KYOKUSHIN “THE STRONGEST KARATE”

Here Shokei Matsui is doing a “40 man kumite” where he fights 40 one and one half minute rounds against fresh opponents each time. Matsui eventually passed the “100 man kumite” challenge where he had to fight 100 continuous rounds against fresh opponents for each round.

The Hard Training and Powerful Techniques of Kyokushin Karate

Kyokushin Karate is a powerful and physically demanding style of karate known for its tough training methods and full-contact sparring. Founded in 1964 by Korean-Japanese karate master Masutatsu Oyama, Kyokushin has become one of the most influential karate styles in the world.

While retaining its emphasis on tradition, honor, and respect, in modern times, when full contact sparring was taught in almost all schools, it is now known as the strongest version of karate, and hence one of the best versions for self-defense. Kyokushinkai training develops strength, balance, agility, coordination, endurance, and fitness.

History and Origins

Mas Oyama was born Choi Young-Eui in southern Korea in 1923. At a young age, he moved to Japan where he started training in karate while still a teenager. He studied both Shotokan and Goju. Dissatisfied with the lack of contact and realistic training in most karate schools at the time, Oyama decided to create his own style focused on developing powerful techniques through hard sparring and conditioning. His style also used both the straight line attacking methods of Shotokan and the circular blocking methods of Goju.

In 1953, Oyama did a legendary feat of fighting 100 martial artists in a row, winning all matches. This helped establish his reputation as an elite karate master. A few years later, in 1957, he formally founded Kyokushin, which translates to “ultimate truth,” and opened his main dojo in Tokyo.

Oyama’s philosophy for Kyokushin revolved around self-improvement through rigorous discipline and overcoming physical and mental weakness. Training focused heavily on bare-knuckle full-contact sparring, intensive striking drills, and strengthening the body through conditioning exercises.

Oyama favored powerful punching techniques like the spearhand thrust and roundhouse kick which became hallmarks of Kyokushin. Kyokushinkai eventually added some techniques from Boxing, Judo, and Muah Thai.

Back when this was possible, Oyama traveled to the United States and fought any and all comers in full contact matches. He always won. He also fought actual bulls in the ring, and performed amazing demonstrations of his speed and power.

Spread and Growth

In a few short years, Kyokushin expanded rapidly in Japan and internationally. Oyama sent instructors out to open branch dojos and organize tournaments to recruit new students. Notable early disciples who helped promote Kyokushin included Keiji Sawada, Steve Arneil, and Jon Bluming.

By the 1970s, Kyokushin had dojos and followers in over 100 countries. Its popularity was largely due to its appeal to those seeking realistic combat training compared to other karate styles of the time. Kyokushin fighters often did well in early mixed martial arts and kickboxing matches, adding to its reputation.

Kumite, Kata, and Training

At the core of Kyokushin is full-contact sparring (kumite) done bare-knuckle and with only a groin protector allowed. Matches are held on an open mat and won by knockout or judges’ decision. This kind of sparring is intense and builds devastating striking ability.

Kyokushin kata are done with powerful snap techniques meant to build explosive power. While relatively few in number, kyokushin kata are practiced repeatedly as part of training discipline. Although punches to the head were originally allowed, due to injuries, the rules changed and punches to the face are no longer allowed. However,kicks are allowed to the head, and low kicks to the legs are also allowed.

Conditioning the body is critical in Kyokushin. Practitioners strive to strengthen their bones, joints, and connective tissues by hitting heavy bags, pads, and other objects. This allows them to deliver and withstand intense blows. Calusing hands and feet is seen as a sign of proper conditioning.

Other training includes meditation, technique drills, flexibility exercises, weight training, and cardiovascular work. Students must show perseverance and dedication through such hard training methods.

Tournaments and Notable Fighters

In the early years, Oyama let a group of 5 fighters who challenged the Thais on their own turf with their own rules. Oyama won his match, as did most of the other karate fighters. However, Oyama was quite impressed by the Thai fighters, and incorporated all of their kicks into his style. Additionally, he modified the roundhouse kick to become a hybrid of the karate roundhouse and the Mua Thai roundhouse.

The All-Japan Kyokushin Karate Championship has been held yearly since 1975 and is the style’s most prestigious tournament. Champions are revered for their mental and physical toughness. Some all-time greats include Makoto Nakamura, Francisco Filho, Nicholas Pettis, and Glaube Feitosa. Andy Hug was arguably the biggest icon in Kyokushin history, winning the world openweight title four times and bringing him worldwide fame.

In bare-knuckle openweight fights, Kyokushin fighters have done well, displaying their knockout power and durability. Notable victories include Kenji Yamaki over Muay Thai legend Changpuek Kiatsongrit and Francisco Filho against kickboxing great Rob Kaman. Later, Kyokushin fighters transitioned successfully into kickboxing and mixed martial arts. Georges St-Pierre, Bas Rutten, and Gokhan Saki are some prominent examples.

Kyokushinkai fighters also did very well in K1, Glory, and One championships where fighters wear gloves and full power punches and kicks were allowed to almost all parts of the body. There have also been a number of Kyokushinkai based fighters who did well in mma contests.

It should be noted, however, that in these types of contests, Kyokushinkai fighters used boxing punches and techniques rather than traditional karate hand techniques, and on the few occasions where karate fighters are willing to fight against boxers using boxing rules, they have almost always lost.

Splinter Groups and Spinoffs

Oyama, like Yip Man, chose no successor. After his death in 1994, Kyokushin experienced several schisms into new organizations mostly headed by his senior students. While the International Karate Organization (IKO) headed by Shokei Matsui remains the flagship group, others formed such as IKO-1, Kyokushin-kan, and World Oyama Karate. Most retained Oyama’s basic philosophy and training system but with minor variations.

Kyokushin’s popularity also spawned many offshoots and hybrid styles. Ashihara Karate focuses more on striking on the ground and grappling. Enshin karate allows low kicks and uses sabaki movements. Daido juku emphasizes knockouts through head punches. And World Oyama Karate added more protective gear for competition safety. Sensei Tadashi Nakamura, on of OYama’s oldest and top ranked instructors, eventually broke off and formed the Seido organization.

While fragmented, most Kyokushin groups remain closely connected to their roots with kata, kumite, and self-improvement through rigorous conditioning being at the core. Oyama’s emphasis on absolute dedication and perseverance through hard training continues to inspire martial artists worldwi

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