Master Hidenori Otsuka

Wado Ryu karate (way of peace), was created by one of Funakoshi’s senior students named Hidenori Otsuka.  Otsuka Sensei’s training in martial arts began in his childhood.  He was born in 1892 and spent much of his youth studying shindo yoshin ryu jujitsu.  Otsuka, after many years of study, gained the headmastership of the style.  He was first introduced to karate through judo founder Dr Kano.  He immediately began to train in the art, although he was by then over 30 years old.  After spending more than 10 years with Funakoshi he broke away from Shotokan to formulate his own style.  For a time Otsuka Sensei’s karate had no proper name, but in 1940 at a huge martial arts festival he was asked to register the name of his school, and called it Wado Ryu (ryu means school).

As Otsuka Sensei began to make distinct changes in his karate, he drew heavily upon his knowledge of jujitsu, which he merged with the Shotokan techniques.  This resulted in more upright stances and more fluid techniques than in Shotokan.  This amalgamation of the yielding principles of Jujitsu, with its emphasis of non-opposition to strength, and the traditional Okinawan karate maneuvers gave a softness to Wado Ryu unique in Japanese karate.
Otsuka Sensei’s Wado Ryu is a tremendously fast style.  Its techniques and movements are the total expression of the practitioner’s mind as manifested in his spirit.  Otsuka Sensei always emphasized that thekarateka (one who practices karate) should always hold true three vital elements – the heart, spirit and physical strength.  Otsuka Sensei is also remembered because he formulated the first principles of kumite (the free sparring in karate) which was the forerunner of sport or competition karate as we now know it.  It is the sparring element in today’s karate that prompts advocates to learn the art.  It seems strange that karate caught on with such tremendous fervor in Japan, solely as a way of practicing kata.

Otsuka Sensei’s unrelenting services to karate were rewarded when the Emperor of Japan’s brother awarded him his tenth dan black belt.  And shortly before his death on 29 January 1982, just four months short of his ninetieth birthday, Otsuka Sensei was recognized as the oldest practicing karateka in the world.  Since his death the Wado Style has spread all over the world.

Because Wado Ryu employs very light and fast techniques, the style favors evasion, not the head-on clash of brute force.  After delivering a technique, the hand or foot is snapped back very quickly to avoid being captured by the opponent.  Students are taught to punch by creating a very fast type of whiplash movement involving a certain amount of hip twisting to increase the force of the punch.

Canadian Zenkuren Wado Karate Association

Canadian Zenkuren Wado Karate Association (Zenkuren Wado Kai) is directly affiliated with the JKF Wado Kai headquartered in Tokyo, Japan and with Karate Canada through its provincial branches.

The association teaches Wado karate according to the curriculum set forth by the JKF Wado Kai Technical Committee and all black belt exams are conducted either in Japan, before the JKF Wado Kai Examination Board or by a visiting instructor, such as Mr. Hideho Takagi, technical head of the JKF Wado Kai and world recognized authority on the standardization of Wado kata for the purposes of WKF (World Karate Federation) competition. Successful black belt candidates are awarded dan certificates by the JKF Wado Kai Headquarters in Tokyo and these are signed by the current president of the JKF Wado Kai.

All Zenkuren Wado Kai dojo are registered directly with JKF Wado Kai in Tokyo and teach the Wado style of karate according to the rules, regulations and grading syllabus established by the Technical Committee of the JKF Wado Kai in Tokyo.

Senior Zenkuren Wado Kai black belts have undergone certification examinations either in Canada or in Japan with the 8 members of the JKF Wado Kai examination board.  Dan certificates are always signed by the head of JKF Wado Kai at the time of issue.


Style and History

Among the myriad styles and variations of karate, four of them are considered the major styles that are practiced throughout the world.  The Japanese word for style is ryu, and the four major styles are Shotokan, Shito Ryu, Goju Ryu and Wado Ryu. Each of the styles has its own emphasis and unique distinctions.  It may be said that Shotokan emphasizes strength with large movements and low, long stances. Shito focuses upon posture, short high stances and small subtle movements. Goju considers breathing, rooted stances and circular movement and Wado emphasizes relaxation and natural, practical movement. No one style is superior to another.  There are only different body structures, situations and instructors.  Usually a beginner does not choose a style, but rather a location, or a teacher that appeals. The style of karate practiced at Shiramizu Family Karate is Wado Ryu.

An Okinawan called Gichin Funakoshi is accepted as the founder of modern Japanese karate.  He introduced his brand of karate, then called Tode (Eastern/Chinese hands) to Japan at a sports festival sponsored by the Ministry of Education in 1922.  At that event, he evidently met 30-year-old Hironori Otsuka, who was by that time the fourth Grand Master of Shindo Yoshin Ryu Jiu Jitsu.  By 1929, Hironori Otsuka had become Chief Instructor of the Shindo Yoshin Ryu Jiu Jitsu and an assistant instructor to Gichin Funakoshi.  By 1929, Mr. Otsuka was a member of the Japan Martial Arts Federation (JMAF).

At that time, karate was reputedly taught by Mr. Funakoshi only as kata (form), so Mr. Otsuka had begun developing yakusoku (prearranged) kumite (fighting).  Soon thereafter, he left Gichin Funakoshi to develop his own style of karate.  On February 28, 1934, a son, Jiro, was born to Hironori Otsuka and, coincidentally, Wado Ryu was officially recognized as a new style of karate independent of that of Mr Funakoshi.

The style of karate personalized and established by Hironori Otsuka was registered with the JMAF in 1938 and in 1939 the JMAF called upon each of the styles to officially form a register of their names.  At that time, the four major styles mentioned above selected and registered the names by which they are known today.  Mr. Otsuka purportedly chose the name Wado Ryu, as it means harmony.

Due in great part to the efforts of Mr. Hironori Otsuka, karate began to be taught in the major universities of Japan.  Even now, Waseda, Meiji, and Nippon Universities, for example, remain famous for Wado Ryu.  In fact, karate was so disseminated throughout the universities, a major source of recruitment for the military, that this may have helped lead General MacArthur to outlaw Karate in 1945.  However, Wado and other styles of karate continued to flourish despite these restrictions.

In 1963, three Wado instructors and others from the different styles, visited Europe to perform demonstrations that would lay the foundation for the spread of karate in Europe.  Among the three from Wado, were Mr. Tatsuo Suzuki, who later formed his own world federation, and Mr. Toru Arakawa, who was previously the technical director for the Japan Karate Federation Wado Kai, secretary general of the Japan Karate Federation, and technical advisor to the World Karate Federation. Mr. Arakawa is a graduate of Nippon University, where he studied Wado Ryu with Hironori Otsuka.

Canadian ZenKuRen Wado Karate Association was formed in response to the demand for an authentic national Wado organization that is directly affiliated with the JKF Wado Kai in Japan.