The founder of Wado-ryu, Hironori Otsuka, was born on 1 June 1892 in Shimodate, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan. In 1898, Otsuka began practicing koryu jujutsu under Chojiro Ebashi. From 1905–1921, he studied Shindo Yoshin-ryu jujutsu under Tatsusaburo Nakayama. In 1922, he met Gichin Funakoshi and began to train under him. In 1924, Otsuka became one of the first students promoted to black belt in karate by Funakoshi. To broaden his knowledge of Karate, Otsuka also studied with other prominent masters such as Kenwa Mabuni of Shito-ryu and Motobu Choki. In 1929, Otsuka organized the first school karate club at Tokyo University. Eiichi Eriguchi coined the term ’Wado-ryu’ in 1934.
In 1938, Otsuka registered his style of karate with the Dai Nippon Butoku Kai under the name of "Shinshu Wadoryu Karate-Jujutsu." Soon after, however, this was shortened to "Wado-ryu." In 1938, the Dai Nippon Butoku Kai awarded Otsuka the rank of Renshi-Go, followed in 1942 by the rank of Kyoshi-Go. It was around this time that Tatsuo Suzuki, founder of the WIKF, began training in Wado-ryu. In 1944, Otsuka was appointed Japan’s Chief Karate Instructor. In 1946, Otsuka awarded Tatsuo Suzuki the rank of 2nd dan. 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.
Hironori Otsuka died on January 29th 1982.