Founder of Naha-te Karate-jutsu
(1853 - 1915)
history is provided courtesy of Sensei Meagher
of Northwest Okinawan Goju Ryu Karate
Kanryo Higaonna (Higashionna was the original Okinawan pronounciation)
was born on March 10, 1853, in Naha, the capital city of Okinawa. His
father, Kanyo, worked as a merchant sailing between the small islands
of Okinawa trading everyday goods. From a young age Kanryo Higaonna helped
his father in this work and through the hard physical labor that was involved
he developed a strong body. Kanryo Higaonna was still in his teens when
his father died suddenly.
Higaonna began his
martial arts training in 1867 in Monk Fist Boxing (Lohan Quan) from Aragaki
Seisho. In 1870, at the age of 16, he traveled with his instructor to
Fuzhou, China. Once in Fuzhou he studied the Chinese martial arts under
the great Master RuRuKo (Xie Zhonh Xiang in Chinese). RuRuKo was the founder
of Whooping Crane gongfu and was a student of Pan Yuba who, in turn, was
a student of Lin Shixian, a master of White Crane gongfu. Higaonna also
received instruction from numerous other gongfu masters including Wai
Xinxian. Hiagaonna remained in China for a period of 5-13 years. In addition
to studying empty hand and weapon arts, he also became accomplished in
herbology and Chinese medicine, including acupuncture.
Miyagi (founder of Goju-Ryu and successor to Higaonna) said of Higaonna,
"My sensei possessed incredible strength; the severity of the training
he underwent in China is beyond comprehension.... Kanryo Sensei's speed
and power were truly superhuman; his hands and feet moved faster than
lightning". Words cannot express his real ability. We can only say
that his skill was incredible, but even this fails to do him justice.
In the year 1881,
he returned to Okinawa where his martial arts would become known as Naha-te
though he always referred to it as chuanfa. Kanryo Higaonna taught these
martial arts to the people of Okinawa and at the same time continued his
own research and practice. In order to teach the youth of Okinawa he developed
a teaching method that was specifically designed to develop the mind and
body; to improve both physical well-being.
The first occasion
on which the previously secretive art of Naha-te "opened" to
society in general, occurred in October 1905, when Higaonna began teaching
at the Naha Commercial High School. When teaching, Higaonna was an extremely
hard task master. However, in his everyday life he was a quiet and humble
man and one who was renowned for his virtuous character. He was a person
who had no need or desire for worldly things. He leads a simple life that
was devoted to the study and practice of martial arts.
There are many stories
that relate tales of Kanryo Higaonna's life and training. The power of
his legs was legendary so that often he was referred to as "Ashi
no Higaonna", ("legs Higaonna") in Okinawa. His virtuous
character was widely known and respected, and because of his popularity
the people of Naha bestowed him with the name, Obushi Higaonna Tanmei:,
a name which reflected the affection and respect they had for this great
man and supreme martial artist.
unparalleled skill in the martial arts aside, his great and distinguished
work was in bringing the Chinese martial arts from China to Okinawa, and
from there spreading these arts among the people of Okinawa.
Kanryo Higaonna is
now bestowed with the title "Kensei (sacred fists) Kanryo Higaonna"
a title which is eminently fitting. 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.
whole life was devoted to karate. He passed away in December 1915 at the
age of 63.
to the History of Gojuryu Karate
of Chojin Miyagi
Profile of Ei'ichi Miyazato
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