Karate is a Japanese word meaning "empty hands", this indicates that karate is a martial art that does not require weapons other than various parts of the body.Historically martial arts is said to have been introduced into China by the Buddhist monk Bodhi Dharma approximately 520 A.D. to preserve health and to condition the body for monastery life. Various fighting systems developed as a result of Bodhi Dharma’s influence. These fighting styles spread to the Okinawan Islands where they were adopted and refined but remained unarmed fighting methods. Over the next 200 years they were practiced secretly in various villages.Modern karate is thought to have begun when an Okinawan schoolteacher named Ginchin Funakoshi introduced it to the public in Tokyo in 1922 where it immediately became popular. He remained in Tokyo teaching at various universities; by 1955 he had a handful of students and had established the Japan Karate Association. From the group of students under Funakoshi four major styles of karate-do developed: Goju, Shito, Shotokan, and Wado. In 1934 Wado Kai was established in the All-Japan Karate League by Sensei Hironori Otsuka. Then in 1958 he invited Sensei Masaru Shintani to join his organization from here Wado Kai was brought to Canada and is taught through the Shintani Wado Kai Karate Federation (SWKKF).
Wado Kai Karate is a Japanese Karate style founded in 1939 by Hironori Otsuka. It is an amalgamation of Funakoshi's Shotokan Karate, jujutsu and kempo. Wado Kai, means the ‘Way of Peace & Harmony”. It is one of the four major styles of Karate in Japan and remains one of the purest form of Karate-do.
Similar to most other Karate styles, Wado Kai includes 1) basic techniques (waza), which include punching, kicking, blocking, open and closed hand strikes, and study of grappling and joint-twisting maneuvers 2) Kata (sequences of techniques done against imagined attackers) and 3) Kumite (prearranged and free-style sparring) are equally emphasized training foundations. Equally fundamental to Wado is taisabaki, bodyshifting to avoid the full brunt of an attack, this techinique was derived from Japanese swordsmanship. There are many other facets to Wado Kai Karate that make it a unique and valuable interpretation of Karate-do.
In Wado Kai Karate, as skill and knowledge are acquired through training and concentrated effort, the student is expected to develop inner strength and calmness of character, in addition to the virtues of self-control, respect for others, and humility.
"Violent action may be understood as the way of martial arts, but the true meaning of martial arts is to seek and attain the way of peace and harmony" - Sensei Otsuka
Hironori Otsuka was born in Shimodate City of lbaragi prefecture on June 1, 1892, and was the first son of Tokojiro Otsuka, a medical doctor. Otsuka began training in jujutsu at the age of five or six with his uncle. At 13, he entered the Shindo Yoshin-ryu jujutsu of Sensei Nakayama. Unlike many contemporary jujutsu styles that focused on grappling skills, this style emphasized strikes to vital points of the body. The founder of Shindo Yoshin-ryu, Yoshitoki Akiyama, had studied medicine in China as well as vital point striking (atemi-waza). After returning to Japan, he developed a jujutsu school that combined soft style concepts of yielding to an attacker's force, with striking techniques.
At 19, Otsuka entered Waseda University where he studied kempo as well as continuing with jujutsu. Unfortunately, his father died during his junior year and he dropped out to begin work at a bank in Shimodate to support his family. Otsuka was obviously a diligent student of jujutsu; at the unusually young age of 29, he was awarded the coveted menkyo-kaiden, which designated him the prime successor as master of this style. A year later in 1922, he began Karate training under Gichin Funakoshi, the Okinawan schoolteacher who had recently accepted the invitation of the Japanese government to instruct the relatively unknown art of Karate in Tokyo. Within a short time, Otsuka became one of Funakoshi's senior students. In his daily training, not only was Otsuka absorbing what Funakoshi taught, he was also striving to blend his atemi-style jujutsu with Karate.
While Jujitsu had a declining patronage, other styles (i.e. Karate and Judo) were becoming popular. Otsuka subsequently began focusing more of his own energies on Karate, often teaching at clubs (such as Meishojuku) which had been established by Funakoshi. During this period, Funakoshi's Karate sessions were divided in two: one half was devoted to lectures on philosophy and the other was spent in practice of basic techniques and Kata. Funakoshi's felt that Kumite was dangerous and unnecessary. In other words, if one practiced Kata diligently, fighting skills would naturally develop. In 1929, Otsuka slowly began introducing ippon and sanbon-Kumite practice because he felt that the students were becoming bored with only Kata practice.
Over time, Otsuka, along with other senior students of Funakoshi, began opening clubs of their own, including Tokyo University. A gradual distancing from Funakoshi’s style ensued as Otsuka taught concepts he found valuable. Otsuka also sought out other Okinawan Karate masters who had begun teaching in Japan. He trained with Kenwa Mabuni (founder of Shito-ryu) as well as Choki Motubo. Otsuka devoted his life to Karate training and established himself as a medical specialist in treating martial arts injuries.
Otsuka formally broke from Funakoshi's style of Karate in 1934, when he began teaching his unique style under the organization name "Karate Promotion Club." In 1940, when Butoku-kai requested that all martial arts systems register themselves, Otsuka submitted the following: Style -Wado (Way of Harmony); Founder -Hironori Otsuka. Otsuka originally selected nine Kata (a reduction from the 15 typically taught by Funakoshi) for the Wado style: the five Pinans, Kushanku, Naihanchi, Seishan, and Chinto. He felt that each Kata had to become dynamic and alive, thus, nine Kata, properly mastered, were sufficient. Today, other Katas, which had been unofficially taught by Otsuka, have been renewed.
On the Emperor's birthday in 1966, the Emperor awarded Sensei Otsuka a Merit of Honor, the highest honor ever received by a Japanese Karate-ka, for distinguished service in the popularization of Karate do.
Sensei Otsuka established the aim of Wado Kai Karate as not merely perfection of the physical techniques of self-defense, but the development of a mind that is tranquil yet alive, and able to react intuitively to any situation.
Sensei Otsuka passed away on January 29th, 1982.
Sensei Masaru Shintani, 9th Dan (Kudan) was the Supreme Instructor of Wado Kai Karate in Canada and is founder of the Shintani Wado Kai Karate Federation (SWKKF). At the time of his death he was the highest ranking Sensei outside of Japan. A direct student of Shihan Otsuka, the founder of Wado Kai, Sensei Shintani devoted over 50 years to the study of Karate. He also held ranks in Judo (Sandan), Aikido (Shodan), and Kendo (Shodan).
Sensei Shintani was born February 3, 1927 in Vancouver, British Columbia, the child of Japanese immigrants. His mother was a member of the Matsumoto clan, a respected samurai clan whose history goes back hundreds of years. Like virtually all West Coast Japanese-Canadians during the Second World War, his family was uprooted and moved to the rugged interior of British Columbia for the duration of the war. The Shintani family, mother & six children, was interned in New Denver, an abandoned mining town that was used to house hundreds of Japanese Canadians. While growing up in the camp, he learned the ways of two cultures. On school mornings he attended Canadian classes in English, history, and mathematics. In the afternoon, he studied Japanese language and heritage, along with Kendo and Judo, the standard physical education for all Japanese students.
One day in 1940-41, while looking for frozen ponds by the river to play hockey, a group of youths, including Sensei Shintani, came across an older man standing barefoot in the snow, punching a tree and shouting. This was his initial contact with the person who would introduce him to Karate. After repeated meetings, some of the boys were eventually invited to train with the man - he was named Kitigawa and was a practitioner of Shorin-ryu, one of the older Okinawan Karate styles. However, Sensei Kitigawa simply referred to his teachings as Kumite (fighting) and soon the eager young men were beating the bark off of trees with punches, blocks & kicks. Sensei Shintani recalls training barefoot on the ice rink and sparring bouts that he describes thus, “Every time you got on the floor, it was life or death.” Overall, Sensei Kitigawa's methods would be considered excessive or 'brutal' by today's standards. As Sensei Shintani reflected, “I believe it hurt our minds more than it helped our bodies.”
After nine years under Sensei Kitigawa's direction, Sensei Shintani was graded to sixth dan when Kitigawa returned to Japan. Sensei Shintani himself began to travel to Japan to train in Karate and visit his mother's family. He met Sensei Otsuka in 1956 at a Karate seminar. Over the next few years, Sensei Shintani competed in and eventually won the championship in the large Japan Karate Federation tournaments. In 1958, Sensei Otsuka approached Sensei Shintani with an invitation to join his organization, Wado Kai. Impressed with the character and integrity of Otsuka, Sensei Shintani respectfully accepted the invitation. During this time, Sensei Shintani's family moved to Beamsville, near Hamilton, Ontario. Once there, he played semi-pro baseball and tended the family farm and greenhouse to support his family. He began teaching Karate and Judo locally as well as at the Japanese Cultural Center in Hamilton. Sadly enough, being Japanese in North America during the post-war period was to be a target of racism and violence. Sensei Shintani credits his harsh training under Kitigawa and the humility he learned from his mother and Sensei Otsuka with his survival during this time: “I've learned a lesson in the war-time camps - under Kitigawa Sensei, I've protected my life, and under Otsuka Sensei I've preserved it”. In 1979, Sensei Otsuka graded Sensei Shintani to hachidan (8th dan). At the same time Otsuka presented him with a kudan (9th dan) certificate, to be revealed by Shintani after a suitable period of time had passed (he declared his kudan rank in 1995). Also during this time, Sensei Shintani traveled to Japan several times to train with Sensei Otsuka. Sensei Otsuka honored his Canadian disciple by visiting Ontario on a few occasions to visit and teach, the last time being in 1980, only two years prior to his passing. During the 1970's, Sensei Otsuka appointed Sensei Shintani the Supreme Instructor of Wado Kai in North America.
Some time after the death of Sensei Otsuka, Sensei Shintani visited Okinawa to contact the old masters who had trained with Otsuka. Most of these men had passed on except for Sensei Yamashita who shared his knowledge and memories with Sensei Shintani.
Sensei Shintani's devotion to and mastery of Karate is remarkable. Stories of his feats of skill and acts of humility confound those who have not met him. He has constantly refined and improved on the most basic of Karate techniques & concepts to advance the Way of Karate. He refused to allow the vital and dynamic nature of Karate to become stagnant and ritualized, to deteriorate into a stylized dance of impractical techniques and no longer comprise a ‘real’ martial art. He has said that there are no symbolic moves in Kata, every technique must be performed as if ‘real’.
In the last years before his death, Sensei Shintani spent much of his time developing Karate and Shindo concepts and traveled to various regions of North America and overseas to conduct seminars in Wado Kai and Shindo. As the leader of a large martial arts organization in North America, he could be a very wealthy man. Instead, Sensei Shintani lived a humble life of quiet modesty, continuing to live by three ideals: Humility, Integrity, and Honor.
Those of us in Wado Kai who had the honor of meeting Sensei Shintani recognize what a rare treasure it is to have worked with him in both training and living the Way of Peace and Harmony.
- Written by Dudley Driscoll, edited by Heather Fidyk
Sensei Denis began karate in 1971 as a teenager at Confederation High School in Welland after being impressed by a demonstration put on by Sensei Shintani at his school he began training Wado. He trained with Sensei Shintani and also with Sensei Peter Ciolfi, one of Sensei Shintani's black belts. As a kyu belt Sensei Denis trained with Sensei Ron Mattie who had started karate one year later. Sensei Denis received his shodan rank March 7th, 1975. As a black belt Sensei trained with Sensei Ron, Sensei Peter Ciolfi, Sensei Dominic Morabito and Sensei Ray Poulin. Sensei Shintani had created the Welland Karate club and was teaching the club in a building shared with the Welland Judo club. Sensei Denis began competing as a green belt. His first tournament was at an open tournament in Port Dover, ON, following that he competed when ever Sensei was invited to an open tournament, on average, three time a year. Kumite came easier than kata for him so naturally he favored kumite, however, he decided to work harder at katas and eventually did well in both kata and kumite.
On June 30th, 1997 Sensei Shintani formed the senate which included Sensei Denis. When Sensei Shintani passed away in May of 2000 it was Sensei Denis who was entrusted to continue the legacy of Sensei Shintani and lead the SWKKF. This has been a challenging undertaking and the organization is as strong as ever thanks to the leadership he provides. Sensei Denis continues to train, teach seminars, attend tournaments and Black belt gradings across all of Canada. He oversees the SWKKF and continues to fuel the organization in the direction Sensei Shintani guided him.
The Shintani Wado Kai Karate Federation was founded by Masaru Shintani in 1966. The federation is likely the largest martial arts organization of a single style in North America. Current registered membership is over 10,000 students with approximately 1000 active black belts. The greatest density of members are in southern Ontario & Alberta, with continued growth in SK, MB, the West Coast, the USA, and the Dominican Republic. The SWKKF also supports a national team to represent the organization at various tournaments within and outside the organization.
Prior to the death of Sensei Shintani the organization was primarily directed by Sensei Shintani himself with the assistance of the senate. The senate consists of senior ranking members appointed by Sensei Shintani. The Senate held the inaugural meeting on November 1, 1997 in Toronto at that time Sensei Shintani signed the new constitution and named Sensei Denis Labbé his successor. Sensei Denis Labbé now heads the Shintani Wado Kai Karate Federation assisted by the Senate members: Sensei Ron Mattie, Chief Instructor, Sensei Danny McCoy, Sensei Jim Atkinson, Sensei Heather Fidyk, Sensei Neil Prime, Sensei Bruce Perkins, Sensei Michel Gosselin, and Sensei Brad Cosby. Retired Senate Members Sensei Peter Ruch & Sensei Rick Leveille.