Wado Kai

The History of Wado-Kai Karate

Born in 1892 Hironori Ohtsuka was the second child of four children.  His father Dr Tokujiro Ohtsuka operated a clinic at their home in Shimodate,  Ibaraki Prefecture.  His mother's uncle, Chojiro Ebashi, was a Samurai warrior who kept young Ohtsuka spell bound with his true tales of exciting Samurai adventures. 


In 1898, when only six years old, Hironori began practicing ju jitsu.  By 13 he was a joung shave tail in the Shinto-yoshin school of jujitsu studying under Yukioshi Tatsusaburo Nakayama.  Where as most jujitsu schools specialised in nage-waza (throwing and ground or striking techniques), the Shinto-yoshin-ryu stressed atemi (striking and kicking). 


At 19 he entered Waseda University and while majoring in business administration, Ohtsuka also started training in atemi-style Kempo in addition to his regular training in Shinto-yoshin ryu.  The death of his father in 1913 during his junior year at Waseda forced him to withdraw and start work at a bank in Shimodate.  As it turned out he never had the opportunity to return to complete his final year and graduate. 


On June 1, 1921, Ohtsuka celebrated his 29th birthday by taking over the mastership of the Shinto-yoshin-ryu from Nakayama upon receipt of a certificate of full proficiency in the jujitsu school.


The following year Ohtsuka went to Tokyo after hearing about an Okinawan named Gitchin Funakoshi who on invitation from the Crown Prince had travelled to Tokyo to perform his local martial art before the Emperor of Japan.  This new martial art was called Karate. 


30 years old Ohtsuka wasted no time in introducing himself to the Karate master who welcomed him warmly.  This was to be the start of a long and close friendship between the two.  Ohtsuka trained virtually every night at the Meishojuku Dojo and from that moment on, ideas on how he could adapt his atemi techniques to Karate were constantly in him mind. 


After the great earthquake in 1923, interest in jujitsu declined, overshadowed by Judo and the newly imported Karate which Ohtsuka had now taken a keen interest in.  Continuing his close relationship with Funakoshi, Ohtsuka often helped the Karate Master to organize things and assist in instructing his pupils. 


In 1927 Ohtsuka left the bank and started working as a medical specialist in the treatment of persons injured in the martial arts. He continued his training in karate, and two years later he organised the first school karate club at Tokyo University.  But more importantly in 1929 he launched a study into a method of arranging kumite (free style fighting) into competitive matches, laying the basis for present day kumite-style tournaments. 


After 1930, Ohtsuka set up a string of karate clubs at various universities in Tokyo in the manner of Funakoshi.  In 1934 he officially inaugurated his own unique style of karate which he called the Karate Promotion Club.  But it wasn't until 1940, when the Butokukai requested each of its member groups to submit the name of its founder and the official name of the style or school that Ohtsuka finally devised the name - Wado-Kai, or the Way of Harmony. 


The atemi and nage-waza techniques of jujitsu have had a strong influence in the formation of Wado-Kai karate.  As it exists today, the Wado system is the culmination of a life's work by its founder.  While some might have been content with this new concept, Sensei Ohtsuka was not.  His work toward furthering the art of karate was a never-ending struggle. 


For his outstanding contribution to karate, the Japanese Government awarded Ohtsuka with the Firth Order of Merit.  In 1972 Ohtsuka received the highest award that can be given by the Emperor of Japan, the Hanshi Award.  With this came the honour of being ranked at the head of all martial arts systems within the All-Japan Karate-Do Federation. 


On the 29th of January, 1982, just four months short of his 90th birthday, Hironori Ohtsuka passed away.  HIs martial arts experience spanned 84 years of deep involvement.  


Hironori Ohtsuka (1892 - 1982)

The term Wadokai can be broken into three parts: Wa, do and kai. Wa can be read to mean 'harmony' but also as "original Japan", allowing a pun in the name. Do is a Japanese term for 'way' (as in karate-do). So Wado means 'the way of (Japanese) harmony'. Kai simply means 'association'.


Strictly speaking Hironori Ohtsuka founded and developed Wado Ryu. The people who trained with him became the Wado group or Wadokai. So today, the style that is trained within Wadokai is Wado Ryu.


Wally Maclean

Wado Kai was first introduced to Australia by Sensei Wally Maclean in1967. The founder Wado Australia originally studied Judo and after 15 years of running a Judo school and at 51years of age, did he begin to learn Karate.


Not only was Sensei Maclean the pioneer of Wado Kai Karate in Australia, but also one of the  founding members of the Australian Karate Federation when it was referred to by its original name  F.A.K.O. After bringing this style of karate to Australia, Sensei Maclean returned to Japan many times to further his understanding and knowledge of Wado. He always encouraged his senior students to do the same to ensure a high level of standard is carried throughout all dojos.


Sensei Maclean passed away on 7th September 2003.