The origins of Japanese martial arts are usually highly complicated and interconnected, as many of them have shared origins yet have evolved into diverse varieties over the years. The Wado martial art style stems from a hybrid of Karate and jujutsu, both ancient combat arts with Japanese roots. However, the style tends to be much more associated with Karate than Ju Jutsu for certain reasons. Even Wado is divided into Wado-Ryu and Wado-Kai, two extremely similar entities with just tit-bits of differences. In reality, the terms “Ryu” and “Kai” mean “style” and “association,” respectively. The European and Eurasian Wado federation encompasses all Wado variants, including Wado-Ryu, Wado-Kai, and even sports Wado.
Since Wado was started in the 1930s, several Wado associations have been established in various regions. This has led to the creation of a complex ecosystem of federations and associations, each with its own set of laws, regulations, and governing bodies. The EWF is one such organization, although it works differently to promote Wado recognition and practice and unite the various Wado organizations. The EWF is a subset of the International Wado Federation (IWF), established in 2010. One of the aims of this establishment was to serve as a common ground for the various Wado organizations worldwide and act as a support system for every Wado organization within its membership. Although not every Wado organization around the globe has joined the IWF, a significant number of them have.
However, the Origin of Wado and its development cannot be separated from the lifestyle of its founder Hiironori Ohtsuka. His entire life revolved around martial arts, which he began learning at the age of six under the tutelage of his father. Although he went on to study Chinese medicine, he never actually practiced because he spent his entire life immersed in martial arts, particularly in the Wado system. He was responsible for the formation of the first Wado association.
Origin of Wado
Although many people always identify the Wado system with the 17th century Okinawan Ju Jutsu era, the Wado system did not officially begin until the 1930s when Hironori Ohtsuka registered the Wado martial art style with the Dai Nippon Butoku Kai martial arts organization (DBNK). At the time, the Wado style was known as Shinshu Wado-Ryu Karate-Jujutsu before being abbreviated to Wado-Ryu. Hironori Ohtsuka had a foundational knowledge of Ju Jutsu and Karate; he studied the Ju Jutsu technique for about 25 years and eventually became the fourth grand master of the art. When he discovered Karate in 1922, he developed an interest in it and was able to study it with GinchiFuna Koshi. Ohtsuka was also given the honor of serving as Japan’s chief karate instructor, albeit this appointment didn’t occur until much later, in 1944, after he had already found the Wado-Ryu. As expected, this position further consolidated the relevance of the Wado style. While Ohtsuka added several adjustments that gave the Wado style its originality, the fusion of the two martial art backgrounds (Ju Jutsu and Karate) was crucial in the development of Wado.
Growth and Evolution of Wado-Ryu
As the Wado-Ryu art grew, it began to spread to other parts of the Americas and Europe. A headquarters was established in 1952 at the Meiji University Dojo in Tokyo. Part of the expansion process was the affiliation with the North America Shintani Wado-Kai federation in 1958. Wado-Ryu became a significant member of the Japan Karatedo Federation (JKF), which was founded in 1964 and acted as a National body for all Karate systems. By 1967, the Wado-Ryu organization changed its name to Wadokai. By the 1970s, Wado had attained widespread recognition abroad and was actively expanding to new countries. As a result, Otsuka chose instructors to lead the many Wado Karate affiliates in various countries. One of them was Masaru Shintani, who he appointed as the top instructor of Wado karate in North America after elevating him to the rank of 8th Dan.
Up to the 1980s, the Wadokai maintained a strong structure. However, a separation later developed due to a major dispute between Hironori Ohtsuka and the board of directors. This disagreement sparked when Ohtsuka took some money from the association’s purse for personal use. The board of directors did not approve of Ohtsuka’s actions since they felt that the association’s resources should not be freely available to anybody, including Ohtsuka, who claimed that it was well within his rights to utilize the federation’s funds for his maximum advantage. Ohtsuka was permitted to keep the money he took, according to the court ruling. However, he was required to leave the federation and forfeit all rights to its name and symbol. Thus, the federation was given a new chairman to lead it.
The Wado-Ryu Karatedo Renmei
After he departed from the Wadokai organization, Hironori Ohtsuka founded the Wado-Ryu Karatedo Renmei the following year. He was only in charge of the organization for a short time until his son took over. Ultimately, Hironori Ohtsuka passed away in 1982 at the age of 89. His son Jiro Ohtsuka, who later became the grandmaster of Wado-Ryu, took on his name in honor of his passing and is now known as Hironori Ohtsuka II.
One other major Wado organization was later founded by Tatsuo Suzuki, who was also a student of Hironori Ohtsuka. Suzuki attained the level of an 8th Dan and also received the title of the Hanshi by the International Budo Federation. He founded the Wado-Ryu organization, which he named the Wado Kokusai, which translates to Wado international. According to popular claims, Suzuki established this global federation to preserve the principles and teachings of Wado-Ryu. Before his death, Suzuki appointed Jon Wicks, a senior student of his, as the new leader of the Wado Kokusai, and he continues to serve in that capacity today. Wado-Ryu and Wado-Kai are today practiced in many countries across the globe, although there are subtle differences between the two forms. Aside from other minor Wado associations worldwide today, the Wado system is generally divided into three major, autonomous organizations, including the Wadokai, Wado Kokusai, and Wado-Ryu Karate-do Renmei. The establishment of the IWF and, by extension, the EWF has been instrumental in bridging the numerous Wado associations and variants worldwide.
The International Wado Federation (IWF)
The IWF was an initiative of Gary Swift Kyoshi to create an alliance framework for all Wado organizations worldwide. In essence, the IWF is a staunch supporter of the ideas of Wado’, and while it does promote competition as part of the Wado training system, its basic values remain self-improvement and realization, as well as physical and mental development. It is noteworthy that the federation does not accept other Mixed Martial Art (MMA) or their organizations since they believe Wado is pure and should not be diluted.
Although the IWF was reportedly founded in 2010, it is firmly tied to the 1982 Alliance of international Wado-Ryu (AIWA). In reality, the IWF is only a byproduct of the AIWA’s restructure. Its primary goal was to support British Wadokai clubs overseas rather than the general acceptability it now provides to all Wado organizations. The interesting fact about the IWF is that, while it entertains every Wado federation, it has no sovereign power over the governing and administration of its members whatsoever. All IWF members are autonomous and are regarded as allies rather than subjects. The IWF has no authority over its members’ Wado system, methods, or regulations; it is essentially an alliance system aimed at uniting the Wado world.
About the EWF
The Wado world is very diverse, with several individual federations that govern different regions, some of which have split and formed numerous sub-federations. The European and Eurasian Wado Federation was established as an international body to govern all Wado associations in Europe. Although the EWF is presently a subset of the IWF, it was founded two years before the latter. Today, the EWF comprises several Wado organizations from over ten European countries, including Great Britain, England, Italy, Norway, France, etc.
Also, the EWF is neither a political nor a commercial enterprise; thus, joining the organization does not involve paying an application or membership fee. Likewise, once you are a member of the EWF, you automatically become a member of the IWF and vice versa. The EWF and the IWF do not have a chief instructor that intervenes with any of the actions or processes of member associations. This separates them from other Wado regulating bodies. Instead, they each have a group of committed committee members who are always available to offer members the assistance they require when needed.
The aim of the EWF agrees with that of the IWF, which is the unification of all traditional Wado organizations, including Wado-Ryu, Wado-Kai, and sports Wado. The formation of this federation was a sensible move toward establishing a single forum for promoting Wado art and making the art accessible to more practitioners in Europe and beyond. One interesting fact is that joining the EWF does not require you to renounce your membership in any other prior association except if it’s a world/international federation that is not part of the IWF. Aside from this exception, there are also several other requirements for entering the federation and guidelines to which each member must adhere. Overall, bringing together the many Wado organizations, schools, and other Wado bodies worldwide remains the core goal of EWF.
Conditions for Joining the Federation
Any association that wishes to join the European and Eurasian Wado Federation must engage in traditional Wado-Ryu Karate-do practice. If they do not, they must prepare to do so within a year. Also, they must have a reliable Wado pedigree or source. Although anybody under another federation is permitted to be a part of the EWF, being a member of a different world/international Wado federation will exclude you from joining the EWF. Nevertheless, those with IWF membership are permitted if the said global or international federation is already a part of the IWF.
Compliance with the IWF’s rules and guidelines is also crucial to maintaining EWF membership because failing to adhere to these after joining can result in removal from the organization. Also, it is noteworthy that a newly accepted member is first given temporary membership status until the IWF committee has received and approved their applications. Although under specific restrictions, individuals who are not Wado practitioners may join the federation. One of the requirements in such a case is the need for them to join an existing Wado practice group. Once they have grown in the Wado practice, they can be acknowledged as a whole member.
Specific Objectives of the Federation
The EWF and IWF’s initiatives and objectives are all geared toward bringing the Wado practice together globally. The EWF attempts to do this via:
- Promoting, encouraging, and advancing the Wado system’s growth while ensuring it adheres to the established model set by Otsuka-Hironori.
- Ensuring that the Wado system is not misused and preventing any malpractice.
- Allowing members access to all regulated contests and tournaments.
- Allowing access to all scheduled courses for members.
- Providing members with regular updates on Wado-related news.
- Serves as a channel for members to communicate and exchange information
- Providing auxiliary services for members, such as registration and identification.
- Providing every other service necessary to achieving the IWF objective.
Certain schools of thought still view Wado as more of a Ju Jutsu style than Karate. This may be justifiable, judging from the fact that the founder Hironri Ohtsuka had a profound background in the Ju Jutsu martial art. However, Wado is principally regarded as a part of Karate rather than Ju Jutsu. Wado-Ryu is one of the four major Karate variants: Goju-Ryu, Shotokan-Ryu, Shito-Ryu, and Wado-Ryu. Nevertheless, a detailed examination of the Wado techniques reveals many actions and stances that have roots in both Karate and Ju Jutsu.
One peculiar fact about the techniques in Wado is the harmony of movement, with evasion being a key principle. The style emphasizes a method centered on evading attacks rather than focusing on physical sparring. The artworks with shorter stances and extended strikes and incorporates a specific movement of the heels and hips in the direction of an attack, all to transfer body weight into punches. The whole concept of art can be referred to as body management and manipulation. It involves an intelligent control of the body, moving it away from danger rather than using brute force.
Overall, the Wado technique opposes all forms of hostility and emphasizes speed and efficiency above. Likewise, the coordination of bodily movement is more important than raw physical power. These tenets are also unique to its two antecedent arts, Ju Jutsu and Karate.
Art and Philosophy of Wado
The terms “Wa” and “Do,” which in Japanese imply harmony and direction respectively, were combined to form the name “Wado.” As a result, it can be interpreted as “the way of harmony.” Harmony in this context should not be misinterpreted as pacifism, as it promotes the idea that yielding is sometimes more effective compared to employing brute force. The fundamental principles of blocking, striking, and kicking are shared by both Karate and Wado, making them interrelated martial arts.
The Wado art is practiced today as physical art, self-defense, and sports. It is a dynamic technique that requires the use of body muscles; as a result, it is a healthy exercise that promotes coordination and agility. Many people, particularly girls and women, have practiced the art to lose weight and maintain their physical fitness. They also employ the techniques of the art for self-defense.
Wado’s fundamental concept stresses character, effort, honesty, politeness, self-control, and physical growth. Its main goal is to promote overall self-development on both a physical and mental level. Overall, the basic tenet is to improve one’s attitude both inside and outside the system and cultivate respect, discipline, and understanding. The art seeks to impact its students’ social, mental, and physical well-being.
Ranking in Wado
The Wado ranking system is very similar to the Karate ranking system. Belts denote ranks, and the color of the belt changes as students advance through the ranks. Although there are some levels where there are no color changes as students progress, many Wado schools use stripes to differentiate between ranks in those levels.
As a beginner, you must begin at the 10th Kyu or the 9th Kyu in some Wado schools. The first Dan is the next level after advancing to the first Kyu. Honorary positions range from 6th to 10th Dan. A Wado practitioner may not teach a Wado class until they have achieved the third Dan. In fact, you must first pass certain exams before you can teach in some Wado schools. The 10th Dan is the highest ranking in Wado.
A unifying system is necessary given the variety of the Wado system today. The European and Eurasian Wado Federation, under the supervision of the IWF, aims to achieve this. The federation has successfully brought together various Wado associations and variants from over ten European countries to some extent.