Goju Ryu as an “Intangible cultural treasure”
Shura Castle has been a major part of Okinawan culture for over six centuries. It was completely destroyed during WWII but rebuilt to almost the exact way it was before. Recently, there was a fire and as you can see, it was lost again. Ironically, I actually toured the castle this past summer and was amazed at the detail work. Every board was designed with an exact purpose and perfectly placed in the precise place where it belonged. The flooring, walls, doors meticulously crafted to be placed in one spot, and one spot only. The design of the halls and pathways inside were designed to lead you to a particular place. The craftsmanship and details we among the best I have ever seen in my lifetime.
Much like Shuri Castle, Goju Ryu kata is a precise art. Every step has a purpose, every turn a reason, there are absolutely no wasted movements. Kata in itself is “a series of technically correct movements” which are used to develop a student to know exactly where to place their feet, hands, balance, and attention. Most importantly it teaches us correct breathing (Sanchin kata). With years of practice and training, a student of traditional Goju Ryu can begin to feel the “message” of each kata and the lesson within. After thousands of times doing each kata, one should have gained at least one “arrow” to put in your quiver of knowledge in the event you are faced with an attacker.
The difference between Shuri Castle and Goju Ryu is that Shuri Castle is, or at least was, a tangible treasure that one could see, touch, walk through, and visit. Now it is gone. Or is it? The Okinawan people will certainly rebuild and preserve something that defines their culture. Goju Ryu is not something you can touch, see, or build. I would argue the opposite. Goju Ryu is tangible in our hearts and minds. When you watch someone perform a Goju kata, it can be an amazing thin. You can easily see if the practitioner has spent the time and hours of training to deeply understand what each movement means and it s intended purpose.
This is why is it so important that we train hard and pass the art along in its most pure and simple form. It is incumbent upon all of us to seek (but never achieve) perfection in our kata and technique. I have been training for years and I know I will never achieve perfection, but I will always try to improve myself and help my students along the way. There is never a class where I don’t learn something that will help my technique or improve a little bit. All of us that train and teach must always keep this in mind. Like Shuri Castle, traditional Okinawan Goju Ryu is a cultural treasure that must be preserved and passed down for generations to come.