Karate (空手, empty hand) is a discipline of Budō (武道, The Way to Martial Arts), the complex of the Japanese combat systems. Karate originally developed in Okinawa, a small island located between Japan and southern China, centuries before falling under the rule of the Japanese empire. Thanks to the constant trade relations and cultural exchanges with China, the warriors from Okinawa learned Kung Fu (功夫, personal ability), in particular the Hequan style (鹤拳, crane boxing), and merged it with the ancient Okinawan traditional combat styles (Kobudo), thus giving birth to Karate, which – like Kung Fu – was practiced by different schools with a different style. Wado (和道, Way to Peace/Harmony) is one of the most recent styles and is the natural evolution of karate, after being introduced in Japan at the beginning of last century. The founder of the style, Hironori Otsuka, already Grand Master of Shindo Yoshin-ryu, an ancient Jujutsu style (the Japanese martial art Judo and Aikido originate from), was impressed by Okinawa’s karate. Otsuka observed that karate used techniques that Jujutsu did not, and viceversa. So, in 1922, he started studying it with the idea to merge both technical methods and to apply the principles of Jujutsu to Karate. Wado-ryu is the result of that merging.
Wado-ryu is the result of the application of Jujutsu Kempo principles to Tou-di in Okinawa (the original Karate) and this makes it a style per se. Positions are natural and its smooth techniques privilege the skilful use of taisabaki (body movements). Hironori Otsuka taught that our movement is the manifestation of our spirit. The principles and techniques deriving from Shindo Yoshin-ryu Jujutsu envisage the in-depth study of projection techniques (nage-waza), twisting of joints (kansetsu waza), holding and choking (shime waza), and atemi waza (blow techniques) are a typical complement in Karate. Moreover, Otsuka replaced the classical pattern attack-block-counterattack with attack-counterattack. He preferred avoiding (nagashi) and dodging to countering. In Kihon Kumite, which can actually be defined as the summa of the principles of Wado, we find the very particular dynamic concept characterized by dodging-counterattacking-unbalancing (or throwing) in one technical gesture.
The name Wado-ryu is composed of three different ideograms (kanji, in Japanese). The first kanji, Wa (和), like it often happens with Japanese ideograms, has several meanings and facets. Wa is used to indicate the summa – harmony and peace – but it also represents everything that is Japanese. Kanji Do (道) literally means way, path or pathway but in a more spiritual sense. Do (道) is also way, manner, life style. Kanji Ryu (流) means style or school. The name Wado-ryu derives from the motto Ten Chi Jin no Ri-do ni Wa Suru. Ten means sky, Chi means earth, Jin means human being, Ri-do means reason, truth and Wa puts together all these concepts, namely the harmony of all these elements. The phrase can be translated as follows: Harmony can be reached only by researching into the inner reason of the sky (spiritual and intellectual sphere), of the earth (material, body and practical sphere) and of the human being (heart, courage, love). This way, the term Wado suggests that to train the body on its own is not enough like in sports, in the same way to train the mind and the spirit on their own is not enough, like in the study and meditation, in order to be able to realize our potential. Wado-ryu aims at pursuing the way to harmony by training the body, the mind and the spirit, by fostering and cultivating a healthy, ethical and profitable life style for oneself and the others. In Wado-ryu the martial arts are seen as a process of growth and human enhancement in the largest way as possible, in the wave of the true spirit of Japanese Budō.
Hironori Otsuka was born in the city of Shimodate, Ibaraki prefecture, Japan, on 1st of June 1892. The son of a doctor, Tokujiro Otsuka, he started practicing Jujutsu under the guide of his great-uncle, the samurai Chojiro Ebashi as a five-year-old child, while as a 13-year old teen, Hironori became a student of Shinzabuto Nakayama, an influential master of Shindō Yoshin-ryu. On 1st of June 1921, on the day of his 29th birthday, he was awarded Menkyo Kaiden – the highest certification of mastery in Japanese Budō – in Shindō Yoshin-ryu jujutsu directly from the Grand Master Nakayama Tatsusaburo. Less than a year later, Hironori met Gichin Funakoshi, founder of Shotokan Karate and decided to learn also the martial art from Okinawa. He shortly became Funakoshi’s assistant and remained with him until 1934, when he parted from him to found his own school where Shindō Yoshin-ryu merged with Jujutsu Kenpo: Wado-ryu Karate-dō. This progressed to the point that it became the most wide-spread style in Japan. On 29th of April 1966, Hironori was awarded by Emperor Hirohito with the Cross of the Order of the Rising Sun (Kyokujitsu-sho) for his contribution to the development of Karate and in 1972, the International Martial Arts Federation (Kokusai Budō) awarded him the title of Shodai karate-dō Meijin Judan (Karate Master10th DAN of First Generation). It was the first time that this honour was reserved to a Karate master. He continued to train and teach until the day of his death on 29th of January 1982, at the age of 89.
Karate (空手, empty hand) is a discipline of Budō (武道, The Way of him Who blocks the spear), the complex of the Japanese combat systems. Karate originally developed in Okinawa, a small island located between Japan and southern China, centuries before falling under the rule of the Japanese empire. Thanks to the constant trade relations and cultural exchanges with China, the warriors from Okinawa learned Kung Fu (功夫, personal ability), in particular the Hequan style (鹤拳, crane boxing), and merged it with the ancient Okinawan traditional combat styles (Kobudo), thus giving birth to Karate, which like Kung Fu was practiced by different schools with a different style.
Wado (和道, Way to Peace/Harmony) is one of the most recent styles and is the natural evolution of this martial art, after being introduced in Japan at the beginning of last century. The founder of the style Hironori Otsuka, already Grand Master of Shindo Yoshin-ryu, an ancient Jujutsu style (the Japanese martial art Judo and Aikido originate from), was impressed by Okinawa’s Karate. Otsuka observed that Karate used techniques, which were missing in Jujutsu, and viceversa. So, in 1922, he started studying it with the idea to merge their techniques and to apply the principles of Jujutsu to Karate. Wado-ryu is the result of that merging.
The influence of Jujutsu makes Wado a style characterized by speed and flexibility and based on the principle of non-contraposition (ju): while the other karate schools try to block the blows from the opponent to curb the energy, Wado-ryu aims at using the opponent’s strength at one’s own benefit, without blocking it, to blow it back (by dodging, offsetting, throwing, etc…). Furthermore, Wado seeks to reach power by being fast and precise, and by eliminating all unnecessary movements (mudana dosa). This style develops flexibility, speed and capacity of moving smoothly, and teaches how to generate power through techniques and to minimize the use of brute force at the benefit of the very dynamic intelligence.
There is no pre-determined age, it changes from person to person. Usually, it is possible to start from four years old onwards with a preparatory training. Children are coached to learning and developing the so-called basic motor schemes. From five/six years of age, children can start training Wado-ryu Karate.
Of course, you can. Wado-ryu is a flexible and fluid style that is learned by following gradual steps and that prefers natural positions and movements of the body. So, it is highly indicated for all people of all age bands and conditions.
Today, the mostly practiced karate style is sports. The aim of sports karate is to succeed in competitions. The aim of the original (traditional) karate is, on the contrary, martial, that is to increase self-defence and self-awareness abilities not only as far as the body is concerned, but also the heart, developing skills, self-confidence, respect and discipline. This does not mean that if we practice traditional karate, we cannot cultivate sports karate. Like Hironori Otsuka, the founder of Wado-ryu, used to say, the authentic spirit of sport has several points of contact with the spirit of martial arts. Competitions, especially for the younger people, may be a healthy opportunity for having fun, for finding inputs and for comparing with one another. But for us sport will always be at the service of martial art, never the opposite. The key goal of Wado-ryu is not to win medals rather to achieve the highest ability, effectiveness and harmony between body and mind, thus encouraging the true and useful human development of all students.
Yes, it can, and has scientific-based evidence. The practice of Wado-ryu is therapeutic for hyperactive children or for children with an attention deficit disorder. According to an American study published by the International Journal of Offender Therapy in 2007, a considerable improvement was observed in children who practice Wado-ryu karate as regards the intensity, adaptability and ability to control the emotional states. According to the authors, practicing Wado-ryu may be a valid therapeutic resource for various issues during the developmental age and teenage, such as behavioural disorders, aggressiveness, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, social phobia, as well as anxiety and depression disorders.
The naturalness and fluidity of its techniques make Wado a powerful tool for fitness in adulthood, and develop joint mobility, improve response times and all levels of general and specific ability. Moreover, like every karate style, Wado also provides for powerful training of the mind at the advantage of the level of attention. All useful elements in daily life (e.g. when you drive). Moreover, practicing bare-foot reinforces the plantar venous pump at the benefit of the entire heart and circulatory system, and the natural approach actually offers similar results to postural gymnastics. All this by learning a martial art.
No, far from it. Karate is one of the safest disciplines to practice for both children and adults. The attention put on each activity, the development of joint mobility, motor skills, balance, concentration and self-mastery jointly with a meticulous attention on protecting the health of those who practice it, make it an ideal sport and martial art.
No, far from it, Wado-ryu karate is a martial art that fosters peace of mind and harmony in the art of those who practice and among people. The study of Japanese martial arts (Budō) is traditionally linked to the Zen philosophy. Martial arts are a way to improve the self and develop and implement one’s own human potential (physical, intellectual, spiritual and social). To practice a traditional martial art like karate helps develop harmony in relation to the persona and with nature, people and the social community.
Karate from Okinawa was originally a combat and personal defence style. Japanese jujustu was the martial art at the basis of the Samurai training methods. Wado-ryu stems from Okinawan karate and Japanese jujutsu, so the answer is yes. Traditional Wado-ryu teachings focus on the effectiveness of its techniques and on the gradual and constant training of both the body and the mind to enhance the ability of individual response to any circumstance of daily life.
Yes, and not just for those who are victims of bullies. Karate, like any other well-taught martial art, makes children stronger in their body and mind, allowing them to gain self-confidence and self-mastery. In particular, Japanese traditional Karate, thanks to the adoption of the Budō methods steeped in the spirit and discipline of Zen, reveals to be particularly effective to harmonize relationships. In traditional karate, students wear the dogi, a white cotton outfit that symbolizes the purity we should head for, and the irrelevance of the socio-economic difference (when they wear the same “outfit”, the young get used to thinking that you cannot judge by appearances). The belt colours are a reward to the commitment, and assign a higher and higher level of responsibility towards oneself and the others. The ritual greeting to the dojo and the fellow-students train the young to respect the common good and the people they interact with. The ritual cleaning of the tatami teaches to take care of the space where we live. The apparently strict discipline ruling every training class favours silence and collaboration in the dojo, where learning and improvement become a shared objective. In such a context, bullies can be countered by providing those who are victims with the tools to break the mechanism victim-perpetrator but, at the same time, without demonizing the “perpetrator”. We recall that the latter is always a child. WKSI utilizes targeted teaching programmes to emancipate and set oneself free from bullies, and to recover and evolve those who perpetrate that hideous behaviour.
Yes. Karate and above all Wado-ryu, which has a predilection for flexible and natural positions, may give great benefits to people with a disability. Our association, through a permanent project Abili al Karate, has welcomed people with any kind of physical or mental disability to its dojos. We are registered with the international association IKF – IKKAIDO on inclusive sports and martial arts and are partners in some EU projects (Deporte Inclusivo Europeo, PRIME – Participation, Recreation and Inclusion through Martial Arts Education, Erasmus+) which aim at defining an adapted coaching framework for the thorough inclusion of people with a disability. A subject on which WKSI is at the forefront.
WKSI – Wadokai Karatedo Shin-Gi-Tai Italia
Japan Karatedo Federation Wado-kai – branch n° 424004