Morio Higaonna

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This article is about the International Okinawan Goju-ryu Karate-do Federation's founder. For other persons with a similar name, see Higaonna.
In this Japanese name, the family name is "Higaonna".
Morio Higaonna
Born (1938-12-25) December 25, 1938 (age 75)
Naha, Okinawa, Japan
Residence Naha, Okinawa, Japan
Style Goju-ryu Karate
Teacher(s) Tsunetaka Shimabukuro, An'ichi Miyagi, Ei'ichi Miyazato
Rank 10th dan Goju-ryu karate
Spouse Alanna Higaonna
Children Eric Higaonna
Notable students Ken Ogawa, Yozo Ito, Steven Bellamy, Harry Cook, Bakkies Laubscher, Kazuo Terauchi, Leon Pantanowitz , Tetsuji Nakamura , George Andrews

Morio Higaonna (東恩納 盛男 Higaonna Morio?, born December 25, 1938) is a prominent Okinawan karate practitioner who is the founder and Chief Instructor of the International Okinawan Goju-ryu Karate-do Federation (IOGKF).[1][2] He is a holder of the highest rank in Goju-ryu karate, 10th dan.[1] Higaonna has written several books on Goju-ryu karate, including Traditional Karate-do: Okinawa Goju Ryu (1985)[3] and The history of Karate: Okinawan Goju Ryu (2001).[4] Martial arts scholar Donn Draeger (1922–1982) reportedly once described him as "the most dangerous man in Japan in a real fight."[5][6][7]

Early life[edit]

Higaonna was born on December 25, 1938, in Naha, Okinawa.[8][9][10] He began studying Shōrin-ryū karate at the age of 14 with his father and then with his friend Tsunetaka Shimabukuro.[8] It was Shimabukuro who recommended that Higaonna learn Goju-ryu karate at Chojun Miyagi's garden dojo (training hall).[8] In the late 1950s, he began training under Ei'ichi Miyazato,[11][12] the most senior student of Chojun Miyagi, 1888–1953, who founded the Goju-ryu style.[13]

Higaonna was awarded black belt status by Miyazato in 1957.[10] In 1960, he moved to Tokyo to study at Takushoku University.[8] On December 30 of that year, Higaonna was promoted to the rank of 3rd dan at the first all-style dan grading of the Okinawa Karate-do Renmei.[8][13] He was invited to teach at Tokyo's Yoyogi dojo, where he attracted a large following of karateka (practitioners of karate).[13][14]

Promoting Goju-ryu across the world[edit]

In July 1979, Higaonna founded the IOGKF in Poole, England.[2][8] He was ranked 7th dan at the time.[15] In 1980, Higaonna married a US student, Alanna Stevens, and their son Eric was born in November that year.[16] The family lived in Okinawa from May 1981 to May 1985, then in Tokyo from 1985 to 1987.[16]

In September 1987, Higaonna moved with his family to Southern California to establish a new dojo.[16] With San Marcos as a base,[16][17][18] he began hosting budo festivals while continuing to research, practice, and travel worldwide to teach, such as in the former Soviet Union.[16] Higaonna received his 8th dan and 9th dan promotions from Yuchoku Higa.[19] In 2004, Higaonna was a member of the Okinawan Karatedo and Kobudo Encyclopedia Committee.[9]

Higaonna later returned to live in Japan,[16] and attained the rank of 10th dan in September 2007.[2] His wife, Alanna Higaonna, is Administrative Director[20] and an Advisor[21] for the IOGKF, and his son, Eric Higaonna, is also a karateka.[16] Higaonna remains active in karate, teaching in his home city, in Tsuboya, Naha, Okinawa.[2][12]

In 2009, Higaonna took part in a CBBC show called Hai Karate Journey to Japan where four children and one of their parents from the UK went to Japan to learn karate, and had three weeks to gain their first rank promotion, to yellow belt.[citation needed]

On October 12, during the Euro Asia Gasshuku in Moldova, Higaonna Sensei received a special award from the President of Moldova, Nicolae Timofti, for his many years of contribution to spread traditional karate and its value to the country as well as building friendship between Moldova and Japan. It was the highest award that foreigners can receive in the country.


  1. ^ a b International Okinawan Goju-ryu Karate-do Federation Retrieved on February 20, 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d International Okinawan Goju-ryu Karate-do Federation: History Retrieved on February 20, 2010.
  3. ^ Higaonna, M. (1985): Traditional Karate-do: Okinawa Goju Ryu. Tokyo: Minato Research. (ISBN 0-870-40595-0)
  4. ^ Higaonna, M. (2001): The history of Karate: Okinawan Goju Ryu (2nd ed.). Westlake Village, CA: Dragon Books. (ISBN 978-0-9460-6236-2)
  5. ^ Interview of Morio Higaonna, 9th Dan, Hanshi, Goju Ryu Dragon Times (Issue 10). Retrieved on February 20, 2010.
  6. ^ Fist of London: The month ahead (September 28, 2008). Retrieved on February 20, 2010.
  7. ^ Program reviews & comments: Power Training by Morio Higaonna Retrieved on February 20, 2010.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Shuriway Karate & Kobudo: Morio Higaonna – Goju Ryu Retrieved on February 20, 2010.
  9. ^ a b Hawaii Karate Seinenkai: Morio Higaonna (c. 2004). Retrieved on February 20, 2010.
  10. ^ a b Okinawa Goju-ryu Karate-do Israel: Founders – Sensei Morio Higaonna Retrieved on February 20, 2010.
  11. ^ McCarthy, P., & Lee, M. (1987): Classical kata of Okinawan Karate (2nd ed.) (p. 50). Burbank, CA: Ohara PUblications. (ISBN 978-0-8975-0113-2)
  12. ^ a b Bishop, M. (1999): Okinawan Karate: Teachers, styles, and secret techniques (2nd ed., p. 31). Boston, MA: Tuttle Publishing. (ISBN 0-8048-3205-6)
  13. ^ a b c Okinawan Traditional Goju Ryu Karate-do Association: An'ichi Miyagi and Morio Higaonna Retrieved on February 20, 2010.
  14. ^ Lyon Karate: Yoyogi Dojo in Tokyo Retrieved on February 21, 2010.
  15. ^ Wilson, S. (1999): Okinawan Goju Ryu Kenkyu-Kai: Nyusu (Spring 1999) Retrieved on February 20, 2010.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g Hill, T. P. (c. 1993): The Lion of Okinawa Retrieved on February 20, 2010.
  17. ^ Anonymous (1993): "Martial arts help actor make it in Hollywood." Black Belt, 31(2):69–72.
  18. ^ Simpkins, A., & Simpkins, A. (1994): "The crane's influence on Goju-Ryu Karate: Okinawan art has a Chinese flavor." Black Belt, 32(9):22–25.
  19. ^ Academy of Traditional Fighting Arts: History Retrieved on February 21, 2010.
  20. ^ Okinawa Goju-ryu Karate-do Verband Deutschland: A brief history Retrieved on February 21, 2010.
  21. ^ International Okinawan Goju-ryu Karate-do Federation: Structure Retrieved on February 21, 2010; link updated on October 19, 2012.

External links[edit]