Kyokushin karate was created by Sosai Masutatsu Oyama. Oyama lived in Korea, China and Japan, and trained in several styles of martial arts, including kempo, judo, Goju-ryu karate and Shotokan karate. Oyama used his knowledge of the martial arts to create his own style, which he named Kyokushin in 1964. Kyokushin means “the ultimate truth” in Japanese. Oyama believed karate practice should include intense, rigorous training methods. Oyama died in 1994, but many of the training methods continue. These training methods include sparring, physical exercise and kata.
Kyokushin is known for its full-contact sparring training. Unlike many other martial arts styles, Kyokushin students do not typically use protective gear during sparring practice. Kyokushin schools try to provide realistic and practical sparring matches. Students block with their bare arms and receive blows to their midsections in order to toughen their bodies. The “100 Man Kumite” is a famous sparring feat that has been completed by some Kyokushin practitioners. During this kumite, which means “sparring” in Japanese, students must complete two-minute rounds with 100 opponents.
In order to condition students for sparring matches and combat, Kyokushin schools focus a lot of time on rigorous physical exercise. According to the American Kyokushin Karate Organization’s website, one of the style’s commandments states that, “All selfish desires should be roasted in the tempering fires of hard training.” At one point in his life, Oyama spent 12 hours each day training in the wilderness. He trained under cold waterfalls, broke river stones with his bare hands and used trees as striking boards. Oyama also jumped over flax plants hundreds of times each day. Today’s Kyokushin practitioners routinely perform exercises such as push-ups, sit-ups, squats, jumping jacks and mountain climbers. The AKKO requires 60 of each of these exercises as part of its black belt test.
Kyokushin students also train in kata. Kata is a Japanese word that means “form.” Katas are choreographed forms, or patterns, in which martial artists practice kicks, blocks and strikes. According to the Sosai Masutatsu Oyama website, Kyokushin’s creator said that, “A human life gains luster and strength only when it is polished and tempered.” Kata is a training method for polishing a Kyokushin student’s techniques. Students must remember and refine each technique of a kata through practice. The practice of kata is a training method that Kyokushin uses to blend mental and physical conditioning. The practice of kata is also a way that Kyokushin schools pay respect to the origins of martial arts.
By Mike McLaughlin