The flag of Wadō-ryū.

The flag of Wadō-ryū.
Date founded 1934
Country of origin Japan Japan
Founder Hironori Ōtsuka
Current head Three independently-led organizations: Wadōkai • Wadō Kokusai • Wadō-ryū Karate-dō Renmei
Arts taught Karate
Ancestor arts Karate, Jujutsu
Ancestor schools Shindō Yōshin-ryūJujutsuShotokanMotobu-ryū

Wadō-ryū (和道流) is a karate style; three organizations now teach the Wadō-ryū style: the Japan Karate-dō Federation Wadōkai (abbreviated to Wadōkai; "Zen Nihon Karate-dō Renmei Wadokai" in Japan), the Wadōryū Karatedō Renmei, and the Wadō Kokusai Karatedō Renmei (abbreviated to Wadō Kokusai; also known as the Wadō International Karatedō Federation [WIKF]).[1][2]



The name Wadō-ryū has three parts: Wa, , and ryū. Wa means "harmony," (same character as tao) means "way," and ryū means "school" or "style". Harmony should not be interpreted as pacifism; it is simply the acknowledgment that yielding is sometimes more effective than brute strength.[3]

From one point of view, Wadō-ryū might be considered a style of jūjutsu rather than karate. It should be noted that Hironori Ōtsuka embraced Shotokan and was its chief instructor for a time. When Ōtsuka first registered his school with the Dai Nippon Butoku Kai in 1938, the style was called "Shinshu Wadō-ryū Karate-Jūjutsu," a name that reflects its hybrid character. Ōtsuka was a licensed Shindō Yōshin-ryū practitioner and a student of Yōshin-ryū when he first met the Okinawan karate master Gichin Funakoshi. After having learned from Funakoshi, and after their split, with Okinawan masters such as Kenwa Mabuni and Motobu Chōki, Ōtsuka merged Shindō Yōshin-ryū with Okinawan karate. The result of Ōtsuka's efforts is Wadō-ryū Karate.[3]

To the untrained observer, Wadō-ryū might look similar to other styles of karate, such as Shōtōkan. Most of the underlying principles, however, were derived from Shindō Yōshin-ryū an atemi waza focused style of Jujutsu. A block in Wadō may look much like a block in Shōtōkan, but they are executed from different perspectives.

A key principle in Wadō-ryū is that of tai sabaki (often incorrectly referred to as 'evasion'). The Japanese term can be translated as "body-management," and refers to body manipulation so as to move the defender as well as the attacker out of harm's way. The way to achieve this is to 'move along' rather than to 'move against'—or harmony rather than physical strength. Modern karate competition tends to transform Wadō-ryū away from its roots towards a new generic karate that appeals more to the demands of both spectators and competitors.[3]

As with other styles of karate Wadō-ryū techniques move from the heels of the feet, but differ in that many (particularly the gyaku zuki reverse punch, like a boxer's cross) progress to incorporate pushing off the ball of the foot as well. This affects the delivery of a number of techniques, particularly adding reach to punches with the back hand, given the extra hip movement afforded utilising the balls of the feet in this fashion.

While the core principles (at least with regard to tranmission of body weight into punches) of turning on the heel remain in Wado, as it is the fastest way to push the hips in the direction of attack, the progression to the ball of the foot is a hallmark of the style. It is important to remember that this in no way makes it superior or inferior as a system in comparison to other styles, it is simply another way of thinking that has both merit and drawbacks.

It works well with the jūjutsu applications that Wadō retains and improves the tai sabaki that is a core of Wadō training and application in comparison to the "low stances and long attacks, linear chained techniques" that typify the way Shōtōkan developed after the split.


Wadō-ryū uses a typical karate belt order to denote rank. The beginner commences at 9th or 10th kyū (depending on the organization and school) and progresses to 1st kyū, then from 1st–5th dan for technical grades. The ranks of 6th–10th dan are honorary ranks. Although some other karate styles add stripes to their belt for the dan ranks, Wado-ryū practitioners tend not to follow that practice.

Rank Belt Alternate 1 Belt Alternate 2 Belt Alternate 3 Belt Alternate 4 Belt Alternate 5
10th kyū White belt       White belt
9th kyū Red belt White belt White belt Yellow belt Yellow belt
8th kyū Yellow belt White belt Yellow belt Yellow belt Orange belt
7th kyū Orange belt White belt Orange belt Orange belt Orange belt
6th kyū Green belt Green belt Blue belt Green belt Green belt
5th kyū Blue belt Blue belt Purple belt Blue belt Green belt
4th kyū Purple belt Purple belt Green Belt Red belt Blue belt
3rd kyū Brown belt Brown belt Brown belt Brown belt Brown belt
2nd kyū Brown-White belt Brown belt Brown belt Brown belt Brown belt
1st kyū Brown-Black belt Brown belt Brown belt Brown belt Brown belt
1st–8th dan Black belt Black belt Black belt Black belt Black belt

The rank at which Wado practitioners are first able to teach is usually 3rd dan, but this depends on the organization. Some Wado ryu organizations require completion of a special course in addition to attaining a certain dan rank.

Schools that use the same belt color for multiple kyu ranks typically, although not necessarily, use stripes to indicate progress within that belt color.


Kata are predefined, specific patterns of movement that incorporate and encapsulate martial techniques, concepts, and applications.[2] The exact movements of a kata often vary from one organization to another, and even from one school to another within the same organization. The variations can range from gross deviations apparent to the untrained observer to very subtle minutiae. In his 1977 book on Wadō-ryū (published in English in 1997), Ōtsuka declared only nine official kata for Wadō-ryū: Pinan Nidan, Pinan Shodan, Pinan Sandan, Pinan Yodan, Pinan Godan, Kūshankū, Naihanchi, Seishan and Chintō.[4] Within his text, Ōtsuka provides detailed notes on the performance of these kata, which has resulted in less deviation across organizations on their performance. However, Ōtsuka did teach other kata. Perhaps because Ōtsuka did not provide specific notes for the performance of these other kata in his text, there is greater variation in these other kata across organizations and schools. Kata associated with Wadō-ryū include:

In addition to the solo kata listed above, many Wadō-ryū schools also practice paired kata, which reflects its jujutsu heritage. These paired kata are performed by two people (one as the attacker and one as the defender), demonstrating a range of self-defense techniques. The paired kata of Wadō-ryū often vary from one organization from another, because Ōtsuka did not standardize them. The paired kata are:

In addition to the three paired kata above, there are also Gyakunage Kata (kata of throwing), Joshi Goshinjutsu (kata of women's self-defense), Kodokan Goshin Jutsu & some others, but they are not commonly taught.


The founder of Wadō-ryū, Hironori Ōtsuka, was born on 1 June 1892 in Shimodate, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan.[1] In 1898, Ōtsuka began practicing koryū jujutsu under Chojiro Ebashi. From 1905–1921, he studied Shindō Yōshin-ryū jujutsu under Tatsusaburo Nakayama. In 1922, he met Gichin Funakoshi and began to train under him. In 1924, Ōtsuka became one of the first students promoted to black belt in karate by Funakoshi. To broaden his knowledge of Karate, Ōtsuka also studied with other prominent masters such as Kenwa Mabuni of Shitō-ryū and Motobu Chōki.[2] In 1929, Ōtsuka organized the first school karate club at Tokyo University. Eiichi Eriguchi coined the term 'Wadō-ryū' in 1934.[6]

In 1938, Ōtsuka registered his style of karate with the Dai Nippon Butoku Kai under the name of "Shinshu Wadoryu Karate-Jujutsu." Soon after, however, this was shortened to "Wadō-ryū" (和道流). In 1938, the Dai Nippon Butoku Kai awarded Ōtsuka the rank of Renshi-Go, followed in 1942 by the rank of Kyoshi-Go. It was around this time that Tatsuo Suzuki, founder of the WIKF, began training in Wadō-ryū. In 1944, Ōtsuka was appointed Japan's Chief Karate Instructor. In 1946, Ōtsuka awarded Tatsuo Suzuki the rank of 2nd dan.

Around 1950, Jiro Ōtsuka (the founder's second son) began training in Wadō-ryū while in his adolescent years. In 1951, Ōtsuka awarded Tatsuo Suzuki the rank of 5th dan, the highest rank awarded in Wadō-ryū at that time. In 1952, the Wadō-ryū headquarters (honbu) was established at the Meiji University dojo in Tokyo. In 1954, its name was changed to Zen Nippon Karate Renmei (All Japan Karate Federation). In 1955, Ōtsuka published "Karatejutsu no Kenkyu," a book expounding his style of karate. In 1963, he dispatched Suzuki, along with Toru Arakawa and Hajimu Takashima, to spread Wadō-ryū around the world.

In 1964, the Japan Karate-dō Federation (JKF) was established as a general organization for all karate styles. Wadō-ryū joined this organization as a major group.[1] In 1965, Ōtsuka and Yoshiaki Ajari recorded onto film (which is now still available on two video tapes) much of the legacy of Wadō-ryū karate. The first video, "Wadō-ryū Karate Volume 1," consists of: in-depth history and recollections; demonstrations of the eight Kihon No Tsuki body shifts; the first five Kihon-Kumite; and the kata Pinan 1-5, Kūshankū, Jion, Naihanchi, and Seishan. The second video, "Wadō-ryū Karate Volume 2," consists of: more history; the kata Chintō, Niseishi, Rōhai, Wanshu, and Jitte; as well as Kihon-Kumite 6-10, along with application. In 1966, Ōtsuka was awarded Kun Goto Soukuo Kyokujujutsu (comparable to a knighthood) by Emperor Hirohito for his dedication to the introduction and teaching of karate. On 5 June 1967, the Wadō-ryū organization changed its name to "Wadōkai."

In 1972, the President of Kokusai Budō Renmei, a member of the Japanese royal family, awarded Ōtsuka the title of Meijin.[1][7] In 1975, Suzuki received his 8th dan, the highest grade ever given (at the time) by the Federation of All Japan Karate-dō Organizations, and was named Hanshi-Go by the uncle of Emperor Higashikuni.

In 1980, as the result of a conflict between Ōtsuka and the Wadōkai organization over personal withdrawals from the organization's bank accounts, he stepped down as head of the Wadōkai. Eiichi Eriguchi took over his place within that organization. On 1 April 1981, Ōtsuka founded the "Wadōryū Karatedō Renmei." (Renmei means "group" or "federation.") After only a few months, he retired as head of this organization. His son, Jiro Ōtsuka, took his place. On 29 January 1982, Hironori Ōtsuka died, and in 1983, Jiro Ōtsuka succeeded him as grandmaster of Wadō-ryū. The younger Ōtsuka changed his name to "Hironori Otsuka II" in honor of his late father. In 1989, Tatsuo Suzuki founded the third major Wadō-ryū organization, "Wadō Kokusai" (Wadō International Karatedō Federation; WIKF). (Kokusai means "international.")

Wadō-ryū outside Japan

Wadō-ryū has been spread to many countries in the world, by both Japanese and non-Japanese students of Hironori Otsuka. Japanese Wadō-ryū stylists Tatsuo Suzuki, Teruo Kono, Masafumi Shiomitsu, H. Takashima, Naoki Ishikawa, Yoshihiko Iwasaki, Kuniaki Sakagami and many others spread the art in Europe. Yoshiaki Ajari, Masaru Shintani and Isaac Henry Jr. spread the art in the United States and Canada, Joaquim Gonçalves (from Portugal) and many others have helped to spread the style in their respective countries. In 1968, Otsuka promoted Cecil T. Patterson of the United States to 5th dan, and charged him with the creation of the United States Eastern Wado-Kai Federation (USEWF).[8][9] Following the split between Otsuka and the Wado-Kai in 1980, Patterson and the USEWF (renamed: United States Eastern Wadō-ryū Karate Federation) remained with Otsuka. Following Patterson's death in 2002, his son John T. Patterson assumed the presidency of the USEWF. Patterson's organization continues as an active member of the Wadō Ryū Karatedō Renmei. In the UK, Wadō-ryū has been cited as a key influence in the development of the hybrid martial art Sanjuro.


  1. 1 2 3 4 Wado Ryu Karate/Jujutsu. Books.google.co.uk. Retrieved 22 November 2014.
  2. 1 2 3 Black Belt November 1971. Books.google.co.uk. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  3. 1 2 3 "USKO". Usko-karate.co.uk. Retrieved 22 November 2014.
  4. Wado Ryu Karate: Hironori Otsuka 1997, p.72
  5. Wado Ryu Karate: Hironori Otsuka 1997, p.177
  6. Memoirs of A Karate Fighter. Books.google.co.uk. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  7. Black Belt June 1970. Books.google.co.uk. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  8. Patterson 1974, pg. 4
  9. Black Belt June 1983. Books.google.co.uk. Retrieved 23 November 2014.

Further reading

External links

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