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Masutatsu Oyama: The Godhand

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.
Mas Oyama


Art by Iron-Beast (Gloria)

Masutatsu Ōyama (大山 倍達 Ōyama Masutatsu, born Choi Yeong-eui (Hangul: 최영의  Hanja: 崔永宜); July 27, 1923 – April 26, 1994), more commonly known as Mas Oyama, was a karate master who founded Kyokushin Karate, considered the first and most influential style of full contact karate. A Zainichi Korean, he spent most of his life living in Japan and acquired Japanese citizenship in 1964. He was an alumnus of Waseda University.

Mas Oyama was born as Choi Young-Eui (최영의 ) in Gimje, South Korea, during Japanese occupation. At a young age he was sent to Manchuria, Northeast China to live on his sister's farm. Oyama began studying Chinese martial arts at age 9 from a Chinese farmer who was working on the farm. His family name was Lee and Oyama said he was his very first teacher. The story of the young Oyama's life is written in his earlier books.

In March 1938, Oyama left for Japan following his brother who enrolled in the Yamanashi Aviation School Imperial Japanese Army aviation school. Sometime during his time in Japan, Choi Young-Eui chose his Japanese name, 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".

One story of Oyama's youth involves Lee giving young Oyama a seed which he was to plant; when it sprouted, he was to jump over it one hundred times every day. As the seed grew and became a plant, Oyama later said, "I was able to jump between walls back and forth easily." The writer, Ikki Kajiwara, and the publisher of the comics based the story on the life experience Oyama spoke to them about – thus the title became "Karate Baka Ichidai" (Karate Fanatic).

I realized that perseverence and step-by-step progress are the only ways to reach a goal along a chosen path.
– Mas Oyama

In 1963, Oyama wrote What is Karate which became a best seller in the US and sold million copies all over the world. It is still considered by many to be the "Bible" of Karate to this day. It was translated into Hungarian, French, and English.

In 1945 after the war ended, Oyama left the aviation school. He finally found a place to live in Tokyo. This is where he met his future wife whose mother ran a dormitory for university students.

In 1946, Oyama enrolled in Waseda University School of Education to study sports science.

Studying the martial Way is like climbing a cliff: keep going forward without rest. Resting is not permissible because it causes recessions to old adages of achievement. Persevering day in, day out improves techniques, but resting one day causes lapses. This must be prevented.
– Mas Oyama

Wanting the best in instruction, he contacted the Shotokan dojo (Karate school) operated by Gigō Funakoshi, the second son of karate master and Shotokan founder Gichin Funakoshi. He became a student, and began his lifelong career in Karate. Feeling like a foreigner in a strange land, he remained isolated and trained in solitude.

Oyama attended Takushoku University in Tokyo and was accepted as a student at the dojo of Gichin Funakoshi. He trained with Funakoshi for two years, then studied Gōjū-ryū karate for several years with So Nei Chu (조영주  / 曺(曹  )寧柱,  1908–1995), a senior student of the system's founder, Chojun Miyagi. So was a fellow Korean from Oyama's native province.

Around the time he also went around Tokyo getting in fights with the U.S. Military Police. He later reminisced those times in a television interview, "Itsumitemo Haran Banjyo" (Nihon Television), "I lost many friends during the war – the very morning of their departure as Kamikaze pilots, we had breakfast together and in the evening their seats were empty. After the war ended, I was angry – so I fought as many U.S. military as I could, until my portrait was all over the police station." Oyama retreated to a lone mountain for solace to train his mind and body. He set out to spend three years on Mt. Minobu in Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan. Oyama built a shack on the side of the mountain. One of his students named Yashiro accompanied him, but after the rigors of this isolated training, with no modern conveniences, the student snuck away one night, and left Oyama alone. With only monthly visits from a friend in the town of Tateyama in Chiba Prefecture, the loneliness and harsh training became grueling. Oyama remained on the mountain for fourteen months, and returned to Tokyo a much stronger and fiercer Karateka.

If someone asked me what a human being ought to devote the maximum of his life to, I would answer: training. Train more than you sleep.
– Mas Oyama

Oyama gave great credit to reading The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi, a famous Japanese swordsman, to change his life completely. He recounts this book as being his only reading material during his mountain training years.

He was forced to leave his mountain retreat after his sponsor had stopped supporting him. Months later, after he had won the Karate Section of Japanese National Martial Arts Championships, he was distraught that he had not reached his original goal to train in the mountains for three years, so he went into solitude again, this time on Mt. Kiyosumi in Chiba Prefecture, Japan.

Obtaining only physical strength is similar to the attempt to carve a sculpture of Buddha without putting your heart and soul into the process.
– Mas Oyama

Oyama stayed there for 18 months, testing himself against nature with gruelling training methods that included;

– Practicing techniques and meditating under freezing cold waterfalls
– Jumping over bushes and boulders repeatedly
– Using trees and rocks as makiwara boards to condition the bones in his hands, arms, legs and feet
– Running up and down steep slopes
– Lifting heavy rocks hundreds of times as strength training

He would rise at five in the morning and once his training was done, would read extensively from martial arts manuals and from Buddhist texts. He would finish the day with contemplative meditation; it was here that he began to develop the ideas that would form his own style, kyokushin karate, and where he first though of the idea of testing his abilities by fighting a bull.

When he left the mountain and returned to civilisation, he entered the first All Japan Karate Tournament held in Kyoto, which he won. Despite his victory, he still felt that something was lacking in his karate so he went back into isolation, this time heading for Mount Kiyosumi for another year of fourteen hour a day training sessions and continuous contemplation and reflection.

When he returned, he decided that he wanted to take on the ultimate challenge in a life and death contest with a bull (pictured above). He undertook this challenge 52 times; three of them were killed instantly by his strikes and 49 had their horns taken clean off by his knife hand strike.

While this seems a little untoward to the modern reader due to the cruelty to animals aspect, it must be remembered that this was in the 1950s and people had a totally different mentality then (the animals he fought were also all ready for slaughter so would have died anyway).

As a feat of strength, bravery and a demonstration of devastating technique, Mas Oyama’s bull fights are unparalleled. That said, his first attempt in 1957 did not go too well and even though he eventually won, he was bed ridden for six months from injuries sustained from the fight.

Behind each triumph are new peaks to be conquered.
– Mas Oyama

Not content with fighting dumb animals, he also took on more than 270 people over the years, many of whom were beaten with one punch; most contests lasted a matter of seconds and none over three minutes.

Oyama had made his bones so strong that even when his attack was blocked, he would break the bones of his opponent’s blocking arm and while his hands were legendary, he was also known for his powerful head kicks.

In 1953 Oyama opened his own karate dojo, named Oyama Dojo (form of Gōjū-ryū), in Tokyo but continued to travel around Japan and the world giving martial arts demonstrations, which included knocking live bulls unconscious with his bare hands (sometimes grabbing them by the horn, and snapping the horn off). His dojo was first located outside in an empty lot but eventually moved into a ballet school in 1956. The senior instructors under him were T. Nakamura, K. Mizushima, E. Yasuda, M. ishibashi, and T. Minamimoto. Oyama's own curriculum soon developed a reputation as a tough, intense, hard-hitting but practical style which was finally named Kyokushinkai (Japan Karate-Do Kyokushinkai), which means 'the ultimate truth,' in a ceremony in 1957. He also developed a reputation for being 'rough' with his students, as the training sessions were grueling and students injuring themselves in practice fighting (kumite) was quite common. Along with practice fighting that distinguished Oyama's teaching style from other karate schools, emphasis on breaking objects such as boards, tiles, or bricks to measure one's offensive ability became Kyokushin's trademark. Oyama believed in the practical application of karate and declared that ignoring 'breaking practice is no more useful than a fruit tree that bears no fruit. As the reputation of the dojo grew students were attracted to come to train there from inside and outside Japan and the number of students grew. Many of the eventual senior leaders of today's various Kyokushin based organisations began training in the style during this time. In 1964 Oyama moved the dojo into the building that would from then on serve as the Kyokushin home dojo and world headquarters. In connection with this he also formally founded the 'International Karate Organization Kyokushin kaikan' (commonly abbreviated to IKO or IKOK) to organise the many schools that were by then teaching the kyokushin style.

Karate is not a game. It is not a sport. It is not even a system of self-defense. Karate is half physical exercise and half spiritual. The karateist who has given the necessary years of exercise and meditation is a tranquil person. He is unafraid. He can even be calm in a burning building.
– Mas Oyama

In 1961 at the All-Japan Student Open Karate Championship, one of Oyama's students, Tadashi Nakamura, at 19 years old (1961) made his first tournament appearance, where he was placed first. Nakamura later became Mas Oyama's Chief Instructor as referenced in Mas Oyama's book, "This is Karate." In 1969, Oyama staged the first All-Japan Full Contact Karate Open Championships which took Japan by storm and Terutomo Yamazaki became the first champion, which have been held every year since. In 1975, the first World Full Contact Karate Open Championships were held in Tokyo. World championships have been held at four-yearly intervals since. After formally establishing Kyokushin-kai, Oyama directed the organization through a period of expansion. Oyama and his staff of hand-picked instructors displayed great ability in marketing the style and gaining new members. Oyama would choose an instructor to open a dojo in another town or city in Japan, whereupon the instructor would move to that town, and, typically demonstrate his karate skills in public places, such as at the civic gymnasium, the local police gym (where many judo students would practice), a local park, or conduct martial arts demonstrations at local festivals or school events. In this way, the instructor would soon gain a few students for his new dojo. After that, word of mouth would spread through the local area until the dojo had a dedicated core of students. Oyama also sent instructors to other countries such as the United States, Netherlands, England, Australia and Brazil to spread Kyokushin in the same way. Oyama also promoted Kyokushin by holding The All-Japan Full Contact Karate Open Championships every year and World Full Contact Karate Open Championships once every four years in which anyone could enter from any style.

Oyama tested himself in a kumite, a progression of fights, each lasting two minutes, and each after the featured participant wins. Oyama devised the 100-man kumite which he went on to complete three times in a row over the course of three days.

The heart of our karate is real fighting.There can be no proof without real fighting. Without proof there is no trust. Without trust there is no respect. This is a definition in the world of martial arts.
– Mas Oyama

He was also known for fighting bulls bare-handed. In his lifetime, he battled 52 bulls, three of which were purportedly killed instantly with one strike, earning him the nickname of "Godhand".

Oyama had many matches with professional wrestlers during his travels through the United States. Oyama said in the 1958 edition of his book What Is Karate that he had just three matches with professional wrestlers plus thirty exhibitions and nine television appearances.

In 1946, Oyama married a Japanese woman, Oyako Chiako (1926–2006) and had three children with her. In the late 1960s, Oyama and Chiako were having marital problems and decided to separate, and Chiako, who did not want her husband to start seeing other women, arranged for a Korean woman and family friend named Sun-ho Hong to become Oyama's companion for some time. With Hong, Oyama had three more children and he would remain romantically involved with both Hong and Chiako until the end of his life.

Later in life, Oyama suffered from osteoarthritis. Despite his illness, he never gave up training. He held demonstrations of his karate, which included breaking objects.

Oyama wrote over 80 books in Japanese and some were translated into other languages.

Each of us has his cowardice. Each of us is afraid to lose, afraid to die. But hanging back is the way to remain a coward for life. The Way to find courage is to seek it on the field of conflict. And the sure way to victory is willingness to risk one's own life.
– Mas Oyama

Before dying, Oyama built his Tokyo-based International Karate Organization, Kyokushinkaikan, into one of the world's foremost martial arts associations, with branches in more than 100 countries boasting over 12 million registered members. In Japan, books were written by and about him, feature-length films splashed his colorful life across the big screen, and comic books recounted his many adventures.

Oyama died at the age of 70, on Tokyo, Japan, April 26, 1994, of lung cancer, despite never being a smoker in any point in his life.

His widow Chiyako Oyama, made a trust foundation to honor his lifelong work.


Artwork: Idea2Dezign™

Masutatsu Oyama used to say:
“One becomes a beginner after 1000 days of training. One becomes a master after
10000 days of practice.”
“Always remember: In the Martial Arts the rewards of a confident and grateful heart
are truly abundant.”

 

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mas_Oyama
http://www.badassoftheweek.com/oyama.html
http://www.kyokushinkan.org/en/?page_id=2122
http://www.historyoffighting.com/mas-oyama.php

 

Read more about Masutatsu Oyama in
the book "Samurai. Spirit of the Warrior" by A. R. Basov

avaliable as an eBook (for Windows, Android, iOS) and a hardcover book (pre-order only).

 




I will not get lost...
The North Star is shining in the darkness...
The road to Valhalla, straight like a sword, is always in front of me!

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