Wado originated from the ancient Japanese art of Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu. Legend has it that once, during winter, the founder of Yoshin Ryu sat gazing at a willow tree. It occurred to him that while the willow tree was hardly affected by the snow, many branches of stronger, larger and sturdier trees broke under the heavy load. The willow tree yielded to the burden, thus allowing the snow to fall off. He based the Yoshin Ryu techniques on the same principle. And that's why till this very day you will find yielding rather than blocking techniques in Wado.
Many styles of karate are based on the idea of blocking an attack and then counter attack. So if someone tries to punch your nose, you block the attack and then punch his nose.
Wado is different. In wado you don't try to block but you rather try to avoid and move along with the attack. If an attacker expects an impact of his fist and instead punches into the air, he'll lose balance and will be unable to continue the attack. You may also help the attacker losing his balance by moving along with the attack. In which case the attack is likely to end there.
Blocking is a rough way of dealing with an attack, suitable for tough people. It needs a lot of speed and strength. Avoiding and moving along on the other hand, is soft and relaxed. That’s why some say wado is a ‘soft’ style. But don’t get fooled: wado does have all the attacking techniques the other styles have. A well trained wadoka (someone who trains wado) can easily knock someone out. But the point is that in most cases you won’t need to. Because the avoiding and ‘moving along’ parts are so efficient that the fight often ends there.
Wado has obviously some similarities with jujutsu. In jujutsu you also use the force of the attacker against him (or her...). Wado even has some cool throwing techniques you may have seen in jujutsu or judo. So wado combines kicks and punches with the soft yielding techniques of jujutsu.
The name wado has two parts: ‘wa’ and ‘do’. ‘Wa’ is a word that means something like 'harmony’ or 'peace'. Harmony is found when the defender moves in accord with the attacker. Harmony is also found in moving in accordance with the forces of nature. At the same time 'wa' can refer to 'Japan', to indicate wado is a Japanese style of karate. The ‘do’ part of wado can be translated as ‘way’. So wado means ‘the way of harmony’.
In the early 20th century a Yoshin Ryu master by the name of Hironori Otsuka merged his jujitsu techniques with karate from the island of Okinawa. This became a new style of karate which he then named Wado Ryu. The yielding principles of Yoshin Ryu were maintained while adding the kicking and punching techniques from karate. Nowadays Wado Ryu is one of the major styles of karate in the world.