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WADO RYU

(History and Origin)

Grandmaster H. Otsuka Master Hironori Ohtsuka, (the founder of Wado-Ryu), was born June 1, 1892 in Shimodate, Japan. In 1898, when he was six years old, Master Ohtsuka began practicing jujitsu under the tutelage of his father. By 13, he was in the Shintoyoshin School of Jujitsu, where along with 35 other students, he studied under Master Nakayama. Unlike most jujitsu schools specializing in throwing and ground techniques, Shinto-yoshin-ryu stressed striking and kicking.

In the spring of 1911, when Master Ohtsuka was 19, he entered Waseda -- one of Japan's finest universities. While studying business administration, Master Ohtsuka started training in atemi-style kempo and continued his practice in Shinto-yoshin-ryu. The death of his father in 1913 during his junior year at Waseda forced him to withdraw and go to work in a bank in Shimodate. Eight years later, on June 1, 1921, Master Ohtsuka celebrated his 29th birthday by taking over the mastership of the Shinto-yoshin-ryu school from Master Nakayama upon receipt of "full proficiency" in the jujitsu school.

In 1922, the Crown Prince Hirohito invited the Okinawan Master, Ginchin Funakoshi to visit Japan and demonstrate his Martial art. Ohtsuka traveled to Tokyo to observe this Okinawan Master. He wasted no time in introducing himself to Funakoshi. As Ohtsuka recalled, "most Okinawans are naturally suspicious, but Funakoshi-san welcomed me and was surprisingly open and frank -- even innocent". Ohtsuka began studying from Funakoshi every night. He began to adapt the techniques he had learned in jujitsu to karate.

In 1927, Master Ohtsuka quit working at the bank and set himself up as a medical specialist in the treatment of persons injured in the martial arts. He continued his training in karate, and two years later he organized the first karate school at Tokyo University. More importantly, in 1929 he launched a study into a method of arranging kumite (free style fighting) into competitive matches, laying the basis for present day kumite-style tournaments.

After 1930, Master Ohtsuka went increasingly on his own, setting up a string of karate clubs at various universities in Tokyo in the manner of Funakoshi. Besides Todai (Tokyo University), they included Rikkyo and Nihon Universities as well as Tokyo Dental College. The big day in Master Ohtsuka's life arrived in the fall of 1934 when he officially inaugurated his own unique style of karate. He called his new school the Karate Promotion Club. But it wasn't until 1940, when the Butokukai requested each of its member groups to submit the name of its founder and the official name of the style or school, that Ohtsuka finally devised the present name - Wado Kai, or the "way of harmony". Master Ohtsuka became the head of the All Japan Karate Federation and Director of the Japan Classical Martial Arts Promotion Society. In 1966, the government awarded him with the Fifth Order of Merit (the Cordon of the Rising Sun) for his contributions to karate. In 1972, Master Ohtsuka was awarded the title "Hanshi" by the emperor, which made him the head of all Japanese martial arts. This was the first time this title was awarded to anyone.

Master Ohtsuka died January 29, 1982 in Tokyo Japan at the age of 89. A fitting epitaph for him could surely be a statement once made by him. "the difference between the possible and the impossible is one's will".

Master Ohtsuka built his wado style of karate around nine basic kata, five of which are regarded as the fundamental techniques. The basic movements are called "taisabaki". The techniques of jujitsu have had a strong influence in the formation of Wado karate. Also, he incorporated the "nage-waza" (throwing techniques) of jujitsu into his blended style.
Today there are more than 300 wado ryu dojos in Japan. More are established in the United States, Canada, Sweden, England, Ireland, France, Brazil, Australia, and other countries around the world. Master Ohtsuka has four children, two sons and two daughters. His younger son, Jiro continues his fathers work as President of the International Wado-Ryu Karate-Do Organization.


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