SOSAI MAS OYAMA
KYOKUSHIN KARATE FOUNDER
Sosai (President) Masutatsu Oyama, the founder of Kyokushin Karate,
was born in southern Korea in 1923. While living at his sister's
farm in Manchuria at the age of nine, he began his lifelong journey
along the Martial Way when he began studying the southern Chinese
form of kempo know as "Eighteen Hands". When Mas Oyama
returned to Korea at the age of 12, he continued his training
in Korean kempo.
Gichin FunakoshiIn 1938, at the age of 15, Mas Oyama moved to
Japan to train as an aviator, and continued his martial arts training
by participating in judo and boxing. Shortly afterwards, he began
training at the dojo of Gichin Funakoshi, who had brought karate
from Okinawa to Japan and developed what is now known as Shotokan
Karate. Mas Oyama's training progressed so rapidly that by the
age of 17, he was a Nidan (2nd Dan), and by the age of 20, he
was a Yondan(4th Dan) in Shotokan. At this point, Mas Oyama took
a serious interest in Judo , and in less than four years he achieved
the rank of Yondan in Judo as well.
Nei-Chu SoAfter the end of World War II, Mas Oyama began training
under Nei-Chu So, one of the highest authorities in Japan of Goju
Ryu , an Okinawan karate style. Master So, renowned for the power
of his body as well as his spiritual insight, encouraged Mas Oyama
to dedicate his life to Budo ??, the Martial Way. He suggested
that Mas Oyama retreat from civilization for three years to train
his mind and body without the distractions of the outside world.
Samurai WarriorsAround this time, Mas Oyama also met Eiji Yoshikawa,
the author of the novel MusashI, which was based on the life and
exploits of Miyamoto Musashi, Japan's most famous Samurai warrior.
Both the novel and the author helped to teach him the meaning
of Bushido , the Way of the Warrior. That same year, Mas Oyama
went to Mt. Minobu in Chiba Prefecture, where Musashi had developed
his style of sword fighting. Mas Oyama thought that this would
be an appropriate place to begin the rigorous training he had
planned for himself. Accompanied by a student, he went into the
wilderness there to train, with a friend bringing food supplies
to them once a month. After six months of training, his student
was unable to handle the solitude and secretly fed during the
night, leaving Mas Oyama completely alone to continue his training.
After fourteen months of training in the wilderness, his friend
informed Mas Oyama that he could no longer provide the monthly
supplies of food, and Mas Oyama had to return to civilization.
MakiwaraA few months later, in 1947, Mas Oyama won the karate
section of the first Japanese National Martial Arts Championships
after World War II. However, still feeling empty for not having
completed the three years of solitude, he decided to dedicate
his life completely to karate. Once again Mas Oyama left civilization
for the wilderness, this time going to Mt. Kiyozumi, also in Chiba
Prefecture, which he chose for its spiritually uplifting environment.
This time his training was fanatical – 12 hours a day, every
day, with no rest days, standing under cold buffeting waterfalls,
breaking river stones with his hands, using trees as Makiwara
(striking boards), jumping over rapidly growing flax plants hundreds
of times each day. Each day also included a period of study of
the ancients classics on the martial arts, Zen, and philosophy.
After eighteen months of rigorous training, Mas Oyama returned
to civilization fully confident in himself and able to take control
of his life.
In the 1950s, Mas Oyama began demonstrating his power and skill
by fighting bulls. In all, he fought 52 bulls, three of which
he killed instantly and 49 of whose horns he took off with Shuto
(knife hand) strikes. In 1952, Mas Oyama traveled throughout the
United States for a year, demonstrating his karate live and on
national television. During subsequent years, he took on all challengers,
resulting in fights with 270 different people. He defeated the
vast majority of his opponents with just one technique. A fight
never lasted more than three minutes, and rarely lasted more than
a few seconds. Mas Oyama's fighting technique was based on the
Samurai warriors' principle of "Ichi Geki Hissatsu",
or "One strike, certain death". If he got through to
you, the fight was over. If he hit you, you broke – if you
blocked his punch, your arm was broken or dislocated, if you didn't
block it, your rib was broken. Because of his strength and skill,
he became known as "the Godhand".
KyokushinkaiFirst DojoIn 1953, Mas Oyama opened his first "dojo"
on a grass lot in Tokyo. In 1955, he opened his first real dojo
in a former ballet studio behind Rikkyo University. In 1957, the
name Kyokushin, meaning "Ultimate Truth", was adopted
for Mas Oyama's karate organization, which had 700 members by
then, despite the high drop-out rate due to the severity of training.
Practitioners of other styles also came to train here for the
Jissen Kumite (full contact fighting). Mas Oyama would observe
those from other styles and adopt any techniques that would be
useful in a fight. By doing so, Kyokushin Karate evolved into
one of the most formidable style of martial arts in the world.
It soon became known as "The Strongest Karate", not
only because of the incredible feats of strength and endurance
that Mas Oyama performed, but also because of the rigorous requirements
of the training and tournaments.
Oyama TrainingIn order to test his own abilities, Mas Oyama decided
to perform a Three Hundred Man Kumite (San-Byakunin Kumite) in
three days. He chose the strongest students in his dojo to fight
him one at a time. After each had a turn, they started from the
beginning again until all three hundred fights were completed.
Each student had to face Mas Oyama about four times over the three
days, though some never made it past the first day due to Oyama's
powerful blows. He defeated all of his opponents, never wavering
in his resolve, despite the fact that he was injured in the process.
Legend has it that Mas Oyama was willing to go for a fourth day,
but no opponents were willing or able to do so.
SosaiSosaiSince its inception, Kyokushin Karate has spread to
more than 120 countries, with more than twelve million practitioners,
making it one of the largest martial arts styles in the world.
In 1992, Sosai Oyama visited the United States, and was the guest
of honor at the 1st Annual American International Karate Championships
in Rochester. His visit was featured in an article in the Japanese
magazine Power Karate Illustrated.
Sadly, Mas Oyama (a non-smoker) died of lung cancer in 1994.