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Life of Tatsuo Suzuki Sensei

The late Professor Tatsuo Suzuki was born in Yokohama in 1928 and became interested in Karate at the age of 14 within six years of beginning his study of Karate, Professor Suzuki was awarded his 3rd Dan at the age of 19. In 1951 at the age of 24 he was awarded the then-highest grade in Wado-Ryu, 5th Dan for his outstanding courage and ability.

At 45 he was awarded his 8th Dan and also in the same year was given the title of Hanshi (Master) by the International Budo Federation and was presented with a special silver cup by Higashi Kuni no Miya, the uncle of the late Emperor of Japan.
From 1945 to 1956 he received direct instruction from the founder of Wado Ryu, Hironori Ohtsuka Sensei at the Wado Ryu Headquarters. Thereafter, as Ohtsuka Sensei's most senior student, he traveled with Ohtsuka Sensei both domestically and internationally performing demonstrations and teaching at the Headquarters and in such places as Hawaii.

From 1956 to 1964 Master Suzuki founded the first Wado Federation in England and from his base in London he spread Wado Ryu throughout Europe. Overcoming many difficulties, he brought senior students from Japan, taught them how to be instructors, and sent them to various European countries. Within just a few years Wado Ryu became the most popular style in Europe. In 1991 Master Suzuki took over from Ohtsuka Sensei in protecting the essence of Wado Ryu and established the Wado International Karate-Do Federation.  

Tatsuo SuzukiIn addition to his accomplishments in Karate, Professor Suzuki is a 2nd Dan in Tenshin Koryu Bo-Jitsu (stick fighting) and a 1st Dan in Judo. He has also studied Zen doctrine with the high priests, the late Genpo Yamamoto and Soyen Nakagawa. Suzuki Sensei is also a member of the International Budo Academy (IBA) as an Associate Professor and was awarded the title Doctor of Philosophy for his lifelong work and commitment to teaching Wado Ryu Karate.

From 2005 Suzuki Sensei suffered from illness but through a strong mind and drive was back teaching by 2006. Over the next few years, Sensei started to restructure his federation to ensure it would continue after him. In 2008 he appointed a World Technical Committee to ensure aligned and consistent standards and the following year at 2009 European Championships Suzuki Sensei stood down as World Chief Instructor appointing Sensei Jon Wicks as his successor to the role.

On the 12th July 2011, our Sensei passed away, Sensei’s life goal had been to protect Wado Ryu as he’d been taught by his teacher Hirinori Ohtsuka; this was the reason he formed the Wado Kokusai Karate-Do Renmei and this is the goal he left us today – to protect those teachings.

Back in 1990, it was a very difficult decision that Sensei took to form his own federation and one that he didn’t take lightly. However a large number of senior students remained loyal and followed Sensei, it was this loyalty that Sensei valued and held core to his beliefs and teachings. So strong was his belief in loyalty that before he died Sensei wrote a letter to all those students that continued to follow him.

Although in his letter there are many points that all students of martial arts can learn from it was written for his current students at that time, the students of the Wado International Karate-Do Federation. Sadly many non-WIKF clubs and associations have used Sensei’s letter aiming to strengthen their lineage, however, if you were not a member of Sensei’s federation you missed one of his key teachings; to be part of his loyal WIKF family and to put this family first.

To quote the last part of Sensei’s letter: “Through various instructors in the WIKF throughout the world, I have ensured that this will carry on. A strong family that will help each other and the future of Ohtsuka Sensei’s authentic Wado Ryu will carry on".

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