by Travis Cottreau
The exact dates that O-Sensei began training with Higashionna Kanryo are uncertain. His training with Aragaki Seisho (1840-1918) stopped between 1912 and 1914 and he started training with Hanashiro Chomo (1869-1945) around 1914. Death dates for Higashionna are varied, anywhere in the range of 1915 to 1918 are quoted in various history books, and probably no one knows for certain. However, we can figure out from the dates that O-Sensei was with Higashionna for only a few years at most.
Higashionna is a very famous karateka, made so mostly by one of his students, Miyagi Choyun, the founder of Goju Ryu, one of the most popular styles of karate worldwide. Miyagi and O-Sensei trained together under Higashionna and remained friends until Miyagi’s death in 1953.
Kanryo was born at Nishimura (West Village), Naha in March, 1853, the fourth son of Higashionna Kanyo, a high ranking Bushi who didn’t fare well financially during the final absorption of Okinawa into Japan and the abolition of the Bushi and Samurai classes. Higashionna’s father was forced to ship firewood for a living from the Kerama Islands to Naha in a small junk. The poverty of Higashionna’s family meant that his education was neglected and Higashionna was likely unable to read or write.