Hironori Ohtsuka

(Ohtsuka Hironori 1892-1982) created the Wado-ryu style of karate. He was the first Grand Master of Wado-ryu karate.

Ohtsuka was born on 1 June 1892 in Shimodate City, Ibaraki, Japan. He was the second of four children to Tokujiro Ohtsuka. He began training in the martial art of jujutsu under the tutelage of his great-uncle, Chojiro Ebashi. Ohtsuka's father took over his martial arts education in 1897, and he began studying Shindo Yoshin-ryu jujutsu. At age 13, Ohtsuka became the student of Shinzaburo Nakayama in Shindo Yoshin-ryu.

Ohtsuka Hironori

In 1922, Ohtsuka began karate training under Gichin Funakoshi. At this time, Ohtsuka held the license menkyo kaiden in Shindo Yoshin-ryu. He also established a medical practice and specialized in treating martial arts training injuries. From 1922-1929, Ohtsuka became an assistant instructor in Funakoshi's school, and also became a registered member of the Japan Martial Arts Federation. Ohtsuka began to have philosophical disagreements with Funakoshi. This may have come, in part, from his decision to train with Choki Motobu. Funakoshi's karate emphasized kata, a series of movements and techniques linked by the fighting principles. Funakoshi did not believe that sparring was necessary for realistic training. Motobu, however, emphasized the necessity of free application, and created a series of two-person kumite called yakusoku kumite.

Ohtsuka continued to gain recognition as he expanded the teaching of Wado-ryu karate throughout Japan. In 1964, three of his students (Tatsuo Suzuki, Toru Arakawa, and Hajime Takashima) from the Nihon University Karate Club undertook a two-month tour of Europe and the USA. They performed 49 demonstrations in this period and, as a result, Suzuki was invited back to London as a resident instructor.

"Martial art techniques are as infinite as the universe, there is no perfection in the techniques."

H. Ohtsuka

In 1972, Ohtsuka received the title of Meijin and the rank of 10th dan by the Japanese royal family's Higashi No Kuni no Miya, President of the Kokusai Budo Renmei (International Martial Arts Federation). It was the first such honor ever bestowed upon a karate teacher in Japan. Ohtsuka continued to teach and lead Wado-ryu karate into the 1980s, and died on 29 January 1982. His son became the second Grand Master of Wado-ryu karate and honored his father by taking the name "Hironori Ohtsuka II."

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