Traditional Wado Ryu Karate
Dento Kobudo Kai – Traditional Wado Ryu Karate
The History of Wado Ryu Karate
The founder of Wado Ryu Karate, Hironori Ōtsuka, was born on 1 June 1892 in Shimodate, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan. In 1898, Ōtsuka began practicing koryū jujutsu under Chojiro Ebashi. From 1905–1921, he studied Shindō Yōshin-ryū jujutsu under Tatsusaburo Nakayama. In 1922, he met Gichin Funakoshi and began to train under him. In 1924, Ōtsuka became one of the first students promoted to black belt in karate by Funakoshi. To broaden his knowledge of Karate, Ōtsuka also studied with other prominent masters such as Kenwa Mabuni of Shitō-ryū and Motobu Chōki. In 1929, Ōtsuka organized the first school karate club at Tokyo University. Eiichi Eriguchi coined the term ‘Wadō-ryū’ in 1934.
In 1938, Ōtsuka registered his style of karate with the Dai Nippon Butoku Kai under the name of “Shinshu Wado ryu Karate-Jujutsu.” Soon after, however, this was shortened to “Wadō-ryū” (和道流). In 1938, the Dai Nippon Butoku Kai awarded Ōtsuka the rank of Renshi-Go, followed in 1942 by the rank of Kyoshi-Go. It was around this time that Tatsuo Suzuki, founder of the WIKF, began training in Wadō-ryū. In 1944, Ōtsuka was appointed Japan’s Chief Karate Instructor. In 1946, Ōtsuka awarded Tatsuo Suzuki the rank of 2nd dan.
Around 1950, Jiro Ōtsuka (the founder’s second son) began training in Wadō-ryū while in his adolescent years. In 1951, Ōtsuka awarded Tatsuo Suzuki the rank of 5th dan, the highest rank awarded in Wadō-ryū at that time. In 1952, the Wadō-ryū headquarters (honbu) was established at the Meiji University dojo in Tokyo. In 1954, its name was changed to Zen Nippon Karate Renmei (All Japan Karate Federation). In 1955, Ōtsuka published “Karatejutsu no Kenkyu,” a book expounding his style of karate. In 1963, he dispatched Suzuki, along with Toru Arakawa and Hajimu Takashima, to spread Wadō-ryū around the world.
In 1964, the Japan Karate-dō Federation (JKF) was established as a general organization for all karate styles. Wadō-ryū joined this organization as a major group. In 1965, Ōtsuka and Yoshiaki Ajari recorded onto film (which is now still available on two video tapes) much of the legacy of Wadō-ryū karate. The first video, “Wadō-ryū Karate Volume 1,” consists of: in-depth history and recollections; demonstrations of the eight Kihon No Tsuki body shifts; the first five Kihon-Kumite; and the kata Pinan 1-5, Kūshankū, Jion, Naihanchi, and Seishan. The second video, “Wadō-ryū Karate Volume 2,” consists of: more history; the kata Chintō, Niseishi, Rōhai, Wanshu, and Jitte; as well as Kihon-Kumite 6-10, along with application. In 1966, Ōtsuka was awarded Kun Goto Soukuo Kyokujujutsu (comparable to a knighthood) by Emperor Hirohito for his dedication to the introduction and teaching of karate. On 5 June 1967, the Wadō-ryū organization changed its name to “Wadōkai.”
In 1972, the President of Kokusai Budō Renmei, a member of the Japanese royal family, awarded Ōtsuka the title of Meijin. In 1975, Suzuki received his 8th dan, the highest grade ever given (at the time) by the Federation of All Japan Karate-dō Organizations, and was named Hanshi-Go by the uncle of Emperor Higashikuni.
In 1980, as the result of a conflict between Ōtsuka and the Wadōkai organization, he stepped down as head of the Wadōkai. Eiichi Eriguchi took over his place within that organization. On 1 April 1981, Ōtsuka founded the “Wadōryū Karatedō Renmei.” (Renmei means “group” or “federation.”) After only a few months, he retired as head of this organization. His son, Jiro Ōtsuka, took his place. On 29 January 1982, Hironori Ōtsuka died, and in 1983, Jiro Ōtsuka succeeded him as grandmaster of Wadō-ryū. The younger Ōtsuka changed his name to “Hironori Otsuka II” in honor of his late father. In 1989, Tatsuo Suzuki founded the third major Wadō-ryū organization, “Wadō Kokusai” (Wadō International Karatedō Federation; WIKF). (Kokusai means “international.”)
In June 2015, the second grandmaster Jiro Ōtsuka died, and his son and successor Kazutaka Otsuka became the third grandmaster 10th dan. This is in keeping with all the traditional Japanese Ryuha (Old Martial Arts Schools) that have a direct lineage of grandmasters.
Wado Ryu Karate outside Japan
Wadō-ryū has been spread to many countries in the world, by both Japanese and non-Japanese students of Hironori Otsuka. Japanese Wadō-ryū stylists Tatsuo Suzuki, Teruo Kono, Masafumi Shiomitsu, H. Takashima, Naoki Ishikawa, Yoshihiko Iwasaki, Kuniaki Sakagami and many others spread the art in Europe. Yoshiaki Ajari, Masaru Shintani and Isaac Henry Jr. spread the art in the USA and Canada, Joaquim Gonçalves (from Portugal) and many others have helped to spread the style in their respective countries. In 1968, Otsuka promoted Cecil T. Patterson of the USA to 5th dan, and charged him with the creation of the United States Eastern Wado-Kai Federation (USEWF).
In the 1970’s Sensei Coulter, now Chief Instructor of Dento Kobudo Kai began training in Wado-Ryu Karate under Tatsuo Suzuki and other Japanese Instructors in West London. He continued his training in Japan on many occasions under the Second Grandmaster Jiro Ōtsuka. Sensei Coulter also trained on occasions at Nichidai University dojo under the late Tanabe Sensei and Kobayashi Sensei. Sensei Coulter has had unbroken training under most of the top Japanese Instructors spanning over 4 decades.Wado Ryu Kata Videos