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What is Wado-Ryu Karate?

Wado-Ryu Karate is a Japanese martial art founded by Hironori Ohtsuka Sensei in 1934. Ohtsuka Sensei developed Wado-Ryu after studying the Samurai martial art of Jiu-jitsu, and Shotokan (another style of Karate). This combination, according to Ohstuka Sensei, is a softer, more natural means of self-protection.

The full name of the style is Wado-Ryu Karate-Do. The term Wado-Ryu means "way of peace" or "way of harmony", indicating Ohtsuka Sensei's original intention to use training in Wado-Ryu as a means of solving problems in a non-violent way. Karate-Do means "way of the empty hand", as Karate is, for the most part, studied without the use of weapons.

Wado-Ryu Karate In England

The United Kingdom, in particular, became gripped with the spread of Karate. After a Wado-Ryu Karate demonstration at a Kendo club in London, the Japanese Karate Federation was asked by the British student who had seen the demonstrations to send a Karate instructor to the UK. In 1964 Mr Tanabe was sent to the UK as an official delegate of the Japanese Karate Federation, where he founded the All Britain Karate Association. This was the first Wado-Ryu Karate organisation to be established in Europe. Mr Tatsuo Suzuki soon followed, when he moved to London to teach Wado-Ryu Karate.

In May 1965, Mr T. Kono travelled to the UK to join Mr Tatsuo Suzuki, and later that year Mr Masafumi Shiomitsu arrived. Meanwhile, Mr T. Kono moved to the Netherlands to spread karate to the European mainland. In 1966, Messrs T. Takamizawa and Hayakawa transferred to the UK to help Mr Tatsuo Suzuki and Mr Masafumi Shiomitsu meet the growing demand for quality Wado-Ryu Karate. In 1968 Mr K. Sakagami, followed by Mr Kobayashi in 1969, also arrived in the UK, whilst Mr. S. Suzuki travelled to Ireland; furthermore, Mr Maeda arrived in the UK.

Left to right - M. Shiomitsu Hanshi, Tanabe Sensei, Tatsuo Suzuki Hanshi, K. Sakagami Sensei, S. Suzuki Sensei and F. Sugasawa Sensei.

Although a number of these Wado-Ryu Karate instructors have returned to Japan, and others have replaced them, the first wave of Japanese instructors pioneered Wado-Ryu karate in the UK, and they have left an indelible impression upon the current practice of the art. This dedicated team of Japanese Sensei built the strong foundations of contemporary Wado-Ryu karate in the UK; their contribution can never be forgotten.

As in all aspects of life, politics has played a major role in the development of Wado-Ryu Karate in Britain. The All Britain Karate Association remained the principal Karate organisation until 1970. However, in 1970 Mr Tatsuo Suzuki decided to leave the organisation and establish the United Kingdom Karate-Do Federation, which later changed its name to the United Kingdom Karate-Do Wado-Kai, and became affiliated to the Federation of European Wado-Kai's. After a short period of time most of the other Japanese instructors joined the United Kingdom Karate-Do Federation, with the exception of Mr T. Takamizawa, who formed his own Karate organisation. Mr Masafumi Shiomitsu chose to transfer his teaching from the UK to France and then Madagascar. Nevertheless, Mr Masafumi Shiomitsu returned to the UK in 1976, and joined the United Kingdom Karate-Do Wado-Kai.

Until 1989, the United Kingdom Karate-Do Federation, and its successor the United Kingdom Karate-Do Wado-Kai, continued to be the primary Wado-Ryu Karate organisation in the UK. However, in 1989 Mr. Masafumi Shiomitsu expressed dissatisfaction with the direction taken by Wado Karate in the UK. Hence, he chose to leave the United Kingdom Karate-Do Wado-Kai in order to form the Wado-Ryu Karate-Do Academy. Mr K. Sakagami, Mr T. Takamizawa, and most of the senior British Dan grades decided to join the new Wado-Ryu Karate-Do Academy. However, after a short period of time, Mr K. Sakagami decided to leave the Wado-Ryu Karate-Do Academy and formed his own organisation known as the Wado-Ryu Aiwakai Karate Federation. This has led to the creation of three major Japanese-led Wado-Ryu Karate organisations in the UK:

  • The United Kingdom Karate-Do Wado-Kai, led by Tatsuo Suzuki Hanshi 8th Dan, which is affiliated to the Wado-Ryu International Karate Federation, and its Chief instructor is Tatsuo Suzuki Hanshi 8th Dan;
  • The Wado-Ryu Karate-Do Academy, led by Masafumi Shiomitsu Hanshi 8th Dan, which is affiliated to the Wado-Ryu Karate-Do Federation, whose chief instructor is H. Ohtsuka II, Grand Master Wado-Ryu Karate-Do, 9th Dan.
  • The Wado-Ryu Aiwakai Karate Federation, led by K. Sakagami Sensei 7th Dan, which is affiliated to the Japan Karate Federation Wado-Kai, H.Q. Japan.

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