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Sosai Mas Oyama

Masutatsu (Mas) Oyama was born Yong-I Choi on the 27th July 1923 in a village in Southern Korea not far from the city of Gunsan. As an infant Mas Oyama was sent to live in Manchuria, Southern China on his sisters’ farm. This is where he began his Martial Arts training. When he was about 9 years old he began studying Southern Chinese Kempo with Mr Yi who was working on the farm. Upon returning to Korea at twelve he continued his training, this time in Korean Kempo.

In 1938 during the Sino-Japanese war Mas Oyama travelled to Japan to train to become a pilot. Attending aviation school in a foreign country did not work out well for him and he was forced to abandon his desire to survive basic demands of life.

Oyama was determined to find success in some field of study. He continued his Martial Arts training now in Judo and Boxing. During this time he also discovered Okinowan Karate and began training at the Takushoku University under Ginchin Funakoshi. By 17 he was a 2nd Dan and by 20 a 4th Dan when he entered the Japanese Imperial Army. At this time he continued studying Judo and by the time he stopped after 4 years he had gained a 4th Dan. The defeat of the Japanese Army and the turmoil of the times affected Oyama deeply and he was thrown into much personal turmoil and confusion.

He then met Goju-Ryu Karate Master So Nei Chu, a Korean from his own province also now residing in Japan. Master So, one of the highest authorities on Goju Karate in Japan taught Oyama the inseparability of Budo and the spiritual foundations of religion. He lit a fire in Oyama’s heart and Oyama resolved to face all the challenges that lay ahead.

Oyama read the novel Musashi, based on the life Myamoto Musashi, Japans most famous swordsman. Oyama learned much of the way of the Samurai, Bushido, from this novel. At 23 Oyama went into training on Mt Minobu in the Chiba prefecture, the same place Musashi developed his Nito-Ryu style of fencing.

Yashiro, one of Oyama’s students accompanied him on what was to be a 3 year challenge. Oyama learned to overcome the solitude with vigorous training, however Yashiro could not, and fled their mountain hut after about 6 months. Oyama remained and vowed to be the most powerful Karateka in all of Japan. During this time in the mountains Oyama had a sponsor, Kayama, who would visit every month to deliver supplies. After 14 months he broke the news he could no longer sponsor Oyama’s training. Oyama returned to civilisation and a few months later competed in the first Japanese National Martial Arts Championships after World War 2. He easily won the Karate section.

Oyama still felt slightly empty at not having completed the full 3 years of mountain training. He decided to enter into a further period of intensive training. This time he chose a spiritually uplifting environment near a temple on Mt Kiyozumi, North East of Tokyo. Here Oyama trained 12 hours a day, every day. He did not rest a single day for 18 months. He trained physically as well as studying philosophy and Zen.

In 1950 Oyama first began his famous battles with bulls. He did this to test his own strength and to demonstrate his power. He fought 52 Bulls, killed 3 instantly and took the horns of 49 with knife hand blows.

In 1952 Oyama travelled to the US to continue demonstrating his Karate. There he fought challenges from any one who wanted to fight him, 270 in total. He fought professional boxers, wrestlers and anyone else who took the challenge. Oyama won every match and crushed most opponents with one punch in just a few seconds, no fight went longer than 3 minutes. Mas Oyama became known as Godhand, a living manifestation of the Japanese warrior’s maxim “Ichi geki Hissatsu” or “one strike certain death”.

In 1953 Oyama opened his first Dojo, a grass lot in Mejiro, Tokyo. June 1956 Mas Oyama opened a Dojo in a former Ballet studio and thus marked the true beginning of the Oyama Karate School. This was behind the Rikkyo University and just 500 meters from the current Honbu at Nishi-Ikebukuro.

Oyama was at his peak and training was severe, despite the extremely high drop out rate, over 90%, membership grew rapidly and by 1957 had 700 members.

Oyama continued to travel the world demonstrating his Karate and getting as much exposure to other styles of Martial Arts as he could. He picked the best aspects of each to develop his own Karate. During this time in 1957 he was gored by a Bull during one of his demonstrations. He was able to pull the Bull from himself and snap its horn off with a mighty blow. He was nearly killed and was hospitalised then bed ridden for 6 months. Through sheer force of will Oyama made a full recovery from what would normally have been a fatal wound.

1964 saw the official opening of the Honbu and it was during this time Oyama Karate adopted the name Kyokushin, meaning ultimate truth. From here Kyokushin continued to grow and spread to 120 countries with registered members exceeding 10 million. Oyama achieved this by hand picking instructors to travel to other areas and countries demonstrating the style and setting up Dojos.

Sosai (Grandfather) Mas Oyama died of  lung cancer (he was a non smoker) in April 1994 at the age of 70.

Today several different political factions exist but the Kyokushin Karate as taught by Sosai Mas Oyama is still practiced around the world whatever the particular political association.



related links

What is Karate  |  What is Kyokushin Karate

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