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Wado Ryu Karate

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Wado Ryu Karate Jujutsu

Wado-Ryu Karate is a Japanese martial art founded by Hironori Ohtsuka in the early 20th century. Wado has a rich history with a unique relationship with Shotokan Karate and Shindo Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu and is considered by many to be the only true Japanese Karate.

Founder and Early Life: Hironori Ohtsuka was born in 1892 in Shimodate City, Japan. He began his martial arts journey by training in traditional Jujutsu and later in Shotokan Karate under the legendary Gichin Funakoshi, who is often considered the father of modern Karate.

Ohtsuka studied under Funakoshi for many years, which greatly influenced his approach to Karate and its application in the foundations of Wado Ryu. In 1934, he founded Wado-Ryu Karate, a style that integrated elements of traditional Japanese Jujutsu and Shotokan Karate. The name “Wado” means “Way of Harmony.” (Peace)

The Influence of Shotokan

Wado-Ryu shares many of its fundamental principles with Shotokan Karate, as Ohtsuka’s early training was in Shotokan. However, Wado-Ryu is known for its emphasis on fluid movements and the use of aikido-like techniques, which distinguish it from the more rigid and straight line movements of Shotokan.

The Influence of Shindo Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu

Ohtsuka had a very comprehensive background in Shindo Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu and in 1921 he received his Shindo Yoshin-Ryu Ju-Jujutsu licence from Tatsusaburo-Nakayama, which is a traditional Japanese martial art known for its joint locks and grappling techniques, and eventually was awarded Shihan. He incorporated many techniques of Jujutsu into Wado-Ryu, making it a more well-rounded martial art that included throws, joint locks, and escapes Wado Ryu is in reality more Jujutsu than Karate.

Key Principles of Wado-Ryu Karate

Wado-Ryu is recognised by its emphasis on evasion, counter attacking and redirecting an opponent’s force. It concentrates using an opponent’s energy against them, very much like in aikido training. This makes it very effective for self-defence, as it allows a smaller and weaker practitioners to defend against a much larger and stronger attacker.

Growth and Legacy: Wado-Ryu Karate gained popularity in both in Japan and internationally, and it is now practiced worldwide. Hironori Ohtsuka continued to refine and teach Wado-Ryu until his passing in 1982. His son, Jiro Ohtsuka, took over the leadership of Wado Ryu and continued to spread its teachings.

After the death of Ohtsuka many of the top instructors split from the main organisation and went their own way.

Hironori Ohtsuka’s training in Shindo Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu played a massive role in the development of Wado-Ryu Karate.

Early Exposure to Jujutsu: Ohtsuka’s martial arts journey began with the study of traditional Jujutsu, which laid the foundation for his understanding of joint locks, throws, and grappling techniques. His extensive training in Jujutsu provided him with a strong background in the fundamental principles of Japanese martial arts.

Shindo Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu

Shindo Yoshin Ryu is a classical Japanese Jujutsu style founded by Katsunosuke Matsuoka in the late 19th century. It combines elements of traditional Jujutsu with techniques from other Japanese martial arts, including sumo and judo. Shindo Yoshin Ryu is known for its focus on fluid and circular movements, making it well-suited for self-defence.

Incorporation into Wado-Ryu Karate

Ohtsuka’s training in Shindo Yoshin Ryu heavily influenced his approach to developing Wado-Ryu Karate. He combined many of the techniques and principles from Shindo Yoshin Ryu into the Wado-Ryu Karate system, creating a unique martial art that combined the main striking techniques from Shotokan with the added bonus of joint locks, throws, and circular movements of Jujutsu.

Jujutsu Techniques in Wado-Ryu Karate

In Wado-Ryu, practitioners learn various Jujutsu techniques, such as joint locks, pins, and escapes. These techniques are seamlessly integrated into the curriculum, allowing students to deal with both striking and grappling situations effectively. Ohtsuka’s mastery of Shindo Yoshin Ryu is evident in the precise execution of these Jujutsu techniques within the framework of the Wado-Ryu system.

Adaptation and Innovation: Ohtsuka’s open-minded approach to martial arts involved adapting and innovating techniques to suit his vision for Wado-Ryu. His willingness to experiment were key to his mastery of Shindo Yoshin Ryu and its integration into his own system of Wado Ryu.

Legacy: Ohtsuka’s sublime skills in Shindo Yoshin Ryu and his outstanding ability to blend it with the basic fundamentals of Karate left a lasting legacy. Making it a martial arts system with a massive array skill sets, incorporating both striking, throwing, and grappling techniques.

Self-Defence Orientation

The integration of Shindo Yoshin Ryu techniques into Wado-Ryu helped make it a highly practical and self-defence-oriented martial art. The joint locks and grappling skills learned from Jujutsu complemented the striking techniques of Karate, providing students with a well-rounded set of tools to defend themselves in various situations.

Teaching and Dissemination

Ohtsuka’s expertise in Shindo Yoshin Ryu was passed down to his students, who, in turn, continued to teach these principles to subsequent generations of Wado-Ryu practitioners. This ensured the preservation and further development of these techniques within the Wado-Ryu community.

Global Influence of Wado Ryu Karate

The international spread of Wado-Ryu Karate also carried the influence of Shindo Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu. As Wado-Ryu dojos (training facilities) emerged around the world, the fusion of these two martial arts continued to gain prominence.

Ongoing Evolution: Today, Wado-Ryu Karate remains a living and evolving martial art that continues to incorporate elements from Shindo Yoshin Ryu and other sources. This reflects Ohtsuka’s commitment to adaptability and growth, mirroring the traditional martial arts concept of “kaizen,” or continuous improvement.

Hironori Ohtsuka’s teachings in Wado-Ryu Karate produced a generation of skilled practitioners who played a crucial role in spreading the art throughout Europe and America. Here are some of his notable students and an overview of how Wado-Ryu Karate expanded beyond Japan:

Tatsuo Suzuki

Tatsuo Suzuki is often referred to as one of Ohtsuka’s top students. He played a pivotal role in popularizing Wado-Ryu Karate in the United Kingdom. Suzuki arrived in the UK in the early 1960s and began teaching Wado-Ryu Karate. His dedication and expertise contributed significantly to the growth of Wado-Ryu in Europe.

Masafumi Shiomitsu

Another prominent student of Ohtsuka, Masafumi Shiomitsu, helped establish Wado-Ryu Karate in the United Kingdom and Europe alongside Tatsuo Suzuki. He continued to promote the art in the Western world and eventually founded his own organization, the Wado International Karate-Do Federation (WIKF).

Artsiom Harbachou

Artsiom Harbachou, a Belarusian martial artist, also made significant contributions to the spread of Wado-Ryu in Europe. He established Wado-Ryu Karate in Belarus and has been instrumental in its development in Eastern Europe.

Jiro Ohtsuka

Hironori Ohtsuka’s son, Jiro Ohtsuka, inherited the leadership of Wado-Ryu Karate after his father’s passing. He continued to refine the art and promote its practice, ensuring its continuity and growth worldwide.

Wado-Ryu Karate in America

In the United States, Wado-Ryu Karate found a growing following, particularly in the late 20th century. Various Wado-Ryu organizations and dojos were established, introducing the art to American martial arts enthusiasts. Many American instructors, who trained directly under Ohtsuka or his prominent students, played vital roles in this expansion.

Wado-Ryu Karate Organizations: Several international organizations were founded to promote Wado-Ryu Karate globally. These organizations provided standardized curriculum, certification, and opportunities for international collaboration. Some of the major international Wado-Ryu organizations include the Wado Kokusai Karate-Do Renmei (WKKF) and the Wado-Ryu Karate-Do Academy (WKA).

Competitions and Tournaments: Wado-Ryu Karate, with its unique principles and techniques, started gaining recognition in the martial arts competition circuit. Various international tournaments and championships allowed practitioners to showcase their skills and attract more students to the style.

Global Expansion: The systematic approach of Wado-Ryu, along with its self-defence orientation and the emphasis on fluid and harmonious movements, appealed to many martial artists around the world. This led to the establishment of Wado-Ryu dojos in numerous countries, making it a truly global martial art.

The global spread of Wado-Ryu Karate was made possible by a dedicated group of practitioners and instructors, particularly the prominent students of Hironori Ohtsuka. Their commitment to preserving and promoting the art, combined with the adaptability and practicality of Wado-Ryu, allowed it to gain popularity and recognition not only in Europe but also in the United States and various other parts of the world. Today, Wado-Ryu Karate remains a widely practiced and respected martial art with a global presence.

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