by Sensei Walt Fast
June, 1993

This article is a brief, somewhat objective comparison of Shotokan and Wado Karate. I do not pretend to know it all, but I will give my impressions of both styles as well as my experience in the change-over.

I'm sure everyone is aware of the founding of Shotokan Karate by Sensei Gichin Funakoshi. As well as the subsequent developments by Sensei Hironori Ohtsuka with the inception of Wado.

Similarities abound in both styles of the art to the point where one could say Wado is the younger brother to Shotokan.

Shotokan has the five Heian katas and Kanku-Dai. Wado has the five Pinans and Kushanku.

The embusen, or lines of direction a kata tales, are generally the same. If viewed from above a Shotokan kata would be more on the angle, or tangent, to the centre-line.

Also with minor variances, a block, a punch, and a kick are the same in any style.

I've learned the Wado katas, and I don't mind telling you that it is the totally new katas that I found easiest to memorize. It is the similarities of the Pinans and Kushanku which created beastly problems for me. The dissimilar movements are not radical enough to be very obvious. When one does a kata for quite a while the sequences become automatic. If a movement is slightly altered it is much harder to break old habits of form, than it is to learn an entirely new sequence.

For instance, in Pinan Yodan the 5th to 6th movement is a gedan-barai with a mae-geri followed by empi-uchi. In Heian Yodan this movement is an uraken-uchi with a yoko-geri followed by the empi-uchi.

The absolute worst is Tekki. I will concentrate on this one a little later on!

The Shotokan I learned is always very low and hard and mostly linear. The emphasis is on stability and power. On large, stronger, lower movements over faster ones.

I always had a problem reconciling my sparring with Shotokan's katas: a low stance may be strong but it is very hard to move quickly out of.

Where in a Shotokan kata a turn ends in zenkutsu-dachi with a gyaku-zuke, in Wado a turn ends in neko-ashi-dachi, ure-uki, then gyaku-zuke.

This reflects the spare attitude towards technique in Wado I've experienced. Few superfluous movements, close short yet stable stances and quick blocks, kicks, and punches.

The deflection of an attack and simultaneous counter attack is crucial here.

Jiju-dachi and the tai-sabaki movement are peculiar to and central to Wado. Here, the maximum hip snap occurs when these waza are practised low. The stance is not elongated and low but is like a compressed spring waiting to be released.

In closing, I believe we in the Niagara area have a unique opportunity to work out, and be welcome in different Wado clubs in the vicinity.

A mutual willingness to learn, to accept others with an open hand, builds strong ties and a good learning atmosphere. Hard training and positive attitudes cannot help but be reflected in Kohei, Sempai and Senseis alike.

When I first met Sensei Shintani he said: "Kick, punch, block, they are all the same in any style. The important thing is who you train with." How true.

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