Higaonna Kanryo Sensei was born in Naha on March 10, 1853. Kanryo Sensei was a small child called "Machu." Although small, his movements were very quick and his body extremely limber. Already at childhood, Machu showed great interest in the fighting arts.
At the age of 16, he began to learn Chinese Kempo, the combat system used in China. It didn't take long for the young martial artist to reach a level of expertise comparable to that of his teacher. Higaonna Kanryo Sensei became determined that he would travel to China and study the Chinese Kempo.
In 1867, Higaonna Sensei left Okinawa and sailed for Foochow (Chinese City). There, Higaonna met the Chinese master of Kempo, Master Ryu Ryuko. But Higaonna Sensei was not accepted as a disciple immediately. He first worked at the house of Ryu Ryuko, where he cleaned the rooms and the garden. Higaonna Sensei did all these things earnestly and enthusiastically over a period of time. Master Ryu Ryuko was so impressed by the attitude of Higaonna Sensei that he accepted him as his personal disciple.
Higaonna Sensei stayed as Master Ryu Ryuko's' disciple for almost 14 years before going back to Okinawa. Higaonna Sensei opened up his house as Dojo (Training Facility) and started to teach his art without charging tuition.