History of Wadoryu Karate

Let us look at the history of Wadoryu karate which we are training today more in details. Wadoryu karate was founded by late Ohtsuka Hironori (1892-1982). Ohtsuka trained Shindo Yoshinryu jujutsu under Nakayama Tatsusaburo (a kendo instructor, 1870-1933) in his school days (ca. 1906-1911) and other jujutsu schools while he was a student at Waseda University in Tokyo. Among others he studied Yoshin Koryu jujutsu from Kanaya Motoo (ca. 1919-1921) according to Dr. Fujiwara.

He started training karate under Funakoshi Gichin (the founder of Shotokanryu, 1868-1957) who arrived in Tokyo from Okinawa in 1922. He studied Karate even from Mabuni Kenwa (the founder of Shitoryu Karate, 1889-1952) who came from Okinawa and stayed in Tokyo 1928-1929. Ohtsuka studied even from Motobu Choki (1870-1944) from Okinawa (especially Naifanchi Kata of Wadoryu). According to my research Ohtsuka was with Funakoshi until 1935.

We can summarize that Wadoryu Karate is based on that from Okinawa, but influenced by jujutsu and kendo way of thinking.


From ’Karatedo Kyohan’ by Funakoshi Gichin, 1935. In the pictures above Funakoshi Gichin demonstrates Idori technique (defense in sitting position) against Ohtsuka Hironori. In the pictures below Ohtsuka shows Tantodori (defense against knife attack against Shimizu Toshiyuki.

1934 Ohtsuka started his own school under the name of Dai Nippon Karate Shinko Club (Dai = great, Nippon = Japan, Shinko = to promote). This is generally regarded as the

origin of Wadokai. Wado World

Cup in Tokyo, in August 1999, was supposed to be the 65 years anniversary of Wadokai.

1935 ’Karatedo Kyohan’ (by Funakoshi Gichin) was published. This is Funakoshi’s third book. (after ’Ryukyu Kenpo Karate’ 1922 and ’Rentan Goshin Karatejutsu’ 1925). Ohtsuka is in this book showing some pair techniques. Look at the pictures on the right. These are the first pictures of Ohtsuka published in a book.

1938 Dai Nippon Karate Shinbukai (Dai=great, Nippon=Japan, Shinbu=to promote Bu, kai=association) was organized.

The chief instructor was Ohtsuka Hironori, the chairman Eriguchi Eiichi. It is generally said that Eriguchi found the name Wadoryu.

Wa = softness, status of being mixed together, soften, calm, to harmonize, to add, Japanese
Do = way
Ryu = style, school

Wa means various. But in the beginning the idea of being Japanese different from Okinawa may have been predominant. Japan was in war against China.

In some occasions in the past the letter Wa was used to mean jujutsu (for example Shoshouryu Yawara-jujutsu).

knife.jpg1938 Nakasone Genwa wrote a gigantic book ’Karatedo Tai-kan’(414 pages). Ohtsuka shows 7 Tantodori techniques (defense against knife attacks, in this book it is called Tanken-tori - Omote) against Kato Toshio. The pictures on the right shows Udegarami-dori.

Wadoryu Karatejutsu was registered at Butokukai, Kyoto for the demonstration of various Budo, together with Shotokanryu, Shitoryu and Gojuryu. This occasion is regarded as the first official naming of Karate styles. In next page I will present the content of this registration.

Picture above: From ’Karatedo Taikan’ by Nakasone Genwa, 1938. Tantodori by Ohtsuka Hironori and Kato Toshio

Technical System of Wadoryu
By Dr. Fujiwara, presented in ’Wadokai 60 years’
Registered at Butokukai, Kyoto (1939) and revision at Tojo Butokukai, (T.B.)

(1942 - 1945)

Tandoku Enrengata 9 Kata
  1. Pinan: Shodan
  2. Pinan: Nidan
  3. Pinan: Sandan
  4. Pinan: Yondan
  5. Pinan: Godan
  6. Kushanku
  7. Naihanchi
  8. Seishan
  9. Chinto (T.B. - Wanshu, Bassai, Jitte, Jion, Niseishi, Rohai, Suparinpei)

Kihon Kumite 36
Jodanuke 10 (Omote, Ura)
Chudanuke 10 (Omote, Ura)
Gedanuke 6 (Harai, Kosa, Morote, Hasamite)
Nidan Henka 6 (Omote, Ura)
Sandan Henka 4 (Omote, Ura)
3 techniques more than Shotokanryu

Idorigata 6

Maedori 4 (Shin no Kurai, Soedori, Gozendori, Kinshadori) Ushirodori 2 (Kabedori, Watashidori)
(T.B. - Tobichigaidori, Nukimi no Metsukedori, Kojirikaeshidori, Ryotedori) From Shindo Yoshinryu

Tachiai 10

Udeotoshi, Seotoshi, Eriotoshi, Sodeotoshi, Ashiguruma, Koshiguruma, Kataguruma, Hikiotoshi, Karisute, Kinukuguri
From Shindo Yoshinryu, Tehodoki, Nagekaeshi, Shodan Tachiai
(T.B. - Deashigari, Osotogari, Kosotogari, Ouchigari, Kouchigari, Seoinage, Ushirogoshi, Taiotoshi, Haraigoshi, Uchimata, Yokootoshi, Sumikaeshi, Oguruma, Yokogake)

Yakusoku Kumuitegata 10
Present Yakusoku Kumite

Ohyogata 10
mixture of Kihon Kumite and Tachiaigata

Tantodori 5
Udegaramidori, Kotenagedori, Ungadori, Erinagedori, Zudori, Hikitatedori, Hikiotoshidori
Shindo Yoshinryu Nagekaeshi (T.B. - 7)

Tachidori - Shinken Shirahadori

Jodan, Kesa, Do, Tsuki, Kote, Nagi (T.B. - Jodandori, Chudandori, Gedandori, Wakigamaedori, Hassodori)

Kassatsu Jizaigata 5
(Saving and killing techniques)
Suikatsu, Rakukatsu, Oukatsu, Yukatsu, Enkatsu, Toukatsu, Dakatsu Shindo Yoshinryu (T.B. - 7)

Rataidori 3
(Naked techniques)
Maedori, Yokodori, Ushirodori, Shindo Yoshinryu

Keisatsu Taihojutsu 14
(Arresting techniques for policemen)
Tehodoki 2, Kansetsuwaza 3, Nagewaza 5, Osaewaza 4, Revised from Shindo Yoshinryu

Joshi Goshinjutsu 14
(Selfdefence techniques for women)
Maedori 6, Yokodori 2, Ushirodori 3, Osaedori 4
Revised from Funakoshi Gichin

The techniques registered at Butokukai in 1939 are very comprehensive comparing with those that are practiced today. It had to be this way in order to be accepted as a style as Japanese bujutsu.

1941-1945 Japan was involved in the Second World War. Karate activities went down during this period.

1948 Zen Nippon Karate Renmei (ZNKR-All Japan Karate Federation) was started only by Wado group at the same time as Shotokan started Japan Karate Association (JKA). Each style organization was working independently.kenkuy.gif

From ’ Karatejutsu no Kenkyu’ 1950 by Ohtsuka Hironori. Techniques from Pinan Shodan

1950 and 1957 ’Karatejutsu no Kenkyu’ (Kenkyu=study) was published based on ’Karatejutsu Oboegai’ (Oboegai=Memorandum, 1949 by Tokyo University Karate Club). The book presents 9 Wadoryu Katas. This became the base for ’Karatedo Vol.1’ by Ohtsuka 1970.
From the Bulletin of Wadokai 1955. Ohtsuka shows Junzuki

ZNKR started to publish bulletin for members. Editor was the general secretary Ishizuka Akira. ZNKR seems to be the only karate organization that had such a bulletin.

1964 Official all style Zen Nippon Karatedo Renmei (FAJKO) was started. No private organization should use the name All Japan. Wadokai gained the name FAJKO Wadokai - today JKF-Wadokai (Japan Karate Federation Wadokai) because Wadokai has a close co-operation with JKF, the official federation in Japan.

1970 ’Karatedo Vol.1’ by Ohtsuka was published. He presents 9 Wadoryu Katas (Pinan-5, Naifanchi, Seishan, Kushanku and Chinto). He declared in his book that Wadokai had these 9 Katas and nothing more. If you study a Kata deeply and carefully, then 9 Katas are already very many. That is my impression. 9 Wadoryu Katas were finally standardized by this book.

But especially in Europe some instructors taught other Katas (Bassai, Jion, Jitte, Niseishi and Rohai) though they were not official in Wadokai. Maybe because more Katas were needed considering the competitive situation against other styles. But this caused a sort of turbulence in Wado Katas. In some FEW competitions we could see for example four or five different Bassai Katas. Today Wadokai has standardized these Katas.

Wadoryu Katas and the influence

Funakoshi Mabuni Motobu
Pinan Shodan, Nidan, Sandan, Yondan, Godan
(Ohtsuka studied Pinan Katas from Funakoshi - Funakoshi was called Pinan Sensei in Tokyo, but rearranged after Mabuni and some idea from Shindo Yoshinryu.)
Funakoshi Mabuni
(Ohtsuka says that he has taken Motobus Naifanchi. But there is a slight difference from Motobus Naifanchi.)
(It is obvious that Ohtsuka has taken Shotokan Seishan (today Hangetsu). In no other style Seishan is performed in this way.)
(Both Kushanku and Chinto are similar in Shitoryu and Shotokan. These should be classified as Itosu Kushanku and Itosu Chinto.)
Funakoshi Mabuni
(Bassai Kata of Shitoryu, Shotokan and Wadoryu are in the same stream - Itosu Bassai. But Wado Bassai is a direct heritage from Shotokan.)
Jion, Jitte
(Jitte, Jion and Jiin seem to be Katas of similar type. These Katas in Shitoryu and Shotokan are similar.)
Funakoshi Mabuni
(Ohtsuka may have studied Niseishi from Funakoshi first, but adjusted later to Shitoryu way.)
(This is Itosu Rohai. Wado Rohai is Rohai Shodan, while Shotokan Meikyo is Rohai Nidan.)
(It is probable that Ohtuska did not make much change in this Kata from Funakoshi.)

1981 Some months before Ohtsuka's death, one group with Ohtsuka's son Jiro as its chief was split from Wadokai. This split group is called Wadoryu Renmei. But this group is regarded as a private group in Japan.

1989 a new split has occurred from Wadoryu Renmei. Suzuki Tatsuo, resident in London, split from Wadoryu Renmei and started his private group International Wadoryu Federation. Today, Wadoryu Karate is trained in three different organizations, but Wadokai is by far the biggest and is a consisting member of JKF. In this way Wadokai is the organization that has a close co-operation with JKF and WKF (World Karate Federation).

1994 Wado World Cup in Budokan, Tokyo

1999 Wado World Cup in Budokan, Tokyo


Text by Shingo Ohgami sensei, 8th Dan Wadokai Japan