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Kyokushin kaikan (?????) is a style of stand-up, full contact karate, founded in 1964 by Masutatsu Oyama (????, Oyama Masutatsu?) who was born under the name Choi Yong-I (???). Kyokushinkai is Japanese for “the society of the ultimate truth.” Kyokushin is rooted in a philosophy of self-improvement, discipline and hard training. Its full contact style has had international appeal (practitioners have over the last 40+ years numbered more than 12 million).
Kyokushin has influenced many of the “full-contact” schools of karate, emphasizing realistic combat, physical toughness, and practicality in its training curriculum. Many other martial arts organizations have “spun-off” from Kyokushin over the years, with some adding additional techniques, such as grappling, but continuing with the same philosophy of realistic and practical training methods.The new techniques of the grappling are still only a back up. Most fighters prefer to stand.
The following is a brief overview of the early life of Masutatsu “Mas” Oyama.
The founder of Kyokushin, Masutatsu Oyama, was born Choi Yong-i on 27 July 1923 in Il-Loong, Korea, during the long period of Japanese occupation. As a young child, Oyama enjoyed fighting and watching others fight. This eventually led him to study the Korean martial art Taekkyon. In 1938, he emigrated to Japan and studied Okinawan Karate under Gichin Funakoshi, eventually gaining 2nd dan. Later, Oyama also trained under Yoshida Kotaro, a famous Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu/Yanagi-ryu Aiki-jujutsu master (from whom he received his menkyo kaiden – an older form of grade, a scroll signifying mastery, from Kotaro. This scroll is still on display at the Honbu dojo in Tokyo.
Also, upon the advice of his mentor and well-known Member of the National Diet, Matsuhei Mori, around this time the young master took his Japanese name, Masutatsu Oyama, the name he would use for the rest of his life. After World War II, Oyama began his training in Goju Ryu karate under a Korean master in Japan, So Nei Chu, who ran a dojo in Tokyo along with the renowned Goju teacher, Gogen Yamaguchi. He would finally attain 8th Dan in Goju Ryu Karate. Another influential master he met whilst training at the Goju school was Masahiko Kimura, the renowned champion of judo who defeated Hélio Gracie. Kimura encouraged Oyama to take up judo so that he would have an understanding of the art’s powerful ground skills. Kimura introduced Oyama to the Sone Dojo in Nakano, Tokyo, where he trained regularly for four years, eventually gaining his 4th Dan.
It was after this time that Oyama first retreated into the mountains for one of his well-known solitary training periods, yamagomori. He completed two such retreats for a total of almost three years of solitary training in accord with the ascetic traditions of many of the great warriors of Japan through the centuries. During this period of isolated training, Oyama engaged in intense shugyo, or spiritual discipline.
In the early 1950s, Oyama traveled to the USA, visiting 32 states and demonstrating the power of his karate against all comers.
In 1953, Oyama opened his own karate dojo, named “Oyama Dojo,” in Tokyo but continued to travel around Japan and the world giving martial arts demonstrations, including bare-handed challenges. His first ‘dojo’ was a vacant lot in Mejiro, Tokyo. In 1956, Oyama moved the dojo into the ballet studio attached to Rikkyo University. Oyama’s own curriculum soon developed a reputation as a tough, intense, hard-hitting, and practical style which he named “Kyokushin” in a ceremony in 1957. As the reputation of the dojo grew, students were attracted to come to train there from Japan and beyond and numbers grew.
In 1964, Oyama moved the dojo into a building he refurbished not far from the ballet studio at Rikkyo. Oyama also formally founded the “International Karate Organization Kyokushinkaikan” (commonly abbreviated to IKO or IKOK), to organize the many schools that were by then teaching the Kyokushin style. This dojo at 3-3-9 Nishi-Ikebukuro, in the Toshima area of Tokyo, remains the world headquarters to this day.
After formally establishing the Kyokushinkaikan, Oyama directed the organization through a period of expansion. Oyama hand-picked instructors who displayed ability in marketing the style and gaining new members. Oyama would choose an instructor to open a dojo in another town or city in Japan. The instructor would move to that town and usually demonstrate his karate skills in public places, such as at the civic gymnasium, the local police gym (where many judo students would practice), a local park, or conduct martial arts demonstrations at local festivals or school events. In this way, the instructor would soon gain students for his new dojo. After that, word of mouth would spread through the local area until the dojo had a dedicated core of students. Oyama also sent instructors to other countries such as the Netherlands (Kenji Kurosaki), Australia (Shigeo Kato), the United States of America (Tadashi Nakamura, Shigeru Oyama and Yasuhiko Oyama, Miyuki Miura) and Brazil (Seiji Isobe) to spread Kyokushin in the same way. In 1969, Oyama staged the First All Japan Full Contact Championships which took Japan by storm and Terutomo Yamazaki has become the first champion. Also in 1975, the First Open Full Contact World Karate Championships. From that time, world championships have been held at four-yearly intervals, although under the current confusion of self-proclaimed representative organizations, there are up to five so-called “world championships” claiming to represent Kyokushin.
Upon Oyama’s death, the International Karate Organization (IKO) splintered into several groups, primarily due to conflict over who would succeed Oyama as Chairman and the future structure and philosophy of the organization. Currently, the issue remains unresolved, although a series of court cases over the last 13 years appears to be coming to an end with a result finally due in the near future. Shokei (Akiyoshi) Matsui was named as his successor, even though Matsui was junior to many others in the IKO organization. Matsui claimed that he personally owned the intellectual rights to all Kyokushin trademarks, symbols, and even the name Kyokushin. However, the Japanese legal system subsequently ruled against Matsui in this matter, returning the ownership of Oyama’s intellectual property to his family.
Existing as a single organization under the leadership of the founder, Mas Oyama, the Kyokushin organization, after the Master’s passing, broke down into various groups, each claiming their own authority as representing the original Honbu.