Change is Inevitable

Peter Urban (

For those of us that practice Goju-ryu, or any “style” of Karatedo for that matter, change is inevitable. Each student of Miyagi Chojun had his own unique and “correct” way with respect to passing on his curriculum, but who is to say what is “right” or “orthodox” or “correct”? Its a difficult question and not one easily answered.Take this youtube video of the late Peter Urban of American Goju-ryu performing the kata Sanseru. What are we to make of it? Is it “right” or “wrong”? How are we (if at all) going to determine this?

Its my own opinion that the only real “tradition” found in Okinawa Karatedo is the tradition of change. Each subsequent generation adds, eliminates, or modifies the tradition they inherit from their teacher(s).  Goju-ryu is no exception. Case in point, look at all the different off-shoots of Goju-ryu that have come into existence since the death  of Miyagi Chojun.

In a little over 60 years there are now literally dozens. The success (or lack thereof) of these off-shoots and their respective changes brings up a few interesting observation, that the success of these changes is partly the result of the experience of the teachers and the degree to which they stayed within the paradigm of “Goju-ryu”. In other words, what is important is when and how these changes were made. As I have posted earlier, change is not inherently a bad thing, but needs to be done within the confines of the shu-ha-ri model which in turn assumes a level of maturity and experience of the practitioner.