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Wado-ryu (???, Wado-ryu?) is a school of karate founded by Hironori Otsuka. Originally a unified school, three organizations now teach the Wado-ryu style: the Japan Karatedo Federation Wadokai (abbreviated to Wadokai; “Zen Nihon Karatedo Renmei Wadokai” in Japan), the Wadoryu Karatedo Renmei, and the Wado Kokusai Karatedo Renmei (abbreviated to Wado Kokusai; also known as the Wado International Karatedo Federation [WIKF]).

The name Wado-ryu has three parts: Wa, do, and ryu. Wa means “harmony,” do means “way,” and ryu means “style.” Harmony should not be interpreted as pacifism; it is simply the acknowledgment that yielding is sometimes more effective than brute strength. [1]

From one point of view, Wado-ryu might be considered a style of jujutsu rather than karate. When Hironori Otsuka first registered his school with the Dai Nippon Butoku Kai in 1938, the style was called “Shinshu Wadoryu Karate-Jujutsu,” a name that reflects its hybrid character. Otsuka was a licensed Shindo Yoshin-ryu practitioner and a student of Yoshin-ryu when he first met the Okinawan karate master Gichin Funakoshi. After having learned from Funakoshi, and later also Okinawan masters such as Kenwa Mabuni, Otsuka merged Shindo Yoshin-ryu with Okinawan karate. The result of Otsuka’s efforts is Wado-ryu. [1]

To the untrained observer, Wado-ryu might look similar to other styles of karate, such as Shotokan. Most of the underlying principles, however, were derived from Shindo Yoshin-ryu. A block in Wado may look much like a block in Shotokan, but they are executed from different perspectives.

A key principle in Wado-ryu is that of tai sabaki (often incorrectly referred to as ‘evasion’). The Japanese term can be translated as “body-management,” and refers to body manipulation so as to move the defender as well as the attacker out of harm’s way. The way to achieve this is to ‘move along’ rather than to ‘move against’—or harmony rather than physical strength. Modern karate competition tends to transform Wado-ryu away from its roots towards a new generic karate that appeals more to the demands of both spectators and competitors. [1]

Wado-ryu uses a typical karate belt order to denote rank. The beginner commences at 9th or 10th kyu (depending on the organization and school) and progresses to 1st kyu, then from 1st–5th dan for technical grades. The ranks of 6th–10th dan are honorary ranks. Although some other karate styles add stripes to their belt for the dan ranks, Wado Ryu practitioners tend not to follow that practice.

The rank at which Wado practitioners are first able to teach is usually 3rd dan, but this depends on the organization. Some Wado ryu organizations require completion of a special course in addition to attaining a certain dan rank.

Schools that use the same belt color for multiple kyu ranks typically use stripes to indicate progress within that belt color.

Kata are predefined, specific patterns of movement that incorporate and encapsulate martial techniques, concepts, and applications. The exact movements of a kata often vary from one organization to another, and even from one school to another within the same organization. The variations can range from gross deviations apparent to the untrained observer to very subtle minutiae. In his 1977 book on Wado-ryu (published in English in 1997), Otsuka Sensei declared only nine official kata for Wado-ryu: Pinan Shodan, Pinan Nidan, Pinan Sandan, Pinan Yondan, Pinan Godan, Kusanku, Naihanchi, Chinto, and Seishan.[2] Within his text, Otsuka Sensei provides detailed notes on the performance of these kata, which has resulted in less deviation across organizations on their performance. However, Otsuka Sensei did teach other kata. Perhaps because Otsuka Sensei did not provide specific notes for the performance of these other kata in his text, there is greater variation in these other kata across organizations and schools. Kata associated with Wado-ryu include:

: “Sky Viewing”. Kusanku was the Okinawan name for Kwang Shang Fu, a Sapposhi (emissary of China’s ruling class) sent to Okinawa in the 18th century. This kata uses stances and attacks comprising of the five previous Pinan kata. No new techniques are introduced. Funakoshi renamed this kata as Kanku Dai.

In addition to the solo kata listed above, many Wado-ryu schools also practice paired kata, which reflects its jujutsu heritage. These paired kata are performed by two people (one as the attacker and one as the defender), demonstrating a range of self-defense techniques. The paired kata of Wado-ryu often vary from one organization from another, because Otsuka did not standardize them. The paired kata are:

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