Masutatsu Oyama

Learn about Masutatsu Oyama – history, development, philosophy…

Masutatsu Oyama (1923- 1994, age 70) or Mas Oyama, was born Choi Yeong-eui, in Korea.

He is a Karate master which created the Kyokushinkai style/school of karate.Mas oyama spent most of his life in Japan, and attains both citizenships.

Brief History

At the age of 9 living in Manchurai with his sister he started training in martial arts. He enlisted in the imperial army at the age of 15 and moved to Japan. Though his hope to become a fighter pilot didn’t work out, he kept on his martial arts training in boxing, judo and Korean kempo.

At the time he also began training Shotokan karate under the founder Gichin Funakoshi, at the age of 20 he was already a 4th Dan and he entered the Japanese Imperial army to fight in World War 2.

After the war he continued studying Shotokan karate and other martial arts, deciding to devote himself to his martial art development following his meetings with So Nei Chu a prominent Goju Ryu teacher and warrior. He found a sponsor to support his quest and solitude.

Though starting out with a fellow student (the student ran away because of the harsh conditions after half a year) mostly he trained alone on Mount Minoubu (the mountain which Musashi, Japans most famous Samurai trained).

The initial aim of the “solitude training camp” was three years, but he needed to return after 14 month, because his sponsor stopped the support.

Masutatsu Oyama won the Karate Section of Japanese National Martial Arts Championships some month after returning from the mountain, but felt he still needed to finish his “hermit time”. Mt. Kiyosumi was chosen for the 18 month remaining.

After finishing his time in the mountains, Mas Oyama continued training Shotokan – which was known for its emphasis on kata training. He also studied with So Nei Chu, Goju Ryu karate until reaching 8th Dan.


During the 50s’ Masutatsu Oyama founded his own style of karate called Kyokushin/ Kyokushinkai. His teaching methods were known as very rough, and often students were injured during trainings. Nevertheless, this toughness drew students from all over Japan and abroad.

He and his students’ demonstrations amazed the audience. He was known for his bare hand fighting against bulls, and out of the over 50 which he had fought 3 were killed with just one blow and over 40 had their horns taken off with knife blows of the palm.

He also held “marathon” kumite and sparrings in which he would spar against hundreds of man one after the other – the feat being mainly a test of character and spirit.

These demonstrations became the marketing backbone of his system. A competent instructor would be chosen to open a new dojo, which would seldom mean relocation. When he would arrive to the new area he would hold demonstrations, which immediately attracted new students that would form the schools core.

Kyokushin was also promoted by holding full contact “all-world” karate tournaments which anyone and any style could participate in.

Before his death Kyokushinkai had become one of the worlds leading martial arts, with over 10 million registered participants in over 120 countries.


Mas Oyama had a manga as well as many articles, books, movies, and more made and written about him or based on his character and life story.

He died from lung cancer at the age of 70.

A good teacher is judged by his students abilities and by his own.( To read about teachers and instructors in a martial art…)

Some of Oyamas exceptional students:

• John Jarvis

• Hideyuki Ashihara

• Steve Arneil

• Tadashi Nakamura

• Yoshiji Soeno

• Azuma Takashi

• Terutomo Yamazaki

• Donald I. Buck

• And more

Important Books:

• What is Karate?

• Vital Karate

• The Kyokushin Way

• And more


• Champion of Death

• Karate Bearfighter

• Karate for life

• Fighter in the wind

• And more

Fighting philosophy and spirit:

Masutatsu Oyama never declined from a challenge. His philosophy was: If I hit you, you break. If you block a body punch your arm will be broken or dislocated – “One strike, certain death”

He never restricted himself or his students to one style, rather observed and took what he liked from other styles into his. Ex. Low kicks were taken from Muay-Thai.

“One must try every day to expand one’s limits”

“Human beings are capable of virtually limitless degradation; they are also capable of virtually limitless improvement and achievement. Success depends on goals and on diligence in pursuing them”

"Behind each triumph are new peaks to be conquered."

“Subjecting yourself to vigorous training is more for the sake of forging a resolute spirit that can vanquish the self than it is for developing a strong body."

“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”

All these are his quotes. They revile and attain his spirit.

Masutatsu Oyama, is defiantly one of those martial artist which influenced their arts, and the martial arts world in general. He was a true warrior in spirit and in actions

Thank you

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