Wado-ryu - Hironori Ohtsuka, 10th Dan Meijin (1892-1982)
The founder of Wado-ryu Karate. Hironori-Ohtsuka was born in Shimodate City, Ibiragi, Japan on the 1st June 1892.
He was the first son of Tokujiro-Ohtsuka, who was a doctor of medicine.
1892 was also the year that the Dai-Nippon-Butoku-Kai was established.
He started training under Chojiro-Ebashi, an uncle of his mother, in April 1897 at the age of four, a style of training he would continue with, even at Waseda University in Tokyo.
In 1905 Ohtsuka-Hironori entered the Shimozuma middle school, where he started Shindo-Yoshin-ryu Ju-jutsu under Tatsusaburo-Nakayama.
In 1910 Ohtsuka-Hironori entered Waseda University to learn commerce.
In 1917 he started work at the Kawasaki Bank; at this stage he was learning numerous styles of Ju-jutsu. Ohtsuka-Hironori met, and became good friends, with the founder of Aikido, Morihei-Ueshiba.
In May 1919 he became Master of 'bone-setting technique'.
On the 1st of July 1921 he received his Shindo-Yoshin-ryu Ju-jutsu licence from Tatsusaburo-Nakayama, and so became the Highest Authority.
He started his Karate training with the famous Gichin-Funikoshi in July 1922, a style known as Karate-jutsu. Ohtsuka-Hironori met Funikoshi Sensei during a martial arts demonstration at the Sports Festival organised by the Japanese Educational Department. Funikoshi Sensei agreed to teach Ohtsuka-Hironori all he knew about Okinawan Karate-jutsu, the lessons started that same day. Within one year Ohtsuka-Hironori had studied all the Kata within the system. Even after this time Ohtsuka-Hironori could see the 'shortfall' in the Kata-only system. It was explained to him that all of the concepts of 'Budo' was within Kata, and that was the only aspect to train.
In 1924 Ohtsuka-Hironori introduced Yakusoku-gumite to the system, this concept of 'partner-work' revolutionised Karate-jutsu. He also developed Idori-no-Kata, Tachiai-no-Kata, and Shirahatori-no-Kata.
In 1928 he was 'Shindo-Yoshin-ryu Shihan', the Chief Instructor of his Shindo-Yoshin-ryu, he also set up a 'bone-setting' practice at this time.
In 1929 he registered with the 'Nippon-Kobudo-Shinko-Kai', the Japanese Martial Arts Federation.
In 1934 Ohtsuka-Hironori was recognised as an independent style, and started teaching full-time. Due to his dedication to Karate he had to close his 'bone-setting' business.
In 1938 Ohtsuka-Hironori registered his new style as Shin-Shu-Wado-ryu. In 1939 all Karate styles were asked to register their systems with the 'Dai-Nippon-Butoku-Kai', Ohtsuka-Hironori named his style Wado-ryu. Other styles that registered were Goju-ryu, Shito-ryu, and Shoto-ryu (Shotokan-ryu).
In 1940 on May the 5th the 'All Styles Karate Demonstrations' took place at Butoku-Den in Kyoto. All the major styles took part, these included Goju-ryu, Keishi-Kempo, Nippon-Kempo-ryu, Shito-ryu, Shoto-ryu, and Wado-ryu.
In 1944 Ohtsuka-Hironori was promoted to Chief Instructor of all Karate under the Dai-Nippon-Butoku-kai.
In 1945 the Americans, at the end of the Second World War, disbanded all martial arts. In 1951 all martial arts were reinstated, after the signing of the American peace treaty with Japan.
In 1955 the first Karate tournament took place, organised by Ohtsuka-Hironori, it was called the 'First All Japan Wado-ryu Karate Championships'.
In 1964 'The All Japan Karate-do Federation' (JKF) was established. This same year Suzuki-Tatsuo, Arakawa-Toru, and Takashima-Hajime introduced Wado-ryu to Great Britain, Europe, and the United States of America.
In 1966 Ohtsuka-Hironori was awarded 'Kun-Goto-Soukuo-Kyo-Kuju-Jutsu-Sho' (similar to the OBE in Great Britain) from Emperor Hirohito for his dedication to Karate.
In 1972 he was awarded the title of Meijin from Higashino-Kunino-Miya (a member of the Japanese royal family) President of the International Martial Arts Federation the 'Kokusai-Budo-Renmei'. Ohtsuka-Hironori was the first man in history to receive the highest honour in martial arts. For his services to Japanese martial arts, and to honour his new position as the highest Karate authority in Japan, he was awarded the Shiju-Hoosho medal from the Japanese Government, the only man in the history of Karate to be so honoured.
Below is an adaptation from an open letter written by Ohtsuka Hironori (10th Dan) Meijin to all Wado-ryu students, sent out two-years prior to his death, explaining the origins of Wado-ryu.
"At the age of five years old, I was in very poor health. It was then that I began my training in Ju-jutsu at the school of my uncle, Sensei Chojiro-Ebashi, the official martial arts instructor of the Tsuchiura Clan. Since this time I have trained continuously until my present age of eighty-eight years. For this, I can heartily thank the traditional Samurai education, which was both gentle and strict. I also thank and pray for my dear mother without whom I could never have succeeded in my deepest aims; I thank her sincerely for always being near.
On my thirtieth birthday, Master Nakayama, the third Grand Master of Shinto Yoshin-ryu Ju-jutsu, allowed me to learn the deepest and most secret doctrines of our school. It was then that I succeeded him as the fourth Grand Master.
Karate was becoming increasingly popular around this time, and I began to study its techniques from several eminent Okinawan Masters who had begun to teach in Tokyo. It occurred to me that there were many fine attributes in the Okinawan systems, and so decided to blend these with the finest elements of Shinto Yoshin-ryu Ju-jutsu to create a genuine and original Japanese martial art. Through this process I developed Kumite, Gyaku-nage, I-dori, Tachi-iai, Tanken-dori, and Shinken-Shirai-dori.
Every year, for purposes of promoting the Japanese Martial Arts, the Butokuden in Kyoto held a national festival. In 1938, the festival focused on the originators of each martial art, however, no originator of Japanese Karate had been identified. I named the originator of the first true Japanese style of Karate-do as Shiro-Yoshitoki-Akiyama (the founder of Shinto Yoshin-ryu Jujitsu) and named this new style of Karate-do, 'Wado-ryu' meaning: 'Japanese-way school' or also 'Peaceful-way school' since the kanji lettering for 'Wa' can mean both.
The fundamental meaning and original aims of martial arts is the promotion of peace. To bring peace to society and to guard against its loss so that human beings can enjoy a happy life. We must strive for peace in a world where it is increasingly difficult to achieve. We must not simply rely on God's mercy to achieve it but must strive as individuals, with all our will, to attain it. Immense spiritual and physical power is required so we will not surrender to the difficulties and barriers which lie before us on this journey. The hard training in martial arts aims to foster this dauntless, indefatigable strength which is why the beauty of martial arts training is beyond the vicissitudes of mundane affairs."
Ohtsuka Hironori (10th Dan) Meijin.
On the 29th of January 1982 Ohtsuka-Hironori Meijin died at the age 89, he had practised martial arts for 85 years.
"Buno-michi-wa Tada-aragoto-na-to-omohiso Wa-no-michi-kiwa-me Wa-o-motomu-michi: The way to practise martial arts is not for fighting. Always look for your own inner peace and harmony, search for it." Ohtsuka-Hironori.