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10 Interesting Facts About Karate Kyokushin

Karate Kyokushin is a martial art practiced throughout the world. It differs from other styles of karate by having, in its rules of competition, be the first to adopt full contact.

Since its inception in 1964, it has gained many supporters through demonstrations by its founder, Masutatsu Oyama, and his supporters. With a focus on discipline and hard training, Kyokushin has become one of the most influential fighting styles in recent decades.

In this article, learn 10 interesting facts about karate Kyokushin!

The founder of Karate Kyokushin is not Japanese

Choi Yeong-eui was born in Gimje, a Korean territory that the Japanese occupied. He spent his childhood in Manchuria and later moved to Japan, where he enlisted in the Japanese imperial army’s flight school. His trip to Japan made him adopt the name Masutatsu Oyama.

Oyama held 5 world championships.

Before his death, karate Kyokushin was run by only one world organization. The first world championship was held in November 1975, with 128 competitors from 32 countries. On that occasion, as in all editions held while Oyama was still alive, the champion was Japanese. At the time, there were already styles derived from Kyokushin, but the style itself was not yet divided. 

The first world champion was Katsuaki Sato, followed by Makoto Nakamura (two-time champion) and Kenji Midori. This is the biggest and most important championship of the style, held every four years. The fights are held over three days in a single key.

The meaning of the name Kyokushin

The name Kyokushinkai is divided into three kanji, the first of which, “kyoku,” means supreme, and “shin,” is true. The third character is “kai,” which means association or group. Therefore, the name Kyokushin kai means an association of supreme truth.

This concept of truth expressed in the name refers to the inner search the practitioner must perform to find his true nature, making his true potential flourish through hard training.

Most katas are inherited from other karate styles.

Before founding karate Kyokushin, Masutatsu Oyama practiced other styles of karate, having reached the fourth dan in Shotokan, and the seventh dan in Goju-Ryu.

The Kata, along with kumite and kihon, are the three basic elements of Kyokushin. Yes, that classification is made according to its origin. The Northern Kata are derived mainly from the Shotokan, while the southern Kata comes mostly from the Goju-Ryu. Oyama learned the northern Kata through Gichin Funakoshi, his Shotokan style master. With this, he sought to apply much of what he learned in his previous experiences in his new style.

The world championship with the largest number of participants

Although the expansion of the Kyokushin style continued even after the death of its founder, the world championship with the largest number of athletes participating was held while he was still alive.

The fifth open world championship was held between November 2 and 4, 1991. It counted with the participation of 250 athletes coming from 105 countries. The champion of this edition was Japanese Kenji Midori.

Styles derived from Kyokushin

Former karate Kyokushin practitioners develop many styles. With various emphases, these teachers incorporated techniques from other martial arts, including face punches, projections, and ground techniques.

Karate Kyokushin track system

The system of different color bands comes from judo for those who don’t know. This system was developed to structure the curriculum to be learned by the practitioner and attest to its evolution. In Kyokushin, as in many martial arts of Japanese origin, graduations are divided into kyu and dan. The smaller your kyu, and the bigger your dan, the more graduated you are.

When you start practicing, you’re a white belt, tenth kyu. You may be approved for the orange lane when you take the lane exam, meaning you have reached the ninth kyu. The practitioner does not necessarily have to go through all the kyu. If he shows above-average skill during the lane exam, he can skip one or two kyus. The practitioner who reaches the brown belt with black stripes has reached the first kyu. When he takes the black belt exam and passes, he uses a black belt with a gold stripe, meaning he is now considered the first dan. Periodically, you may be given exams as you advance in your practice and reach the eighth dan.

Actors who have practiced or practice Karate Kyokushin

Because it is a fighting sport found almost all over the world, it is not difficult to find any celebrity who practices or has practiced karate Kyokushin. Whether to keep fit, learn techniques that can be used in their films, or even compete, some actors have trained the sport, some even becoming black tracks.

Let’s go to some of them: Dolph Lundgren, Michael Jay White, Sean Connery, Sonny Chiba.

Movies about But Oyama

The manga Karate Baka Ichidai, based on the life of Masutatsu Oyama, was published in 1971 in Weekly Shonen Magazine. This manga gave rise to 47 episodes and a trilogy of films. In 1975, Champion of Death and Karate Bearfighter were launched. It was Karate for Life’s turn to be released two years later. In the trilogy, as mentioned earlier, Masutatsu Oyama is played by actor Sonny Chiba. In 2004, a Korean adaptation of Oyama’s story was released, starring Korean actor Yang Dong-Geun.

Karate Kyokushin Black Belt President

Did you know that the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, is a black belt karate Kyokushin?

In 2014, at the age of 62, Putin received the eighth grade of karate Kyokushin by the organization Kyokushin-kan. Besides karate Kyokushin, Putin is ninth-degree taekwondo and fifth-degree judo. 

Karate Kyokushin at MMA

When we think about karate Kyokushin in MMA, soon comes to mind the name Georges St-Pierre, who indeed was the most successful karateka in the sport. However, the more attentive practitioner may have noticed the presence of Kyokushin fighters in the MMA, or all-rounders, as they were known at the time, long before St-Pierre made his first professional fight. Since before this sport was named, Kyokushin has been represented in mixed martial arts.

Let’s take a few examples:

Gerard Gorde

In Kyokushin, Gordeau participated in 1979, 1984, and 1987 World Cups

The 1.96 Dutch giant was the finalist in the first edition of the UFC in 1993, losing to Royce Gracie. He also participated in the Vale-Tudo Japan tournament in 1995, where the winner was Rickson Gracie.

Bas Rutten

Bas Rutten is a member of the UFC Hall of Fame and was the first Dutchman to win the belt of the event. In addition to being the UFC heavyweight champion, won in 1999, Rutten was three times champion of the Japanese King of Pancrase event.

Semmy Schilt

Before shining in the K-1 rings, Semmy Schilt was King of Pancrase champion between 1999 and 200. He also fought in events like Pride and UFC. Besides these pioneers, many other MMA fighters have passed through karate Kyokushin, such as Andrews Nakahara, Alain Ngalani, Sam Greco, Katsunori Kikuno, Nikita Krylov, Alexander Volkov, among others.

See some Kyokushin fighters in action at the MMA:

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