Profile: Wayne Otto

The name Wayne Otto is synonymous with tournament success. Otto is one of the most successful fighters to come out of Britain. He has appeared in the Guinness Book of Records as having won the most Karate championship medals for a male competitor. Nicknamed the “Black Shark” and the “Black Pearl” by his rivals, he was the backbone of many successful British and English teams coached by Ticky Donovan.

Otto was born on 18 May 1966 in Hackney, London. He first became interested in Karate, when aged fourteen a school mate brought a big trophy to school he had won at a tournament. He later recalled that he had been a little jealous and wanted to win trophies of his own.

Terry Daly ran the Bow Ueichi-ryu Karate Club based in East London. This was a tough dojo with many tough individuals. It was here that Otto began his Karate journey. Daly became Otto’s first instructor and would become a major influence in his development as a karate-ka.

Within two years of starting Karate, in 1982 Otto entered his first tournament and won a silver medal. By 1984, due to his tournament successes he had been selected to represent England at the Junior European Karate Championships.

In 1988 Otto began studying at the University of Kent. A year later he had helped co-found the University of Kent Karate Club. Two years later, led by Otto, the club had won the British University Sports Federation (BUSF) national championships. He eventually became the coach of the British Universities Students Federations Karate squad.

Otto graduated from the University of Kent with a Bachelor’s Degree (BSc) in Communications Engineering.

Between 1982 and 1998, under the direction of Ticky Donovan, Britain became a dominant force in international Karate winning numerous kumite medals at World and European level. From 1988 Otto was a major part of this success.

At the 1988 European Championships held in Genoa, Otto won his first individual European kumite title. Later that year at the World Championships held in Cairo, he was part of the squad that won team kumite gold.

Success continued for Otto at the next World Championships held in Mexico City two years later. At the tournament he won the Sanbon Kumite Open title, his first individual world title and later helped Britain win the Team Kumite title. One of his best memories was the standing ovation he received on his return to the University

At the 1992 World Championships held in Granada, Spain, Otto his fourth world title, this time in the 75 kg individual kumite event.

In 1996 Otto won another 75 kg individual kumite world title. This made him one of the few men to win world titles under the World Union of Karate-Do Organizations (WUKO) and World Karate Federation (WKF) organisations.

Otto’s major honors include:

  • World Championships – Individual kumite – 1st place (1990, 1992, 1996)
  • World Championships – Individual kumite – 3rd place (1998)
  • World Championships – Team kumite – 1st place (1988, 1990)
  • World Championships – Team kumite – 2nd place (1994, 1996, 1998)
  • World Championships – Team kumite – 3rd place (2000)
  • World Games- Individual  kumite – 1st place (1993, 1997)
  • European Championships – Individual kumite – 1st place (1988, 1991, 1994, 1995,  1996, 1999)
  • European Championships – Individual kumite – 3rd place (1993, 1997)
  • European Championships – Team kumite – 1st place (1990, 1992, 1998)
  • European Championships – Team kumite – 2nd place (1995, 1996, 2000, 2003)
  • European Championships – Team kumite – 3rd place (1993, 1994, 1997, 2001, 2002)

After more than a decade as a top intentional competitor Otto retired in 2006. His tournament success was in large part due to his mental toughness and will to win. Apart from from his competitive spirit he was technically adept. He was known for his hand speed, timing and good footwork. These were things that he constantly worked on.

Following his retirement Otto became an assistant coach to Ticky Donovan, head coach of the England Karate squad. As assistant coach he was able to impart the knowledge he had gained from his successful competitive career. He would eventually became national coach in 2005.

In 2001 Otto was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s birthday honors list for services to Karate. That same year he appeared in the Guinness Book of Records for having won the most Championship medals for a male competitor.

Otto is in much demand, receiving offers from around the word to give seminars and courses and also to coach. In 2012 he became head coach of the Norwegian Karate squad. He helped guide Gitte Brunstad to a silver medal at the 2014 World Championships held in Bremen. This was the first medal the Norwegians had won at the World Championships since 1992 when Jørn Ove Hansen had lost to Otto in the final.

The Otto legacy continues as Wayne Otto’s son Jamaal has won medals at Junior European level for England.

Although Otto is mainly thought of as a sport karate-ka, the sporting side of his karate is just one aspect of his karate. He is still rooted in the traditional style of Uechi-ryu Karate in which he currently holds a 5th Dan.

Author: Patrick Donkor

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