HIRONORI OHTSUKA, SENSEI
The only difference between the possible and
impossible is one's will. Hironori Ohtsuka, Sensei
Hironori Ohtsuka was born on June 1, 1892 in Shimodate
City, Ibaragi, Japan. He was the first son, and the second of four
children, of Dr. Tokujuro Ohtsuka, a Doctor of Medicine. Ohtsuka
Sensei was first introduced to martial arts by his great uncle,
Chojiro Ebashi, a samurai warrior, who began teaching him Jujitsu.
This marked the starting point of his life-long fascination with
the martial arts.
On the 1st April, 1897, Ohtsuka Sensei started
school where he studied Shindo Yoshin Ryu Jujitsu, under the supervision
of his father. Later, when he was 13, he studied the style
under Shinzaburo Nakayama Sensei, the third Grand Master of this
style of Jujitsu. Unlike the other schools of jujitsu at the time,
Yoshin Ryu specialised in kicking and punching techniques in addition
to throwing, twisting and locking techniques. Ohtsuka Sensei
continued to study the style whilst at Waseda University from 1910
to 1917. He also studied different styles of Jujitsu, concentrating
on their positive aspects. In doing so, Ohtsuka Sensei learned
a great deal about the body's vital points for both attacking and
In 1922, Ohtsuka Sensei attended the sports festival
in Tokoyo, where he encountered Karate taught by Gichin Funakoshi,
a Karate instructor from Okinawa, and a man widely held as the "Father
of Modern Karate". Ohtsuka Sensei was so impressed with this
that he visited Funakoshi Sensei on numerous occasions during his
stay. Funakoshi Sensei was, in turn, impressed by Ohtsuka's enthusiasm
and determination to understand Karate and agreed to teach him
all he knew about it. In the following years, Ohtsuka Sensei set
up a medical practice dealing with martial arts injuries. His prowess
in martial arts had led him to be the Chief Instructor of Shindo
Yoshin Ryu Jujitsu at the age of just 30, and an assistant
instructor at Funakoshi Sensei's dojo.
By 1929, Ohtsuka Sensei was a registered member
of the Japan Martial Arts Federation. At this time, Okinawan Karate
only concentrated on Kata, which is a set sequence of movements
against an imaginary opponent (or group of opponents). Ohtsuka
Sensei thought that the full spirit of Budo, which concentrates
on defence and attack, was missing, and that kata techniques did
not work in realistic fighting situations. He experimented with
other, more combatative 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 lead to the birth of Kumite, or fighting, in Karate.
Ohtsuka Sensei thought that there was a need for this more dynamic
and fluid type of Karate to be taught, so he decided to leave Funakoshi
Sensei to concentrate on developing his own style of Karate - Wado.
1934 proved to be a pivotal
year for both Ohtsuka Sensei and Wado Karate. On February 28th,
Ohtsuka the Second was born. During this year, Wado-Ryu Karate
was also officially recognised as an independent style of Karate.
This recognition meant a departure for Ohtsuka Sensei from
his medical practice and the fulfillment of a life's ambition
- to become a full-time martial artist.
Ohtsuka Sensei's personalized
style of Karate was officially registered in 1938 after he was
awarded the rank of "Renshi-go". He presented a magnificent
demonstration of Wado 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 Sensei registered the name Wado-Ryu.
The next few years witnessed Wado-Ryu Karate going from strength
to strength. New dojos were opening and Karate was being taught
at universities. Ohtsuka Sensei himself was becoming a recognised
figure within the world of martial arts.
In 1944, Ohtsuka Sensei
was appointed Japans Chief Karate Instructor. In 1945 Ohtsuka
the second began to receive expert tuition from his father in
From this point until the
1960s, Wado-Ryu Karate remained on the three small islands of
Japan. It was hardly recognised outside of the east. However,
in 1963, a three man team left Japan to demonstrate Wado-Ryu
Karate to America and Europe. The team was composed of Arakama
Sensei, Takashima Sensei and Sukuzi Sensei. The impressions they
left wherever they went were tremendous, and Wado-Ryu Karate
soon became recognized world-wide.
During this time, Ohtsuka
Sensei continued to train and instruct Wado-Ryu Karate in Japan.
He was awarded the title "Kun Goto Suokuo Kyoku jujitsu
Shuo" in 1966 by the late Emperor Horohito. It was presented
by the Emperor for his dedication to the introduction and teaching
of karate. This dedication led to the further, historic, award
of "Meijin", or The First Excellent Martial Artist
in Karate 10th Dan, in 1972. This was the first time that this
award has been given to a practitioner of karate, and was the
same status as that of Kyuzo Mifune in Judo and Hakuko Nakayama
Ohtsuka Sensei continued
to teach and lead the world of Wado-Ryu karate into the 1980s.
Ohtsuka the Second became the second Grand Master of Wado-Ryu
in 1982, taking his father's name, Hironori. Ohtsuka Sensei passed
away peacefully on 19th January, 1982. Throughout the world where
martial arts are practised, he will continue to be remembered
for his enormous contribution and individual devotion to Wado