In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know about Kyokushin Karate, how effective it is in a street fight, and whether it’s good for self-defence.
Kyokushin Karate is very effective in a street fight and even more for self-defence, but only if you are training with strikes to the head.
Kyokushin Karate is a karate school founded by Masatutsu Oyama. There are many Karate styles and Kyokushin is different from classic karate (Shotokan karate) in that it is full-contact karate, which means that full-force punches are allowed, and the fighters do not carry any protection.
It is considered the cruelest style of karate. Many Kyokushin Karate fighters have been successful in K1 type competitions. One of the most famous representatives of Kyokushin karate is Swiss Andy Hug who won the K1 GP in 1996. Notable achievements have also been made by Brazilians Francisco Filho and Glaube Feitosa, and Australian Sam Grecco.
History of Kyokushin Karate
Oyama was different from the rest. He knew that he could do better, that he could do more, that he could go on. Determination, will, commitment to the goal, stubborn persistence, open heart – the limit of human endurance has definitely been moved higher by Oyama’s existence. At its peak, during Oyama’s life, the organization gathered over 12,000,000 karatekas in 120 countries.
Masatutsu Oyama was born on July 27, 1923, in a small village near the town of Gunsan, South Korea. Oyama’s real name is Yong I-Choi. As a young child, he was sent to his sister’s farm in the South China Sea. At the age of nine, he started training his first karate steps on the farm, learning them from Mr. Yi who worked on the farm. He practiced Kempo called “eighteen hands.” At the age of 12, he returned to Korea and continued to train at Korean Kempo. At the age of fifteen, he made a very bold decision to go to Japan to become a pilot in military aircraft. It turned out that it was not so easy to become a pilot, especially for a Korean in Japan and still in a military school. He continued to pursue boxing and Judo. In Japan, he also discovers a martial art, Karate from Okinawa, led by Gichin Funakoshi.
History later showed that G. Funakoshi was one of only a few people to have made karate popular in the world and one of several great masters. At the age of 17 Oyama becomes the holder of a 2nd-degree black belt and at the age of 20, he reached the 4th dan. He also made amazing progress in judo. With the defeat of Japan in World War II, Oyama loset ground and briefly wanderd aimlessly. So, Nei Chu, one of the great authorities of Goju Ryu karate in Japan at the time, convinced Oyama that he had a place in martial arts. Master Chu is also the one who persuaded him to gain psychic and physical strength in isolation for 3 years.
The Birth of Kyokushin Karate
In the Western world, the way of life of the Far East has always been misunderstood. The martial arts path truly is a way of life and understanding of the East. The notion of absolute respect for the hierarchy at every turn, Zen philosophy, inner strength, body language without many words, posture, and behavior in general. In this environment, Oyama needed to create something better, something different. Achieving “enlightenment” or a better expression for a Westerner, focusing on the right path, could only be achieved in isolation. The goal was three years to live in seclusion at the top of a mountain.
During his younger life, as described in one of Oyama’s many books, Oyama was attacked by a criminal on the road. He killed the attacker with a single blow to the temple. That is not the point of this anecdote. What is very interesting is that Oyama visited the family of the murdered criminal and assisted his wife and children for several years. When the family said they no longer had “debt” to them, Oyama stopped. This shows the honor and responsibility of the Eastern way of life, many times not understood by Westerners.
Of course, there are many exceptions and disadvantages to this lifestyle as well. All the above text so far is just trying to evoke a person who has just started to create new martial art. At the age of 23, Oyama is taking a big step. Inspired by the famous book Musashi, which talks about the famous Japanese Samurai and describes the Bushido lifestyle. He goes to Minobu Mountain, where Musashi also developed his skills, thinking it was a fitting place to develop his spiritual and physical abilities. Of course, he brings the book to the mountain. Martial arts student Yashiro also goes to the mountain along with Oyam. After 6 months of seclusion, Yashiro sneaks out at night and flees to civilization. It has become almost unbearable for Oyama who is also struggling with a desire to return. In order not to go back, he cut off an eyebrow to avoid going back so “ugly.” Oyama trained and meditated every day. The goal was Oyama’s famous saying: “Train more than you sleep and you will succeed.” He hit the tree until it was dry, training strength on and with rocks, in the cold, rain, sun. It strengthened his spirit and body, it was not easy. After 14 months, the sponsor informed him that he could no longer support him and Oyama had to return. A few months after that (1947), Japan organized a martial arts championship, the first time since World War II. Oyama wins convincingly. His skill was better than everyone else’s. He would later prove to be one of the strongest in the world.
Young Oyama was still tormented for not completing his three years of training… Oyama made the decision that his life would be fully devoted to karate. He set off again into the seclusion of the mountain. This time to Kiyozumi Mountain. He chose this mountain for his spiritual elevation. He was even more persistent and even more stubborn about succeeding. He trained for 12 hours a day, stood under cold water, tossed stones, and skipped fast-growing plants several hundred times a day. Every day he would study martial arts theory, Zen, and philosophy. Since he spent a lot of time studying and reading the Samurai tradition, he tried to pass that on to his skill. “One Hit Certain Kill,” popularly known in Japan as ICHI GEKI, was the goal. Namely, it was considered dishonorable to strike the enemy many times in order to defeat him. Of course, that was the goal, no one succeeded in that, but that’s why Oyama was very close. The success of training on the mountain was to be shown to the world. He showed it in 1950 by fighting bulls. He fought 52 bulls. He killed three bulls with one blow, while on the 49 remainings he broke the horn with one blow. One has to imagine the power of the kick, the reflex speed and the agility of Oyama at the moment when an average 500 kg bull with horns goes at him, and he kills him with one punch. As stated before, he did not kill every bull but Ichi Geki got a real, not mystical meaning. The question immediately arose; what can he do to a man if he can kill a bull with one blow. Of course, for Oyama, this venture was not small. In 1957 he was almost killed when an angry bull rammed him in the horns. All the same, he managed to overcome the bull and deflect his horn. Six months lasted recovery from an injury classified as a fatal injury. In 1952, he began his journey around America demonstrating karate on television and in front of an audience. He fought against 270 different opponents. He got every fight. Of course, the vast majority of fights ended with just one blow. The fight would never last more than three minutes. Most often, a few seconds. The principle of combat was clear. If the opponent came close he would be knocked out.
If Oyama struck, that would in most cases be the end. Specifically, if you blocked a punch in the ribs with your hand, your arm would break or it would dislocate in your wrist, if you didn’t, a few ribs would break. Oyama has become known as the “Hand of God”, which he touches it changes… Ichi Geki becomes reality. There is a lot of mystique in the various martial arts around such a blow. Oyama did this on a daily basis. If he had lived in other times doing a katana (Japanese sword) he would have been a true Samurai. For Oyama, it was nothing but good aiming and a well-executed karate punch. In Japan, Oyama challenged all masters, all martial arts to combat. No one ever responded. In 1953, he opened the first “Dojo” (training hall) in Tokyo. By the end of 1957, there were 700 members in the club, despite a large dropout rate due to very demanding training. They would observe fighters of different styles and take what was applicable in combat. Oyama was not limited to karate. At that moment, Kyokushin karate began to crystallize. All the fighters took the training seriously and everyone knew how to give but also expected to receive the blow. At that time a blow to the head was allowed with the palm of the hand or the wrists wrapped. Grabbing, throwing, and punching the genitals was a normal thing. The fight lasted until the person loudly stated that he was surrendering or was clearly unable to continue the fight. At that point, the departure of people from the club was 90%. There was no kimono, but everyone wore what they wanted. A real fight, almost without rules. In 1964, a world organization was created.
The martial art was called Kyokushin (in free translation: “the ultimate truth”). In the same year, IKO (International Karate Organization) was created. The organization at its peak (for Oyama’s life) had 12 million members in over 120 countries. It was one of the strongest and largest organizations. Many famous people also promoted Kyokushin. Sean Connery (honorary shodan), Dolph Lundgren (sandan), Nelson Mandela (honorary hachidan), and many others. A lot of people practiced Kyokushin karate, but still, not everyone could easily stay in it and achieve something. The teachers are very respectful, if not for the personality, then definitely for the Kyokushin path they have gone through. Each master and every skill has its advantages and disadvantages, but even today, Kyokushin has a special status among the true martial arts connoisseurs. Also, very few people dare to come to adult training, let alone stay, and become something. Other martial arts do not often send fighters to senior competitions. As time went on, the goal was not to hold on and we had seniors. Kyokushin has adapted to children of all ages, and children have all the protective gear and fight without or half-contact. Children learn karate for a long time and when they reach the senior year (19 years) entering contact fights is a normal sequence of circumstances.
Many have tried to show that their Kyokushin karate is good. Oyama also provided them with a benchmark. 100 fights in a row, from which you must not come out as a loser and a couple of times as a draw. Many people have tried and failed. It’s not easy to beat a rested opponent every time. Today in Kyokushin black belts, there are such fights up to a maximum of 50 fights. Few people in the world have endured this “only half of the fighting”. Only a few people in the world have managed to make “100 Kumite”. Oyama made 100 Kumite, or 300 fights, 3 days in a row. People have been recovering for months from beating 100 Kumite all day, and Oyama has done it 3 times in a row. The willpower, human endurance, good karate, and spiritual peace can achieve the above. No one but Oyama repeated it. No mystification, no unreal, Oyama said the solution to success. “Train more than you sleep.”
Is Kyokushin Karate Effective In a Street Fight and for Self-Defence?
In Kyokushin Karate training, there is a lot of sparring involved, which means you will be ready in a street fight and for self-defence.
It makes you ready for a fight, you get to know how to receive punches (mostly to the body, because head punches are not allowed while sparring), your body becomes harder, more resilient, and you build a lot of condition needed for every fight.
On Kyokushin Karate training you often fight at a close distance. That way you learn how to pull punches when you are close to your attacker in a street fight with both hands and legs, and in training, you spare a fair amount of time learning how to use your hips and change weight to increase power in your strikes.
Also, training in Kyokushin Karate will make your strikes extremely fast, and what is maybe more important for self-defence, they will become unpredictable.
Alongside your journey into Kyokushin Karate’s full-contact fighting style, it’s crucial to mitigate the risk of injury during bouts and training. Proper gear is critical. If you’re taking the path to martial arts mastery, consider reading about the Top Karate Sparring Gloves to boost your protection and enjoy the learning process safely.
But, as we mentioned above, Kyokushin Karate does not allow strikes to the head, because you don’t have protective gear (even though some training gyms use protective gear, and then do allow strikes to the head). That is definitely a problem for self-defence in a street fight, because your attacker will definitely try to go for your head. Also, your strikes to the head hurt your hands much more then strikes to the rest of the body.
If you train in a gym that allows strikes to the head, then Kyokushin Karate is definitely great for self-defence in a street fight and a very complete martial art technique.
Notable MMA fighters that trained Kyokushin Karate
Some of the best MMA fighters that trained in Kyokushin Karate are Guy Mezger, Bas Rutten, Uriah Hall, and George St. Pierre.