Hironori Otsuka (大塚 博紀 Otsuka Hironori, June 1, 1892 – January 29, 1982) was a Japanese
master of karate who created the Wado ryu style of karate. He was the first Grand Master of
Wado ryu karate, and received high awards within Japan for his contributions to karate.
Otsuka was born on June 1, 1892, in Shimodate City, Ibaraki, Japan. He was one of four children
to Tokujiro Otsuka, a medical doctor. At the age of 5 years, he began training in the martial arts of
jujutsu under his great-uncle, Chojiro Ebashi (a samurai). At the age of 13, Otsuka became the
student of Shinzaburo Nakayama in Shindo Yoshin ryu jujutsu
In 1911, while studying business administration at Waseda University in Tokyo, Otsuka trained in
various jujutsu schools in the area. Before his studies were complete, his father died and he was
unable to continue studying; he commenced work as a clerk at the Kawasaki Bank.
Although he wished to become a full-time instructor, he did not pursue this course at this point
out of respect for his mother's wishes.
On June 1, 1921,at the age of 29 years old, Otsuka received the Menkyo Kaiden
(certificate of mastery and license to teach) in Shindo Yoshin-ryu jujutsu, and became the
fourth master of that school. Jujutsu was not to become his primary art, however; in 1922,
Otsuka began training in karate under the okinawan karate master Gichin Funakoshi, who was
a new arrival in Japan. In 1927, he also established a medical practice and specialized in treating martial arts training injuries.
By 1928, Otsuka was an assistant instructor in Funakoshi's school. He also trained under Choki Motobu
(Motobu Ryu) and Kenwa Mabuni(Shito Ryu), and studied Kobudo, around this time. Otsuka began to have philosophical disagreements with Funakoshi and the two men parted ways in the early 1930s.
This may have come, in part, from their point of view regarding kumite practice. Funakoshi's karate emphasized kata, a series of movements and techniques linked by the fighting principles.
Funakoshi did not believe that sparring was necessary and he considered it too dangerous to be a part
of karate training. Otsuka believed that like in kendo and judo, the use of control can be employed
in the practice of kumite.
On April 1, 1934, Otsuka opened his own karate school the Dai Nippon Karate Shinko Kai at 63 Banchi Suehiro-Cho, Kanda, Tokyo. He blended karate with his knowledge of Shindo Yoshin ryu jujutsu to form Wado ryu karate, although the art would only later take on this name several years later.
With recognition of his style as an independent karate style, Otsuka became a full-time instructor.
In 1940, his style was registered at the Butokukai, in Kyoto, for the demonstration of various martial arts, together with Shotokan, Shito ryu and Goju ryu.
At the start of the US occupation of Japan following World War II, the practice of martial arts was banned
but after a few years, the practice of karate was allowed to be continued and became very popular with
the occupying allied forces which gave Otsuka and other karate masters the chance to give demonstration
of karate inside the bases. During this period, Otsuka held various karate competitions through the 1950's.
In 1964, three of Otsuka's students (Tatsuo Suzuki, Toru Arakawa, and Hajime Takashima) from Nihon University toured Europe and the United States of America, demonstrating Wado ryu karate.
On April 29, 1966, Emperor Hirohito awarded Otsuka the Order of the Rising Sun. The Emperor later also awarded him the Soko Kyokujitsu Sho medal for his contributions to karate. On October 9, 1972, the Kokusai Budo (International Martial Arts Federation) awarded Otsuka the title of Shodai Karate-do Meijin Judan (first-generation karate master 10th dan); this was the first time this honor had been bestowed on a karate practitioner.
Otsuka continued to teach and propagate Wado ryu karate into the 1980s and was finally laid to rest
on January 29, 1982.