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I study Wado-Ryu karate, and while having achieved Shodan (1st Dan black belt) I wouldn't say I was an expert. I'd like to share some experiences and hopefully encourage others to at least give it a try...
Brief History Wado (way of peace & harmony) was first registered in 1934 by Master Ohtsuka who had trained with Funakoshi in Okinawa. Wado is one of the main styles that have survived and made it around the world (along with Gojo, Shotokan, Shito Ryu etc), and while making it mainstream is good in that it is more popular, it also means that it results in slight variations in the style depending on your club & association. Wado concentrates more on the avoidance of a punch/kick rather than meeting it with a equally forceful block. As such, it utilises hip movement and foot position to deflect, jam or ride an attack effectively.
Wado-specifics Beginners start with a white belt, and once they pass their 10th Kyu grading (just a few basic blocks and stances to learn) can wear a white with black stripe belt. 9th Kyu allows studetns to wear a red belt, then yellow, orange, green, blue, purple until you pass 3rd Kyu when you wear brown belt. 2nd and 1st Kyu are still brown belts but have 2 and 3 tags respectively), then you are awarded your black belt for passing 1st Dan grading. There are 15 kata (form) to learn in Wado which are defences against multiple simultaneous attackers, and 30 different specific pair techniques for perfecting blocks ranging from simple to much more complex, but each teaching a different element of the style and the emphasis on body movement.
My journey I started karate quite late compared to most people's experiences. I was 14 and being honest, wasn't great at most sports I'd tried up to that point. But there was something about the discipline that appealed to me. Here, you didn't need to be the strongest or fastest, it was all about technique. I wasn't the best fighter in the club and competitions weren't where I wanted to focus, but I could learn more about the history, and perfect the art. It taught me the important lesson though that you get out of it only what you put in. Achieving my black belt was one of the best achievements to date, and I was definitely at my fittest on the run up to the grading.
My club Shameless advertising I know, but if you're in the London Borough of Havering/Dagenham& Redbridge, our clubs are local to you. Check out www.shuharikai.co.uk for exact locations and dates, and also a profile of our Chief Instructor and competition results.