Who's Who in
Kyokushin kaikan (極真会館,
Kyokushin kaikan) is a style of stand-up, full contact karate, founded in
1964 by Masutatsu
Oyama (大山倍達, Ōyama Masutatsu) who was born under the name Choi
Yong-I (최영의). 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 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 studied Chinese and Korean Kempo. In 1938, he emigrated
to Japan and studied Judo and Okinawan Karate under
He attained "dan" status in both disciplines. He would eventually attain 4th
Dan in judo, and 2nd dan in karate under Funakoshi. He also trained under
Yoshida Kotaro, a famous Daito-ryu jujutsu/Yanagi-ryu Aiki-jujutsu master.
Oyama received his "Menkyo kaiden" - an older form of grade, a scroll
signifying mastery, from Kotaro.
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 trained 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. During this time, he retreated
into the mountains for a total of almost three years for solitary training
as was the ascetic tradition over the centuries of many of the great
warriors of Japan. During this period of isolated training, Oyama engaged in
intense shugyo, or spiritual discipline, forging a powerful and explosive
body ruled by a mind and will power second to none.
In the early fifties, 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
against. His first 'dojo' was a vacant lot in Mejiro, Tokyo. In 1956, Oyama
moved the dojo into the ballet studio attached to the 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 the building that would from then on
serve as the Kyokushin Honbu Dojo (world headquarters). 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 and his staff of hand-picked instructors displayed great
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
Holland, Australia, the United States of America and Brazil to spread
Kyokushin in the same way. In 1969, Oyama staged the First All Japan Full
Contact Championships and in 1975, the First Open Full Contact World Karate
Championships, which took Japan by storm. From that time, world
championships have been held at four-yearly intervals.
Upon Oyama's death, the International Karate Organization (IKO) splintered
into several groups, primarily due to inconsiderate 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. Based on what was quickly proved to
be a false and invalid will, 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 has recently ruled against Matsui and IKO
in this matter, returning the ownership of Oyama's intellectual property to
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 self-serving groups, each claiming
their own authority as representing the original Honbu. Various other
organizations have stemmed from Kyokushin and teach similar techniques but
go by different names. Also, numerous dojos throughout the world claim to
teach a Kyokushin curriculum without formal connection to the organization.
Although difficult to quantify, it is conjectured that the number of
students and instructors involved in learning or teaching the style or one
of its close variations around the world is significant and numbers in the
Controversy has continued to plague the Kyokushin organization
(International Karate Organization Kyokushinkaikan, usually shortened to the
abbreviation "IKO") since the death of Masutatsu Oyama. The family of Oyama
currently oversees one of the smaller IKO organizations which is based at
the original Honbu Dojo established by Oyama. Classes continue there daily
as well as in centers worldwide.
Oyama's widow passed away in June 2006 after a long illness. According to
the Japanese legal system the Custodian of Oyama's intellectual property and
legacy is the youngest of his daughters, Kikuko (also known as Kuristina).
Miss Oyama has maintained the original Honbu Dojo with her husband,
Yoshikazu Suzuki, since 1999. The IKO Honbu has expanded rapidly over the
last few years to now have members worldwide.
In addition, UFC star
Georges "Rush" St. Pierre utilizes the Kyokushin style.
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