Master Kanryo Higashionna (1840-1910)
Master Kanryo Higashionna began his studies in the martial arts as a child. As a young man, however, he became a sailor on the Shinko-Sen, a vessel engaged in regular trading and cultural expeditions to China. On one of these expeditions, he bravely rescued a drowning child. When he returned the child to its parents, he discovered that Master Ryu, a renowned Chinese martial artist, was the boy's father. When a grateful Master Ryu offered Master Higashionna a reward, Master Higashionna asked for instruction in the art of Chinese boxing.
Master Higashionna trained under Master Ryu for thirty years. On his return to Okinawa, he began teaching the art of boxing. He decided, however, that although the boxing he had learned was excellent, it did not suit the needs of his native country. After much study and hard work, he succeeded in creating Naha-te, an improved art which combined the good points of karate with certain elements of Chinese boxing. For example, the form Sanchin, originally done with open hands, was changed to fists closed.
Master Higashionna's vision perceived a movement from technique to art, from individuals to groups. He implemented this improved and more practical art form into his teachings at the police and junior high schools. Thus began the realization of his vision. And, as his teachings spread farther and farther, so did his fame. Master Higashionna became known as a "Fist-Saint"and is recognized as the father of Goju-Ryu. Among his top students were Master Chojun Miyagi and Master Juhatsu Kyoda.