History of Kyokushinkai Martial Arts
Masutatsu Oyama, also known as Hyung Yee Choi (his real name), was born in 1923, in Kinje, South-Western Korea, several miles away from the shore of the \yellow Sea, at approx. 180 miles south-west from Seoul.
While still a child, he leaves for Manchuria, south of China, in order to live on his sister’s farm; it is here that he first knows martial arts. At 9 years of age, he starts studying the South Chinese form of the Kempo style under master Yi’s (hired on the farm at that time) guidance. When, at 12 years of age, Oyama returns to Korea, he continues his training by studying the Korean Kempo training.
In 1938, when he is 15 years old, he leaves for Japan, intending to register with a military school and to become a pilot. However, this attempt fails, because at this time in Japan life is not exactly easy, and the dream of become a pilot of a military plane is pushed in the background. Oyama does not abandon, however, his training; he starts studying boxing and judo. Arriving at Tokyo, he is received in Gichin Funakoshi’s dojo at the Takushoku University, where he trains intensely. His evolution is remarkable; when he is 17 years old, he is a 2 DAN black belt, and at 20 years old (the time he enrolls in the Imperial Army) he has already 4 DAN. He also continues his judo training; in only 4 years, he has the 4 DAN black belt in judo.
Following Japan’s defeat, the prospect of a military occupation pushes Oyama in the arms of extreme despair. In this period, Oyama meets So Nei Chu, another Korean master from Oyama’s province of origin, as well as Sosai, who was an authority in Japan in Goju Ryu. The master is well-known for his physical strength and spiritual vigor. So Nei Chu is the one who guides Oyama to a life of martial arts. He is also the one to advise Oyama to withdraw in the mountains for three years in order to improve his art and to strengthen his body and spirit.
Several months later, in 1947, Mas Oyama wins the first National Martial Arts Championship after the Second World War. When he is 23 years old, Mas Oyama meets Eiji Yoshikawa, author of the novel Musashi, based on the most famous Japanese samurai’s life and adventures. The novel and the author have an overwhelming influence on sosai, introducing a fascinating world to him, the world of samurais, as well as a code, Bushido, which he will follow throughout the rest of his life.
Less than one year after meeting Yoshikawa, in 1948, Oyama withdraws in the Minoby mountain in the Chiba prefecture, sure that only an unusual experience could reveal to him the essence of Karate. In the same period, he begins a close study of Zen, which he thinks is an integral part of Karate, which makes him state that “Karate is Zen”. He is accompanied by one of his students, Yashiro, but six months later, because of the solitude and difficult training, the latter no longer holds the required mental strength and leaves Oyama. His student’s flee and the loneliness are hardly bearable, but Oyama does not give in and continues his training. More than one year and a half later, the sponsor who would usually send him food, announces Oyama he can no longer finance him; this way, the first period of training in the mountains is ended.
Since he does not have opponents to match his skills and being determined to prove the level of his training, during a series of demonstrations, Masutatsu Oyama decides to fight empty handed against bulls. In 1950, in front of thousands of spectators, he manages, following a titanic battle, to defeat a 450 kg bull and break its horn open handed (Shuto Uchi). In fact, it is for this strike that Oyama is famous – the ease with which he would take a bottle neck without any move of the bottle.
In March 1952, he is invited to Chicago by the professional association for fighting, together with judoka Kokochi Endo and with the professional Great Togo, from Hawaii. Following a large demonstration in Chicago, the three go on an American tour, until the month of November, challenging professional fighters and boxing fighters. Oyama wins all the matches by K.O. In 1955 he is awarded the 6th DAN by Gogen Yamaguchi. In 1957, Oyama travels to the northernmost islands of Hokkaido, where he stays six months. During this time, he tries to fight with a bear, but the match turns out impossible, because the bear is so high that Oyama cannot reach its head with the fist.
Mas Oyama return in the U.S.A. in 1959. He runs a series of demonstrations and opens “Mas Oyama’s Karate” in Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco. He also executes a series of demonstrations at the Washington D.C. F.B.I. headquarters. The demonstrations carry out to New York. In 1960, when Oyama leaves for New York in order to organize the North-American Karate Tour at Madison Square Garden, New York Times describes him as the “toughest man in the world”. Although he changes the name of the style from “Mas Oyama’s Karate” to “Kyokushinkai” in 1961, it is only in 1963 that he builds his headquarters, Honbu. In 1969 Oyama organizes the so-called “First open tour of the entire Japan”. In 1974 he receives the 9th DAN.
The day of April 26th, 1994 is a sad day for the Kyokushin movement throughout the world. The death of a legend, of a remarkable teacher shatters the world. Oyama has done more than create and develop a fighting system; his philosophy has given meaning and content to the lives of millions. He is considered one of the best karate trainers in the world; he has created a good name for Karate Kyokushin. His style is rough but correct. To the majority of the people he has been and will be “the toughest man in the world”.
“At times, I would come in contact with gangsters and there was always a possibility to associate with them; however, instead of becoming the head of a gang, I’ve chosen another path in life and have become a master”.