Sosai Masutsu Oyama was born on July 27th 1923 in a village in Southern Korea. At the age of 9 whilst staying on his sister’s farm in Manchuria, he first learnt the Martial Arts, studying the southern Chinese Kempo form known as “eighteen hands”.
In 1938 Mas Oyama traveled to Japan with the desire to enter an aviation school and become a fighter pilot, but he was forced to abandon his dream and find work. He continued practicing Judo and boxing and his interest in Martial Arts led him to the Dojo of Gishin Funakoshi and thus, he started practicing Okinawa Karate.
With his dedication, Mas Oyama progressed quickly and by the time he was 20 years old he obtained his 4th Dan. It was at this time that Mas Oyama entered the Japanese Imperial Army and began studying judo in the hope of mastering its holding and grappling techniques. By the time he stopped training in Judo, after about 4 years, he had gained a 4th Dan.
Following the defeat of Japan after the second world war, Oyama like all other young Japanese, was thrown into a personal crisis. He found a way out of despair by training with So Nei Chu, a Korean Master of Goju-Ryu Karate. This great teacher, renowned for the power of his body, and deep spiritual inclination had a profound influence on young Mas Oyama. Master So taught him the inseparability of budo and the spiritual fundamentals of Buddhism.
After a few years of training, Master So advised Mas Oyama to make a firm commitment to dedicate his life to the Martial Way and retreat to a mountain hideout and train his mind and body. In 1946, Mas Oyama went into training, at a remote spot, on the Mt. Kiyosumi in Chiba Prefecture. He was accompanied by one of his students named Yashiro and a friend Mr. Kayama brought them food supplies every month.
Through vigorous training, Mas Oyama learnt to overcome the mental strain caused by solitude but Yashori could not bear it and fled after 6 months. About fourteen months later Mr. Kayama told Mas Oyama that due to unforeseen circumstances he could no longer sponsor Mas Oyama’s retreat in the mountains and thus Mas Oyama’s original plan of remaining in solitude for three years was brought to an end.
The birth of Kyokushin Karate
In 1950, Mas Oyama began his famous battles with bulls’ partly to test his strength and also to make the World notice the power of his Karate. Altogether, Oyama fought 52 bulls, killing 3 instantly and taking the horns of 49 with knife-handed blows. That it is not to say that it was all that easy for him. Oyama was fond of remembering that his first attempt just resulted in an angry bull. In 1957, at the age of 34, he was nearly killed in Mexico when a bull got some of his own back and gored him. Oyama somehow managed to pull the bull off and break off his horn. He was bedridden for 6 months while he recoverd from the usually fatal wound.
Mas Oyama opened his first “Dojo” in 1953 in Meijiro, Tokyo. This was the time that Mas Oyama’s karate strength was at its peak so the training was severe. Many students were members of other styles and Mas Oyama would compare styles and build on his own karate. He would take what he felt were the best techniques and concepts from any Martial Art and gradually fit them into his training; therefore, laying the foundation of Kyokushin Karate. Practitioners of other styles came to train here too, for the jis-sen kumite (full contact fighting). One of the original instructors, Kenji Kato, has said that they would observe those from other styles, and adopt any techniques that “would be good in a real fight”. This was how Mas Oyama’s karate evolved. He took techniques from all martial arts, and did not restrict himself to karate alone.
The current World Headquarters were officially opened in June 1964, where the name Kyokushin, meaning “Ultimate truth” was adopted. In the same year the International Karate Organization (IKO) was established. From then, Kyokushin continued to spread to more than 120 countries, and registered members exceed 35 million making it one of the largest martial arts organisations in the world. Among the better known Kyokushin yudansha (black belts) are Sean Connery (Honorary shodan), Dolph Lundgren (sandan, former Australian heavyweight champion), the President Nelson Mandela of South Africa (Honorary hachidan), Francisco Filho, Andy Hug, Glaube Feitosa, Semmy Schilt, Georges St-Pierre, multiple winner of the World’s Strongest Man title and MMA fighter Mariusz Pudzianowski
The word “Kyokushin” literally translates as “the way of the ultimate truth”. While there are many interpretations of this, basically it means the further you go down the path of Kyokushin Karate, the more you begin to learn about yourself.
Kyokushin Karate is Budo (fighting) Karate and not sports karate. It is practical and readily usable in everyday life. It is a style noted for its power and effectiveness and is known the world over by the name “the strongest Karate”.
Kyokushin Karate develops spirit through the depth of training involved and the high level of conditioning undertaken. This fighting spirit will allow you to keep going even when you think you can do no more. During training this fighting spirit will be tested frequently.
In 1952, Mas Oyama gave a demonstration in Hawaii. A young Bobby Lowe saw him and was stunned by the power Oyama demonstrated. It was not as though Bobby Lowe was inexperienced in martial arts. Though still quite young, his achievements to date were not much less than those of Mas Oyama himself. His father had been a Kung Fu instructor, and he had participated in any fighting art he could find. By the age of 23, he was yondan in judo, nidan in kempo, shodan in aikido, and a highly regarded welterweight boxer.
It was not long before Bobby Lowe became the first Kyokushin uchi deshi or “live-in student” of Mas Oyama’s. He trained daily with Mas Oyama for one and a half years. Eventually, an uchi deshi‘s time became “1000 days for the beginning”. These uchi deshi became known as Wakajishi, or the “Young Lions” of Mas Oyama and only a few of the hundreds of applicants were chosen each year for the privilege of training full time under the Master.In 1957, Bobby Lowe returned to Hawaii to open the first School of Oyama outside Japan.