Wado Ryu & Jujutsu

Wado Ryu Karate and Jujutsu.

The original article was written in 2001. I have decided to rewrite it because there are large sections of it where I now realise that my explanations were far too simplistic.

Since I wrote the article my understanding of Wado Ryu and its relationship with Jujutsu has changed. I have been fortunate over the last few years to meet, talk and train with people whose knowledge of these issues are far wider ranging and developed than mine. This has also led me to more informative research and a significant number of lightbulb moments.

When Wado Instructors are asked to describe the essence of their style of karate to new beginners, or to any prospective initiate, or just to the curious bystander, they have a tendency to give the familiar stock reply. “Wado is a blend of Okinawan karate and Japanese Jujutsu”. When pressed further, explanations tend to dry up.

Even the authors of the official literature fall back on the easily available but sketchy profiles of Ohtsuka Hironori founder creator of Wado Ryu Karate-Do. There always seems to be an assumption that western students of Wado karate will fill in the gaps for themselves, and these gaps are often cultural gaps. I am certain that students in the west have a tendency to regurgitate ‘facts’ and take them to be truths.

The historical facts behind the creation of what we now practice as Wado karate are generally thin, particularly when we consider that here is a style/school of karate that was only officially created a third of the way into the last century and whose founder died in 1982. This historical information is our joint martial cultural heritage and warrants serious study. The following information barely scratches the surface of a very complicated series of circumstances; of a collision of cultures, historical epochs and meetings of remarkable men.

Ohtsuka Hironori founder of Wado Ryu Karate-Do first came into direct contact with Okinawan Karate upon his introduction to Okinawan master Gichin Funakoshi in 1922 and parted ways with Funakoshi in 1935. By any standards this is a remarkably short time to master the principles of Okinawan Shorin Ryu karate (later transformed into what we know as Shotokan karate).

Ohtsuka Sensei never claimed to have mastered the system and by his own admission felt a need to amplify his knowledge of kata and other technical aspects by learning from other Okinawan masters, namely Mabuni  Kenwa and Motobu Choki. Although it must be remembered that Ohtsuka Sensei did have a peerless background in traditional Japanese martial arts, and it was this background that undoubtedly enabled Ohtsuka to be receptive to the Okinawan principles of combat and to absorb the techniques of karate. (It would be interesting to speculate if Funakoshi saw 29-year-old Hironori Ohtsuka, master of Shindo Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu, as instrumental in helping him to create a toehold for what was in some quarters considered a foreign art within the hierarchy of the ultra-nationalistic Japanese martial arts community.)

What do we know about Ohtsuka Hironori and his achievements in the traditional Japanese martial arts before his meeting with Funakoshi?

Before we explore Ohtsuka Sensei’s pedigree in this area, it is worth looking briefly at traditional Japanese Jujutsu.

Traditional Japanese Jujutsu.

The general understanding of Jujutsu is that it is the forerunner of its more sanitized and homogenised descendant Judo; a highly specialised form of unarmed grappling utilizing principles of yielding and redirecting energy against an attacker.

In the west this view is reinforced by the preponderance of “modern” Jujutsu clubs, who by and large teach sequences of techniques or tricks to throw, disable or lock the opponent.

Ostensibly numerous teachers of modern Jujutsu claim to be teaching self-defence for a modern age, and as such turn their backs on many aspects of traditional Japanese Jujutsu, discarding what they consider to be anachronistic, as well as those aspects that they simply don’t understand.

Traditional Ryu-based Jujutsu has a different flavour to it, and goes beyond the mix ‘n’ match approach of modern Jujutsu.

Because of the complex history of the warrior arts in Japan, traditional Jujutsu schools frequently felt it important to retain their attachment to the bladed weapons; sword, short sword or dagger (in some cases the iron fan). They did not consider this aspect of their training as outdated, or hold on to it out of a sense of some kind of nostalgia. To the traditional Japanese Jujutsu master many of the key principles of their art were inherited from the sophisticated development of swordsmanship. These involved qualities and characteristics forged in the crucible of hundreds of years of close range warfare; e.g. principles of movement, anticipation, strategy, as well as metaphysical and esoteric aspects found within many Ryu. It has been said that the tradition Ryu and their links to battlefield experience is perhaps a stretch too far and much was lost over the years of comparative peace. This was why the Koryu (Old Tradition) schools were in serious decline by the time Ohtsuka Hironori arrived on the scene.

Ellis Amdur had this to say about the current situation:
“Despite the idea of koryū  as “warfare” arts, there are maybe 20 arts today that have any relevance to archaic, battlefield combat; the rest were either born in the generations after Tokugawa reunited the country, or went through so much evolution and adaptation during that era that their curriculum reflects the concerns of civilian combat and duelling, not warfare.”

Unarmed grappling was an essential skill in the warrior’s arsenal. The politics of this skill involved such scenarios as; how to survive an encounter in which the warrior has lost his weapon and has to grapple with an armed or unarmed adversary – common in a number of sword schools. Also defences in situations where the wearing of weapons is limited, for example within the confines of the Imperial Palace. There were numerous strategies for preventing an opponent from drawing his weapon, as well as tactics for the reversal of the situation.

Naturally, emphasis changed as history changed and tactics and techniques that were designed for the battlefield had to be refined and adapted to suit comparative eras of peace. During the Edo Period Jujutsu took on the more defined outwards appearance of an empty hand civilian skill (as opposed to a military skill.) However, understanding of the bladed weapons remained a crucial part of the training. It is no coincidence that in some circles modern Aikido, an art developed out of Daito Ryu Aiki Jujutsu is sometimes referred to as “fencing without the sword”, as hand movements, angles of entry and footwork deliberately mimic the actions of attack and defence with the long or short bladed weapons. This is the same in many Jujutsu schools.

Judo Dojo early 20th century.

Another aspect of traditional Jujutsu was Atemi Waza and other forms of attacking vital points or anatomical weak points. Although this skill only really came to the fore in the times of peace (as with the above mentioned Edo Period) when fighting in armour became less of an issue. There were two sides to this particular coin; masters who specialized in this section of their art were usually also skilled in reversing its effects. Knowledge of resuscitation (Katsu) seemed to be the antidote to the black art of Atemi Waza and many Jujutsu teachers were healers or practitioners of Chinese medicine and/or bone setters – as in the case of Ohtsuka Sensei. (Several years ago I witnessed an impressive example of this method of resuscitation by a Japanese Wado Ryu Sensei on a fighter knocked unconscious by a kick to the sternum.)

Resuscitation in the Dojo.

These skills are either closely guarded or lost and long forgotten, or paid lip service to. I always found it strange that Ueshiba Sensei, founder of Aikido said that Aikido was 90% Atemi, and yet today’s practitioners barely give a passing nod to this aspect of their art; however this depends on how you interpret ‘atemi’ and what is involved in the wider mechanics of the striking and applying pressure to your opponent .

In conclusion, it would be a mistake to think that traditional Japanese Jujutsu is simply a matter of locking and throwing. It is a multi-facetted fighting system with its roots embedded firmly within the rich soil of Japanese martial culture. Jujutsu systems include an enormous range of skills, from the purely practical, to sophisticated understandings of matters psychological and spiritual.

Ohtsuka Sensei’s Jujutsu.

It is well recorded that Hironori Ohtsuka’s exposure to Martial culture started at a very early age. At the age of four he began training in Jujutsu under the guidance of his mother’s uncle Ebashi Chojiro. He then furthered his Jujutsu skills by entering the Dojo of Nakayama Tatsusaburo (1870-1933). It was under Nakayama that Ohtsuka began his study of Shindo Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu.

To understand the background of the relatively new school of Shindo Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu it is necessary to examine briefly the history of its progenitor, the main root, the ancient Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu.

However it must be remembered that Ohtsuka Sensei was exposed to more than just the Shindo Yoshin Ryu and the Jujutsu his uncle taught him. As a bank employee in Tokyo he was very active in taking the opportunity to explore the plethora of Jujutsu schools in the locality.

A Brief History of Yoshin Ryu.

Akiyama Shirobi Yoshitoki was the founder of Yoshin Ryu (lit. Willow heart/spirit school) Jujitsu. In 1530, when he was young Akiyama went to Tientsin, a coastal town south of Peking, China, where he set up a practice of medicine and herbal prescription.

During this stay he studied Chinese techniques of resuscitation based on acupuncture from a Taoist mendicant named Huei-To. He learned a total of twenty-eight methods of resuscitation called in Japanese Kappo, as well as Atemi Waza, methods of striking to vital points. It is said that he learned three ‘Hakuda’ from his teacher (‘Hakuda’ is another word for ‘Kempo’ or boxing).

Akiyama returned to Shikoku, Japan, where he took in students and taught his methods of “Shuhaku Jutsu”. But his techniques were so violent, crude and limited in number that his students quickly left him.

Disillusioned he went on a one hundred day retreat to the Shinto Tenmangu monastery at Tsukushi to pray to the Tenjin of Dazaifu.

During the bleak winter he meditated, trained and tried to perfect his Art. On his final day he noticed snow on top of a willow tree. From this experience he developed the key point of the Yoshin Ryu style. He noticed how the Willow tree yielded to the elements of nature with a natural bending and flexing movement thus avoiding any damage to the delicate branches. Larger, sturdier, unyielding trees had their branches ripped off by the weight of the snow. Out of this he developed the three hundred and three natural movements of the Yoshin Ryu style.

When Ohtsuka Hironori first registered his proto-Wado Ryu with the Butokukai he had to give a name for the founder of the style; instead of giving his own name he gave the name ‘Akiyama Yoshitoki’ the founder of Yoshin Ryu. No doubt there was politics in this, as well as cultural conventions. This method of anchoring the fledgling style into the traditions of the past through a named historical person (in this case, someone from the 16th century) is not unknown in Japanese martial arts.

Examination of the technical content of Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu has always created a problem for researchers. There are three main reasons for this. The first being that like all traditional Ryu the style evolves and changes with each generation, and also; without documentary evidence reconstruction of techniques is at best guesswork. (Scrolls of transmission were handed down from master to disciple in which techniques were listed or described, but their description is couched in such obscure and indecipherable language as to make them almost unreadable). The third reason is that branches of the schools withered and died or were amalgamated into other more robust systems.

Ohtsuka Sensei’s teacher, Nakayama Tatsusaburo.

In 1905, aged thirteen, Hironori Ohtsuka entered Shimozuma middle school where he trained under Nakayama Tatsusaburo Sensei, who was a Kendo instructor at the school, as well as an instructor of Shindo Yoshin Ryu Jujitsu. It is said that his lineage in Shindo Yoshin Ryu came from Inose Matakichi (1852 – 1951) second headmaster of Shindo Yoshin Ryu. At that time it was not unusual for a Kendo Instructor to train in Jujitsu in order to obtain a bonesetters licence.

Nakayama Tatsusaburo obtained his bone-setting licence after training in Shindo Yoshin Ryu, but he was originally a student of Jikishin Kage Ryu swordsmanship. We know from Ohtsuka Sensei’s own account that it was Nakayama’s personal interest and specialization in striking techniques that sparked off his own personal odyssey, and ultimately led him to the door of Funakoshi Gichin.

What is Shindo Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu?

Shindo Yoshin Ryu is a branch or development of Yoshin Ryu. It came into existence through one man, Matsuoka Katsunosuke (1836 – 1898). Matsuoka originally studied Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu in the Dojo of Totsuka Hirotsuke, he was also a student of Jikishinkage Ryu Kenjutsu (swordsmanship) and Hokushin Ittoryu Kenjutsu as well as being a certified as a teacher of Tenjin Shinyoryu Jujutsu in 1855.

Matsuoka was very active in the 1850s when Japan had a problem with an internal war and had a great deal of practical fighting experience. He also trained in the official school of the Edo Bakufu which was called the Bakufu Kobusho. During peacetime they trained in Jujitsu one day in ten, but the usual training was with sword and spear.

It was in 1864 that Matsuoka formed his own style of Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu, calling it Shindo Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu. The “Shindo” in the first instance meant “new”, thus Shindo Yoshin Ryu was “New willow spirit/heart school”. It was later that the character for “Shindo/New” was changed to “Shindo/Sacred”, resulting in “Sacred willow spirit/heart school”.

It is said that Matsuoka considered the Yoshin Ryu as too passive, and wanted to add ideas gleaned from his experiences in other martial arts schools, (not just Jujutsu) thus elements of strategy and technique came across from his knowledge of schools of Kenjutsu.

It is interesting to note that an identifiable characteristic of the old Yoshin Ryu was its emphasis on striking; a cry back to its deeper roots in Tientsin in China, and how ironic it was that in a subsequent generation it was Hironori Ohtsuka who squared the circle and married a Yoshin Ryu offshoot to an essentially Chinese based striking art.

Shindo Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu went through further generations before Ohtsuka Hironori became initiated to its highest level through his teacher Nakayama  Tatsusaburo (1870 – 1933). Naturally each generation spawned its own offshoots, but very few survived the social turmoil and changing climate in terms of modernization of the martial arts of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The only remaining active strand of Shindo Yoshin Ryu is the one currently lead by Toby Threadgill Kaicho of the Takamura Ha Shindo Yoshin Ryu.

What about the content and character of Shindo Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu? It is said that present day Wado Ryu Karate has influences from Yagyu Ryu Kenjutsu as well as from the short sword techniques of Toda Ryu. At which particular point these influences entered the system is open to speculation.

It is entirely possible that it was Ohtsuka Sensei who adapted these techniques from his exposure to various Ryu-Ha in his early career. But also the sword-school influences of Nakayama, or teachers from a previous generation cannot be discounted as other possible sources. It needs the resources of dedicated and committed researcher to untangle that particular web.

In reality Shindo Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu was quite a unique blend. The qualities that the founder, Matsuoka, brought together from his rich experience of martial tradition had never been merged into one unified system before. Of the component parts of Shindo Yoshin Ryu, Tenjin Shinyo Ryu Jujutsu, although combatively effective positive and direct, lacked the subtlety of Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu. Add to the mix the further sophistication of the psychological and metaphysical elements of the Hokushin Itto Ryu and Jikishin Kage Ryu and other schools of swordsmanship and the combination has real depth and potency.

Wado Ryu Karate and Shindo Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu.

To aid closer examination and attempt to isolate Shindo Yoshin Ryu elements it may be useful to look at what Wado Ryu has that other styles of karate have not.

If we examine the other karate styles originating from the same lineage, i.e. the Shorin Ryu/Shurite styles from Okinawa and explore the differences between Wado and its nearest relations it may be possible to identify some of the various influences and component parts (including Shindo Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu). However this is not as simple as it looks. The Shotokan karate that is practised today is not the same Shotokan/Shorin Ryu that was taught to Ohtsuka Sensei by Funakoshi  Gichin. Changes and modifications have occurred. Japanese, as opposed to Okinawan cultural and social influences have altered the flavour and emphasis of practice. Naturally this has affected the philosophies of all of the surviving modern styles of karate.

At a basic level it could be said that Wado Ryu karate looks pretty much like any other style of karate – to the untrained eye the ballistic qualities of its kicks and strikes look not dissimilar to Shotokan or Shitoryu. It is only when Wado Ryu is viewed at its highest level that the differences become more obvious. Subtleties would be overlooked by the casual observer, who would notice the more upright stances, but miss the variety of short direct strikes, the entry of attack to the weakest angles, the slippery evasions, the balance breaking and control of the opponent. Our ‘casual observer’ would of course notice throws; as in Kihon Gumite numbers five and ten, and immediately declare that what they were seeing was Jujutsu, but would perhaps fail to appreciate the subtleties of Kihon Gumite number eight, or aspects of the paired Kumite Gata.

Attacking the structure.

To give some kind of insight as to what these ‘subtleties’ may be, in the the previously mentioned Kihon Gumite and Kumite Gata, I’ll give one example, and that is the operation of Kuzushi or ‘balance breaking’ which is a fundamental principle in schools of classical Budo (including Shindo Yoshin Ryu). It is a subtlety is that easily missed; it is easier to ‘feel’ the technique rather than attempt to appreciate it as a detached observer. Again, here we see evidence of a correlation between the finer skills of Japanese Budo. The old tradition of teaching was less verbal, not relying upon detailed description – almost bypassing the verbal. Teachers of traditional Jujutsu took Uke for their students and allowed their students to execute the technique on them. This enabled them to gain direct physical feedback of the student’s technique and its effectiveness and the spirit/energy use behind that particular technique.

Kuzushi is one part of a parcel of biomechanical manipulations, a kind of physical ‘conversation’ occurring between combatants. This still exists in Wado Ryu, but it is often missed.

It seems clear that when devising Wado Ryu Karate, Ohtsuka Sensei implemented numerous modifications to the practical use of Shindo Yoshin Ryu techniques within the Wado Ryu. Some of these modifications involved a slight shift in emphasis based on very practical considerations.

Tantodori (Knife defence) and  Idori (kneeling defence).

Tantodori (knife defence) and Idori (kneeling defence) are generally regarded as the most easily identifiable aspects of modern Wado Karate to correlate with Shindo Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu. Although it is likely that subsequent generations of Wado Sensei have added their own particular spin to these techniques and other advanced pairs work (creditable in its own way, as these developments are inevitable).

Some branches of Wado chose to catalogue these by number; others use more traditional names which give clues as to the characteristic of origin of the techniques.

Tachidori – Shinken Shirahadori (sword defence).

It has been noted by individuals much more knowledgeable than me that this set of techniques do not exist outside of Wado Ryu. They are a creation of Ohtsuka Hironori and appear to have no clear connection with any unarmed practices in Koryu Budo where the defender faces the live blade of a trained swordsman. There are so-called ‘Muto’ techniques in other schools, but they are quite different to this set of techniques. (It is also worth noting that the Shinken Shirahadori do not exist in Shindo Yoshiin Ryu either).

So, why are they there?
It has been speculated that Ohtsuka Sensei used these techniques to showcase sets of very sophisticated strategies involving timing and distancing and that this showcase was aimed at a very particular audience of cognoscenti.

It is a tribute to the genius Ohtsuka Sensei that the skills utilized within Tanto Dori, Idori and Shinken Shirahadori are inseparable from the general thread of principles running through the Wado karate syllabus from the lowest Kyu grade all the way up to the senior level.

Present day Wado Karate.

It is clear that Wado practitioners are the recipients of a unique cultural and martial heritage. A heritage based upon a series of unique blends which occurred at different times in history. Without a doubt Wado is one of the most successful styles of karate still in existence today. It is multi-facetted, in that Wado students can explore numerous incarnations, each with different emphasis; the most accessible being the arena of contest karate, the benefits of which include a format to allow them to compete against other karate stylists. But beyond that there are the aspects of Wado that contain even bigger individual challenges; these are the features that have their origins in the physical characteristics of the old-style Japanese Budo.

How are the elements from Koryu still operating within Wado?

It is my belief that these elements are not hidden within Wado, they are right under our very noses. But to realise them there are some significant hurdles to overcome.

Firstly you have to work with a teacher who knows. Even better if that teacher has had first-hand experience of a direct Ohtsuka connection. The Ohtsuka toolkit is greater than it’s manifestation through university or contest karate. Be under no illusions, this university model is a significant factor which was important to promote if Wado was to survive in the modern age; but there is far more going on than this element alone. This aspect of Wado is the tip of a very large iceberg.

Another hindrance to accessing these deeper aspects of Japanese Budo within Wado is that we have no comparative model in the west as to how things work in the world of Old School Japanese Budo; all we can do is impose a western teaching/learning model upon it. This forces us into the error of imposing false and erroneous models which convey inaccurate translations of the techniques or concepts.

Add to that the method of communicating what exactly is going on and how techniques should be utilised. The concepts often defy explanation or translation. At times it seems like the language and verbal explanations just get in the way. But then that just leaves you with ‘feel’; but how do you know that what you are feeling is the real deal, or not just the ghost of something that someone else could make work several generations back?

Another problem is that this form of knowledge does not transmit easily to large groups. In his own teaching when he could Ohtsuka tended to adopt a more bespoke way of passing the knowledge on. He judged the student according to their make-up and physical ability and was flexible as to what he asked them to do. In a way this may have raised eyebrows and suggested that he was being inconsistent, but he knew what would get the best for the student at that particular time in their development. Which adds another complication; those who learned from master Ohtsuka earlier in his development learned techniques of a very different flavour from those who learned from him in his later years. Even right towards the end of his life he was still developing Wado and declared that it was still a work in progress.

The danger is that with the passing of the founder there could well be a headlong rush towards homogenisation, turning Ohtsuka’s Wado into a rigid parody of Wado techniques, where students are encouraged to make ‘Wado-like shapes’. Sadly, this process has already begun, but it is up to students and instructors at all levels to scrutinise what they are presented with and ask the necessary questions.


So, what are these Budo elements that are sitting right under our noses? How do they manifest themselves?

The second question is easier to answer.

In some ways they manifest themselves through conundrums. If you want to be mischievous through your explanations of what Wado is, try engaging with ideas like, ‘there are no blocks in Wado’, or ‘One plus one equals one – Wado mathematics’. You see, many of the things you always seem to have held as true can often be turned on their heads.

Oversimplifications can distort our understanding. Take the story mentioned above of Akiyama discovering the virtue in the flexing of the willow. Only one side of the equation is ever referred to; the yielding willow, but the flip side of it is that this very yielding quality stores potential energy that can be reversed into a powerful snap back. It is stories like this that take us into the sphere of the dynamics of natural laws; after all, what we do is the embodiment of the dynamic; it’s not about stiff positions and ‘making shapes’.

I would ask the reader to think carefully about where their own focus is on coordinating their body dynamics; is it through utilising biomechanics to capitalise on body rotation and body weight to create energy in a punch or kick? Is the measure of the success of a blocking or covering action based on the fact that you don’t get hit? Is that all there is to it? In old school Japanese Budo biomechanics were taken to a very sophisticated level. Engaging with an opponent was like a conversation, and not one that ended with a simple ‘yes’ of ‘no’. It was a two way process that was a very long way from simple pugilism – the opponent was not treated like a sandbag to be pummelled. This was why Ohtsuka Sensei did not really engage with the Okinawan interpretation of specific moves turning into locks or armbars, he had a much more sophisticated toolkit; he may have had ‘versions’ of particular locks or armbars; but I would speculate that these were either preceded or followed by a much more nuanced ‘conversation’.

Sugasawa Sensei explaining aspects of Te Ho Doki.

The manifestation also appears with the ease and almost casual way that high level Wado exponents deal with an attacker. For some this ‘casual’ approach suggests ‘soft’, ‘lazy’ or ineffective, unless you are on the receiving end of it. There are many people who think that the more ‘bang’ is given to a technique the more effective it is – I am not so sure.

I am reminded about the story of Kito Ryu Jujutsu master Kato Ukei, whose skill was so refined that when attacks were launched against him his subtlety of movement resulted in the attacker seemingly to fall over. It is said of master Kato that he would lock himself in an eight tatami room and have a handful of his students attack him, “It was like clutching at lightening or some fleeting mirage….the moment you thought you had him you were in the air being thrown… we were completely helpless against him” wrote one of his students.

In more modern times similar things were said about founder of Aikido Ueshiba Morihei, so these abilities were not lost, they remained deeply buried within Japanese Budo. There are also similar stories and accounts relating to the high level of skill of master Ohtsuka Hironori.

Then there is the importance of Kata.
This runs dangerously close to sounding trite, and admittedly the usual explanation of how kata is used is generally bland, meaningless and vapid. But kata underpins everything within the system – however ‘kata’ must be understood as a broader concept that is not just about ‘Pinans 1 to 5’ and Kushanku to Chinto. You could say that everything is ‘kata’, but if we expand beyond Wado’s solo forms and include paired kata, all of these ‘forms’ contain the architecture that defines the system. Yes they have their extrapolations but all roads lead back to the ‘kata’.

Pure Shindo Yoshin Ryu jujutsu exists in isolated pockets, but it could be argued that in a different way it exists within modern day Wado Ryu karate. It is still there, but it is not easily discernible.

In closing I would like to give the final words to the late Yukiyoshi Takamura, head of the Takamura Ha Shindo Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu, a branch of the Ryu descended through from Shigeta Ohbata. Who said in Aikido Journal 117, Autumn 1999:

“The Wado-Ryu Jujutsu Kempo headquarters dojo still teaches Shindo Yoshin-Ryu in Tokyo. I understand that Shindo Yoshin-Ryu does not generate much interest within the Wado-Ryu now. This is too bad as Wado-Ryu founder Hidenori Otsuka held a Menkyo Kaiden in Shindo Yoshin-Ryu. He received his license from Tatsusaburo Nakayama Sensei around 1921.”


“My grandfather knew Otsuka only slightly but thought highly of him. He was a man of exceptional reputation.”


“I hope that Wado-Ryu does not loose its Jujutsu roots which makes it one of very few karate styles to have a Bujutsu heritage. I know some Wado-Ryu dojos that still have a Jujutsu influence as in earlier times. Kozumi Sensei came to me in 1968 from Wado-Ryu with excellent jujutsu skill. Many years later, one of our present senior instructors, Toby Threadgill Sensei, came to me from a Wado-Ryu sensei named Gerry Chau with equally impressive Shindo Yoshin-Ryu knowledge. It is regretful that this has now become the exception. Sport karate matches seem to drive the future of Wado-Ryu away from its Jujutsu roots. It would be good news to hear that this impression is incorrect.”

I would like to acknowledge the influences of various researchers and sources which have enabled me to piece together the information for this article.

The Article itself is by no means a complete history of the Shindo Yoshin Ryu, or Wado Ryu karate, for that we need better qualified and more heavyweight researchers to collect the information while it still exists, but I hope that it is a beginning and encourages others to take a serious look at the roots of Wado.

Thanks to Shiomitsu Sensei, Sugasawa Sensei and to information placed in the public domain by David Maynard and Shingo Ohgami, and thanks to Toby Threadgill of the Takamura Ha Shindo Yoshin Kai.


© 2019 All rights to this article reserved T. Shaw.