In 1877 he began to study under a kung fu master called Ryu Ryu Ko Tokashiki Iken has identified him as Xie Zhongxiang, founder of Whooping Crane Kung Fu. Zhongxiang taught several Okinawan students who went on to become karate legends.
Higaonna returned to Okinawa in 1882 and continued in the family business of selling firewood, while teaching a new school of martial arts, distinguished by its integration of gō-no(hard) and jū-no (soft) kempo into one system. Higaonna ’s style was known as Naha-te. Gojukai history considers that Chinese Nanpa Shorin-ken was the strain of kung fu that influenced this style.
Higaonna Morio noted that in 1905, Higaonna Kanryo sensei taught martial arts in two different ways, according to the type of student: At home, he taught Naha-te as a martial art whose ultimate goal was to be able to kill the opponent; however, at Naha Commercial High School, he taught karate as a form of physical, intellectual and moral education.