Unlike the Shotokan karate style which has only one set of dojo kun written by Master Gichin Funakoshi, Goju Ryu style has several sets of dojo kun written by various masters.

In this post, we will briefly look at various versions of Goju Ryu dojo kun before focusing on one popular version written by Master Morio Higaonna.

Various dojo kun by Goju ryu masters

Goju Ryu style was created by Master Chojun Miyagi around 1920. He died of a heart attack in 1953 without having officially named a successor. However, several of his pupils have proclaimed themselves as his successors.

The family of Chojun Miyagi communicated that the founder of the style wanted Eiichi Miyazato, one of his most senior students, to succeed him. In February 1954, a Goju Ryu committee unanimously voted Eiichi Miyazato as the official successor of Chojun Miyagi.

However, in 1963, Chojun Miyagi’s family also publicly recognize Meitoku Yagi as one of the successors of Chojun Miyagi and gave him one of Miyagi’s karate gis and belts.

Later, other students such as An’ichi Miyagi and Gōgen Yamaguchi would also claim themselves to be Miyagi’s successors.

As a result, there are different ‘branches’ of the Goju Ryu style led by senior students of Chojun Miyagi and there are quite a few versions of the dojo kun and precepts written by the masters of those branches.

In my view, they all reflect the essence of karate and are nuggets of wisdom that the masters wanted to pass on to their students.

Below are what I found from my research. They are listed in no particular order.

1. Dojo kun of Master Eiichi Miyazato

Master Eiichi Miyazato (1922-1999) was a senior student of Chōjun Miyagi. Miyazato held the rank of 10th dan in karate and 7th dan in judo. On his death, he was honored with the degree of 8th dan in judo.

Below is his dojo kun written in 1978:

  • Be mindful of your courtesy with humbleness
  • Train yourself considering physical strength
  • Study and contrive seriously
  • Be calm in mind and swift in action
  • Take care of yourself
  • Live a plain and simple life
  • Do not be too proud of yourself
  • Continue training with patience and humbleness.

2. Precepts of Master Meitoku Yagi

Master Meitoku Yagi (1912-2003) was a senior student of Chojun Miyagi. After Chojun Miyagi passed away, Yagi opened his own dojo and founded Meibukan school. Yagi was also recognized as one of the official successors of Chojun Miyagi and was given Miyagi’s gi and belt. In 1986, Yagi was named a Living National Treasure for his contributions to martial arts.

Meitoku Yagi’s dojo kun is below. They emphasize Goju Ryu’s principles of soft and hard and the importance of cultivating the mind.

  • There is no secret to karate but to train a hundred techniques a thousand times
  • The strange, mystery and miracle (of karate) is inside, located in the refinement and drilling and polishing of the heart
  • The secrets of karate are revealed by having a good heart
  • Running water does not compete. Be soft, flexible and humble. Shed your ego
  • A pine tree bends in the wind but a bamboo is hard in the cold. Must have a balance between hard a soft
  • The way of inhaling is both hardness and softness, you must give and take.

3. Dojo kun of Master Senaha Shigetoshi

Born in 1941, Shigetoshi sensei was a senior student of Meitoku Yagi and also taught in Yagi’s dojo. He held a 9th dan in Goju Ryu. According to some sources, Meitoku Yagi wished to award Shigetoshi sensei his 10th dan but Shigetoshi refused, feeling that he still had so much to learn. He also did not wish to be at the same grade as his teacher out of respect for him.

Below is Shigetoshi sensei’s dojo kun:

We will devote ourselves to spread karate-do worldwide and to cultivate and develop one’s physical strength and one’s spiritual health by studying and training.

For that purpose:

  • The teacher and the students relate each other on the basis of loyalty and honor
  • Love and respect to one’s father and mother
  • Respect senior student
  • Sincerity to one’s friends
  • Have affection for junior students.

We will always devote ourselves to training based on these five precepts.

I especially like this dojo kun in that it is all about relationship, love and respect, and building and bettering one’s character rather than about karate itself.

Dojo kun of Master Seikichi Toguchi

Seikichi Toguchi (1917-1988) was a student of Chojun Miyagi for 25 years and the founder of Shorei-kan karate. His dojo kun began each point with the word “first” to emphasize that all points were equally important.

  • First, be always courteous and humble
  • First, cultivate peaceful mind
  • First, learn to be patient
  • First, strive hard to be a better person
  • First, try to develop your spirit and the techniques of karate in the same level
  • First, apply the principles of karate in your daily life.

Similar to Master Shigetoshi’s dojo kun, Master Toguchi also emphasized the character-building aspect of karate in his dojo kun.

Precepts of Master Shinjo Masanobu

Shinjo Masanobu (1938-1993) was a student of Meitoku Yagi but mainly trained under and taught for Seikichi Toguchi sensei. He founded Okinawa Goju Ryu Shobukan in 1963.

Below are his precepts:

  • Work hard at forging proper karate-do techniques, train both the body and mind, strive to cultivating a complete character
  • Build an unyielding spirit and work hard to be able to control yourself in the face of any difficulty
  • Show respect for your seniors and kindly guide your juniors
  • Never engage in any speech or behavior that would damage the honor of the association
  • Always have pride as a member of the association; never allow yourself to be carried away by youthful ardor, taking drastic measures and engaging in ill-mannered behavior.

Dojo kun of Sensei Teruo Chinen

Teruo Chinen (1941-2015) was a student of Sensei Eiichi Miyazato and Morio Higaonna Morio. He founded the Jundokan International karate organization and held the title of Shihan and was a 7th dan,

The dojo kun below was displayed on the wall of the dojo of Sensei Teruo Chinen, in Spokane, Washington.

  • Be humble and polite
  • Train considering your physical strength
  • Practice earnestly with creativity
  • Be calm and swift
  • Take care of your health
  • Live a plain life
  • Do not be too proud or modest
  • Continue your training with patience.

Dojo kun of Master Gogen Yamaguchi

Gogen Yamaguchi (1909-1989) was a student of Chojun Miyagi and one of the most well-known karate masters from Japan. He was also the founder of the International Goju Kai Association. Prior to his death, Yamaguchi was decorated by the Emperor of Japan in 1968 for his enormous contribution to the spread of Japanese martial arts worldwide.

Dojo kun of Goju Kai:

  • We are proud to study the way of Goju
  • We are courteous in manners
  • We strive to develop courage and fighting spirit (humble yet strong)
  • We cultivate fellowship and understanding (the spirit of cooperation)
  • We respect the ideals of loyalty and honor, traditional from olden times in Japan.

Dojo kun of Master Morio Higaonna

Born in 1938, Morio Higaonna was a student of Eiichi Miyazato and Anichi Miyagi, one of Miyagi Chojun’s last students. Morio Higaonna has taught in Okinawa, mainland Japan and extensively overseas. He established the International Okinawan Goju Ryu Karate-do Federation (IOGKF) in 1979 to preserve and spread the original Gōjū-ryū karate style of Okinawa throughout the world.

Morio Higaonna’s dojo kun:

  • First thing, respect others
  • First thing, be courageous
  • First thing, train your mind and body
  • First thing, practice daily and protect traditional karate
  • First thing, strive to reach the essence of Goju-Ryu
  • First thing, never give up.

Below is a short discussion of Master Morio Higaonna’s dojo kun which I chose because it is what we recite at our dojo.

Master Morio Higaonna’s Dojo kun and their meanings

1. Respect others

Hitotsu – Reigi O Omon Zuru Koto
Be respectful towards others and always act with honor and good manners.

Respect, courtesy, and good manners are an important part of Japanese culture and karate.

You learn karate and learn to respect your instructors and fellow karatekas, respect the place of training, and respect the training equipment.

You do this through bowing, listening respectfully, helping each other, taking care of each other, and taking care of the place of training and the training equipment.

You also strive to make this respectful manner become part of you and behave accordingly outside the dojo.

As I’ve written in this post, you will meet people in life whom you don’t think should deserve your respect. However, in my view, a true martial artist will rise above pettiness and be able to show sympathy and respect to the people who are less fortunate than him or her and might not have benefited from the upbringing and teaching that he or she has had.

2. Be courageous

Hitotsu Yuki O Yashinau Koto
Be courageous

Courage means the ability to do something that is frightening, dangerous, or painful.

To be courageous means to conquer your fear, stand up, take action and take risks despite dangers, disapproval, or potentially unfavorable consequences.

This is not an easy thing to achieve at all. But fortunately, karate can help you at least when facing situations involving physical altercations. As you progress in your training, you will be equipped with techniques, strategies, and appropriate mental attitude and become more courageous when facing these situations.

You can also learn to be more courageous in dealing with everyday situations. Instead of feeling anxious and fearful and running away from problems, find out what causes you to fear and the reasons for your anxiety. Think about potential solutions to address the root causes of these problems, have an action plan and act on it.

3. Train your mind and body

Hitotsu – Shinshin No Renma Ni Hakemu Koto.
Seek to develop/improve the mind and body through practice

In karate, most of the time, training focuses on developing techniques and physical strengths. You learn to block, punch and kick and there is not much time where your instructor would stop to talk about developing the mind.

But that would come about gradually and subtly through years of training. You develop a strong mind, resilience, confidence, and a sense of justice by turning up to train no matter what, pushing through and mastering a difficult technique or a kata, having an open mind and continually seeking to better yourself, being there and helping your training partner and supporting your karate family.

And the ultimate goal is to cultivate the mind and the spirit of a true Bushi: to seek the way of virtue, to win with honor and integrity, to win without fighting, and to reach peace without incident.

In Goju Ryu Karate-do, we try to cultivate the ideal human nature of physical and spiritual union through the training of the body and spirit. Originally, in the way of strategy, there was the concept “to win”, but to win through virtue is the ultimate goal. Therefore, anyone who aspires to this way must not forget the Japanese character 忍 (“nin“, to endure). Heighten one’s own virtue, master the strategy of winning without fighting and seek the ultimate secrete.

Master Chojun Miyagi

4. Practice daily and protect traditional karate-do

Hitotsu – Hibi No Tanren O Okotarazu Dentou Karate O Mamoru Koto.

Through disciplined daily training, strive to carefully protect/guard traditional karate

Why practice daily?

The benefit of practicing daily is enormous, not just with karate but with any other fields that you want to pursue.

Practice daily will build and strengthen synaptic connections with regard to your karate skills. When you first learn a new technique, it can be hard. With more practice, the technique will become easier and easier. And with sufficient practice, performing this technique will even become automated. And that’s when the magic happens. When out of nowhere, a punch heads for your face, you don’t think but just automatically and unconsciously block it the way you’ve practiced thousands of times before.

There is nothing that can replace daily practice. If you want to be good at drawing, draw every day. If you want to be good at a particular language, spend at least 15 minutes a day learning it. If you want to be good at writing, write every day. If you love karate and want to be good at karate, practice it daily. There is no secret, no magic principle, no magic potion, no magic ingredient nor hidden techniques. The secret to being good at karate is the time you devote to training.

Why protect traditional karate?

I think Master Morio Higaonna is probably concerned about future generations trying to change traditional karate to suit their vision, ego, or ambition.

In my view, it is not that Higaonna thinks the Goju Ryu style created by Master Chojun Miyagi is perfect, but he’s afraid that people would begin to tinker with it when they haven’t fully understood the deep meaning of katas or techniques that they are taught by their instructors.

If an instructor decides to change an aspect of traditional Okinawan Goju Ryu for whatever reason, his or her students would learn this and pass it on to their students later on. And if this keeps happening, the original version of traditional karate as created by Chojun Miyagi would gradually become water-down, diluted, distorted, and even unrecognizable. It would be a tragedy when this happens.

Many martial artists have dedicated their lives to learn and teach traditional karate as created and taught to them by Chojun Miyagi. It is our duty to learn, protect and preserve it and pass it on to future generations.

5. Strive to reach the essence of Goju-Ryu

Hitotsu – Goju Ryu Karate-Do No Shin Zui O Kiwa Suru Koto.
Aim to research and master the true core/essence of Goju Ryu Karate-Do

The essence of the Goju Ryu style is the unison of the hard and the soft and also the cultivation of an ideal human character through martial art training.

Goju Ryu karate is characterized by the use of both hard and soft techniques. It emphasizes the use of evasion techniques to deflect attacks rather than matching force with force and meeting opponents with the opposite of what they are using. It requires its practitioners to develop strength and power but also strive to be gracious and flexible when necessary.

For example, blocking a powerful and direct strike with a soft open hand block (tora guchi), or striking a soft vital point with a hard attack.

Through dedicated and consistent training, a Goju Ryu karate practitioner should aim for a seamless blend of hard and soft techniques in fighting, “as supple as a willow, as solid as Mount Tai“.

Goju Ryu karate’s principles apply not just to one’s karate journey, but to one’s life in general. Aim to use softness and hardness to deal with challenges in life appropriately. Strive for a balance between serious study and fun activity, between work and family time, indoor time and time surrounded by nature, time for self-development, and time involving in the community, standing firm in your opinion and at the same time putting you in somebody else’s shoes.

6. Never give up

Hitotsu – Futoufukutsu No Seishin O Yashinauro Koto.
Strive to cultivate a courageous, unyielding, and indomitable spirit.

This is easier said than done but it is what we should strive for.

Life is full of distractions, temptations, and problems. It is so easy to start something but it is so difficult to stay the course.

But not giving up is a mindset that you can definitely learn. Tell yourself things like:

  • Setbacks and problems will come my way and I accept that they are all part of life
  • Every problem has a solution and I just need to find it
  • Somebody must have been through this before and so can I
  • If I can’t find a solution, I will get help instead of giving up
  • I’ve failed but I won’t give up. What have I learned and what can I do differently next time?
  • I will stick to my action plan and daily schedules
  • I will persist when things get tough
  • I will either find a way or make one.

Thank you for stopping by. I hope you find this post useful. Please check out my library of other karate articles which is updated regularly.


Dojo Kun – Lost in Translation?

Dojo Kun – Words to Live By

Karate Precepts and “Dojo Kun”


Wikipedia – Dojo kun

Wikipedia – Chojun Miyagi

Okinawan Karate (Kobudo & Te) Teachers, Styles and Secret Techniques: Expanded Third Edition

Traditional Karate-Do: Okinawa Goju Ryu Vol. 1: The Fundamental Techniques