Sosai Masutatsu Oyama
The Founder of Kyokushinkai Karate – Masutatsu Oyama, was born Yong-I Choi, on 27 July 1923, in the tiny village of Wa-Ryongri Yong-chi Myonchul Na Do, in Southern Korea. At the age of nine, Masutatsu Oyama began studying Southern Chinese Kempo under the instruction of Mr. Yi. Having great aspirations Masutatsu Oyama felt his destiny was in Japan and he left Korea at the age of fifteen. It was during this time, that Yong-I Choi changed his name to that of the Japanese family that befriended and took him in, he changed his name to Oyama.
In 1938 Oyama wanted to serve his new home country and joined Japan’s Yamanashi Youth Air Force Academy with the intentions of becoming a Kamikaze pilot. Luckily on the day he was supposed to go on his suicide mission, there where technical problems with his plane and he was unable to take off. This proved to be fortunate for all his future students, as none of his companions returned from the mission. In that same year that he joined the air force, Masutatsu Oyama also became a student of Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of Shotokan Karate. It was this man that Masutatsu Oyama would later refer to as his true karate teacher. Oyama always spoke highly of Gichin Funakoshi and referred to Kata as the most important thing he learned from him. By the age of 18 “Mas” Oyama reached Nidan in Shotokan Karate (second level black). “Mas” Oyama, being extremely patriotic towards his adopted country, always volunteered for Military duty. Subsequently at the end of World War II, he was so dishonoured and disheartened by the defeat of Japan that his future in Martial Arts became questionable.
Fortunately Oyama met a Korean (who also came from the same province as Oyama), Master Nei-Chu So. Master So was a Gojo-Ryu karate-ka who was renowned for his physical and spiritual strength. It was he that encouraged “Mas” Oyama to dedicate his life to the Martial Way. Not only did “Mas” Oyama start to learn Gojo-Ryu but he also took up the practice of Judo and after four years he received his Yondan (fourth level black) rank in Judo.
The turning point in Oyama’s life was in 1946 (“Mas” Oyama now being 23) when his Gojo-ryu instructor told him to go away and train in solitude. Knowing that to fully succeed in Karate he needed to give himself completely to training, he was determined to meet the challenge head on. Taking with him only his books and basic necessities, he began an arduous training regimen atop Mount Minobu in the Chiba Prefecture.
Isolated in the mountains for 18 months, Oyama tested himself against nature’s elements by training under waterfalls, using trees and rocks as makiwaras to condition his body and continually pushing himself beyond his limits. Training from 5 in the morning, he would start by running up steep slopes, lifting rocks as weights and performing kata and kihons continuously. At the end of his training he would study various philosophical writings, play the flute and sit in zazen and meditate. During this time he started to envision himself defeating a bull with his bare hands. Knowing that if he could get strong enough, he would get fame, and fame he knew would be a potent tool to attract other people with similar strengths and virtues.
After his eighteen months of training, “Mas” Oyama returned from the mountains and entered the first karate tournament since the end of World War II( held in Japan) and emerged victorious. But this victory did not satisfy Oyama and knowing that he could achieve more he returned to the mountains. After another year of training fourteen hours a day he finally ended his isolation. Ready to apply that which he has learned, he decided to put his expertise to an ultimate test; man against beast. He started to work at a slaughter house, which provided him with both an income and adversaries. He fought against 52 bulls of which 3 were killed instantly and 49 had their horns taken off with knife-hand blows. This feat was not easy, taking in consideration that his first attempt just resulted in an angry bull.
In 1952 “Mas” Oyama travelled to the United States of America. He demonstrated his karate on television and took on all sorts of challengers, resulting in fights with over 270 different people. Most were defeated with just one punch and no fight lasted more than 3 minutes. His fighting principle was simple – if he got through to you, the fight was over. This earned him the title of “Godhand”, a living embodiment of the Japanese warriors’ maxim “Ichi Geki, Hissatsu” – “One strike, certain death”.
All these feats brought fame to Oyama and he used his notoriety to help him establish his Kyokushin organization. For nearly fifty years, over 15 million members were witness to his extraordinary skills. From his martial techniques to the gentleness of his nature, “Mas” Oyama’s teachings and that of his Kyokushin instructors has placed value and meaning in all who is associated to his style of martial arts.
Oyama was a living legend until he passed away suddenly on April 26, 1994, at the age of 71. He was able to take on any challenge and rose through poverty and adversity, but the real enemy was lung cancer. For years the cancer ate away at his insides unknown to “Mas” Oyama. His greatest wish was to train until the day he died and it was granted. His last training session was at his home dojo with his most beloved students, just three days before he died in hospital. His death was met with sadness by the entire martial arts community.
IFK Kyoksuhin Karate
Hanshi Steve Arneil