50 Years of Okinawan Goju Ryu in SA
50 years on a good reason to celebrate.
Five decades have passed since Okinawan Goju Ryu was introduced to South Africa by a remarkable man, sensei James Rousseau. His journey through this period has created a wake of profound energy, immense interest in what he nurtured and a legacy that has crossed boundries, spilling over into branches that today continue to practice some form of what he brought to this country.
Today we look back at all that has gone before and stand proudly beneath the great tree that has grown from the tiny seed planted in 1966 when sensei James established himself in South Africa as the founder of Okinawan Goju Ryu with the grade of Sandan.
Sensei James began his karate training in the Shotokan system in 1961 and received Shodan ranking in 1964. During one of his trips to Japan he became acquainted with Goju Ryu and decided to concentrate his training in this system. He relates many interesting experiences, crediting his wife Wendy for her supportive role, as well as his brother Peter who substituted as instructor during his absences from the dojo, when pursuing his passion for traditional karate in Japan.
In Tokyo he trained at the Yoyogi dojo with memorable teachers like Senseis Higaonna, Chinen, Kikugawa and others. In Okinawa his Sandan grading was endorsed by Sensei Miyazato. The establishment of Goju Ryu in South Africa was supported by Senseis Higaonna and Chinen, who also encouraged and assisted him on a personal level. It is then very fitting that we share this celebration with one of these original pioneers of our legacy.
One could say that South African Goju Ryu was born in December 1966 when Gekisai Dai-ichi was taught in Welkom for the first time. Sensei James was supported by his then Shotokan students to adapt to Goju Ryu. He reminds us of his early black belt students, naming a few like Peter Rousseau, Etienne Coetzee, Wessie Warren, Doc Coetzee, Glen Popham and the late Tom Ferreira.
The Fox Street dojo in Johannesburg became well known and was visited by various enthusiasts from other countries. Sensei James went on to help Peter establish Goju Ryu in England, together with the help of Senseis Chinen, Onaga (Spain) and Suzuki (Sweden). Sensei Peter Harms, was another early member of the European community of Goju Ryu, converting from Kyukushinkai with this members in Belgium. Goju Ryu spread to Germany when one of Sensei James’ students,
Gisela Guhl from Fox street dojo established a dojo there.
While Goju Ryu spread its roots in the north, a simultaneous development took place in the south. In 1963 Hugh St John Thomson and his wife Marty founded Karate-Do in Cape Town. The style was loosely based on other systems until Hugh went to Japan and decided to train with the Okinawan Goju Ryu system which he found to be much more open and fluid. In 1967 Karate-Do took an independent line and made the necessary adaptations to produce their own system. Denis St John Thomson, training and teaching from 1963, expanded the use of traditional Okinawan weapons and now.
This contribution was supplied by Sensei Tony de Beer of Shorei Martial Arts Academy, who teaches Goju Ryu Karate in Kempton Park.