Masutatsu Oyama

he founder of Kyokushin karate, Sosai 総裁 (President) Masutatsu Oyama (大山 倍達 Ōyama Masutatsu) was born as Choi Yeong-eui (Hangul: 최영의 Hanja: 崔永宜) on 27th July 1923 during the Japanese occupation, and subsequent annexation of Korea. Born in the village of Gimje (in Jeollabuk-do), not far from Gunsan in Southern Korea, his parents were Yangban (nobility) in the region. Mas Oyama was the youngest brother in a large family. His father and three older brothers were very large men – all strong and talented athletes.  A Zainichi Korean, Mas Oyama – the name he is commonly known by – spent most of his life living in Japan and acquired Japanese citizenship in 1964.


Kyokushin (極真) is a style of full contact karate, founded in 1964 by Korean-Japanese Masutatsu Oyama (大山倍達 Ōyama Masutatsu), who had been developing it since the early 1950’s. “Kyokushinkaikan” is comprised of four Japanese words:

  1. Kyoku: Ultimate
  2. Shin: Reality or truth from within
  3. Kai: To meet, join or associate
  4. Kan: Temple, sanctuary, school

The kanji lettering used to spell Kyokushinkai can be translated as “society for the ultimate truth” which reflects founder Masutatsu Oyama’s belief that traditional karateka were becoming soft, missing the forceful combative nature of the true art. Kyokushin’s philosophy centers on discipline and self-improvement, which Masutatsu Oyama believed could be further honed through rigorous training and full-contact sparring. Kyokushin karate-ka believe this contact is necessary in order to fully appreciate the resiliency of the human body and spirit and to prepare for any serious confrontation.

The Spirit of Kyokushin emanates from the Budo axiom,

“One thousand days of training completes a beginner. Ten thousand days of training begins the mastery of the art.”

It was this training, the knockdown competitions and Mas Oyama’s incredible feats of strength and endurance that caused Kyokushin to be known as “The strongest karate.” Kyokushin was cited by the Guinness book of World Records as one of the five major schools of Karate in Japan, and at one time Kyokushin was cited as the largest organization under one master.

KankuThe internationally recognized symbol of Kyokushin karate is the “Kanku” which Oyama designed with his wife Chiyako, who was an artist. Oyama got the inspiration while practicing the Kanku Dai kata. In this form, the hands are raised to the sky with the fingers touching. The logo interprets the fingers as the points implying the peaks, representing the wrists as the wide sections, signifying power. The center represents infinity and the circle that encloses the parts, continuity and circular motion. The main circle in the middle is surrounded by four other partially invisible circles and the final one encompassing all others. The six circles are representative of the comradeship of these continents which Kyokushin bridges and unites. This mark is used as a collective mark for IKO Kyokushinkaikan.

“Keep one’s head low (modest), eyes high (ambitious), mouth shut (silent), base yourself on filial piety and benefit others.” ~ Kyoskushin ideal by Sosai Mas Oyama