WIKF USA History
Shared by Sensei Doug Jepperson
Around the cusp of the 70s and 80s, I had the honor of immersing myself in Wado, an exquisite martial art, under the auspices of two esteemed masters: Toshio Osaka and Toshio Takahashi. Yet, my sojourn into Wado truly began when I crossed paths with the enigmatic Suzuki sensei, somewhere around 1979 or '80. Our first interaction was a linguistic challenge—Suzuki sensei's command of the English language was as limited as my knowledge of Japanese. Yet, when he took the stance or executed a sequence, language became irrelevant; the precision and fluency of his movements spoke volumes that transcended any linguistic barrier.
Suzuki sensei was a torchbearer of knowledge, fervently passing the beacon to all willing disciples. His teachings were visual, an eloquent display of precision and skill. As students, we became silent observers, striving to mirror the techniques exhibited by our master. Students of Wado, those who experienced its essence in the late sixties and early seventies, would testify to the zealous spirit that Suzuki sensei infused into each training session. He led from the front, emulating what he expected from each disciple.
Seminars under Suzuki sensei were a crucible of intensity, most of us, then in our twenties, struggled to match his relentless vigor. Sensei, at the tender age of fifty, outperformed us, manifesting passion and conditioning that shamed our youthful strength. He led us through grueling sessions of push-ups, his own display of strength—arm push-ups—silencing our groans.
During that inaugural visit, Sensei took the helm at our 10th Annual Utah Open, his stern visage embodying the seriousness of the occasion. His austere demeanor seemed to cast an intimidating shadow, one that held us in its sway. As we later discovered, the rigorous sojourn extended beyond Utah to Tennessee and a few other locales, each visit significantly impacting the development of Wado in the region. Before his expedition across the United States, most Wado institutions had scant exposure to the discipline's comprehensive curriculum.
In the aftermath of Suzuki sensei's visit, a conversation with my instructor revealed an interesting anecdote. Sensei Suzuki, during his private training sessions, insisted on the presence of Sensei Osaka. The sessions were a grueling litany of running, hundreds of kicks with each leg, and scores of punches, all culminating in multiple rounds of Kumite.
Suzuki sensei's engagement with the U.S. soon became a regular affair, sparking a renewed enthusiasm for Wado that rippled from California's sunny beaches to Florida's verdant coastline. Today, numerous Wado communities across the nation bear the unmistakable imprint of Sensei Suzuki's teachings, a testament to his profound influence on the discipline's development in the United States.