Wado-ryu is translated as "Way of Peace" or "Way of Harmony". Yet the harmony is not an indication of pacifism; it is the idea that yielding is sometimes more effective than brute force.
Many people believe Wado-ryu should be considered a style of jujutsu rather than karate considering that Hironori Otsuka, Wado-ryu's founder, embraced Shotokan and was once its chief instructor. When Otsuka originally registered his school with the Dai Nippon Butoku Kai in 1938, the style was designated "Shinshu Wado-ryu Karate-jujutsu," a title that reflects its hybrid character.
Otsuka was a licensed Shindoshin-ryo practitioner and a student of yoshin-ryo when he first met the Okinawan Karate master and founder of Shotokan Gichin Funakoshi. He trained for many years with Funakoshi and subsequently with Okinawan masters such as Kenwa Mabuni and Motobu Choki, Otsuka merged Shindo yoshin-ryo with Okinawan karate to form Wado-ryu Karate.
On the surface, Wado-ryu might appear similar to other styles of karate, such as Shotokan. However, Most of the underlying principles were derived from Shindo yoshin-ryo Jujutsu. A block in Wado may appear to be much like a block in Shotokan, but they are executed from different and unique perspectives.
A key principle in Wado-ryu is tai sabaki, sometimes referred to incorrectly as "evasion". The Japanese term can be translated as "body-management," and refers to body shifting to move the defender out of harm's way. The way to achieve this is to 'move with' rather than to 'move against', or harmony rather than physical strength. In many ways it is similar to Aikido's strategy of using an opponents force against them.