Origin of Shinkyokushinkai

“Shinkyokushinkai” means Association of the Ultimate Truth. It originated from “Kyokushin”, which is a world-renowned “hard” Karate style founded by Sosai Matsutatsu Oyama. Mas Oyama was born Yong I-Choi on the 27th of July, 1923, in a village not far from Gunsan in Southern Korea. At a relatively young age he was sent to Manchuria, in Southern China, to live on his sister’s farm. At the age of nine, he started studying the Southern Chinese form of Kempo called Eighteen Hands from a Mr. Yi who was at the time working on the farm. When Oyama returned to Korea at the age of 12, he continued his training in Korean Kempo. In 1938, at the age of 15, he travelled to Japan to train as an aviator, to be like his hero of the time, Korea’s first fighter pilot. Survival on his own at that age proved to be more difficult than he thought, especially as a Korean in Japan, and the aviator training fell by the wayside.

He did however continue martial arts training, by participating in judo and boxing, and one day he noticed some students training in Okinawan Karate. This interested him very much and he went to train at the dojo of Gichin Funakoshi at Takushoku University, where he learned what is today known as Shotokan Karate. His training progress was such that by the age of seventeen he was already a 2nd dan, and by the time he entered the Japanese Imperial Army at 20, he was a fourth dan. At this point he also took a serious interest in Judo, and his progress there was no less amazing. The defeat and occupation of Japan almost proved to be too much for Mas Oyama, who nearly despaired. Fortunately, Korean Master So Nei Chu came into his life at that time. He was one of the highest authorities on Goju Ryu Karate at the time. It was he who encouraged Mas Oyama to dedicate his life to the Martial Way. He convinced Oyama to retreat away from the rest of the world for 3 years while training his mind and body.

At 23, Oyama met Eiji Yoshikawa, the author of the novel Musashi, which was based on the life and exploits of Japan’s most famous Samurai. Eiji and his novel helped teach Oyama about the Samurai Bushido code and what it meant. That same year, Oyama went to Mt. Minobu in the Chiba Prefecture. He thought that this would be an appropriate place to commence the rigorous training that he planned for himself.

The relative solitude was strongly felt and it became even harder for Oyama, who wanted more than ever to return to civilization. Master So Nei Chu wrote to him suggesting that he shave off an eyebrow in order to get rid of the urge. Surely he wouldn’t want anyone to see him that way! This and other more moving words convinced Oyama to continue, and he resolved to become the most powerful Karate-ka in Japan.

 After he lost support from his sponsor and being in the mountains for fourteen months, he had to end his solitude. A few months later, in 1947, Mas Oyama won the Karate section of the first Japanese National Martial Arts Championships after WWII. However, he still felt empty for not having completed the three years of solitude. He then decided to dedicate his life completely to Karate. So he started again, this time on Mt. Kiyozumi, also in Chiba Prefecture. This site he chose for its spiritually uplifting environment. This time his training was fanatical — 12 hours a day every day with no rest days, standing under (cold) buffeting waterfalls, breaking river stones with his hands, using trees as makiwara, jumping over rapidly growing flax plants hundreds of times each day. Each day also included a period of study of the ancient classics on the Martial arts, Zen, and philosophy. After eighteen months he came down fully confident of himself, and able to take control of his life. Never again would he be so heavily influenced by his society around him.

In 1950, Sosai (the founder) Mas Oyama started testing (and demonstrating) his power by fighting bulls. In all, he fought 52 bulls, three of which were killed instantly, and 49 had their horns taken off with knife hand blows. That it is not to say that it was all that easy for him. Oyama was fond of remembering that his first attempt just resulted in an angry bull. In 1957, at the age of 34, he was nearly killed in Mexico when a bull got some of his own back and gored him. Oyama somehow managed to pull the bull off and break off his horn. He was bedridden for 6 months while recovering from the usually fatal wound.

In 1952, he travelled the United States for a year, demonstrating his karate live and on national television. During subsequent years, he took on all challengers, resulting in fights with 270 different people. The vast majority of these were defeated with one punch! A fight never lasted more than three minutes, and most rarely lasted more than a few seconds. His fighting principle was simple — if he got through to you, that’s it. If he hit you, you break. If you block a rib punch, your arm will be broken or dislocated. If you don’t block, your rib will be broken.

He became known as “the God hand”, a living manifestation of the Japanese warriors’ maxim “Ichi geki, Hissatsu” or “One strike, certain death”. To him, this was the true aim of technique in karate. The fancy footwork and intricate techniques were secondary (though he was also known for the power of his head kicks).

In 1953, Mas Oyama opened his first “Dojo” (training hall), a grass lot in Mejiro in Tokyo. In 1956, the first real Dojo was opened in a former ballet studio behind Rikkyo University, 500 meters from the location of the current Japanese “Honbu Dojo” (main training hall). By 1957 there were 700 members, despite the high drop-out rate due to the harshness of training. Practitioners of other styles came to train here too, for the “jis-sen” kumite” (full contact fighting). One of the original instructors, Kenji Kato, has said that they would observe those from other styles, and adopt any techniques that “would be good in a real fight”. This was how Mas Oyama’s karate evolved. He took techniques from all martial arts, and did not restrict himself to karate alone.

The Oyama Dojo members took their kumite seriously, seeing it primarily as a fighting art, so they expected to hit and to be hit. With few restrictions, attacking the head was common, usually with the palm heel towel-wrapped knuckles. Grabs, throws, and groin attacks were also common. Kumite rounds would continue till one person loudly conceded defeat. Injuries occurred on a daily basis and the drop-out rate was high (over 90%). They had no official do-gi and wore whatever they had