Kanryo Higaonna

寛量 東恩納

Kanryo Higaonna (1853 - 1916), was born in Nishimura, Naha, Okinawa to a merchant family, whose business was selling firewood, an expensive commodity in the Ryukyu Islands. He founded the fighting style later to be known as Goju Ryu karate.

Due to the characters of his family name being pronounced "Higaonna" in Okinawan, and "Higashionna" in Japanese, Kanryo is known by either name.

In 1867 he began to study Monk Fist Boxing (Luohan Quan) from Aragaki Tsuji Pechin Seisho who was a fluent Chinese speaker and interpreter for the Ryukyu court. At that time the word karate was not in common use, and the martial arts were often referred to simply as Te ("hand"), sometimes prefaced by the area of origin, as Naha-te, Shuri-te, or simply Okinawa-te.

In September 1870, Higaonna was petitioned to go to Beijing as a translator for Okinawan officials. In March 1873 he sailed to Fuzhou in the Fukien province of China. Aragaki had given Higaonna an introduction to the martial arts master Kojo Taitei whose dojo was in Fuzhou. Higaonna spent his time studying with various teachers of the Chinese martial arts, the first four years he probably studied with Wai Xinxian, Kojo Tatai and or Iwah at the Kojo Dojo. Kanryo then trained under  Ryu Ryu Ko (although his name was never recorded as Kanryo Higaonna was illiterate it is believed his real name was probably Xie Zhongxiang founder of Whooping Crane Kung Fu). According to oral account, Kanryo spent years doing household chores for master Ryu Ryu Ko, until he saved his daughter from drowning during a heavy flood and begged the master to teach Kung fu as a reward. In the 1880's Kanryo returned to Okinawa and continued the family business. He also began to teach the martial arts in and around Naha. His style was distinguished by its integration of both go (hard) and ju (soft) techniques in one system. He became so prominent that the name "Naha-te" became identified with Higaonna Kanryo's system. Kanryo was noted for his powerful Sanchin kata, or form. Students reported that the wooden floor would be hot from the gripping of his feet.