Master Hironori Ohtsuka was born in 1892 in the village of Shimodate in Ibaragi, Japan. He was the first born out of four children. His father was a medical doctor. His great uncle, Chojiro Ebashi, who was a samourai, initiated him to the practice of ju-jutsu and sabor when he was very young.
At the age of 13, he entered the dojo of Master Tatsusaburo Nakayama where he principally studied the Yoshin-ryu school of ju-jutsu as well as kendo. He studied there until he entered the University of Waseda in 1910. During his studies as university, he treained in many ju-jutsu dojos in Tokyo.
At the age of 24, he continued his study of the Yoshin-ryu school of ju-jutsu under Master Kanaya. Master Kanaya was also an expert in traditional medicine and, after two years of study, Hironori Ohtsuka received his diploma in this type of medicine. He then became a professional in the care of bone fractures and joint care, and he threw himself into the intensive practice of martial arts. At 28, he recieved his diploma from the Yoshin-ryu school of ju-jutsu from the hands of Master Nakayama.
In 1922, his friend Ito, who was a 5th dan in judo, spoke with him for the first time of the art of Ryukyu-karate-jutsu. He told him that Master Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo, had invited Master Gichin Funakoshi of Okinawa to give a demonstration in this martial art. Hironori Ohtsuka decided then to pay a visit to Master Funakoshi and, after this meeting, he began to practice karate.
Master Ohtsuka was initiated to the curriculum of Master Funakoshi‘s martial art and learned the fifteen kata of his school in a year and a half. Calling heavily on his 16 years of practicing ju-jutsu, Master Ohtsuka notes that many elements of these kata are inapplicable in combat. In order to complete his education in karate, he wanted to travel to the island of Okinawa, cradle of this martial art. However, he decided to abandon his trip because a budo demonstration organized at the dojo of the imperial palace was announced and, there was the possibility to have exceptional karate-jutsu demonstrated there. Master Ohtsuka and Master Funakoshi determined the content of this demonstration together. They included the kata of Master Funakoshi as well as the combat exercises the two had worked out from Master Ohtsuka‘s ju-jutsu experiences. The demonstration of Master Ohtsuka was greatly appreciated and followed the latter, ten universities from the Tokyo region signed up for training from Masters Funakoshi and Ohtsuka. Master Ohtsuka thus became the assistant of Master Gichin Funakoshi.
Master Hironori Ohtsuka detached himself, however, little by little from the teaching of Master Funakoshi while exploring more and more the combat exercises through the different models of boxing and kendo. This approach, too centered on combat, irritated Master Funakoshi who found it inadmissible to his personal philosophy and practice. Master Funakoshi‘s school was divided by the two. Master Ohtsuka fused his side more and more with the practice of karate and ju-jutsu in his training.
He thus worked with a number of experts. He amicably bound himself with Master Yasuhiro Konishi who created his own method integrating the elements of kendo to the practice of karate. This collaboration lasted throughout their lives. In 1928, Master Konishi presented Master Choki Motobu to Hironori Ohtsuka. Master Motobu, who came from Okinawa, was recognized for his combat abilities and this meeting greatly enriched the reflection of Master Ohtsuka on the karate kata. He also studied under Master Kenwa Mabuni, the founder of the shito-ryu school. The profound understanding of Master Mabuni‘s kata was another unique occasion for Master Ohtsuka to continue his reflection and his understanding of the art of karate. He would work also under a number of experts through the course of his life.
In 1934, Master Hironori Ohtsuka opened a dojo in Tokyo. He received, in 1938, the title of renshi of the butoku-kai and became a professional teacher of karate. He thus named his school wado-ryu. In 1942, he received the title of kyoshi of the butoku-kai while the second world war raged on. After the war, Master Ohtsuka began, little by little, to teach in various universities.
In 1966, the emperor Hirohito gave the title of Kun Goto Suokuo Kyoku Jujitsu Shuo to Hironori Ohtsuka for his devotion to the development of the practice of martial art. In 1972, he recieve the historic title of meijin, a first for an adept of Japanese karate.
The wado-ryu school then developed more and more in Japan, then throughout the world, becoming one of the four principal schools of modern karate. The wado-ryu school is characterized by an active practice of combat exercises and Master Ohtsuka retained just nine kata in his curriculum. Master Hironori Ohtsuka died in 1982 at the age of 90 and his official successor is his son Jiro (Hironori) Ohtsuka.