History of Wado

At CMA Karate we teach Wado Ryu Karate “The Way of Harmony”. The style was developed in the early 20th century by Grand Master Hironori Ohtsuka and over many years became one of the more popular styles throughout the world.


Hironori Ohtsuka Sensei 10th Dan Meijin

Ohtsuka Sensei ProfileHironori Ohtsuka was born on 1st June 1892 in Shimodate City, Ibaragi, Japan. His father was a doctor of medicine. His first experience of martial arts was at the age of 5, he began the practice of Jujitsu taught to him by his great-uncle a samurai.

At the age of 13 Ohtsuka Sensei started to learn Shindo Yoshin Ryu Jiujitsu which was characterised by its  emphasis upon the nature and grace of movement. These principles play a major role in Wado taught today, where the techniques use the body and weight of the opponent combined with the movement  of yourself.

On his 29th birthday, 1st June 1920, Ohtsuka Sensei was awarded “Menkyo Kaiden” (Cer­tifi­cate of Full Pro­fi­ciency) which meant he was to succeed his master as 4th Grand Master in Shindo Yoshin Ryu Jujitsu.

It was in 1922 at a sports festival in Tokyo that Ohtsuka Sensei first encountered karate when Gichin Funakoshi the “father” of karate demonstrated his style of Okinawan Karate (Tode). This left a profound impression on Ohtsuka Sensei and he visited Funakoshi Sensei on many occasions to discuss techniques and other aspects of karate. Funakoshi Sensei then agreed to teach him all he knew of karate. Ohtsuka Sensei studied all the katas that Funakoshi brought from Okinawa. He did however find some of the techniques difficult to implement and understand. He then decided to delve deeper into karate and began to study kata with Mabuni Sensei the founder of Shito Ryu Karate.

Ohtsuka Sensei continued to train with Funakoshi Sensei whilst still Chief Instructor of Shindo Yoshin Ryu Jujitsu and became an assistant instructor at Funakoshi Sensei”s Dojo. At the time Okinawan Karate concentrated solely on kata and Ohtsuka Sensei believed that the spirit of Budo, which includes both defence and attack, was missing. He felt there was a need a more fluid type of karate. He left Funakoshi Sensei and began developing his own style of karate, “Wado”.

Ohtsuka Sensei Zenkutsu Dachi

Ohtsuka Sensei”s style was officially registered in 1938 4 years after karate was recognised in Japan. He was awarded the title Renshi-Go by the Dai Nippon Butoku. Ohtsuka Sensei presented a wonderful demonstration of “Wado” Karate for the Japan Martial Arts Federation and was acknowledged as a high ranking instructor. In 1940 the Japan Martial Arts Federation asked all the different styles to register their names. Ohtsuka registered “Wado Ryu”. Over the next few years karate went from strength to strength with dojos opening and Karate being taught in universities. In 1942 Ohtsuka was awarded the title “Kyoshi-go” and was becoming a well known figure in the world of martial arts. During that year a future great master Tatsuo Suzuki began training in Wado Ryu.

Until the 1960”s Martial Arts and in particular Wado Ryu Karate did not extend beyond the islands of Japan. In 1963 three men left Japan to bring karate to the rest of the world. The team consisted of Mr. Arakawa, Mr. Takashima and Mr. Suzuki. Their impact was immediate and Wado Ryu Karate became recognised world wide for its true merits.

In Japan Ohtsuka Sensei was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, Fifth Class in 1966 and the title “Kun Goto Suokuo Kyoku Jujitsu Shou” by the late Emperor Hirohito. It was awarded for his dedication and teaching of karate.

Ohtsuka Sensei DemoBy the early 70”s karate was established in the rest of the world. Ohtsuka Sensei remained in Japan to train and teach while a team of highly qualified Japanese Sensei”s continued to spread the doctrines of Wado Ryu Karate around the world. In 1972 Ohtsuka Sensei received an honour never before given to any karate master. The president of the International Martial Arts Federation, a member of the Japanese royal family, awarded Ohtsuka with the title “Meijin” – the first excellent Martial Artist in Karate – 10th Dan. It was the highest honour possible in Japanese martial arts.

In 1980 Ohtsuka Sensei was considering retirement as the head of Wado Karate and wanted his son to succeed him as Grand Master. This caused some problems with other high ranking Wado Karateka as they wished for another leader. No agreement was reached and some of these karateka broke away to form their own association. Ohtsuka Sensei led the world of Wado Ryu Karate until 20th November 1981, when he relinquished his title of Grand Master in favour of his son Jiro Ohtsuka (Hironori Ohtsuka 2nd). Hironori Ohtsuka Sensei passed away peacefully on 19th January 1982.

Ohtsuka Sensei is a man who will always be remembered for his unequaled contribution and devotion to Wado Ryu Karate. Wado Ryu continues to be one of the major styles throughout the world and our instructors at CMA Karate believe strongly in the traditional aspects of Wado Ryu and strive to maintain the origins of the style as taught by the founder.

Click here to see Ohtsuka Sensei in action.


Tatsuo Suzuki Sensei 8th Dan Hanshi

Suzuki SenseiOne of Ohtsuka Sensei”s top students Tatsuo Suzuki came to the UK in the early 1960”s to introduce Wado Ryu to the western world. He had an immediate impact and has been teaching in the UK ever since. Our CMA Karate instructors have had the privilege of training with Suzuki Sensei and one of our instructors Sensei Barry Lovett, along with many other karate-ka from around the world, accompanied Suzuki Sensei to Japan in 2003 to celebrate his 75th birthday and 60 years training in karate.

Suzuki Sensei was born in Yokohama in 1928 and started training in Wado Ryu at the age of 14 and at the age of twenty four he was awarded his 5th dan for outstanding courage and ability, at the time this was the highest grade in Wado Ryu  Karate with the exception of Ohtsuka Sensei.Ohtsuka_Suzuki

From 1945 to 1956 Suzuki Sensei received direct instruction from Ohtsuka Sensei at the Wado Ryu Hombu dojo. Thereafter, as Ohtsuka Sensei”s most senior student Suzuki Sensei travelled with Ohtsuka Sensei domestically and internationally performing demonstrations, he also taught at the Wado Ryu Hombu dojo.

In the 1960’s Suzuki Sensei came to England and founded the first Wado Federation based in London. From here he began spreading Wado Ryu throughout Europe, he did this primarily by bringing senior students over from Japan and sending them to various parts of the continent.

Original Wado Senseis

In 1975 Suzuki Sensei was awarded his 8th Dan and given the title of Hanshi by the uncle of Emperor Higashikuni of Japan.

In 1991 Suzuki Sensei established the Wado International Karate-Do Federation (WIKF) to continue the teachings of his Sensei and retain the true essence of Wado Ryu Karate.

Suzuki Sensei passed away peacefully at home in London on 12th July 2011 after a long battle with cancer. He was a true inspiration to many karate-ka around the world and us at CMA Karate, he will always be remembered. He was succeeded by one of his most senior students, Sensei Jon Wicks 8th Dan.

Click here for Suzuki Sensei”s full profile.

Click here to see Suzuki Sensei in action.