About Wado-Ryu Karate

The style of karate practised at Cambridge Temple Karate Club is called Wado-Ryu, which means “way of peace” or “way of harmony”. Wado-Ryu was founded by Hironori Ohtsuka (1892-1982) in 1934. It was developed as a blend of Okinawan karate, and the traditional Japanese martial art of ju-jitsu. Wado-Ryu emphasises fast, efficient and natural movements.

Ohtsuka began learning martial arts from an early age, and studied Shindo Yoshin Ryu ju-jitsu under grand master Tatsusaburo Nakayama. Unlike other styles of ju-jitsu at the time, Shindo Yoshin Ryu focused on striking techniques in addition to the usual throwing techniques and joint locks found in ju-jitsu. Ohtsuka continued training in ju-jitsu during his time at Waseda University, where he studied business administration, and at the age of 29 he succeeded Tatsusaburo Nakayama as grand master of Shindo Yoshin Ryu ju-jitsu.

Ohtsuka was first introduced to karate in 1922, when he attended a demonstration by Gichin Funakoshi (the founder of Shotokan karate), who was visiting from Okinawa. Ohtsuka visited Funakoshi several times during his stay to learn about karate, and later, when Funakoshi decided to stay in Japan and teach karate at the Meishojuku Gymnasium, Otsuka Sensei asked to stay and study with him. Ohtsuka became one of Funakoshi’s senior students, and in 1929 he established the first karate club at Tokyo University. Over the next five years he established clubs in many other universities. During this time, Ohtsuka also had the opportunity to study with other prominent karate stylists of the time, including Kenwa Mabuni of the shito-ryu style, and Choki Motobu.

By the early 1930s, however, Ohtsuka had started to diverge from Funakoshi,  and decided to leave in order to develop his own style of karate. He travelled to Okinawa to learn from the instructors who had taught Funakoshi, and combined Okinawan karate with the principles he had learnt from the Japanese martial arts of ju-jitsu and kendo.

In 1934, the style of Wado-Ryu was born (although the name “Wado-Ryu” wasn’t settled on until a few years later). Over the next years and decades, Wado-Ryu grew in popularity and Ohtsuka was awarded with several honours. In 1944 he became Japan’s chief karate instructor.

From the 1960s onwards, karate began to spread from Japan to the rest of the world. Three of Ohtsuka’s top students, Tatsuo Suzuki, Toru Arakawa, and Hajime Takashima, toured Europe and the USA to teach karate and establish clubs. Others soon followed, including Toru Takamizawa, under whom our own instructor learned the art of Wado-Ryu.

In 1972 Ohtsuka was awarded the highest possible title of Meijin from Higashino-Kunino-Miya (a member of the Japanese royal family). He continued to lead the development of Wado-Ryu Karate until the November 1981, when he finally decided to retire as Grand Master and nominated his son Hironori Ohtsuka II as his successor. Hironori Ohtsuka Meijin peacefully passed away on 19th January 1982.