About Higaona Kanryo Sensei


Grandmaster Kanryo Higaona was born in Naha on March 10, 1853. Although small for his age, he was passionate about Martial Arts, and was always in pursue of anything related to the fighting. At the age of 14, he began his formal training in Chinese Kempo with Seisho Ara, who had studied the Fukien style. He was able to master this art very quickly, and it didn't take long before he was equal to his teacher in fighting ability. He was very young when he became known as a Master of the Martial Arts in Naha. Even so, he was still eager to learn more, and dreamed of visiting China one day. In November 1874, Higaona left the port of Naha and embarked to China by the way of Foochow. He went to live at an Okinawan settlement called the Ryukyu-kan. It was here that Higaona was introduced to a Chinese kempo master called Ryu Ryuko.

    At age 23, the young Higaona was allowed to become a personal disciple of Ryu Ryuko. He was also helping the master with his own business, which was the trading in bamboo. The training was extensive and very demanding, and Higaona was able to train in Sanchin and with a variety of tools to strengthen the student's grip, like the Nigiri-game (earthen jars). Makiwara and the Uki were also used.

    The Chinese system that Higaonna Kanryo studied from Wei Shinzan and Ryu Ru Ko was also known as Pan Gainoon which literally means "one half is hard and other half is soft". Those kata practiced in the current Goju-Ryu school like Sanchin, Sanseiru, and Superinpei (Pecchurin) all originated from Pan Gainoon. In addition to studying empty handed martial arts he also became accomplished in weapons techniques and Chinese herbal medicine. He assisted his teacher Ryu Ru Ko at his trade as a bamboo craftsman by day and trained in the evenings Higaonna Sensei reputation among the locals was one of Ryu Ru Ko's most skilled students. After several years of hard training, HIgaona became Master Ryu Ryuko's most profficient student. HIgaona Sensei was already making a name for himself, and his fame quickly spread through the region. Because he lived in a house without much comfort, he was forced to get up very in early in the mornings in order to get warm. He practiced his Kata in the backyard under the watchful eye of Ryu Ryuko, who thought of him as his own son. Higaona Sensei stayed with Master Ryu Ryuko for fifteen years as his personal disciple. After this period of time, Higaona decided to leave Foochow and return to Okinawa.

He went back to his old job as a merchant, but his reputation was growing. introduced a new effective school of Karate, distinguished from other styles by its integration of Go- no (hard) and Ju-no (soft) Kempo into one system notwithstanding his small statue. At this time, martial arts became known as Naha-te (these arts were also referred to as "Tode" meaning martial arts from China). His first open dojo was also his house in Nishimachi, and many came to learn from him. Because the training was very harsh, not many managed to stay around for very long. Kanryo Higaonna taught these martial arts to the people of Okinawa and at the same time continued his own research and practice.

    Upon his return to Okinawa his reluctance to teach formally was finally broken in 1905 after which Chojun Miyagi was brought to him for formal instruction and he began teaching formally at the Naha Commercial High School. He along with Anko Itosu was known as the most proficient Karateka in Okinawan Naha-te. His virtuous character was widely known and respected, and because of his popularity the people of Naha bestowed him with the name, "Obushi Higaonna Tanrnei", a name which reflected the affection and respect they had for this great man and supreme martial artist. Kanryo Higaonna is now bestowed with the title, "Kensei (sacred fists) Higaonna Kanryo", a title which is eminently fitting. Kanryo Higaonna's unparalleled skill in the martial arts aside, his great and distinguished work was in bringing the Chinese martial art forms from China to Okinawa, and there spreading these arts among the people of Okinawa. His name is synonymous with Okinawan martial arts and Naha-te, and his spirit is destined to live on forever as a great and valued treasure within Okinawan culture.


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Williams School of Goju Ryu7617 Elkhorn Mountain Trail
Austin, TX 78729

Telephone: 512.876.1790