Wado-ryu (和道流, Wadō-ryū?) is a school of Karate founded by Hironori Ōtsuka. Wado-ryu is one of four traditional karate styles (the others being Shōtōkan-ryū, Shitō-ryū, and Gōjū-ryū). Originally a unified school, three organizations now teach the Wadō-ryū style: the Japan Karatedo Federation Wadōkai (abbreviated to Wadōkai; “Zen Nihon Karatedo Renmei Wadokai” in Japan), the Wadōryū Karatedō Renmei, and the Wadō Kokusai Karatedō Renmei (abbreviated to Wadō Kokusai; also known as the Wadō International Karatedō Federation [WIKF]).
The name Wadō-ryū has three parts: Wa, dō, and ryū. Wa means “harmony,” dō means “way,” and ryū means “style.” Harmony should not be interpreted as pacifism; it is simply the acknowledgment that yielding is sometimes more effective than brute strength.
From one point of view, Wadō-ryū might be considered a style of jujutsu rather than Okinawan karate. When Hironori Ōtsuka 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. Ōtsuka was a licensed Shindō Yōshin-ryū practitioner and a student of Yoshin Koryu Jujutsu when he first met the Okinawan karate master Funakoshi. After having learned from Funakoshi, and later also Okinawan masters Mabuni and Motobu, Ōtsuka merged Shindō Yōshin-ryū with Okinawan karate. The result of Ōtsuka’s efforts is Wadō-ryū.
To the untrained observer, Wadō-ryū might look similar to other styles of karate, such as Shōtōkan-ryū. Most of the underlying principles, however, were derived from Shindō Yōshin-ryū. A block in Wado may look much like a block in Shotokan, but they are executed from different perspectives. While a Shotokan practitioner is likely to force an incoming fist out of the line of attack, a Wado practitioner is likely to move out of the line of attack while taking up a position that will gain an advantage over the attacker. A key principle in Wadō-ryū 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 Wadō-ryū away from its roots towards a new generic karate that appeals more to the demands of both spectators and competitors.