Wado-ryu. 'Harmony/Peace way School'. A style of Karate-Jujutsu developed by Ohtsuka-Hironori 10th Dan Meijin (1892-1982). Wado-ryu is a compound of Ju-jutsu and Shuri-te Karate, and was recognised as an independent style in 1934. Wado-ryu is reputed to be one of the fastest and most efficient forms of combat in the world; emphasis includes the fundamental principles and concepts of 'Nagasu, Inasu (Kawasu), Noru, and Irimi'. The founder was responsible for introducing partner-work fighting routines and Wado-ryu was also the first style to practise Jiyu-gumite (sparring) as part of the training. There are estimated to be over 350,000 Wado-ryu members practising in Europe alone and over 1.5 million worldwide.
On the surface Wado-ryu looks very similar to styles of karate such as Shitoryu or Shotokan, etc. However, there are some important differences.
It may be argued that Wado-ryu is purely a Jujutsu style rather than an Okinawan style of 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 新道揚心流 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 Meijin'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 Ju Jutsu. 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 tai-sabaki, 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 strength.
Perhaps the nature of Wado is better understood when considering its Jujutsu origins. In 17th century Japan, a young physician departed on a journey to China. His name was Yoshitoki Akiyama. During his stay in China he learned Chinese healing methods as well as Chinese fighting techniques. After a while Akiyama returned to Japan and retreated in a monastery where he devoted himself to meditation. During those days he also practiced and perfected his technique. One snowy day during winter, Akiyama sat gazing at a willow tree. It suddenly occurred to him that the willow tree, unlike some other trees, didn't have any broken branches, despite the heavy snow. The willow branches simply yielded and allowed the snow to fall off. Sturdier trees with unyielding branches suffered much heavier from the elements of nature. After this revelation he developed 303 techniques which became known as Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu or Willow Heart Style. Yoshin Ryu later evolved into Wado-Ryu but the fundamental yielding principles have still been preserved.
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 1st, 1981, after the split-up of Wadokai, Hironori Ohtsuka Sensei changed the name of his organisation 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 honoured his father by taking the name Hironori Ohtsuka II.
A third major International Wado organisation, Wado Kokusai (Wado International Karate Federation), was founded in 1989 by Tatsuo Suzuki Sensei. Arguably another of the largest Wado groups in the UK is the British Wado Federation, founded by, Gary E Swift (8th Dan) Shihan. Created from the British Wado Federation, which was established in 1976, and founded during another major split in Wado when Gary E Swift Sensei left the UKKW, under Suzuki Tatsuo Hanshi, in 1989.
THE FOUNDER OF WADO-RYU KARATE-DO Ohtsuka-Hironori 10th Dan Meijin (1892-1982). The founder of Wado-ryu Karate. Hironori-Ohtsuka was born in Shimodate City, Ibiragi, Japan on the 1st June 1892. He was the first son of Tokujiro-Ohtsuka, who was a doctor of medicine. 1892 was also the year that the Dai-Nippon-Butoku-Kai was established. He started training under Chojiro-Ebashi, an uncle of his mother, in April 1897 at the age of four, a style of training he would continue with, even at Waseda University in Tokyo. In 1905 Ohtsuka Sensei entered the Shimozuma middle school, where he started Shindo-Yoshin-ryu Ju-jutsu under Tatsusaburo-Nakayama. In 1910 Ohtsuka Sensei entered Waseda University to learn commerce. In 1917 he started work at the Kawasaki bank; at this stage he was learning numerous styles of Ju-jutsu. Ohtsuka Sensei met, and became good friends, with the founder of Aikido, Morihei-Ueshiba. In May 1919 he became master of 'bone-setting technique'. On the 1st of July 1921 he received his Shindo-Yoshin-ryu Ju-jutsu licence from Tatsusaburo-Nakayama, and so became the Highest Authority. He started his Karate training with the famous Gichin-Funikoshi in July 1922, a style known as Karate-jutsu. Ohtsuka Sensei met Funikoshi Sensei during a martial-arts demonstration at the Sports Festival organised by the Japanese Educational Department. Funikoshi Sensei agreed to teach Ohtsuka Sensei all he knew about Okinawan Karate-jutsu, the lessons started that same day. Within one year Ohtsuka Sensei had studied all the Kata within the system. Even after this time Ohtsuka Sensei could see the 'shortfall' in the Kata-only system. It was explained to him that all of the concepts of 'Budo' was within Kata, and that was the only aspect to train. In 1924 Ohtsuka Sensei introduced Yakusoku-gumite to the system, this concept of 'partner-work' revolutionised Karate-jutsu. At the time, Okinawan karate only concentrated on Kata. In 1928 he was 'Shindo-Yoshin-ryu-Shihan', the Chief Instructor of his Shindo-Yoshin-ryu; he also set up a 'bone-setting' practice at this time. Around 1929 Ohtsuka Sensei started the study of Jiyu-Gumite (free fighting) for training combat as well as competitive purposes, teaching Ippon/Ohyo (one-step) and Sanbon (three-step) Gumite (sparring); laying the foundation for modern free style karate kumite tournaments. He also developed Idori-no-kata, Tachiai-no-kata, and Shirahatori-no-kata. In 1929 he registered with the 'Nippon-Kobudo-Shinko-Kai', the Japanese Martial-arts Federation. In 1934 Ohtsuka Sensei was recognised as an independent style, and started teaching full-time. Due to his dedication to Karate he had to close his 'bone-setting' business. In 1938 Ohtsuka Sensei registered his new style as Shin-Shu-Wado-ryu. In 1939 all Karate styles were asked to register their systems with the 'Dai-Nippon-Butoku-Kai', Ohtsuka Sensei named his style Wado-ryu. Other styles that registered were Goju-ryu, Shito-ryu, and Shoto-ryu (Shotokan-ryu). In 1940 on May the 5th the 'All Styles Karate Demonstrations' took place at Butoku-Den in Kyoto. All the major styles took part, these included Goju-ryu, Keishi-Kempo, Nippon-Kempo-ryu, Shito-ryu, Shoto-ryu, and Wado-ryu. In 1944 Ohtsuka Sensei was promoted to Chief Instructor of all Karate under the Dai-Nippon-Butoku-kai. In 1945 the Americans, at the end of the Second World War, disbanded all martial-arts. In 1951 all martial-arts were reinstated, after the signing of the American peace treaty with Japan. In 1955 the first Karate tournament took place, organised by Ohtsuka Sensei, it was called the 'First All Japan Wado-ryu Karate Championships'. In 1964 'The All Japan Karate-do Federation' (JKF) was established. This same year Tatsuo-Suzuki Sensei, Toru-Arakawa Sensei, and Hajime-Takashima Sensei introduced Wado-ryu to Great Britain, Europe, and the United States of America. In 1966 Ohtsuka Sensei was awarded 'Kun-Goto-Soukuo-Kyo-Kuju-jutsu-Sho' (similar to the O.B.E. in Great Britain) from Emperor Hirohito for his dedication to Karate. In 1972 he was awarded the title of Meijin from Higashino-Kunino-Miya (a member of the Japanese royal family) President of the International Martial-arts Federation the 'Kokusai-Budo-Renmei'. Ohtsuka Sensei was the first man in history to receive this, the highest honour in martial-arts. For his services to Martial-arts, and to honour his new position as the highest Karate Authority in Japan, he was awarded the Shiju-Hoosho medal from the Japanese Government, the only man in the history of Karate to be so honoured. On the 29th of January 1982 Ohtsuka-Hironori Meijin died at the age 89, he had practised martial-arts for 85 years. "Buno-michi-wa Tada-aragoto-na-to-omohiso Wa-no-michi-kiwa-me Wa-o-motomu-michi: The way to practise martial-arts is not for fighting. Always look for your own inner peace and harmony, search for it." Ohtsuka-Hironori.
The Origins of Wado-Ryu. Below is an adaptation from an open letter written by Ohtsuka Hironori (10th Dan) Meijin to all Wado-Ryu students, sent out two-years prior to his death, explaining the origins of Wado-ryu.
"At the age of five years old, I was in very poor health. It was then that I began my training in Ju-jutsu at the school of my uncle, Sensei Chojiro-Ehashi, the official martial arts instructor of the Tsuchiura Clan. Since this time I have trained continuously until my present age of eighty-eight years. For this, I can heartily thank the traditional Samurai education, which was both gentle and strict. I also thank and pray for my dear mother without whom I could never have succeeded in my deepest aims; I thank her sincerely for always being near.
On my thirtieth birthday, Master Nakayama, the third Grandmaster of Shinto Yoshin-ryu Ju-jutsu, allowed me to learn the deepest and most secret doctrines of our school. It was then that I succeeded him as the fourth Grandmaster.
Karate was becoming increasingly popular around this time, and I began to study its techniques from several eminent Okinawan masters who had begun to teach in Tokyo. It occurred to me that there were many fine attributes in the Okinawan systems, and so decided to blend these with the finest elements of Shinto Yoshin-ryu Ju-jutsu to create a genuine and original Japanese martial-art. Through this process I developed Kumite, Gyaku-nage, I-dori, Tachi-ai, Tanken-dori, and Shinken-Shirai-dori.
Every year, for purposes of promoting the Japanese martial-arts, the Butokuden in Kyoto held a national festival. In 1938, the festival focused on the originators of each martial-art; however, no originator of Japanese Karate had been identified. I named the originator of the first true Japanese style of Karate-Do as Shiro-Yoshitoki-Akiyama (the founder of Shinto Yoshin-ryu Jujitsu) and named this new style of Karate-Do, 'Wado-Ryu' meaning: 'Japanese-way school' or also 'Peaceful-way school' since the Kanji lettering for 'Wa' can mean both.
The fundamental meaning and original aims of martial-arts is the promotion of Peace. To bring peace to society and to guard against its loss so that human beings can enjoy a happy life. We must strive for peace in a world where it is increasingly difficult to achieve. We must not simply rely on God's mercy to achieve it but must strive as individuals, with all our will, to attain it. Immense spiritual and physical power is required so we will not surrender to the difficulties and barriers which lie before us on this journey. The hard training in martial-arts aims to foster this dauntless, indefatigable strength which is why the beauty of martial-arts training is beyond the vicissitudes of mundane affairs."
Ohtsuka Hironori (10th Dan) Meijin.
For further information, please go to Wikipedia; Wadoryu