The practice of martial arts has been a facet of Okinawan culture since the beginning of recorded history. That tradition was as strong as ever five hundred years ago, when the island of Okinawa served as an axis of trade and cultural exchange between China and Japan. Over the course of several hundred years Chinese Kung Fu techniques were continually introduced in Okinawa where they were gradually merged with the “te-gumi” martial arts native to Okinawa. Okinawan “Kara-te” (roughly translated “China-hand”) was eventually born. Decades later the word “kara” was re-interpreted to mean “open” or “empty,” and the tradition of Chinese-influenced Okinawan empty-hand combat has persisted and grown through the centuries on the island.
First arriving during the Korean War, an American marine by the name of Frank Van Lenten visited Okinawa for more than a decade, and pursued the study of Goju Ryu; one of the Okinawan styles of unarmed combat. After mastering that style, Van Lenten received permission from his instructors to expand his study of Karate to include other Okinawan styles. Before his return to the U.S. in the mid-1960s, Van Lenten had also studied Uechi Ryu, Isshin Ryu, Shorin Ryu and Kempo. Once back in Syracuse, New York, Van Lenten founded the Goshin-Do Karate-Do-Kyokai, which was an organization that attempted to bring all of the newly migrated Okinawan styles in America under a single authority.
A student of Frank Van Lenten’s during this time period was a man by the name of Alfred Gossett, who had prior training in judo and jujitsu before receiving his (karate) black belt in the hybrid style that Van Lenten was teaching. Sensei Al Gossett’s combined his Jiu Jitsu and Sensei Van Lenten’s Goshin-Do style and thereby formed the Goshin-Ryu Karate Association. Goshin-Ryu Karate is a combination of Goju-Ryu, Isshin Ryu and Shorin-Ryu, karate kata, with Jiu Jitsu based self-defense techniques. Today the Goshin Ryu Karate Association of New Jersey has hundreds of active black belts, and thousands of students throughout New York, New Jersey, and Virginia.