Master Hironori Otsuka

"...and he chose the dove encircling the fist as the symbol of his style,
representing that peace contains strength. He believed that one who possesses
genuine inner strength cannot be provoked to violence, hence will live in
harmony with others. He named his style Wado-Ryu; Way of Peace. The inspiration of
what he created, and the ideas that he stood for, still lives on today... And his
teaching will continue to be passed from instructor to student."

Hironori Otsuka
1892 - 1982

A brief History of Wado Ryu Karate

Wado Ryu Karate was first registered in May 1934 by Sensei Horonori Otsuka. The name Wado Ryu means "Peaceful Way school". Wado is all about maximum effect from mininum effort. It is a light and fast style that relies on evasion and deflection rather than brute strength. It utilises the principles of entering techniques, timing and moving with an attack so an opponents energy is used against him.

Compared with other styles stances are high, moves are short and sharp. Hip twist is also used to generate power. Wado Ryu as a style is also heavily committed to competition. Otsuka was one of the first pioneers of Sports Karate and organised the first match in 1936.

The full story began when on 1st June 1982 when Hironori Otsuka was born in Shimodate City in Japan. He was the second of four children. His father Tokujiro was a doctor and his uncle Chojiro Ebasi was the official martial arts instructor of the Tsuchiura Clan. At the age of five even though he was in poor health he began training with his uncle. At the age of 13 he started training with Master Tatsusabaro Nakayama the third Grandmaster of Shinto Yoshin Ryu Jujitsu. By the age of thirty he had succeeded Nakayama as the fourth master. At this time he was working as a bank clerk in Tokyo.

Around this time he went to a demonstration of Okinawan Shuri-te Tode (At this stage it was not known as Karate) by a man named Ginchin Funakoshi. He was fascinated by what he saw and asked Funakoshi to accept him as a student.

Within four years he was Funakoshi’s assistant instructor. Both of them travelling throughout Japan giving demonstrations. By now he had all but given up teaching Yoshinryu.

In 1927 he left the bank. This gave him more time to for Karate. At this time he started the very first university Karate club : Tokyo University Karate club. Around this time though his relationship with Funakoshi became strained. Otsuka was more interested in Kumite as opposed to Kata . He developed his own pre-arranged sparring techniques. And he also began full contact free sparring with students.

This was the beginning of modern Sports Karate. He felt that much of the traditional techniques taught in Karate did not work in Sparring so he began to incorporate his jujitsu techniques into his style. In May 1934 the style Wado Ryu was officially recognised as an independent style being officially registered in 1938. By 1940 he had registered 36 official kumite techniques as well as 16 kata.

Over the next few years Wado Ryu went from strength to strength. In 1942 Tatsuo Suzuki began training in Wado Ryu. In 1944 Otsuka was appointed Japans chief Karate Instructor and in 1955 the first all Japan Wado-Ryu Karate Championships were held.

Until the sixties though Wado-Ryu Karate was only practiced in Japan. In 1963 a group composed of Tatsuo Suzuki Mr Arakawa and Mr Takashima left Japan to spread Wado-Ryu to Europe and America.

In Japan in 1966 Sensei Otsuka was awarded the title "Kun Goto Suokuo Kyoku Jujitsu Shou" by Emperor Hirohito.

By the early 1970’s Karate had truly been established worldwide.

In 1972 Hironori Otsuka was awarded the title "Meijin" which is the rank of 10th Dan by the International Martial Arts Federation.

Sensei Otsuka died on 19th January 1982.

Article written by Colette Condon

Some good reading about Master Hironori Otsuka - A short video and book review by a Wado Ryu practitioner. - Black Belt Magazine Significant Achievers Hall of Fame, article dedicated to Hironori Otsuka I. - A biography of Hironori Otsuka I. - A biography of Hironori Otsuka II. - Another bio of Master Hironori Otsuka.

And there are many many more web sites dedicated to the Grand Master founder of Wado-Ryu...

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Last updated on Friday, August 13nd, 2004.