Basic Wado Ryu Principles


Maai is usually interpreted as fighting distance but it encompasses more than the physical distance between two antagonists. The combatants state of mind, and spirit, as well as the distance are all subtly related to maai. It might be said that keeping good maai is creating enough space to manoeuvre.

However, simply put, in terms of distance, if either the defender or attacker is able to strike the other with an attack without moving the feet, then maai is too short. Good maai is when the attacker can strike the defender by moving a half step forward or the defender can retreat out of range with a half step backward. Of course, this distance constantly fluctuates during fighting and both attacker and defender must be aware of the potential range of his/her own and the opponent’s techniques and adjust the distance accordingly.


Literally ‘remaining mind’. This is a word used a great deal in the martial arts. It’s meaning can be interpreted in many ways but, from the point of view of training or self-defence, we can say it usually means awareness. Keeping a clear calm mind in order to be able to sense danger from all sides even from behind. One should strive to have zanshin at all times, but especially in the dojo when fighting or practising with a partner. One method to achieve zanshin might be, to look at your opponent’s eyes, but try to observe his whole body. Empty your mind. Do not concentrate on one block or punch but rather let the technique come naturally. Keep zanshin even during and after rei.


Taisabaki is usually translated as ‘body management’ or ‘body shift’. However it should be noted that the root word sabaki has the concept of ‘just enough’ or ‘optimum utilization’. So in Wado-Ryu, all movements should be practised efficiently with no wasted motion. Taisabaki often employs shifting by using the hips, though, of course, the use of the hips is essential to all Wado movement. Much of the movement and posture seen in Wado Ryu is based around traditional budo movement. The higher stances commonly seen in jujutsu and kenjutsu are used for mobility.

Sensen no Sen means to attack when the opponent’s intent to attack is perceived, thus pre empting the opponent’s attack and catching him/her off guard.

Sen means attacking simultaneously with the opponent as in nagashizuki. It implies that the ‘defender’ will be able to complete his attack first, and/or displace the opponent’s attack.

Go no Sen means to respond to an attack with a counterattack or block/counterattack. However, the timing must be such as to strike immediately the opponent’s attack is completed and before he is able to launch a further attack.

Nagasu is parrying, or moving with the attack, to evade a blow, often while countering. The body is moved slightly off of the line of attack so that the attacking technique is evaded, but at a close enough angle that the power of the opponent’s attack can be used to increase the force of the counterattack.

Inasu is dodging and or deflecting, often dropping the body to move under, inside, or around an attacker’s technique.

Noru is “riding,” or moving in contact with the opponent as a means of controlling the opponent’s technique or body movement.

Irimi is moving to enter, getting inside an opponent’s technique to create an opening.


San mi-ittai are three kinds of body shifting movement which typify Wado-Ryu. The Kihon Kumite provide perhaps the best examples of san mi-ittai.

Ten-i, “to move the position” or move away from the attack.

Ten-tai, twisting and realigning the body to change the relationship of the body to the attack and further reduce the exposed target area.

Ten-gi, executing techniques while letting the attack pass through.

Ki Ken Tai no Ichi

The co ordination of mind and body in movement. For example when fighting, the mind and body should work in unison. However, this union of mind and body will be ineffective if the technique is poor.

Hei Jo Shin

He Jo Shin is a calm state of mind and body. For example, during fighting if your attacker attempts to startle you with a feint or fake by waving his hands or tries to intimidate you by brandishing a weapon. By maintaining a calm state – Hei Jo Shin – you will not flinch but be prepared for the attack.