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Wado Ryu Karatedo

Our principal course of study is traditional, or classical Wadoryu Karatedo. Unlike other forms of traditional Okinawan karatedo, Wadoryu is a purely Japanese art, created by the late Master, Hironori Ohtsuka, as a synthesis of the ancient art of Shindo Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu, and Shotokan Karate. Wadoryu is one of the world's main karate styles. On the surface it looks very similar to other main styles, however, there are some important differences. In fact it may be argued that Wadoryu is a Jujutsu style rather than Okinawan Karate.


When first registered with the Japanese Butokukai in 1939 the style was called 'Shinshu Wadoryu Karate-Jutsu', a name which reflects the hybrid nature of Wado. Wadoryu's founder Hironori Ohtsuka was already a renowned grandmaster in Shindo Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu when he first met the Okinawan karate master Funakoshi. After having received tutelage of not only Funakoshi but other masters, including Kenwa Mabuni, Choki Motobu, and Aikido founder, Morihei Ueshiba, he set off to merge Shindo Yoshin Ryu with Okinawan Karate.The result of Ohtsuka's efforts is Wadoryu. While its techniques may be very much karate in looks, most of the underlying principles have been derived from Shindo Yoshin Ryu. A block in Wado may look much like a block in Shotokan, they are nevertheless performed from a completely different perspective. A Shotokan practitioner is likely to force an incoming fist out of the line of attack. A Wado expert, on the other hand, will rather move himself out of the line of attack while taking up a position that will gain him an advantage over the opponent. Both ways will look almost similar to the untrained eye, but couldn't be further apart when considering the tactics behind it. Key in Wadoryu is the principle of 'taisabaki', often wrongly referred to as 'evasion'.




The primary principles of Wadoryu are:


MAAI: Maai is usually interpreted as fighting distance but it encompasses more than the physical distance between two antagonists. The combatants state of mind, and spirit, as well as the distance are all subtly related to maai. It might be said that keeping good maai is creating enough space to maneuver.


However, simply put, in terms of distance, if either the defender or attacker is able to strike the other with an attack without moving the feet, then maai is too short. Good maai is when the attacker can strike the defender by moving a half step forward or the defender can retreat out of range with a half step backward. Of course, this distance constantly fluctuates during fighting and both attacker and defender must be aware of the potential range of his/her own and the opponent's techniques and adjust the distance accordingly.


ZANSHIN: Literally 'remaining mind'. This is a word used a great deal in the martial arts. It's meaning can be interpreted in many ways but, from the point of view of training or self-defense, we can say it usually means awareness. Keeping a clear calm mind in order to be able to sense danger from all sides even from behind. One should strive to have zanshin at all times, but especially in the dojo when fighting or practicing with a partner. One method to achieve zanshin might be, to look at your opponent's eyes, but try to observe his whole body. Empty your mind. Do not concentrate on one block or punch but rather let the technique come naturally. Keep zanshin even during and after rei.


TAISABAKI: Taisabaki is usually translated as 'body management' or 'body shift'. However it should be noted that the root word sabaki has the concept of 'just enough' or 'optimum utilization'. So in Wado-Ryu, all movements should be practiced efficiently with no wasted motion. Taisabaki often employs shifting by using the hips, though, of course, the use of the hips is essential to all Wado movement. Much of the movement and posture seen in Wado Ryu is based around traditional budo movement. The higher stances commonly seen in jujutsu and kenjutsu are used for mobility.


SEN, SENSEN NO SEN, and GO NO SEN: These three expressions describe three kinds of timing for attack and counterattack.


Sensen no Sen means to attack when the opponent's intent to attack is perceived, thus preempting the opponent's attack and catching him/her off guard.


Sen means attacking simultaneously with the opponent as in nagashizuki. It implies that the 'defender' will be able to complete his attack first, and/or displace the opponent's attack.


Go no Sen means to respond to an attack with a counterattack or block/counterattack. However, the timing must be such as to strike immediately the opponent's attack is completed and before he is able to launch a further attack.


NAGASU, INASU, NORU and IRIMI: Nagasu is parrying, or moving with the attack, to evade a blow, often while countering. The body is moved slightly off of the line of attack so that the attacking technique is evaded, but at a close enough angle that the power of the opponent's attack can be used to increase the force of the counterattack.


Inasu is dodging and or deflecting, often dropping the body to move under, inside, or around an attacker's technique.


Noru is "riding," or moving in contact with the opponent as a means of controlling the opponent's technique or body movement.


Irimi is moving to enter, getting inside an opponent's technique to create an opening.


SAN-MI-ITTAI: San mi-ittai are three kinds of body shifting movement which typify Wado-Ryu. The Kihon Kumite provide perhaps the best examples of san mi-ittai.


Ten-i, "to move the position" or move away from the attack.


Ten-tai, twisting and realigning the body to change the relationship of the body to the attack and further reduce the exposed target area.


Ten-gi, executing techniques while letting the attack pass through.


MESEN: Under normal conditions, in front of the opponent, you should fix your eyes on one of the opponent's eyes to see from the top of the head to the tips of your feet perfectly. In normal practice, should always maintain balance and exercise always look.


KAMAE: Guarding position of the hands. Protection


MA (Timing - Moment action): Capacity of action and reaction at the time and exact time, both for attack or defense. Performing any act outside this time frame is unnecessary work.


Perhaps the nature of Wado is better understood when considering its Jujutsu origins.


In 17th century Japan a young physician departed on a journey to China. His name was Yoshitoki Akiyama. During his stay in China he learned Chinese healing methods as well as Chinese fighting techniques. After a while Akiyama returned to Japan and retreated in a monastery where he devoted himself to meditation. During those days he also practiced and perfected his technique. One snowy day during winter, Akiyama sat gazing at a willow tree. It suddenly occurred to him that the willow tree, unlike some other trees, didn't have any broken branches, despite the heavy snow. The willow branches simply yield and allow the snow to fall off. Sturdier trees with unyielding branches suffer much heavier from the elements of nature. After this revelation he developed 303 techniques which became known as 'Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu' or 'Willow Heart Style'. Yoshin Ryu later evolved into Wadoryu but the fundamental yielding principles have still been preserved.


The term Wadoryu can be broken into three parts: 'Wa', 'Do' and 'Ryu'. 'Wa' can be read to mean harmony, or peace. However, it can also be read to mean Japan, or Japanese. 'Do' is the Japanese pronunciation for the ancient Chinese word, Dao, or Tao; denoting the concept of Way, or path. 'Ryu' can be read to mean style, current, or school [of]. Wa or harmony shouldn't be interpreted as pacifism in any way. It is merely the acknowledgement that yielding is sometimes more effective than brute strength.

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