What is Kyokushin

What is Kyokushin?

The History of the IKO Kyokushinkaikan is the History of its Founder, Masutatsu (Mas) Oyama.
Born in 1923 in a village called Waryong-ri ( read in Japanese as Garyu) in the south east of South Korea, he began training in Kempo and Judo at an early age, then commenced karate with Shotokan Karate founder, Funakoshi Gichin achieving Yondan at 24 years of age. He then trained in Goju-ryu karate and various other martial arts. In 1947 he won the karate division of first All Japan Martial Arts Tournament in 1947.

Deciding that he wanted to devote the rest of his life to spreading his knowledge of karate he spent the next few years in seclusion living in temples and in the mountains subjecting himself to the physical rigours of martial arts, training day and night, meditating on Zen precepts and seeking enlightenment. During this period of self exile he struggled with wild animals, smashed trees and rocks with his bare hands and meditated under icy waterfalls in an extremely severe course of self discipline.

He is also famous for long periods of isolated training at Mt. Minobu and Mt. Kiyosumi as part of his resolve to devote his entire life in karate.
In 1951 he returned to civilisation, his fame spread rapidly as his abilities were sensational, among many feats he battled and defeated bulls, cut bottles in half with shuto (knifehand), became known as “Godhand” for his feats of power.
After many successful tours of the world to introduce his karate and challenge top wrestlers and other fighters demonstrating his skills, many dojos were sat up. There are now Kyokushin branches in over 130 countries of the world..

He firmly believed karate was the strongest fighting art. Opened his first dojo in May 1954, promoting full contact fighting. In 1963, he created the IKO Kyokushin Shogakkai (Scholarship Foundation) Kyokushinkaikan, This was the birth of the worldwide Kyokushin Karate.
At that time all karate training was based on “sun-dome” non-contact rules where actually striking or kicking the opponent in competition was prohibited .
Oyama said, “Unless I actually hit the opponent there is no way to know if my attacks are truly effective.”
In 1969, the First All Japan Open Tournament was held, the first full contact tournament under knockdown rules.
Kickboxers and fighters from various styles competed but all top places were filled by Kyokushin fighters.
In 1971, the manga based on Mas Oyama and Kyokushin called “Karate Baka Ichidai” was released. Created a boom for Kyokushin .
All-Japan and World Championship tournaments followed, all meeting with tremendous success.
As a result, over 350 dojos in Japan and branch dojos in more than 120 countries around the world. In all there have been over 12 million Kyokushin students worldwide.

To some, it is a way to develop and maintain physical strength and learn effective self- defence techniques. To others, it is much more than that. Kyokushin karate is a way of life that transcends the aspects of training. Kyokushin karate is Budo Karate. Kyokushin karate, like most martial arts, can trace its origin to Bodhidharma (Daruma in Japanese), an Indian prince and Buddhist priest who travelled to the Shaolin temple in China in the early sixth century. There, he developed the Chan, or “Intuitive” school of Mahayana Buddhism. Under the Chan philosophy, enlightenment was sought through meditation, rather than by the practice of rituals or the study of religious texts. According to legend, Bodhidharma sat facing the wall in the Shaolin temple for nine years, until he achieved enlightenment. (Other legends have him sitting and facing a wall in a cave for nine years.) Bodhidharma also developed martial arts as a physical regimen to accompany the mental discipline of the meditation. During the following centuries, the Chan (or Zen in Japanese) philosophy spread to Okinawa and then to Japan, accompanied with martial arts. Over time, Zen and martial arts became intermingled with each other and deeply ingrained in Japanese society.

The word Karate is derived from the words:
Kara meaning “Empty”,
Te meaning “Hand”.

Kara also means “Chinese”, and the original meaning of the word karate was “Chinese Hand” because of its origins in Chinese Kempo. However, Gichin Funakoshi, the Okinawan master who brought karate to Japan and developed Shotokan karate (one of the styles from which Kyokushin was derived), believed that “empty” better described the meaning of karate:

The Kara that means “empty” is definitely the more appropriate. For one thing, it symbolizes the obvious fact that this art of self-defence makes use of no weapons, only bare feet, and empty hands. Further, students of Karate-do aim not only toward perfecting their chosen art but also toward emptying heart and mind of all earthly desire and vanity. Reading Buddhist scriptures, we come across such statements as “Shiki soku ze Ku” and “Ku soku zeshiki,” which literally mean “Matter is void” and “All is vanity.” The character Ku, which appears in both admonitions and may be pronounced Kara, is in itself truth.

The word Budo is derived from the words:
Bu meaning “Martial” or “Combat”,
Do meaning “Way” or “Path”.

Budo, the Martial Way, is a Japanese term for arts that use peaceful combat as a means of perfecting the self. The word Do comes from the Chinese word Tao and the philosophy of Taoism. Do does not mean the “way” or method of learning something, such as learning the techniques of karate, but rather it is the path of life whereby what is learned is transcended into wisdom.

Do and Zen are complementary. Zen seeks self-perfection through passive means, such as meditation. Do seeks self-perfection through active means, such as the training itself. In fact, the practice of kata is sometimes referred to as Dozen, or “Moving Meditation”. That which is gained through Budo is much more than just the techniques and applications of the martial arts, and it transforms all aspects of life.

Karate and Budo are sometimes combined as Karatedo or the “Empty Hand Way”.

The word Dojo, or training hall, literally means the “Way Place”, and it is also the name of the room used for meditation in a Buddhist temple. A karate dojo is not a gym, even though the training is physically demanding and a lot of sweat is shed in a Kyokushin dojo. It is a sacred place of learning, and as such, it is treated with respect. Karateka (karate practitioners) bow before entering or leaving the dojo. Shoes are not worn in the dojo not only to keep the dojo clean, but to keep the “outside world” out. Mokuso (meditation) is sometimes done before training to clear the mind and depart from the “outside world”, and after training to clear the mind “outside world”.

A karate uniform is called a Dogi (or Gi for short), and the word literally means “Way Clothes”. Just as a dojo is not a gym, a karate dogi is not just clothes in which to train.

A dogi is what a karateka wears on the path toward self-perfection. It should always be kept clean and in good repair. According to Mas Oyama, to repair a torn uniform is no disgrace, but to wear a torn or dirty one is.”

However, the obi (belt) should never be washed. Over time, it becomes frayed and stained with the sweat and blood of hard training. An old, worn and stained obi reflects the karateka’s unique experience of training, which should not be washed away.

Mas Oyama fully understood the nature of Kyokushin Karate as budo karate, a path toward self-perfection through the practice of the martial art: “Karate is the most Zen-like of all the Martial Arts. It has abandoned the sword. This means that it transcends the idea of winning and losing to become a way of thinking and living for the sake of other people in accordance with the way of Heaven. Its meanings, therefore, reach the most profound levels of human thought.

For a long time, I have emphasized that karate is budo, and if the budo is removed from karate, it is nothing more than sport karate, show karate or even fashion karate (the idea of training merely to be fashionable.)

Karate that has discarded budo has no substance. It is nothing more than a barbaric method of fighting or a promotional tool for the purpose of profit. No matter how popular it becomes, it is meaningless.

The philosophy of budo is evident in the name that Mas Oyama chose for his karate style, Kyokushin which means “Ultimate Truth” and are the kanji (characters) displayed on the left breast of the dogi can be broken down into individual characters which read KYOKUSHINKAI.

Once the word Kyokushin adds a third suffix “kai” meaning “to meet” it signifies the gathering of people with a universal purpose. Thus the word “Kyokushinkai” correct definition translates to the ” Society of Ultimate Truth”.

Kyokushin is rooted in a philosophy of self-improvement and with the common aim to attain the ideal of truth and perfection through discipline and hard physical training.

The Kanku has become the international symbol of Kyokushin Karate, which orginated from the famous Kanku Dai kata, translated as the gazing heavenward, viewing the sky, or contemplating the sky form. This is a Kata that is studied by many practitioners of karate worldwide. Throughout this kata, you continually find that your hands became joined, fingers touch together creating a diamond-like shape opening facing the skywards.

On close examination, you find the top and bottom points in the kanku are represented by our index fingers touching and the base of our thumbs connected with are to symbolize the ultimate points or training peaks throughout your journey.


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