History Of Wado Ryu
Hironori Otsuka (1892 - 1982)


Otsuka Hironori was born on June 1st 1982. His uncle, Chojiro Ebashi was a samurai warrior who enthralled the young Otsuka with his exciting tales, and then began teaching him Ju-Jitsu at the age of six. Hironori later began to train in Yoshin Shindo Ryu Ju-Jitsu under Master Nakayama Shizaburo, when aged thirteen

This school differed from the other schools of the time because it emphasised striking and kicking as well as the usual throwing and control techniques. During his time at university he studied other styles of Ju-Jitsu and also befriended Ueshiba Morihei the founder of Aikido. On Otsuka's 30th birthday he received the menkyo kaiden, the certificate of proficiency from Master Nakayama, effectively making him the youngest ever to receive this award.

In July 1922 Otsuka heard of a new martial art, tode, to be demonstrated in Tokyo before The Emperor. The demonstration was to be performed by an Okinawan school teacher and poet Gichin Funakoshi. Otsuka was impressed and approached him, asking to be his student. This was to be the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship. Otsuka trained virtually everyday with Funakoshi, quickly learning the techniques and kata taught to him.

Gradually karate began to spread in Japan, with Otsuka mainly responsible for organising its growth. It was at this time that he began to seek more answers, especially within the katas so he began to learn from the okinawan masters Mabuni Kenwa, the founder of Shito Ryu and Motubu Choki, a renowned exponent of kumite. Motubu Choki was also responsible for Otsuka's devolopement of the Nai Hanchi Kata.

In 1925 he resigned from his position as a banker and studied bone setting. Two years later Otsuka set up a clinic specialising in martial arts injuries, mainly caused due to the popularity of Judo. By 1929 he had established his own dojo and found himself drifting away from the teachings of his master, having developed a series of Yakosoku Gumite based upon his knowledge of Ju-Jitsu.

A parting of the ways was inevitable, although there have been many tales giving various reasons why. However their friendship continued, with Funakoshi's son devoloping his teachings into what was to become Shotokan Karate.

Otsuka went on to develop his study of Jiyu Kumite and formulated the first set of rules for competition, a pivotal happening for karate. 1934 was a very important year for Otsuka, apart from the birth of his son Jiro, he opened his own school called the Dai Nippon Karate Shinko Bu Kai, teaching his new systems of Wado Ryu Karate Jutsu and Wado Ryu Ju-Jutsu Kempo merging Okinawan Karate with traditional Japanese Ju-Jitsu, making this the first style of karate to be created in the form of Japanese Budo

In 1939 Otsuka registered the name of his style as Wado Ryu with the Dai Nippon Butokukai in Kyoto, alongside the other styles:
Shotokan
Goju Ryu
Shito Ryu
Young Otsuka
Later that year Otsuka was also honoured by the Butokukai with the title Renshi and in 1942 with the title Kyoshi.

The start of the Second World War affected martial arts greatly, and during the American occupation of Japan (1945 - 1952) the practice of karate and other martial arts was banned. This was circumvented however by calling karate "Japanese Boxing" thus deeming it the teaching of a sport!

The 1960's saw the spread of karate to the western world. In 1964 Suzuki Tatsuo came to Britain followed by many other sensei, including Shiomitsu Masafumi and Sakagami Kuniaki. Wado established itself as a major style in Britain and around Europe. Two of the first people graded to black belt were Walter Seaton and Peter Spanton founder of Higashi Karate Kai. In 1966 Otsuka was the recipient of the Soku Ashi award for dedication to karate, and in 1972 he was awarded the title Meijin by the Kokusai Budo, making him the first excellent martial artist of 10th dan in Karate Do.

Suzuki's United Kingdom Karate-Do Federation became one of the country's major karate organisations, producing many fine dan grades and champions. Suzuki Sensei arranged visits to Britain and Europe by Otsuka Meijin. He conducted many seminars accross the country, the last of which was in 1976. Unfortunately with his health failing Master Otsuka abdicated his position of Grandmaster of Wado Ryu and appointed his son Jiro as his successor in november 1981. Sadly on january 29th 1982 Master Hironori Otsuka passed away. He practiced karate up until his death, making him the oldest practicing Karate Ka of that time. After his father's death Jiro changed his name to Hironori Otsuka the second, and inherited the rank of 10th dan.

Within a few short years politics created a split within the Wado world. Tatsuo Suzuki formed his own group, the WIKF. The Grandmaster left the Japan Karate-Do Federation (which his father organised in 1939) and set up the Wado Ryu Karate Do Renmei. The JKF Wado Kai continues under the direction of K.Sugiura, T.Arakawa and K.Hakoishi. In Britain there has also been a split, apart from Suzuki's WIKF there is also a Wado academy headed by M.Shiomitsu, and allied to the Wado Ryu Rem=nmei, and Wado Kai England headed by K.Sakagami and allied to the JKF Wado-Kai.

Whatever name of Wado you see and experience there is something to be learned from all Wadoka, irrespective of any politics or affiliation.

Master Otsuka's theory of Wado is based on the teaching of:
"TEN - CHI - JIN RI - DO" (Heaven - Earth - Man - Principal Way)

A harmonious union between all things was Otsuka's belief. He believed that all martial arts are intended to bring together people of all races and creed to live in peaceful co-existence with themselves and the world, and that only rigorous persistent training to discipline the spirit, will take the person along the path to achieving that belief.

Credit: Graham Chuck, Wadoryu Karatedo Kenkyukai



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