Wado and Karate

Dove and Fist logoWado kai (和道会, Wadō kai) is the name of the organization within the Japan Karate Federation (JKF) which practices the Wadoryu style of karate. According to Ishizuka Akira, a veteran figure in the Japanese karate world, the term “Wado Kai” was in general use as early as the 1940s, but it was only in 1967 that the name was adopted formally. Prior to this the group was known as the “Zen Nihon Karate-do Renmei”. With the formation of the Federation of All Japan Karatedo Organization (FAJKO, later changed to JKF) in the mid 60’s, it was no longer correct to use this name so Wadokai came into formal use.

The Wadokai has some superb technicians. In Japan these include Arakawa Toru (9th Dan JKF), Hakoishi Katsumi, Takagi Hideho, Maeda Toshiaki, Murase Hisao and Nishimura Seiji to name a few. Both Europe and Pan America have several Japanese instructors who have promoted this vision of karate.

The term Wadokai can be broken into three parts: Wa, do and kai. Wa can be read to mean ‘harmony’. It can also be read to mean “original Japan”, as in Wafu (Japanese style), Washoku (Japanese food). it is therefore also a clever pun that could be taken to mean both “harmony” and “intrinsically Japanese”. Do is a Japanese term for ‘way’ (as in karate-do). So Wado means ‘the way of (Japanese) harmony’. Kai simply means ‘association’.


  • In 1938 Hironori Ohtsuka registered his mixed style of karate-jujutsu with the Dai Nippon Butoku Kai, originally under the name of “Shinshu Wadoryu Karate-Jujutsu.” Not much later this was shortened to Wado-ryu (和道流).
  • In 1952 a Wadoryu Honbu (headquarters) was established in the Meiji University dojo in Tokyo, Japan.
  • In 1964 the Japan Karatedo Federation (JKF) was established as a general organization for all karate styles. The Wado Kai was a founding member of this organization.
  • On 5 June 1967, the Wado organization changed the name to Wadokai.
  • In 1980, as a result of a conflict between Hironori Ohtsuka and the Wadokai organization, Ohtsuka stepped down as head of Wadokai. Eiichi Eriguchi succeeded him within Wadokai at that time and again became Chairman during the 1990s..
  • On 1 April 1981 Hironori Ohtsuka founded Wadoryu Karatedo Renmei. After only a few months Hironori Otsuka retired as head of this organization. His son Jiro Otsuka took his place. Renmei means ‘group’ or ‘federation.’
  • On 29 January 1982 Hironori Ohtsuka died at the age of 89 years .
  • In 1983 Jiro Ohtsuka became Grandmaster of Wado Ryu and changed his name to Hironori Ohtsuka, in honor of his father.   He is now often referred to as Hironori Ohtsuka II.
  • In 1989 Tatsuo Suzuki founded his own organization, the third major Wado organization: Wado Kokusai. Kokusai means ‘international.’
  • The full name of Wadokai in English is Japan Karatedo Federation Wadokai. In Japanese it is Zen Nihon Karatedo Renmei Wadokai.
  • Nowadays the full name of Wadoryu is Wadoryu Karatedo Renmei.
  • The full name of Wado Kokusai is Wado Kokusai Karatedo Renmei, also known as Wado International Karatedo Federation abbreviated as WIKF.
  • 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.

karatekanjiKarate (空手) is a martial art developed in the Ryukyu Islands in what is now Okinawa, Japan. It was developed from indigenous fighting methods called te (手, literally “hand”; Tii in Okinawan) and Chinese kenpō.

Karate is a striking art using punching, kicking, knee and elbow strikes, and open-handed techniques such as knife-hands.  Grappling, locks, restraints, throws, and vital point strikes are taught in some styles.  A karate practitioner is called a karateka (空手家).

Karate was developed in the Ryukyu Kingdom prior to its 19th century annexation by Japan. It was brought to the Japanese mainland in the early 20th century during a time of cultural exchanges between the Japanese and the Ryukyuans. In 1922 the Japanese Ministry of Education invited Gichin Funakoshi to Tokyo to give a karate demonstration. In 1924 Keio University established the first university karate club in Japan and by 1932, major Japanese universities had karate clubs.  In this era of escalating Japanese militarism, the name was changed from 唐手 (“Chinese hand”) to 空手 (“empty hand”) – both of which are pronounced karate – to indicate that the Japanese wished to develop the combat form in Japanese style. After the Second World War, Okinawa became an important United States military site and karate became popular among servicemen stationed there.

The martial arts movies of the 1960s and 1970s served to greatly increase its popularity and the word karate began to be used in a generic way to refer to all striking-based Oriental martial arts.  Karate schools began appearing across the world, catering to those with casual interest as well as those seeking a deeper study of the art.

Shigeru Egami, Chief Instructor of Shotokan, opined “that the majority of followers of karate in overseas countries pursue karate only for its fighting techniques…Movies and television…depict karate as a mysterious way of fighting capable of causing death or injury with a single blow…the mass media present a pseudo art far from the real thing.”Shoshin Nagamine said “Karate may be considered as the conflict within oneself or as a life-long marathon which can be won only through self-discipline, hard training and one’s own creative efforts.”

For many practitioners, karate is a deeply philosophical practice. Karate-do teaches ethical principles and can have spiritual significance to its adherents. Gichin Funakoshi (“Father of Modern Karate”) titled his autobiography Karate-Do: My Way of Life in recognition of the transforming nature of karate study. Today karate is practiced for self-perfection, for cultural reasons, for self-defense and as a sport. In 2005, in the 117th IOC (International Olympic Committee) voting, karate did not receive the necessary two thirds majority vote to become an Olympic sport.  Web Japan (sponsored by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs) claims there are 50 million karate practitioners worldwide.

In 1922, Hironori Ohtsuka attended the Tokyo Sports Festival, where he saw Funakoshi’s karate. Ohtsuka was so impressed with this that he visited Funakoshi many times during his stay. Funakoshi was, in turn, impressed by Ohtsuka’s enthusiasm and determination to understand karate, and agreed to teach him. In the following years, Ohtsuka set up a medical practice dealing with martial arts injuries. His prowess in martial arts led him to become the Chief Instructor of Shindō Yōshin-ryū jujutsu at the age of 30, and an assistant instructor in Funakoshi’s dojo.

By 1929, Ohtsuka was registered as a member of the Japan Martial Arts Federation. Okinawan karate at this time was only concerned with kata. Ohtsuka thought that the full spirit of budō, which concentrates on defence and attack, was missing, and that kata techniques did not work in realistic fighting situations. He experimented with other, more combative styles such as judo, kendo, and aikido. He blended the practical and useful elements of Okinawan karate with traditional Japanese martial arts techniques from jujitsu and kendo, which led to the birth of kumite, or free fighting, in karate. Ohtsuka thought that there was a need for this more dynamic type of karate to be taught, and he decided to leave Funakoshi to concentrate on developing his own style of karate: Wadō-ryū. In 1934, Wadō-ryū karate was officially recognized as an independent style of karate. This recognition meant a departure for Ohtsuka from his medical practice and the fulfilment of a life’s ambition—to become a full-time martial artist.

Ohtsuka’s personalized style of Karate was officially registered in 1938 after he was awarded the rank of Renshi-go. He presented a demonstration of Wadō-ryū karate for the Japan Martial Arts Federation. They were so impressed with his style and commitment that they acknowledged him as a high-ranking instructor. The next year the Japan Martial Arts Federation asked all the different styles to register their names; Ohtsuka registered the name Wadō-ryū. In 1944, Ohtsuka was appointed Japan’s Chief Karate Instructor.

Sport Karate

Sport Karate is an important part of modern karate.  It allows participants to test their skills at the athletic level in a World forum.  Although many Dojos today do not compete at that level, it is important to recognise the potential in every student.

Rank Equivalences

If you are from another style or organisation (either a colour or a Black Belt), it is of course possible to integrate with the CZWKA JKF Wado Kai system. The simplest way to approach this is to participate at the Dojo you wish train at (with the instructors permission) until you feel you are ready to take an exam at an appropriate level.  This may not be a fast process, your Dojo Sensei can advise you on this.

If a black belt from any other system including any other Wado group who wants to try 2 dan and above, they must first pass JKF Wado Kai 1 dan or hold a national 2 dan from Karate Canada. JKF Wado Kai only recognizes its own, and national, dan ranks.

Colour Belt examinations are the responsibility of your Dojo.
Black Belt examinations tend to occur in East .Central and Western Canada at least once per year.

Ganbatte!  Good Luck!