Hironori Ohtsuka (1892-1982)

Founder of Wado Ryu Karate-Do

Hironori Ohtsuka was born in 1892. Due to him being a sickly child, at the age of 6 he entered the school of Shinzaburo Nakayama, Master of Shindo Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu. In 1921 at the age of 30 he was granted the Menkyo Kaiden (acknowledgment of full transmission) in Shindo Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu by Master Nakayama. This style of jujutsu had a heavy emphasis on the striking arts which included punch and kicks to vital points on the body.

In 1922 Ohtsuka heard about a new art called karate. It was being introduced to Japan from Okinawa by Gichin Funakoshi. Ohtsuka sought out and introduced himself to Funakoshi and was taken on as a student in this new art. Due to his mastery of Shindo Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu after just 1 year Ohtsuka had learnt everything that Funakoshi could teach him. At this time Funakoshi only tought basic punches and kicks and kata or forms. By now Ohtsuka was Funakoshi number one student and started to assist Funakoshi with teaching and demonstrations. Funakoshi established the first recognised diplomas or Dan grades, the same as in Kodokan judo. The first person to get this ranking was Gima. The second was Ohtsuka.

But Ohtsuka felt that some thing was missing. He wished to develop a true Japanese budo system. After about 10 years, though they stayed friends Ohtsuka parted company with Funakoshi, who with his son Yoshitaka went on to form the Shotokan style of karate, and is looked on as the father of modern day karate.

Ohtsuka started to blend the karate he had learnt with his Jujutsu and Japanese swordsmanship, and train with other karate masters of different styles who had followed Funakoshi from Okinawa to Japan.

In 1938 the Butokuden in Kyoto held a large festival of martial arts and asked that people should give a name to their schools. Ohtsuka named his style WADO-RYU KARATE-DO or Japanese-way school or Peaceful-way school since the kanji for Wa can mean both.

In 1942 Ohtsuka was awarded the rank of Kyoshi Go. In 1964 he sent teachers to demonstrate Wado Ryu karate in America and Europe.

In 1966 the Emperor of Japan gave Ohtsuka the rank of Kun Go To and decorated him with the Soko Kyokujitsu Sho medal for his efforts to spread Wado Ryu karate.

In 1972 The International Martial Arts Federation, headed by Higashikuni (the cousin of the Emperor) certificated Ohtsuka as the FIRST excellent Martial Artist of 10th Dan in Karate-Do. This is the same status as that enjoyed by Kyuzo Mifune in Judo and Hakudo Nakayama in Kendo.

Ohtsuka Sensei continued to train and teach until the day he died. In 1982 he abdicated the position of Grandmaster and nominated his son Jiro Ohtsuka to be the second Grandmaster Hironori Ohtsuka ll. Ohtsuka passed away 2 months later. 

The word genius gets banded around a lot in this modern world and VERY VERY few deserve it. But that can not be said of Ohtsuka Sensei who not only developed the wonderful art of Wado Ryu, but passed it on and spread it around the world.