History of Wadoryu Karate

Text av Shingo Ohgami

© Svenska Karatedo Wadokai

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Let us look at the history of Wadoryu karate which we are training today more in details. Wadoryu karate was founded by late Ohtsuka Hironori (1892-1982). Ohtsuka trained Shindo Yoshinryu jujutsu under Nakayama Tatsusaburo (a kendo instructor, 1870-1945) in his school days (ca. 1906-1910) and other jujutsu schools while he was a student at Waseda University in Tokyo. Among others he studied Yoshin Koryu jujutsu from Kanaya Motoo (ca. 1919-1921) according to Dr. Fujiwara.

He started training karate under Funakoshi Gichin (the founder of Shotokanryu, 1868-1957) who arrived in Tokyo from Okinawa in 1922. He studied Karate even from Mabuni Kenwa (the founder of Shitoryu Karate, 1889-1952) who came from Okinawa and  stayed in Tokyo 1928-1929. Ohtsuka studied even from Motobu Choki (1870-1944) from Okinawa (especially Naifanchi Kata of Wadoryu). According to my research Ohtsuka was with Funakoshi until 1935.

We can summarize that Wadoryu Karate is based on that from Okinawa, but influenced by jujutsu and kendo way of thinking.


From ’Karatedo Kyohan’ by Funakoshi Gichin, 1935. In the pictures above Funakoshi Gichin demonstrates Idori technique (defense in sitting position) against Ohtsuka Hironori. In the pictures below Ohtsuka shows Tantodori (defense against knife attack against Shimizu Toshiyuki.


’Karatedo Kyohan’ (by Funakoshi Gichin) was published. This is Funakoshi’s third book. (after ’Ryukyu Kenpo Karate’ 1922 and ’Rentan Goshin Karatejutsu’ 1925). Ohtsuka is in this book showing some pair techniques. Look at the pictures on the right. These are the first pictures of Ohtsuka published in a book.  


Dai Nippon Karate Shinbukai (Dai=great, Nippon=Japan, Shinbu=to promote Bu, kai=association) was organized.

The chief instructor was Ohtsuka Hironori, the chairman Eriguchi Eiichi. It is generally said that Eriguchi found the name Wadoryu.  

Wa = softness, status of being mixed together, soften, calm, to harmonize, to add, Japanese
Do = way
Ryu = style, school  
Wa means various. But in the beginning the idea of being Japanese different from Okinawa may have been predominant. Japan was in war against China.

In some occasions in the past the letter Wa was used to mean jujutsu (for example Shoshouryu Yawara-jujutsu).


Nakasone Genwa wrote a gigantic book ’Karatedo Tai-kan’(414 pages). Ohtsuka shows 7 Tantodori techniques (defense against knife attacks, in this book it is called Tanken-tori - Omote) against Kato Toshio. The pictures on the right shows Udegarami-dori.  


Wadoryu Karatejutsu was registered at Butokukai, Kyoto for the demonstration of various Budo, together with Shotokanryu, Shitoryu and Gojuryu. This occasion is regarded as the first official naming of Karate styles. In next page I will present the content of this registration.

Picture above: From ’Karatedo Taikan’ by Nakasone Genwa, 1938. Tantodori by Ohtsuka Hironori and Kato Toshio

(Wadōryu Seiteigata February 1939)


(from the book ’Kakutōgi no Rekishi’ -The History of Martial Arts,  by Fujiwara Ryōzō 1990)

Dr. Fujiwara has published Wadokai technical system in various books with some slight differences. I have the following books:

1. Shindo Yoshinryu no Rekishi to Giho (Histrory and techniques of Shindo Yoshinryu) 1983

2. Kindai Karatedo no Rekishi o Kataru (Talking about the history of modern Karate) 1986

3. Kakutogi no Rekishi (History of Martial Arts) 1990

4. Wadokai 60 years 1994 

(Wadōryu Seiteigata February 1939)


(from the book ’Kakutōgi no Rekishi’ -The History of Martial Arts,  by Fujiwara Ryōzō 1990)

Dr. Fujiwara has published Wadokai technical system in various books with some slight differences. I have the following books:

1. Shindo Yoshinryu no Rekishi to Giho (Histrory and techniques of Shindo Yoshinryu) 1983

2. Kindai Karatedo no Rekishi o Kataru (Talking about the history of modern Karate) 1986

3. Kakutogi no Rekishi (History of Martial Arts) 1990

4. Wadokai 60 years 1994 

Tandoku Enrengata (16 Kata)   

1. Pinan Shodan – Godan (5 Kata)

2. Kushankū

3. Seishan

4. Naifanchi

5. Chintō

6. Wanshū

7. Passai

8. Jitte

9. Jion

10. Nīseishi

11. Rōhai

12. Sūparinpei

Kihon Kumitegata (36)
1. Jōdanuke 10 (Omote, Ura 5 each)  
2. Chudanuke 10 (Omote, Ura 5 each)  
3. Gedanuke 6 (Harai, Nagashi, Sabaki, Tori, Hasami)  
4. Nidan Henka 6 (Omote, Ura 3 each)  
5. Sandan Henka 4 (Omote, Ura 2 each)  

Idorigata (6)  
1. Maedori 4 

2. Ushirodori 2

Tachiaigata (10)  
1. Udeotoshi (variation of Ōsotogari)

2. Seotoshi (Ushirootoshi)

3. Eriotoshi (variation of Ōsotogari)

4. Sodeotoshi (variation of Ōsotogari)

5. Ashiguruma (variation of Kouchigari)

6. Koshiguruma

7. Kataguruma

8. Hikiotoshi (Tekubihineri)

9. Karisute (variation of Butsudangaeshi)

10.  Kinukuguri (variation of Seoinage)

Ōyogata (10)  
Simplified from Shindō Yōshinryū Jūjutsu Shodan Idori, Tachiai and Nagekaeshi
Tantōdorigata 7
1. Udegaramidori

2. Kotenagedori

3. Ungadori

4. Erinagedori

5. Zudori

6. Hikitatedori

7. Hikiotoshidori  
(simplified from Shindō Yōshinryū Jūjutsu Omote Ura 14 to 7)  

Tachidorigata (7)
1. Jōdan

2. Kesa (left right)

3. Dō

4. Tsuki

5, Kote

6. Nagi 

(same as the former) (meaning from Shindō Yōshinryū Jūjutsu)

Kassatsu Jizaigata 7 (Saving and killing techniques) 


1.Three Kappō

2.Four Kappō

(Shindō Yōshinryū Jūjutsu Kappō)


Rataidori 3  
1. Maedori



(same as the former) (meaning from Shindō Yōshinryū Jūjutsu)


Taihojutsugata 14  (Arresting techniques)  
Tehodoki, Kansetsuwaza, Nagewaza, Osaewaza

(present arresting techniques for police, the same as former) (meaning from Shindō Yōshinryū Jūjutsu)


Joshi Goshinjutsu 14  (Selfdefence techniques for women)  
1. Maesabaki

2.Yokowake (left right)

3.Dakiwake (left right)






9. Tsurigane





(Note) At present, Kihonkumitegata, Tachiaigata, Kassatsu Jizaigata, Rataidori, Taihojutsu and Joshi Goshinjutsu are not practised. Tachiaiwaza (Nagewaza) has been changed its name and reorganized to 20 techniques, but not practiced as a matter of fact: And 9 Tandoku Enrengata are practised but not Passai, Wanshū, Jitte, Jion, Nīseishi, Rōhai and Sūparinpei.

The techniques registered at Butokukai in 1939 are very comprehensive comparing with those that are practiced today. It had to be this way  in order to be accepted as a style as Japanese bujutsu.  


Japan was involved in the Second World War. Karate activities went down during this period.


Zen Nippon Karate Renmei (ZNKR-All Japan Karate Federation) was started only by Wado group at the same time as Shotokan started Japan Karate Association (JKA). Each style organization was working independently.

1950 and 1957

’Karatejutsu no Kenkyu’ (Kenkyu=study) was published based on ’Karatejutsu Oboegai’ (Oboegai=Memorandum, 1949 by Tokyo University Karate Club). The book presents 9 Wadoryu Katas. This became the base for ’Karatedo Vol.1’ by Ohtsuka 1970.  


From the Bulletin of Wadokai 1955. Ohtsuka shows Junzuki  


From ’ Karatejutsu no Kenkyu’ 1950 by Ohtsuka Hironori. Techniques from Pinan Shodan.

ZNKR started to publish bulletin for members. Editor was the general secretary Ishizuka Akira. ZNKR seems to be the only karate organization that had such a bulletin.

1964 Official all style Zen Nippon Karatedo Renmei (FAJKO) was started. No private organization should use the name All Japan. Wadokai gained the name FAJKO Wadokai - today JKF-Wadokai (Japan Karate Federation Wadokai) because Wadokai has a close co-operation with JKF, the official federation in Japan.  

1970 ’Karatedo Vol.1’ by Ohtsuka was published. He presents 9 Wadoryu Katas (Pinan-5, Naifanchi, Seishan, Kushanku and Chinto). He declared in his book that Wadokai had these 9 Katas  and nothing more. If you study a Kata deeply and carefully, then 9 Katas are already very many. That is my impression. 9 Wadoryu Katas were finally standardized by this book.  

But especially in Europe some instructors taught other Katas (Bassai, Jion, Jitte, Niseishi and Rohai) though they were not official in Wadokai. Maybe because more Katas were needed considering the competitive situation against other styles. But this caused a sort of turbulence in Wado Katas. In some FEW competitions we could see for example four or five different Bassai Katas. Today Wadokai has standardized these Katas.

Wadoryu Katas and the influence

Pinan Shodan, Nidan, Sandan, Yondan, Godan
(Ohtsuka studied Pinan Katas from Funakoshi - Funakoshi was called Pinan Sensei in Tokyo, but rearranged after Mabuni and some idea from Shindo Yoshinryu.)

Funakoshi, Mabuni

(Ohtsuka says that he has taken Motobus Naifanchi. But there is a slight difference from Motobus Naifanchi.)


(It is obvious that Ohtsuka has taken Shotokan Seishan (today Hangetsu). In no other style Seishan is performed in this way.)



(Both Kushanku and Chinto are similar in Shitoryu and Shotokan. These should be classified as Itosu Kushanku and Itosu Chinto.)

Funakoshi, Mabuni

(Bassai Kata of Shitoryu, Shotokan and Wadoryu are in the same stream - Itosu Bassai. But Wado Bassai is a direct heritage from Shotokan.)


Jion, Jitte
(Jitte, Jion and Jiin seem to be Katas of similar type. These Katas in Shitoryu and Shotokan are similar.)

Funakoshi, Mabuni

(Ohtsuka may have studied Niseishi from Funakoshi first, but adjusted later to Shitoryu way.)


(This is Itosu Rohai. Wado Rohai is Rohai Shodan, while Shotokan Meikyo is Rohai Nidan.)


(It is probable that Ohtuska did not make much change in this Kata from Funakoshi.)



Some months before Ohtsuka's death, one group with Ohtsuka's son Jiro as its chief was split from Wadokai. This split group is called Wadoryu Renmei. But this group is regarded as a private group in Japan.


A new split has occurred from Wadoryu Renmei. Suzuki Tatsuo, resident in London, split from Wadoryu Renmei and started his private group International Wadoryu Federation. Today, Wadoryu Karate is trained in three different organizations, but Wadokai is by far the biggest and is a consisting member of JKF. In this way Wadokai is the organization that has a close co-operation with JKF and WKF (World Karate Federation).


Wado World Cup in Budokan, Tokyo


Wado World Cup in Budokan, Tokyo