Higaonna Kanryo (Higashionna) of Okinawan karate

higashionna higaonna okinawa
Higaonna Kanryo (Higashionna is the original Okinawan pronounciation) was born on March 10, 1853 and died on December 1916. He was a born in Naha, Okinawaand came from a merchant family, whose business was selling firewood. His teachings impacted several styles that still exist to including Gōjū-ryūand Shito-ryu. In Kanryo's days karate was known as simply "Te"or "Tode", where Tode was a reference to Chinese. Regardless, karate of this era was continuing to become a combined art of Chinese influence and locally developed Okinawan martial arts. A number of his students wre well known martial artists who were formative in karate’s history e.g. Chōjun Miyagi, Kenwa Mabuni, Kyoda Shigehatsu, Koki Shiroma, Higa Seiko, and Shiroma Shinpan (Gusukuma). For further information on Higaonna lineage and karate decendants see our 
WIKI lineage charts.

In 1867 he began to study Monk Fist Boxing (Luohan Quan) from Aragaki Pechin Seisho who was a fluent Chinese speaker, interpreter for the Ryukyu court (okinawa kingdom). Aragaki was rumoured to have learnt his martial skills in China (but this is a point of controversy as to how much time and when he spent time their). It is rumored that Sanchin Kata and weight training were instrumental in Higashionna's early training. 

aragaki seisho karate okinawa

Image: reputed instructor of Higashionna Kanryo in Okinawa in his early years - Aragaki Seisho 

Some time between 1870 and 1873 Higashionna sailed to Fuzhou city in Fuzhou province of China at the age of 16. It is suggested that there he studied the Chinese martial arts the styles of Whooping Crane gongfu and White Crane gongfu (but these details are also vague and raises such questions as why he primarily taught kata not from one or the other of these styles of gongfu). The time he stayed there ranges from 15 years to potentially only 3 years (more recent research has begun to point to the later - Clarke, 2009).

In the 1880s Kanryo returned to Okinawa and continued the family business. He also began to teach the martial arts in Naha. His style was distinguished by its integration of both go (hard) and juo (soft) techniques in one system. He became so prominent that the name "Naha-te" became identified with Higaonna Kanryo's system. He began teaching at an Okinawan public school in 1905.

Higashionna Kanryo was one of the first (or first) Okinawan instructors to be in possession of a version of the "bubishi" - the bible of karate. 


Clarke. The Art of Hojo Undo. 2009. ISBN 9781594391361

Sells. Unante,.ISBN 0910704961. 1995 

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Higaonna_Kanry%C5%8D

Wade Chroninger-Chief Instructor, Meibukan Goju-Ryu, Okinawa Dojo, International Student Branch. Higaonna, Kanryo. http://fightingarts.com/reading/article.php?id=10

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