.
It has often been said that to understand the future is to understand the past. It is with that frame of mind, understanding our history; honoring our founders and preserving our Kata that we can best preserve and promote the true spirit of the martial arts.
This writing is intended to be a history of the USA Goju Karate Organization under the direction of Master, William A. Liquori. Beginning with Okinawa and following the migration of the art to Japan, then to the United States and eventually to Orlando, Florida where Master Liquori’s main dojo was located.
What is Goju?
Gōjū-ryū 剛柔流, (Japanese for "hard-soft style") is one of the main traditional Okinawan styles of karate, featuring a combination of hard and soft techniques. Go which means hard, refers to closed hand techniques such as punching and kicks and linear movements; Ju which means soft refers to circular techniques for blocking and controlling the opponent, including locks, grappling, takedowns and throws.
Major emphasis is given to breathing correctly with deep breathing from the stomach (hara). Goju-Ryu combines hard striking attacks with softer open hand circular techniques.
Goju-Ryu was officially recognized as a budō in Japan by Dai Nippon Butoku Kai in 1933, as a modern martial art, or gendai budō. By 1998 the Dai Nippon Butoku kai recognized Goju-ryu Karatedo as an ancient form of martial art (koryu) and as a bujutsu.
Between the 1300’s and the 1400’s trade and delegates were exchanges between Okinawa and china. Among the Chinese delegates were masters of Chinese Kemp who taught their arts to the Okinawa’s.
In 1477 the Sho dynasty came to power in Okinawa and the new king Sho Shin banned the carrying of swords by everyone, and ordered the confiscation of all weapons.
There was still a need for the population to learn how to protect themselves so they continued to practice their art in great secrecy. Japan invaded Okinawa 1609 and the ban on weapons was reinstated. Okinawa went on to become a prefecture of Japan in 1879.
They referred to their art as Te meaning hand and over time three different styles of Te developed in Okinawa that were simply named after the city they lived in; Nahe-Te, Shuri-Te and Tomori-Te. Eventually Te was replaced with the name Karate meaning empty-hand.
Okinawa went on to become the birth place of many styles of Karate such as: Goju-Ryu, Wado-Ryu, Shito-Ryu and Shotokan.
March 10, 1853 – October 1916
Grandmaster Kanryo Higaonna was born on March 10, 1853, in Naha, the capital city of Okinawa. Master Kanryo Higaonna helped his father in his work and with the physical labor that was involved he developed a strong body.
He began his study of Chinese Kempo at the age of sixteen, he learned quickly, but longed to go to China to study the Chinese martial arts.
Eventually he meets a Chinese statesman named Udon Yoshimura who traveled to China often. The statesman then introduced him to the owner of a trading ship that traveled to China. Eventually the owner of the ship granted him passage to China.
By November 1874 at the age of 22 Master Higaonna left the Naha port and later arrived in Foocho, China. He lived and worked in the settlement for a year before he was introduced to a Kempo Master Ryu Ryu Ko Roshi.
Master Higaonna was not immediately accepted as a student. It was a common practice in China that before a master accepted a student he would have to study the discipline and character of the candidate. As such, Master Higaonna was given tasks of tending the garden and cleaning rooms. After a long period Master Higaonna was accepted as his personal disciple.
Master Higaonna spent fifteen years studying under Master Ryu Ryu Ko Roshi and became "Uchi Deshi" (private disciple). By 1889, he returned to Okinawa and Naha. At this point in time Te was no longer practiced in secret but was now open to the public. He became the instructor of the royal family as well as the instructor of the sons of Udon Yoshimura, the Chinese statesman who helped him years ago.
By 1905 Master Higaonna began teaching Karate at the Naha Commercial High School and eventually his art became known as Naha-Te.
Master Higaonna became ill and passed away in the summer of 1916. Master Kanryo Higaonna is known as the founder of Naha-Te. He is considered one of the earliest and foremost masters of Okinawa Karate and regarded as one of the most influential Karate instructors in Okinawa history.
His most prominent and best student was Chojun Miyagi, the founder of Goju-Ryu.
This Monument was dedicated to Master Kanro Higaonna and Master Chojun Miyagi and is located in Naha.
April 25, 1888 - October 8, 1953
Grandmaster Chojun Miyagi was born on April 25, 1888 and his family was in the import/export business, and owned two ships, which made regular trips to China.
After fulfilling a host of chores (the traditional way of being accepted as a student) he began training at the age of 14 in 1902 with Master Kanryo Higaonna. His training sessions were at night and even though the training was harsh he had a great passion for karate. Master Miyagi became "uchi deshi" (private disciple) of Master Kanryo Higaonna. He studied with his teacher for 14 years before his teacher's death in 1916.
Master Chojun Miyagi became the successor to Naha-te and journeyed to Foocho, China, in the Fukien province the same city where his teacher had studied the martial arts, to further his research and to discover the roots of Naha-te. However, the old dojo had been destroyed during the war and Master Ryu Ryu Ko Roshi had fled the city.
On his return to Okinawa he began to teach the martial arts at his home in Naha. Later, he also taught at the Okinawan Prefecture Police Training Center, at the Okinawan Master's Training College, and at the Naha Commercial High School (where his teacher had once taught).
Master Chojun Miyagi worked hard to refine and popularize the art of karate throughout Okinawa and mainland Japan, and to earn Naha-te a status equal to that of the highly respected Japanese martial arts such as Judo and Kendo. In 1926, Miyagi Chojun Sensei established the Karate Research Club as a means to unify Okinawa karate in order to preserve it as a cultural treasure and as an inheritance of the Okinawa people. He traveled frequently to mainland Japan where he was invited to teach karate at Kyoto University and Ritsumei Kan University. By 1929 he went on to become an instructor at the training center for the Okinawa Police Department.
During the 1930’s, Miyagi Chojun Sensei actively developed and promoted karate-do in Japan and throughout the world. A Karate division was established in the Okinawa Athletic Association and Sensei Miyagi was appointed the division chief.
In 1930, one of Master Chojun Miyagi's top students, Jin'an Shinzato was attending a Martial Arts convention in Tokyo. He was asked by numerous martial arts masters what school of martial arts does he practice. As Naha-te had no formal name he could not answer this question. Feeling his art would be looked down upon and given amateur status; he quickly picked Hankry-Ryu, which means the Way of Half Hard. On his return to Okinawa he reported this incident to Master Chojun Miyagi. He liked Shinzato’s idea and took it one step further. Chojun Miyagi eventually decided on the name 'Goju-Ryu' (hard and soft) as a name for his style. He took this name from a line in the Bubishi (a classical Chinese text on martial arts and other subjects). In the text there is a line that reads "Ho Goju Donto" (the way of inhaling and exhaling is hardness and softness).
In 1934, a Hawaiian newspaper company invited him to Hawaii in order to introduce and populate karate in Hawaii. He also traveled to Shanghai, China, in 1936 for further study of Chinese martial arts at the Western Physical Cultural Association. He was also awarded a commendation by the Butoku-kai for his study in this field in 1937.
The out break of World War II brought great hardship to Master Miyagi and during this time he had to stop teaching. During this period he lost a son and endured the devastations of war and poverty. Master Chojun Miyagi had chosen Jin'an Shinzato as his successor to the Goju School in Okinawa however Shinzato was tragically killed during the war.
After the war he was faced with the challenges of rebuilding his home, rebuilding his town of Naha, bringing his family together and re-establishing his teachings. On several occasions during the line up for rations, he would give his place to an old woman or man and start all over again at the end of the line. It was during this time that Okinawa karate spread rapidly throughout mainland Japan. He was soon appointed to an instructor position at the police academy.
Eight years after the end of the war Master Chojun Miyagi died on October 8th, 1953, at the age of 65.
When Master Chojun Miyagi passed away he left behind his family, his wife and children and a great legacy. Naha's Central Police buildings were rebuilt near the Butoku-den, which was torn down in the late l980's. A bronze bust of Master Chojun Miyagi was put up in the Butoku-den and was moved to the Naha Police Headquarters in 1987.
January 20th, 1909 - May 20th, 1989
Master Gogen Yamaguchi was born on January 20th 1909. Before training in Karate he trained in kendo (Japanese fencing). Around the age of 13 in 1922 he started his karate training under Mr. Maruta, a carpenter from Okinawa and a student of Master Chojun Miyagi.
Master Gogen Yamaguchi invited Master Miyagi to visit Japan in 1929 and it was after that meeting that Master Yamaguchi later studied directly with Master Miyagi.
Master Yamaguchi entered into the Ritsumei Kan University in 1930 as a law student and graduated in 1934. He continued his Karate training during his college years and also co-founded the Ritsumei-Kan Karate-do Kenkyu Kai, which was the first University Karate club in western Japan.
After graduating for Ritsumei Kan University in Kyoto (1934) he continued his training and teaching of Goju-Ryu. In those days karate men practiced only Kata (formal movements) they were unable to have matches between each other since they did not hold back their techniques. It was during this period thatMaster Yamaguchi established the rules for Jyu Kumite (free fighting). Some of the rules are still in use today in sport or competition karate.
In 1935 he officially formed the All Japan Goju Kai Karate-Do Association (known today as the I.K.G.A.). Also in 1935 Master Yamaguchi began working for the Japanese Government as an intelligence officer.
With the beginning of World War II he began his military tour in Manchuria and Master Yamaguchi was captured by the Russian military (1942) and sent to a concentration camp in Siberia. He spent just over two years as a prisoner of war under harsh condition and after the war ended in 1945 he returned to Japan and re-open his Goju-Kai karate school. The Goju-Kai headquarters was officially relocated to Tokyo, Japan in 1950.
Prior to his death in 1953 Master Chojun Miyagi chose Master Gogen Yamaguchi to succeed him in Japan under the Goju-Kai school, and instructed him to pass on Goju-Ryu to the next generation.
Master Yamaguchi also went on to practice Yoga, the principles of Zen and the Shinto religion. He was known throughout the world for his long hair and feline expressions, which gave him the nickname “The Cat”. Master Yamaguchi enjoyed practicing karate and meditation, spending long periods out doors and practiced a spectacular form of meditation while sitting at the foot of a waterfall.
During his long stays in the mountains he would worship the forces of nature and his training was aimed at discovering original purity and the state of enlightenment.
Given his strong religious sentiment he went on to found the Karate-Shinto, where they assimilated the principles of Zen, karate, yoga and Shinto.
Later in 1964 Master Yamaguchi went on to form the All Japan Karate Federation, which is still in existence today as the Japan Karate Federation (JKF). He was decorated by the Emperor of Japan, in 1968, with the Ranju-Hosho (Blue Ribbon Medal) and the Fifth Order of Merit for his contributions to the Martial arts.
Master Yamaguchi also traveled to Australia in 1970 and 1972 too further promote Goju-Kai.
Master Yamaguchi was one of the most influential figures of modern day karate. He passed away on May 20, 1989 and is still revered today for his contributions to the martial arts as well as his teachings and promotion of GoJu-Kai.
Peter G. Urban
August 14, 1934 - April 7, 2004
Master Peter George Urban was born August 14, 1934 in Jersey City, New Jersey but was raised and educated in Union City, New Jersey. After graduating from Emerson High School in 1952 he joined the United States Navy, and was later stationed in Yokohama, Japan. He began his training in the martial arts in 1953 under Richard Kim. However, in 1954 he was transferred to Tokyo, Japan and due to the great distance he was unable to train with Sensei Kim. But it was through Sensei Kim that he was introduced and later began training with Master Gogen Yamaguchi. During that same year he was also introduced to Master Masutatsu Oyama also of Tokyo, Japan.
Eventually he focused his training under Master Yamaguchi. This period was shortly after World War II and it was not uncommon for Master Urban to suffer the prejudice of his classmates who saw their country devastated by the very military in which he served. As an American, he was known to his classmates as gaigeen (the Japanese word for foreigner) or round eye.
While still in the Navy Master Urban opened his first dojo in 1956 and began training the 212th MP who were also stationed in Tokyo, Japan. By1957 he was the first American to compete in the All Japan College Karate Championships. Sensei Urban was again chosen to compete by Master Yamaguchi in 1958, this time at Chuo University where he fought the captain of the Chuo University Karate team. Later in that same year he married a Japanese woman named Meiko Ito.
His time in the military was coming to an end in 1959 and he returned to the United States after he was discharged from the Navy. In that same year he opened his first American dojo on 14th Street and Summit Avenue in Union City, NJ. His dojo grew and in 1960 he opened his second dojo on 17th street in Manhattan, NY.
During this time Master Urban slept during the day and taught classes and trained at night. The Manhattan Dojo was located on the second floor and the students would enter through the stairs. Master Urban entered through the elevator. As he approached he would ring a gong to signal his arrival and the students would line up to begin class. When class was over he would dismiss the class by ringing the gong and exit via the elevator. After class the black belts were expected to listen to lecture tapes that lasted 30-40 minutes and the tap machine was behind a small stage with a curtain.
He went on to establish structured tournaments in America, one of the first of those being the North American Karate Championships in 1962, held at Madison Square Garden. His only child Julia was born in February 1963 and in 1964 he returned to Japan for further study and re-search.
Master Urban’s greatest accomplishment came when he published his first book, The Karate Dojo, Tails and Traditions of A Martial Art” in 1965. During these years he also went on to become president of New York City Metropolitan Karate Society the Eastern Director of the Butokukai Martial Arts Organization, and System Chief, Midwest Goju Karate Association.
Master Urban believed that America deserved its own style of Goju just as Japan had established its own style from Okinawa. With that belief he traveled back to Japan in 1966 to ask Sensei Yamaguchi for permission to proceed with his plans. However, Master Yamaguchi told him no stating that according to Bushi-Do that no white man can achieve nirvana. This response angered Master Urban who also quoted Bushi-do and relayed that according to Bushi-do Japan can never lose a war. An angry Yamaguchi and a dejected Master Urban, they parted company. Master Yamaguchi explained that he would not change his position and Master Urban thanked Master Yamaguchi relaying that he had been a great teacher.
Upon his return to the States Master Urban announced that he would sever his ties with Goju Kai and would found the U.S.A. GoJu Association. He continued to work under Master Richard Kim and the Butokukai but later went on to form the U.S.A Goju Association (U.S.A.G.A) which is still in operation today.
Eventually he moved his Manhattan dojo to his now famous Chinatown dojo in 1967 located at 232 Canal Street, New York City. Also known as the Shanghai Dojo, this was a bold move given that an American Sensei was establishing an American dojo that was open to the public in the heart of Chinatown surrounded by the Kung Fu masters.
Master Urban embraced changed and encouraged his senior students to break off and form their own systems. To this end Master Urban was quoted as saying, “That is the evolution of the art. Without change there is no progress, no development. Change, by definition is progress; I take great pleasure in knowing that changes are being made, in seeing the many minds making those changes in Goju”.
If establishing Goju in America was not enough he made his first trip to Europe in 1977 and established USA Goju in Italy and again in 1978 he traveled back to Padova, Italy to teach and promote a tournament. However, tragedy struck in 1979 when his wife Meiko passed away.
He received many awards during his life-time including the Presidential Sports Award on May 9, 1997 signed by President Bill Clinton. One of the last awards bestowed upon Master Urban came in 2003 when Black Belt Magazine Hall of Fame named him “Man of the Year” Master Urban later passed away on April 7, 2004 leaving behind a lasting legacy with his many students for years to come and is widely regarded as the father of American Goju Karate.
William A. Liquori
1933 - Present
Sensei Liquori started working as a police officer for the Orlando Police Department in November of 1958. Volunteers were asked to be physical training instructors for the Orlando police officers at the J.C. Stone Police Academy. Sensei Liquori volunteered for this opportunity. Thereafter, he started training in Judo. After receiving his brown belt in Judo he decided to switch to Karate thinking
that it might be better suited for police training. Sensei Liquori chose to train with Master Peter Urban in New York city. Master Urban had instructed police officers in New York, and Sensei Liquori, being from New York, had relatives he could stay with while training. The Orlando Police Department sent Sensei Liquori to New York annually for several years, and he also used his personal vacation time to go train with Master Urban at the Chinatown Dojo.
Sensei Liquori trained with some of Master Urban's top students, such as Thomas Boddie, Al Gotay, Edward Doyle, and Ron Van Clief. He also trained with other black belts in Florida like Mike Foster of
Yoshukai. Through the years Master Urban also came to Florida and held seminars at Sensei Liquori's dojo on Orange Blossom Trail in Orlando.
Master Urban encouraged Sensei Liquori (as he did all his high ranking black belts) to start his own organization; therefore Liquori started the USA Goju Organization. Sensei Liquori received rank promotions from Master Urban up to the rank of Judan (10th degree) , but never acknowledged it, citing there could only be one Judan in the system (Master Urban). Sensei Liquori told his students of this matter one night at the end of class in 1982, and ended by saying that when Master Urban passes away he just might acknowledge the rank, but not until then. Since the passing of Master Peter Urban in April of 2004, Sensei Liquori finally decided to acknowledge his rank of Judan in December of 2005 at the annual USA Goju Organization Christmas party.
Over the years, Sensei Liquori has trained countless students, among them many highly qualified and well respected black belts, such as Gene Frye, Oren Smith, Renee Smith, Larry Mabson, Ken Batts, Emory Cross, David Swinson, Bill Bush, Mike Bell, and Linda Liquori. Sensei Liquori also had black belts from other styles train with him like Herbie Thompson and Alan Watson of Nisei Goju. Although Sensei Liquori no longer teaches regularly he continues to be the head of the organization along with holding seminars and attending U.S.A. Goju Organizational functions.
1955 - Present
The beginning of Sensei Barry Macchione’ martial arts study and training began in 1974 under the instruction of Grand Master Hung Woo Ro original founder of Ro’s Tae Kwon Do School, located in Winter Haven, Florida. Master Ro is also the Founder and Chairman of the World Martial Arts Foundation and is well known and respected in the martial arts world. Sensei Macchione, as a beginner, trained for a brief time with Master Ro, and as Tae Kwon Do has its attributes, Sensei Macchione felt this style of Martial Arts was not quite what he was looking for and moved on in search of different schools locally and ended that search with the right Organization in joining Master Liquori’s U.S.A. Goju Organization through one of Master Liquori’s Black Belts - Sensei Alan Hardiman, Shodan. After attaining the level of green belt, Sensei Macchione chose to change instructors within Master Liquori’s U.S.A. Goju Organization and traveled south to Arcadia, FL to train with Sensei Emory Cross, Yodan. After training for six months and while the training and instruction of Sensei Cross was excellent, disciplined, very intense and extremely tough; traveling so far every training night proved to be prohibitive; hence, Sensei Macchione relocated his training in 1977 to Master Liquori’s main school located at: 2710 South Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando FL, well known as “The Main School” where he remained until the closing of that school in March 2004 upon Master Liquori’s retirement.
At present of this writing, Sensei Macchione has spent 45 years training, teaching U.S.A. Goju Karate under Master Liquori’s U.S.A. Goju Karate Organization in the main school and has operated his own schools in Winter Haven, FL and Dundee, FL and continues to be active in the organization. Through the main school, Sensei Macchione trained, studied, and taught under Master Liquori’s tutorage for many years. Master Liquori always encouraged Sensei Macchione to maintain his own school as well, as Sensei Liquori believed Sensei Macchione’ true skills were in teaching and passing on the art and beliefs of Master Liquori and his U.S.A. Goju Karate Organization. He also assisted Master Liquori in his full contact Karate training as a sparring partner for WKA World Champion Michael Bell and Champions Herbie Thompson and Alan Watson of Nisei Goju Ryu for several years while simultaneously teaching at his own schools. Sensei Macchione traveled to the main school every week throughout the years to continue his training and advance his skills; also encouraging his senior students to join him in training at the main school to broaden their exposure and advance their own skills as well. Sensei Macchione has owned, operated and taught at the Winter Haven and Dundee Dojo’s for 18 years and has had the privilege of teaching hundreds of students and had the honor of several of these students attain various levels of Black Belt ranks under his tutorage. During this era, he also worked out, trained and generated great rapport with other organizations such as the Wado Ryu Karate system of Sensei Charles Parrish, Godan and Sensei Butch Balingit, Godan, both of Lakeland, FL for many years and traveled abroad assisting in training seminars in Puerto Rico with Sensei Larry L. Mabson, Shichidan of the U.S.A. Goju Karate Organization. Sensei Macchione also had the privilege of working in the P.A.L. boxing gym with the late world class boxing trainer Jackie Leonard (trainer of Sugar Ray Robinson and early co-trainer of Muhammad Ali “known as Cassius Clay during that time”) at the P.A.L. gym for many years to train and promote matches for his kickboxing fighters at that gym.
Sensei Macchione has always instilled in his students that competition was healthy and as a student of the martial arts, he has competed at all levels of competition (White Belt through Black Belt ranks) and participated in open tournaments as well as U.S.A. Goju Karate Shia and was successful in winning many tournament competitions in weapons, kumite and kata and continued to participate in such until he achieved the rank of Yodan (4th Degree) in 1992. Sensei Macchione believes it is incumbent upon the senior ranking black belts of this organization who have the responsibility of its members to promote high standards, discipline, respect, honor and personal accountability within. The reputation of this organization is of a strong, highly disciplined, and highly respected for its originality, training and promoting etiquette and is clearly recognized and respected by all other legitimate martial arts organizations worldwide. It is imperative that we maintain the importance of our fundamental philosophies that Master Liquori has taught us and is an unequivocal requirement to pass this on to our students throughout our life’s journey.
Sensei Macchione attributes his discipline, knowledge and life experiences as well as his ability to teach great students to his beloved instructor, Master William A. Liquori and his U.S.A. Goju Karate Organization. It is of great honor to be a member of the U.S.A. Goju Karate Organization and without Master Liquori - life as I experience it would be different!