From The Martial Arts Encyclopedia

Kyokushin is a style of stand-up, full contact karate, founded in 1964 by Masutatsu Oyama (大山倍達) who was born under the name Choi Yeong-Eui (최영의). Kyokushinkai is Japanese for "the society of the ultimate truth." A very practical method of self defense, Kyokushin is deep rooted in the philosophies of self-improvement, discipline and hard training. Its full contact style has had international appeal (practitioners number between 10 million and 20 million[1][2][3].

Kyokushin has influenced much of the "full-contact" school of karate, emphasizing realistic combat, physical toughness, and practicality in its training curriculum. Many other martial arts organizations have "spun-off" of 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, although several prominent karate leaders, including Jon Bluming, one of the original students of Mas Oyama, openly question the veracity of certain elements of this story:<ref>WR, Jon Bluming, Europe’s first Mixed Martial Artist, [4]</ref>

The founder of Kyokushin, Masutatsu Oyama, was born Choi Yeong-eui on 27 July 1923 in South Korea. As a young child, Oyama studied Chinese and Korean Kempo. In 1938, he emigrated to Japan and studied Judo and Okinawan Karate under Gichin Funakoshi. He attained upper rank or "dan" status in both disciplines. He would eventually attain 4th Dan in judo, and 2nd dan in karate under Funakoshi. He would also train under Yoshida Kotaro, a famous Daito-ryu jujutsu/yanagi-ryu Aikijujutsu master. Although details are unknown, Kotaro presented Oyama with a "Menkyo kaiden" - an older form of grade, a scroll signifying mastery. Also, at this time he took his Japanese name, Masutatsu Oyama, in order to better assimilate into Japan. Masutatsu, or simply, Mas, Oyama was the name he would primarily use for the rest of his life. After World War II, Oyama trained in Goju Ryu karate under a Korean master- So Nei Chu. He would finally attain 8th Dan in Goju ryu karate, the final grades given to him by the Japanese Goju ryu legend Gogen Yamagushi. During this time, he retreated into the mountains for almost three years to train in solitude. Oyama engaged in intense, full-time martial arts training during this period and also traveled to the U.S. to engage in exhibition bouts with professional wrestlers.

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 the fighting and killing of live bulls with his bare hands. His dojo was first located outside in an empty lot, but eventually moved into a ballet school 1956. Oyama's own curriculum soon developed a reputation as a tough, intense, hard-hitting, but practical style, which was finally named "kyokushin" in a ceremony 1957. He also developed a reputation for being "rough" with his students, often injuring them, during training sessions. As the reputation of the dojo grew, students were attracted to come to train there from in and outside Japan and the number of students grew. Many of the eventual senior leaders of today's various Kyokushin-based organizations began training in the style during this time. In 1964, Oyama moved the dojo into the building that would from then on serve as the kyokushin home dojo and world headquarter. In connection with this he also formally founded the organization "International karate organization kyokushinkaikan" (commonly abbreviated to IKO or IKOK), to organize the many schools that was by then teaching the kyokushin style.

1964 to 1994

After formally establishing Kyokushin-kai, 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 a few 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 United States of America and Brazil to spread Kyokushin in the same way. Upon Oyama's death, the International Karate Organization (IKO) splintered into several groups, in part due to conflict over who would succeed Oyama as chief and the future structure and philosophy of the organization. It was reported that Oyama named Matsui as his successor from his death bed, even though Matsui was junior to many others in the IKO organization. Some of the other senior members accepted Matsui as the new chief, and some didn't and left the organization. Matsui claimed that he and IKO 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.

Kyokushin Today

Originally existing as a single organization, Kyokushinkai now exists as several large organizations with the "Kyokushin" title, plus various other organizations that teach similar techniques but go by different names. Also, numerous dojo throughout the world claim to teach a Kyokushin curriculum without formally belonging to one of the Kyokushin "umbrella" organizations. Although diffcult 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

Some controversy has plagued the Kyokushin organization (International Karate Organization Kyokushinkaikan, usually shortened to the abbreviation "IKO") since the death of Masutatsu Oyama. Shokei Matsui assumed leadership based on a will that soon became contested. In a meeting of the branch chiefs it was decided by vote to request Matsui to relinquish the leadership, and when he refused to do so the organization split into what is today known as IKO1 and IKO2 (shin-kyokushin). Many other splits and rifts soon followed. In the resulting power and legal struggles, many factions of the original IKO has formed. Many using the identical IKO name and claiming to be the one and original organization, with differing and hotly debated arguments and proof to support this. To differ the identically named organizations, many today use a number after the IKO abbreviation (IKO1, IKO2 and so on) to separate them. This is entirely a custom of convenience, and has no official use.

Oyama's widow died in June 2006 after a long illness. The youngest of Oyama's daughters Kikuko (also known as Kuristina) has maintained the original Honbu Dojo with her husband, Yoshikazu Suzuki, after it was returned to them by Matsui in anticipation of a court order to do so in 1999, and recently formed an organization using the IKO name.

The organizations that resulted from the split after Oyama's death are generally recognized as three large IKO groups and a few smaller ones. The "Matsui" IKO group (often referred to as IKO1) led by Shokei Matsui, is reportedly the largest and most commercially oriented. It is from this group that the other groups splintered. The "Midori" IKO group (often referred to as IKO2) led by Kenji Midori, is the second largest group. In 2002, the organization changed their name in Japan to the WKO (World Karate Organization) Shin-kyokushin kaikan. Outside of Japan, the organization still uses the IKO naming convention. The "Matsushima" IKO group (often referred to as IKO3) led by Yoshikazu Matsushima, is the third largest group. The "Tekuza" IKO group (often referred to as IKO4) led by Toru Tezuka, is considerably smaller than the top three. This organization split from the "Matsushima" IKO group in 2000. The "Oyama" or "Oyama Family" IKO group is the most recent addition; led by Oyama's youngest daughter, Kikuko. This group was started after Kikuko Oyama won the copyrights to the names in court 2003, however this legal decision has not pressured the other groups to as of yet change their names.

There are several other groups that have formed for the purpose of teaching the kyokushin style without using the name IKO. The Rengokai (or Kyokushin Union) was formed 2001 out of a alliance of by several independent kyokushin instructors and profiles. The Kyokushin-kan group, created by Hatsuo Royama who left the Matsui group in 2003. The International Federation of Karate (IFK), led by Steve Arneil of England - former Branch Chief of Oyama, was formed in 1991 before Oyama's death. Kyokushin Budo Kai (KBK) was created by Jon Bluming who was expelled from IKO in 1967. It too recently splintered into two different groups who both at the moment still use the same name - one led by Jon Bluming the other by Gerard Gordeau.

Techniques and Training

Kyokushin<ref></ref>training consists of three main elements: (1) technique, (2) forms, and (3) sparring. These are sometimes referred to as the three "K's" after the Japanese words for them: kihon (technique), kata (forms), and kumite (sparring).

Technique (kihon)

The Kyokushin system is based on traditional karate like shotokan and Goju Ryu, but incorporates many elements of combat sports like boxing and kickboxing in kumite. Many techniques are not found in other styles of karate. Today, some kyokushin fighters (like Francisco Filho and Glaube Feitosa) appear in kickboxing events like K-1, but apart for some exceptions, Kyokushin does not allow its students to appear in paid fights and remain with the style. In the past this has caused many highranking competitors to leave the organization, even if they continue practice the art and skills of kyokushin.

In this form of karate the instructor and its students all must take part in hard sparring to prepare them for full contact fighting. Unlike some forms of karate, Kyokushin places high emphasis on full contact fighting which is done without any gloves or protective equipment. This apparent brutality is tempered somewhat due to the fact that you are not allowed to use a non-kick or non-knee strike to hit your opponent in the face, thus greatly reducing the possibility of serious injury. Knees or kicks to the head and face on the other hand are allowed.

In the earliest kyokushin tournaments and training sessions bare knuckle strikes to the face were allowed, but resulted in many injuries, and thus, students who were forced to withdraw from training. Mas Oyama believed that wearing protective gloves would detract from the realism that the style emphasizes. Therefore, it was decided that hand and elbow strikes to the head and neck would no longer be allowed in training and competition. Also, many governments don't allow bare knuckle strikes to the head in sanctioned martial arts competitions, providing further reason. The vast majority of Kyokushin organizations and "offshoot" styles today still follow this philosophy. However, at least one organization, Kyokushin-Kan, is attempting to bring face punching back into the training curriculum in a relatively safe way.<ref></ref>

Technically kyokushin is a circular style. This is in opposition to Shotokan karate which is counted as a linear style, and closer to goju ryu which is counted as circular. Shotokan and Goju Ryu were the two styles of karate that Oyama learned before creating his own style. However, Oyama studied Shotokan for only a couple of years, before he switched to Goju Ryu where he got his advanced training. This reflects in Kyokushin, where the early training closely resembles Shotokan but gradually changes closer to the circular techniques and strategies of goju ryu, the higher you advance in the system.

Forms (kata)

Northern Kata

The northern kata have their origins in Shotokan karate, which Oyama learned while training under Gichin Funakoshi.

  • Kanku Dai
  • Sushiho

Kyokushin unique Northern Kata

Southern Kata

The southern kata have their origins in Goju Ryu karate, which Oyama learned while training under Gogen Yamaguchi.

  • Sanchin
  • Gekisai Dai
  • Gekisai Sho
  • Tensho
  • Saifa
  • Seienchin
  • Seipai

Kyokushin unique Southern Kata

The following katas are not traditional: they are not from Okinawa karate or any other karate systems. They were developed within Kyokushin with a Naha-Te perspective.

  • Garyu
  • Yantsu
  • Tsuki

Ura Kata

Several kata are also done in ura. This means that on every other step forward, the practitioner slides his back leg behind his front leg and around to the position it would have been in had he stepped forward. This in effect produces a spin on one foot.

Tate Kata

Unique to IKO3, Yoshikazu matsushima developed a version of several kata in tate. This means that all ninety degree angle turns become 180 degree turns, beginning with a step forward, creating a straight line. The last step in the kata is a turn to face forward rather than a final step.

Sparring (kumite)

Sparring is used to train the application of the various techniques within a fighting situation. Sparring is usually an important part of training in most Kyokushin organizations, especially at the upper levels with experienced students.

In most Kyokushin organizations, hand and elbow strikes to the head or neck are prohibited. However, kicks to the head, knee strikes, punches to the upper body, and kicks to the inner and outer leg are permitted. In some Kyokushin organizations, especially outside of a tournament environment, gloves and shin protectors are worn. Children always wear head gear to lessen the impact of any kicks to the head. Speed and control are instrumental in sparring and in a training environment it is not the intention of either practitioner to injure his opponent as much as it is to successfully execute the proper strike. Tournament under [knock-down rules] is significantly different as the objective is to down your opponent. Full-Contact sparring in Kyokushin is considered the ultimate test of strength, endurance, and spirit.



Typical Kyokushin Karate Belt Order

Kyokushin karate has a belt grading system similar to other martial arts. The belt assigned to each student upon commencing training is a white belt. With each successful grading attempt the student is awarded a kyu ranking, and either a stripe on his current belt or a new belt color altogether. Grading, or promotion tests, include the cumulation of calisthenic and aerobic workout, kihon (basics), ido geiko (moving basics), goshinjitsu (self defence), sanbon and ippon kumite (three and one step sparring), kata (predescribed series of movements/forms), tameshiwari (board, tile or brick breaking) and kumite (contact free fighting). Achieving a 1st dan black belt, or shodan, can take anywhere from three to ten years of training. The test for a shodan can take from two to six hours, much of which is extreme callisthenic training. it is required that the practitioner perform 100 push-ups, sit-ups, and jumping jacks per dan, along with 10 one minute full contact fights per dan, with no protective gear other than a groin guard and mouth guard. The red belt is often reserved only for practitioners under the age of thirteen. Those practitioner under the age of thirteen are usually given Junior ranks, denoted by a horizontal black stripe running the length of the belt. A belt may be awarded only by a teacher at least two ranks higher than the desired belt. At the highest ranks (6th dan and above) tests are performed by international committee.

Each belt has a different number of fights required for the rank. Typically they are as follows, with stripes requiring an additional fight for each rank: Black 10 +10 per dan. Brown 8 Green 6 Blue 2 Orange/Red 4 Yellow 1 White 0

Competition and Tournaments

Tournament competition is an important part of Kyokushin and most Kyokushin organizations sponsor local, national, and international competitions. Kyokushin tournaments are held throughout the year on every continent in the world, but the largest are held in Japan where they are televised on Japanese television and draw crowds of thousands. Tournaments are organized as either weight category or open tournaments. IKO1 is holding their 9th World Tournament Open on November 16-18, 2007 in Tokyo, Japan. This event, nicknamed the Olympics of Kyokushin, are held every 4 years.

Kyokushin culture believes that accepting a "challenge" represents a Kyokushin practitioner's commitment to the principles of the art. One way to participate in a challenge, in which a Kyokushin student tests his/her courage and desire to defeat one's adversary, is through tournament competition.

Most Kyokushin tournaments follow "knock-down" rules in which points are awarded for knocking one's opponent to the floor with kicks, punches, or sweeps. Grabbing and throwing are generally not allowed in Kyokushin tournaments. In the cases that they are, they are legal only if performed in less than a second. Hooks are usually legal if performed for a 'split second.' Arm or hand strikes to the head, face, neck or spine are usually not permitted, but kicks to the head are allowed. If however the opponent turns his back while the opponent is throwing a technique, there is no penalty. Outside of Japan straight kicks to the front of the knee are usually disallowed. Knock-outs do sometimes occur and minor to moderate injuries are common, but serious injuries are rare. The most common injuries are concussions, broken clavicles, and fractured limbs and sternums. Many Kyokushin tournaments follow an "open" format that allow competitors from any martial-arts style, not just Kyokushin, to enter and compete.

At least one Kyokushin organization, Kyokushin-kan, charges that some Kyokushin organizations have become too competition-focused and that thus, the "real-world" application of the art has suffered.<ref>Kyokushin-kan, [5].</ref>

Multi-man Sparring

One aspect of Kyokushin's grading system is requiring upper-belt candidates to fight with multiple opponents in succession with little rest in between each opponent. Also, the upper-belt candidate is expected to continue fighting even if injured in earlier matches or bouts. This method is designed to test the "fighting spirit," as well as the application of the technical knowledge that they've learned through (usually) years of studying the art. A favorable win to loss ratio is not necessarily required of the candidate (in most cases), just the ability to continue fighting until the test is over.

In addition to requiring multi-opponent sparring for upper-belt tests, a special tradition of Kyokushin has been the 50- and 100- man fight. The 100-man fight was designed as a special test for advanced practitioners of the art. In these extreme examples of multi-man fight, the subject of the test fights 50 to 100 opponents (depending on the test) in rapid succession, usually two-minute bouts separated by one-minute rest periods. The subject has to "win" (i.e. not get knocked-out) in at least 50-percent of the bouts in order to be deemed as passing the test. One example of someone who successfully completed the 100-man fight is Miyuki Miura. Reportedly, only 16 people have successfully completed the 100-man fight and 20- the 50-man fight. Masutatsu Oyama is reported to have completed a 300-man fight over 3 days. See Sosai or Masutatsu Oyama.<ref>Australian Kyokushin, [6]</ref>

Kyokushin in popular culture


Jin Kazama from Namco's Tekken series uses the art of Kyokushin Karate in Tekken 4, Tekken 5 and Tekken Dark Resurrection. He can be seen practicing Yansu and Naihanchi kata in various demonstration modes in the Tekken series. Kadonashi Shintaro from Namco's Urban Reign video game uses the art of Kyokushinkai. Hitomi from Tecmo's Dead or Alive series uses the art of Kyokushin Karate in Dead or Alive 3 and Dead or Alive 4. She can be seen practicing the kata Pinan Sono Yon in various demonstration modes in Dead or Alive 3 and Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball. While Hitomi's style of karate is never explicitly stated in-game, the ending credits of Dead or Alive 3 indicate the only karate martial arts consultant for the game is a practitioner of Kyokushinkai.

Solara from Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects is said to practice Kyokushinkai.

Kyokugenryu Karate is a fictional martial art from SNK Playmore's Art of Fighting, Fatal Fury and King of Fighters series. Kyokugenryu, which is practiced by Ryo Sakazaki, Robert Garcia, Yuri Sakazaki, Takuma Sakazaki and Marco Rodriguez/Khushnood Butt, is heavily based on Kyokushinryu Karate.


A trilogy of films starring Sonny Chiba and directed by Kazuhiko Yamaguchi were produced in Japan between 1975 and 1977: Champion of Death, Karate Bearfighter and Karate for Life. Chiba plays Master Oyama who also appears in two of the films.

Baramui Fighter (aka Fighter in the wind) (2004), Korean movie very loosely based on the story of Mas Oyama's earlier career. Starring Dong-kun Yang and directed by Yun-ho Yang.

Notable Kyokushin practitioners (former and current)

See also


External links