Wado Ryu

Wado Ryu is one of the world’s major karate styles (the six biggest styles being Shotokan, Wado Ryu, Shito Ryu, Goju Ryu, Kyokushin, and Kenpo).


On the surface Wado-ryu looks very similar to other styles such as Shotokan. However, there are some important differences.

It may be argued that Wado-ryu is a Jujutsu style rather than Okinawan Karate. When first registered with the Japanese Dai-Nippon-Butoku-Kai in 1938 the style was called Shinshu Wadoryu Karate-Jujutsu, a name which reflects the hybrid nature of Wado. Wado-ryu’s founder Hironori Ohtsuka was already a licensed practitioner in Shindo Yoshin Ryu and Yoshin Koryu Jujutsu when he first met the Okinawan karate master Funakoshi. After having received tutelage of not only Funakoshi but later also the Okinawan masters Mabuni and Motobu, he set off to merge Shindo Yoshin Ryu with Okinawan Karate.

The result of Ohtsuka’s efforts is Wado-ryu. While its techniques may be very much karate in looks, most of the underlying principles have been derived from Shindo Yoshin Ryu. A block in Wado may look much like a block in Shotokan, they are nevertheless performed from a completely different perspective. A Shotokan practitioner is likely to force an incoming fist out of the line of attack. A Wado expert, on the other hand, will rather move himself out of the line of attack while taking up a position that will gain him an advantage over the opponent. Both ways will look almost similar to the untrained eye, but couldn’t be further apart when considering the tactics behind them. Key in Wado-ryu is the principle of taisabaki, often wrongly referred to as evasion. The Japanese term can be translated as body-management and refers to body manipulation so as to move the defender as well as the attacker out of harm’s way. The way to achieve this is to move along rather than to move against. Or, harmony rather than physical strength. See hard and soft (martial arts)

The term Wado-ryu can be broken into three parts: Wa, do and ryu. Wa can be read to mean harmony. Do is a Japanese term for way. ryu simply means style. Wa or harmony shouldn’t be interpreted as pacifism in any way. It is merely the acknowledgment that yielding is sometimes more effective than brute strength.

However, modern karate competition tends to transform Wado-Ryu away from its roots towards a new generic karate that appeals more to the demands of both spectators and competitors.

From April 1, 1981, after the split-up of Wadokai, Hironori Ohtsuka sensei changed the name of his organization into Wado-Ryu Karatedo Renmei, with Renmei meaning ‘group’ or ‘federation’. After his death in 1982, his son Jiro Ohtsuka continued the style under his leadership. He became the second grandmaster of Wado Karate and honored his father by taking the name Hironori Ohtsuka II.

A third major Wado organization, Wado Kokusai (Wado International Karate Federation), was founded in 1989 by Tatsuo Suzuki Sensei.

On 1 June 1892 Founder Hironori Otsuka is born the second child of four children to Dr. Tokujiro Otsuka, in Shimodate, Ibaraki Prefecture

In 1898 Ohtsuka began practicing Jiujitsu.

Between 1905-1921 Ohtsuka trains Shindo Yoshin Ryu Jiujitsu under Tatsusaburo Nakayama (1870-1933).

In 1922 Otsuka met a soon to be famous Okinawan named Gichin Funakoshi and begins to train with him.

In 1924 Otsuka is one of the first students promoted to Black Belt in Karate by Funakoshi.

In 1929 Otsuka organized the first school karate club at Tokyo University.

In 1934 Eiichi Eriguchi coins the term ‘Wadoryu’.

In 1938 Hironori Ohtsuka registers his style of karate with the Dai-Nippon-Butoku-Kai, originally under the name of “Shinshu Wadoryu Karate-Jujutsu”. Not much later this was shortened (simplified) to Wadoryu (òaìπó¨).

In 1938 The Dai-Nippon-Butoku-Kai awarded Ohtsuka the rank of Renshi-Go.

In 1942 The Dai-Nippon-Butoku-Kai awarded Ohtsuka the rank of Kyoshi-Go. Tatsuo Suzuki, Founder of the WIKF, begins training Wado.

In 1944 Otsuka was appointed Japan’s Chief Karate Instructor.

In 1946 Ohtsuka awards Tatsuo Suzuki 2nd Dan.

Circa 1950 Otsuka’s second son Jiro Otsuka, begins training Wado around the age of 15.

In 1951 Otsuka awards Tatsuo Suzuki 5th Dan, the highest rank awarded in Wado at that time.

In 1952 a Wadoryu Honbu (headquarter) is established in the Meiji University dojo in Tokyo, Japan.

In 1954 Its name was changed to Zen Nippon Karate Renmei (All Japan Karate Federation)

In 1955 Otsuka published the book, Karatejutsu no Kenkyu.

In 1963 Otsuka dispatches Suzuki, along with Toru Arakawa and Hajimu Takashima to spread Wado around the World.

In 1964 the Japan Karatedo Federation (JKF) is established as a general organization for all karate styles. Wado joins this organization as a major group.

In 1965 Otsuka along with Yoshiaki Ajari, record onto film, which is now still available on two video tapes, much of his legacy of Wado Ryu Karate. The first video, Wado Ryu Karate Volume 1, consists of: in-depth history and recollections, demonstrations of the 8 Kihon No Tsuki body shifts, the first 5 Kihon-Kumite, and the katas: Pinans 1-5, Kushanku, Jion, Naihanchi, Seishan. The second video, Wado Ryu Karate Volume 2, consists of: more history, plus the katas Chinto, Niseshi, Rohai, Wanshu, and Jitte, as well as Kihon-Kumite 6-10, along with application.

In 1966 Ohtsuka was awarded Kun Goto Soukuo Kyokujujitsu (comparable to a knighthood) by Emperor Hirohito, for his dedication to the introduction and teaching of karate.

On 5 June 1967, the Wado organization changes the name into Wadokai.

In 1972 the President of Kokusai Budo Renmei, a member of the Royal Family, awarded Otsuka Sensei the title of Meijin, the highest possible title.

In 1975Tatsuo Suzuki receives his 8th Dan, the highest grade ever given by the Federation of All Japan Karatedo Organization, and is named Hanshi-Go by the Uncle of Emperor Higashikuni.

In 1980 as the result of a conflict between Hironori Otsuka and the Wadokai organization, Ohtsuka steps down as head of Wadokai. Eiichi Eriguchi takes over his place within Wadokai.

On 1 April 1981 Hironori Otsuka founds Wadoryu Karatedo Renmei. After only a few months Hironori Otsuka retires as head of this organization. His son Jiro Otsuka takes his place. Renmei means ‘group’ or ‘federation’.

On 29 January 1982 Hironori Otsuka passes away in his 90th year.

In 1983 Jiro Otsuka succeeds his Father as grandmaster of Wado Ryu and changes his name to Hironori Otsuka II, in honor of his father.

In 1989 Tatsuo Suzuki founds his own organization (WIKF), the third major Wado organization: Wado Kokusai. Kokusai means ‘international’.

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