By Robert Rousseau, About.com Guide
Mas Oyama Biography Introduction:
“If you have confidence in your own words, aspirations, thoughts, and actions and do your very best, you will have no need to regret the outcome of what you do. Fear and trembling are lot of the person who, while stinting effort, hopes that everything will come out precisely as he wants.”
Date of Birth and Life Span:
Oyama’s first martial artsexperience happened when he moved to Manchuria (age nine), via a Korean seasonal worker named Lee. At age 12 he returned to Korea, after having progressed a great deal with Lee.
In March of 1938, when Oyama was 15 years old, he left for Japan in his brother’s footsteps to train at the Yamanashi Youth Aviation Institute. While there, he was required to choose a Japanese name. He chose Oyama Masutatsu (大山 倍達), which is a transliteration of ‘Baedal’ (倍達) . ‘Baedal’ was an ancient Korean kingdom known in Japan during Oyama’s time as “Ancient Joseon”. ‘Masutatsu’ can also be pronounce ‘baitatsu’ in Japanese.
Why go to Japan to become a pilot? Well, Oyama looked up to and wanted to follow a Japanese General by the name of Kanji Ishihara. Ishihara was against the invasion of Asian neighbors, which Oyama had experienced firsthand in Korea. Unfortunately for Ishihara, others did not hold his views, and he was reportedly ostracized by the higher ranks of the Japanese Army.
During these years, Oyama continued to train in the martial arts, working in the disciplines of both boxing and judo.
The situation left him believing that it was all hardly happenstance.
“I had breakfast with my comrades ready to serve our country,” Oyama later said on a TV program. “In the evening when I returned for supper, the chairs were empty. There were no words to describe what I felt but I know I was given a chance to do something.”
Further Martial Arts Training:
After observing a student training in Okinawan karate, Oyama became interested and contacted the Shotokan dojo. He became a student of Gigo Funakoshi there, the second son of Shotokan founder Gichin Funakoshi. He often trained in solitude, feeling like an outsider in a foreign land. Soon after, Oyama attended Takushoku University in Tokyo and was accepted at the Gichin Funakoshi’s dojo (again, the founder of Shotokan). He trained there for two years, then moved onto Goju-ryu karateunder So Nei Chu.
He eventually achieved 8th dan status in Goju-ryu under Gogen Yamaguchi (the head instructor of Goju-ryu in mainland Japan).
Beyond the aforementioned, Oyama, through the facilitation of judoka Masahiko Kimura, found his way to the Sone Dojo in Nakano, Tokyo, where he trained for four years and achieved 4th dan status in kosen judo.
Given his pent up rage, So Nei Chu recommended that he retreat to a lone mountain and find peace. Oyama went to Mt. Minobu in Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan, planning on a three year stay of training in the martial arts. A student names Yashiro went with him, but snuck away in the night. Oyama only received monthly visits from a friend, prompting him to question his decision. So Nei Chu replied to a letter from Oyama indicating his doubt by suggesting that he shave off an eyebrow so that he would be too embarrassed to be in front of people; hence, helping him to stay the path.
Oyama stayed on the mountain for 14 months but was forced to leave when his sponsor ceased supporting him. After he won the Karate Section of Japanese Martial Arts Championships, he began to feel regret that he had not finished the three years that he had hoped to. Thus, he went into solitude once again on Mt. Kiyosumi in Chiba Prefecture, Japan, where he stayed and trained for 18 months.
Founding Kyokushin Karate:
Within Japan and abroad (the United States, Netherlands, England, Australia, and Brazil), Oyama handpicked instructors and sent them to spread the word/open schools. Promotion in the form of demonstrations often accompanied this. In addition, he held the All-Japan Full Contact Karate Open Championships every year to help promote. By making it an open tournament where practitioners of any martial arts stylecould compete, he once again proved his confidence in his own style of fighting.
Kyokushin was perhaps the first full contact style of karate. Along with this, practitioners regularly compete in full contact tournaments, where the rules often disallow the use of gloves, and allow kicks to the majority of the body, and hand strikes to the body only. Kyokushin truly professes a belief in powerful strikes designed to incapacitate quickly. In other words, power is considered very important.
Mas Oyama’s Exploits:
- Bull Fighting:During the 1950’s, Oyama began fighting bulls. In 1957, when he was 34 years old, a bull fight nearly killed him when a bull struck him in the back, tearing him open. There is no question that he in fact did fight many, many bulls. It has been said, that he fought 52 of them, in which he killed three and chopped of the horns of 49 with a single shuto strike (chop with the side of the hand).
- U.S. Fights/Demonstrations:In April of 1952, Oyama traveled to the United States. He stayed there for one year, demonstrating karate on national television and in public. He also participated in several exhibition fights against boxers, wrestlers, and more. It has been said that he fought against 270 opponents, defeating them all, often with a single attack.
- Fighting the Black Cobra of Muay Thai:Did Oyama compete against a man called the “Black Cobra” in Muay Thai? It has been said that he did, though proof is lacking. What we do know is that some profess he defeated this supposedly amazing Thai fighter by an aerial triple kick. Other accounts indicate that he won the fight with round kicks to the body.
- 100 Man Kumite: Oyama was the first karate practitioner and the inventor of the 100 man kumite. In essence, kumite battles between participants range between one-and-a-half and two minutes in length. The idea is to get through fights against fighters with similar skill, one after another. Oyama completed the 100 man kumite three times over three consecutive days, surviving each battle along the way.