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Kyokushin Karate
Kyokushin kaikan.gif
Focus Striking
Hardness Full-contact; Competitions include kicks to the head, but not hand strikes to the head
Country of origin Japan
Creator Masutatsu Oyama
Famous practitioners Steve Arneil, Sonny Chiba, Sean Connery, Glaube Feitosa, Francisco Filho, Andy Hug, Hajime Kazumi, Katsunori Kikuno, Bobby Lowe, Dolph Lundgren, Akira Masuda, Shokei Matsui, Kenji Midori, Glen Murphy, Andrews Nakahara, Nicholas Pettas, Jerome Le Banner, Bas Rutten, Semmy Schilt, Peter Graham, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tiger Schulmann, Georges St-Pierre, Ewerton Teixeira, Marius Zaromskis, Michael Jai White, Terutomo Yamazaki, Uriah Hall
Parenthood Gōjū-ryūShotokan

Kyokushin (極真?) is a style of stand-up, full contact karate, founded in 1964 by Korean-Japanese Masutatsu Oyama (大山倍達 Ōyama Masutatsu?). Kyokushin is Japanese for "the ultimate truth." Kyokushin is rooted in a philosophy of self-improvement, discipline and hard training.[1][2] Its full contact style has had international appeal (practitioners have over the last 40+ years numbered more than 12 million).[3]


Founding of International Karate Organization / Kyokushinkaikan

After formally establishing the Kyokushinkaikan in 1964, Oyama directed the organization through a period of expansion.[4] Oyama hand-picked instructors who displayed ability in marketing the style and gaining new members. Oyama would choose an instructor to open a new dojo. The instructor would move to that town and demonstrate his karate skills in public places. 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 Netherlands (Kenji Kurosaki), Australia (Shigeo Kato) and (Mamoru Kaneko), the United States of America (Tadashi Nakamura, Shigeru Oyama and Yasuhiko Oyama, Miyuki Miura), Great Britain (Steve Arneil), Canada (Tatsuji Nakamura) and Brazil (Seiji Isobe) to spread Kyokushin in the same way. Many students, including Jon Bluming, Steve Arneil, and Howard Collins, traveled to Japan to train with Oyama directly. In 1969, Oyama staged The First All-Japan Full Contact Karate Open Championships and Terutomo Yamazaki became the first champion. All-Japan Championships have been held at every year. In 1975, The First World Full Contact Karate Open Championships were held in Tokyo. World Championships have been held at four-yearly intervals since.

Split after Oyama's death

After Mas Oyama's death, the International Karate Organization (IKO) split into two groups, primarily due to personal conflicts over who should succeed Oyama as chairman. One group led by Shokei Matsui became known as IKO-1, and a second group led by Nishida[5] and Sanpei became was known as IKO-2. The will was proven to be invalid in the family Court of Tokyo in 1995. Before his death, Oyama named no one as his successor, although he did mention Matsui to be the most eligible one[citation needed].

In 1995 any new Kyokushin organization that claimed the name IKO, Kyokushinkaikan, were referred to by Kyokushin practitioners by numbers, such as IKO-1 (Matsui group), IKO-2 etc. Due to this break up, many attempted to establish their own leadership. For example, IKO-2 was not organized by the family, although Chiyako Oyama was asked to succeed after her husband as Kancho. Chiyako Oyama stepped away from the political fight and founded the Mas Oyama Memorial Foundation with her daughters, still retaining the rights to the companies that managed IKO Kyokushinkaikan during Mas Oyama's leadership.

Present status

Internationally known, Japanese-based organizations that claim the name "International Karate Organization" include:

  • IKO Kyokushinkaikan "Sosai", organized by Mas Oyama's daughter, Kurstina Oyama, which by court order has the rights to Mas Oyama's Honbu.[6]
  • IKO Kyokushinkaikan "Matsui" or "Ichi-Geki", headed by Shokei Matsui.[7]
  • IKO Kyokushinkaikan, All Japan Kyokushin Union, headed by Koi.[8]

Other Japanese Kyokushin groups no longer officially claiming the original name of "IKO" and "Kyokushinkaikan":

  • WKO (World Karate Organization) Shinkyokushin, headed by Midori as president.[9]
  • International Honbu, Kyokushin Shogakukai Foundation, Kyokushin-Kan, headed by Royama as president.[10]

'Kyokushin groups outside of Japan:

  • International Federation of Karate (IFK), Kyokushin, founded by former IKO member Steve Arneil.[11]
  • Kyokushin Budokai, IBK, founded by former IKO Jon Bluming.[12]
  • International Kyokushin Union (IKU), founded by former IKO member David Farzinzad.[13]
  • International Kyokushinkai Association - (IKA) founded by former IKO member Carllos Costa, based in Brazil.[14]
  • International Kyokushinkai Karate Federation - (IKKF) founded by former IKO member Teyub Azizov, based in Azerbaijan.[15]

Oyama's widow died in June 2006 after a long illness. Mas Oyama's youngest daughter, Kikuko (also known as Kuristina) now oversees the management of the original IKO Kyokushin kaikan Honbu. She also published a book in 2010, a collective memoir of Mas Oyama and his teachings.

In May 2012, the Japanese Patent Office granted the Kyokushin related trademarks to Kikuko Kuristina Oyama, after years of long court battle. She has internationally trademarked and copyrighted her father's work and devotes the proceeds to various charities.[citation needed]


Oyama had designed the Kanji of Kyokushinkai to resemble the Samurai sword safely placed in its sheath. Kanji is the representation (using Chinese characters) of the word Kyokushinkai, which is the name of the ryu or style. Translated, "kyoku" means "ultimate", "shin" means "truth" or "reality" and "kai" means "to join" or "to associate". In essence Kyokushinkai, roughly translated, means "Ultimate Truth".[16] This concept has less to do with the Western meaning of truth; rather it is more in keeping with the bushido concept of discovering the nature of one's true character when tried.[17] One of the goals of kyokushin is to strengthen and improve character by challenging oneself through rigorous training.[18]

Techniques and training

Kyokushin training consists of three main elements: technique, forms, and sparring. These are sometimes referred to as the three "K's" after the Japanese words for them: kihon (basics), kata (forms), and kumite (sparring).


Kata is a form of ritualized self-training in which patterned or memorized movements are done in order to practice a form of combat maneuvering. According to a highly regarded Kyokushin text, "The Budo Karate of Mas Oyama"[19] by Cameron Quinn, long time interpreter to Oyama, the kata of Kyokushin are classified into Northern and Southern Kata.


The northern kata stems from the Shuri-te tradition of karate, and are drawn from Shotokan karate which Oyama learned while training under Gichin Funakoshi. Some areas now phase out the prefix "sono" in the kata names.

The Taikyoku kata were originally created by Gichin Funakoshi, founder of Shotokan karate.

  • Pinan Sono Ichi
  • Pinan Sono Ni
  • Pinan Sono San
  • Pinan Sono Yon
  • Pinan Sono Go

The 5 Pinan katas, known in some other styles as Heian, were originally created in 1904 by Ankō Itosu, a master of Shuri-te and Shorin ryu (a combination of the shuri-te and tomari-te traditions of karate). He was a teacher to Gichin Funakoshi. Pinan (pronounced /pin-ann/) literally translates as Peace and Harmony.

Some organizations have removed the "Dai" from the name, calling it only "Kanku", as there is no "Sho" or other alternate Kanku variation practiced in kyokushin. The Kanku kata was originally known as Kusanku or Kushanku, and is believed to have either been taught by, or inspired by, a Chinese martialartist who was sent to Okinawa as an ambassador in the Ryukyu Kingdom during the 16th century. Kanku translates to "sky watching".

The Kata Sushiho is a greatly modified version of the old Okinawian kata that in Shotokan is known as Gojushiho, and in some other styles as Useishi. The name means "54 steps", referring to a symbolic number in Buddhism.

A very old Okinawian kata of unknown origin, the name Bassai or Passai translates to "to storm a castle". It was originally removed from the kyokushin syllabus in the late 1950s, but was reintroduced into some kyokushin factions after Oyama's death and the resulting fractioning of the organization.

This kata is a very old Okinawian kata, also known as Tekki in Shotokan. It is generally classified as belonging to the Tomari-te traditions. The name Tekki translates to "iron horse" but the meaning of the name Naihanchi is "internal divided conflict". It was originally removed from the kyokushin syllabus in the late 1950s, but was reintroduced into some kyokushin factions after Oyama's death and the resulting fractioning of the organization.


These three kata were created by Masutatsu Oyama to further develop kicking skills and follow the same embu-sen (performance line) as the original Taikyoku kata. Sokugi literally means Kicking, while Taikyoku translates as Grand Ultimate View. They were not formally introduced into the Kyokushin syllabus until after the death of Oyama.


The southern kata stems from the Naha-te tradition of karate, and are drawn from Goju Ryu karate, which Oyama learned while training under So Nei Chu and Gogen Yamaguchi.[citation needed] Two exceptions are "Tsuki no kata" which was created by Tadashi Nakamura of Seido for Kyokushin, and the kata "Yantsu" which possibly originates with Motobu-ha Shito ryu, where it is called "Hansan" or "Ansan" – there is much debate about the origin of Yantsu.

  • Gekisai Dai
  • Gekisai Sho

Gekisai was created by Chojun Miyagi, founder of Goju Ryu karate. The name means "attack and smash"

  • Tensho

Tensho is one of the older, more fundamental katas. Its origins are based on the point and circle principles of Kempo. It was heavily influenced by the late by Chojun Miyagi and was regarded as an internal yet advanced Kata by Oyama. The name means "rotating palms" and is regarded as the connection between the old and modern Karate.

Sanchin is a very old kata with roots in China. The name translates to "three points" or "three battles". The version done in kyokushin is most closely related to the version Kanryo Higashionna (or Higaonna), teacher of Chojun Miyagi, taught (and not to the modified version taught by Chojun Miyagi himself).

  • Saifa (Saiha)

Originally a Chinese kata. It was brought to Okinawa and karate by Kanryo Higshionna. Its name translates to "smash and tear down".

  • Seienchin

Originally a Chinese kata, regarded as very old. It was brought to Okinawa and karate by Kanryo Higshionna. The name translates roughly to "grip and pull into battle".

  • Seipai

Originally a Chinese kata. It was brought to Okinawa and karate by Kanryo Higshionna. The name translates to the number 18, which is significant in Buddhism.

Yantsu originates with Motobu-ha Shitoryu, the name translates to "keep pure"

  • Tsuki no kata

This kata was created by Seigo Tada, founder of the Seigokan branch of Goju-Ryu. In Seigokan goju-ryu the kata is known as Kihon Tsuki no kata and is one of two Katas created by the founder. How the kata was introduced into Kyokushin is largely unknown, but since Tadashi Nakamura are often claimed in error as the creator of the kata in Kyokushin, speculations are that he introduced it into Kyokushin after learning it from his Goju-ryu background.

  • Garyu

The kata Garyu, is not taken from traditional Okinawan karate but was created by Oyama and named after his pen name (Garyu =reclining dragon), which is the Japanese pronunciation of the characters 臥龍, the name of the village (Il Loong) in Korea where he was born.

Ura Kata

Several kata are also done in "ura", which essentially means all turns are done spinning around. The URA, or 'reverse' kata were developed by Oyama as an aid to developing balance and skill in circular techniques against multiple opponents.

  • Taikyoku sono ichi ura
  • Taikyoku sono ni ura
  • Taikyoku sono san ura
  • Pinan sono ichi ura
  • Pinan sono ni ura
  • Pinan sono san ura
  • Pinan sono yon ura
  • Pinan sono go ura

Sparring (kumite)

Sparring, also called kumite, is used to train the application of the various techniques within a fighting situation. Sparring is usually an important part of training in most Kyokushin organizations, especially at the upper levels with experienced students.

In most Kyokushin organizations, hand and elbow strikes to the head or neck are prohibited. However, kicks to the head, knee strikes, punches to the upper body, and kicks to the inner and outer leg are permitted. In some Kyokushin organizations, especially outside of a tournament environment, gloves and shin protectors are worn. Children often wear headgear to lessen the impact of any kicks to the head. Speed and control are instrumental in sparring and in a training environment it is not the intention of either practitioner to injure his opponent as much as it is to successfully execute the proper strike. Tournament fighting under knockdown karate rules is significantly different as the objective is to down an opponent. Full-contact sparring in Kyokushin is considered the ultimate test of strength, endurance, techniques and spirit. [21]


Also known as Goshin-jutsu, the specific self-defense techniques of the style draw much of their techniques and tactics from Mas Oyama's study of Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu under Yoshida Kotaro. These techniques were never built into the formal grading system, and as kyokushin grew increasingly sport-oriented, the self-defense training started to fall into obscurity. Today it is only practiced in a limited number of dojos.


Colored belts have their origin in Judo, as does the training 'gi', or more correctly in Japanese, 'dōgi' or 'Keikogi'. In Kyokushin the order of the belts varies in some breakaway groups, the kyu ranks and belt colors are as follows with the kyu grade black stripes optional:

Mukyu White
10th Kyu Orange Belt
9th Kyu Orange With Black Stripe
8th Kyu Blue Belt
7th Kyu Blue With Black Stripe
6th Kyu Yellow Belt
5th Kyu Yellow With Black Stripe
4th Kyu Green Belt
3rd Kyu Green With Black Stripe
2nd Kyu Brown Belt
1st Kyu Brown With Black Stripe
1st Dan Black Belt 1st Dan
2nd Dan Black Belt 2nd Dan
3rd Dan Black Belt 3rd Dan
4th Dan Black Belt 4th Dan
5th Dan Black Belt 5th Dan
6th Dan Black Belt 6th Dan
7th Dan Black Belt 7th Dan
8th Dan Black Belt 8th Dan
9th Dan Black Belt 9th Dan
10th Dan Black Belt 10th Dan

Note: Mukyu of the white belt literally means "no grade"


Kyokushin has had an influence on many other styles. The knockdown karate competition format is now used by other styles. Karate styles that originated in Kyokushin, such as Ashihara Karate, Budokaido, Godokai, Enshin Karate, Seidō juku, Musokai, Shidōkan and Seidokaikan, are also knockdown styles and use slight variations of the competition rules.

A few styles (Kansuiryu Karate and Byakuren) originated independently of Kyokushin and have adopted the competition format. Kokondo is derived from Kyokushin, albeit without a strong focus on competition with the emphasis rather on realistic goshin-jutsu (self-defense). Some styles originating in Kyokushin (Jushindo, Daido Juku, Kudo, Zendokai) have changed to mixed martial arts rules.

Kickboxing has been seen as a natural progression for kyokushin competitors[citation needed] and many of Japan's top kickboxers[who?] have started in knockdown karate. The influence of Kyokushin can be seen in the K-1 kickboxing tournament that originated out of the Seidokaikan karate organization, which is an offshoot from Kyokushin.

Kyokushin is the basis of glove karate, a knockdown karate format wearing boxing gloves and allowing punches to the head. Glove karate rules are used in kyokushin karate Iran.[22][23]

In popular culture

Video games

The move sets of Ryu and Ken from Capcom's Street Fighter franchise are based on Kyokushin; Ryu is said to be based on Yoshiji Soeno, a student of Mas Oyama. In Namco's Tekken series, Jin Kazama is said to travel to Brisbane, Australia to learn karate.[24] At the time of Tekken's creation, Cameron Quinn[25] – a well-known instructor of Kyokushin Karate, Mas Oyama's interpreter, and the author of The Budo Karate of Mas Oyama – was teaching students such as Garry O'Neill and Walter Schnaubelt at his well-known Kyokushin dojo in the city of Brisbane.

Jin Kazama uses the art of Kyokushin Karate in Tekken 4, Tekken 5, Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection, Tekken 6, and Tekken 6: Bloodline Rebellion; he can be seen practicing Yantsu and Pinan Sono Yon Kata in various demonstration modes in the Tekken series. Kadonashi Shotaro and his students from Namco's Urban Reign use the art of Kyokushinkai.

Jean Kujo, from the Virtua Fighter series, practices varied forms of full-contact karate, including Kyokushin Karate.

Solara from Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects is said to practice Kyokushin.

Kyokugenryu Karate is a fictional martial art from SNK Playmore's Art of Fighting, Fatal Fury, and King of Fighters series. Kyokugenryu (lit. "the extreme style"), which is practiced by Ryo Sakazaki, Robert Garcia, Yuri Sakazaki, Takuma Sakazaki and Marco Rodriguez/Khushnood Butt, is heavily based on Kyokushin Karate.

Ichigeki: Hagane no Hito is a 3D fighting game for the PlayStation that focuses primarily on Kyokushin Karate, including training and full contact competitions.

Karate Master Knock Down Blow a recent game from Crian Soft that is heavy Kyokushin based.


A trilogy of films starring Sonny Chiba and directed by Kazuhiko Yamaguchi were produced in Japan between 1975 and 1977: Champion of Death, Karate Bearfighter and Karate for Life. Chiba plays Master Oyama, who also appears in two of the films.[26] Dolph Lundgren has a third Dan blackbelt in Kyokushin. He became famous for starring as the Russian boxer Ivan Drago in the film Rocky IV. He also appeared in movies such as Icarus, Diamond Dogs, Universal Soldier, and many others.

The James Bond movie You Only Live Twice, starring Sean Connery, was filmed largely in Japan and featured a karate demonstration by a number of well-known Kyokushin students, including Shigeo Kato (who introduced Kyokushin to Australia and was the original teacher of Shokei Matsui) and Akio Fujihira, who was one of the three fighters who took up the Muay Thai challenge in 1964 and who fought in the ring for many years under the name of Noboru Osawa.


Kyokushin was featured on Fight Quest on Discovery Channel as the Japanese Martial Arts Style.

Kyokushin was the style of karate featured in an episode of Human Weapon.

Kyokushin was studied by a character named Sutton in an episode of Elementary.

Notable practitioners

For practitioners of Kyokushin kaikan, see Category:Kyokushin kaikan practitioners.

See also


  1. "Black Belt April 1994". Retrieved November 22, 2014. 
  2. "Black Belt July 1987". Retrieved 19 January 2015. 
  3. "Juku Kan Kyokushin Karate – History". Retrieved 2011-11-25. 
  4. "Black Belt September 1979". Retrieved November 22, 2014. 
  5. "President of Seibukai". Retrieved 2013-10-26. 
  6. "Official Website of IKO Kyokushinkaikan Founder Masutatsu Oyama". Retrieved 2013-10-26. 
  7. "IKO Kyokushinkaikan". Retrieved 2013-10-26. 
  8. "社団法人 極真会館". Retrieved 2013-10-26. 
  9. "World Karate Organization | World Karate Organization official site". 2013-10-05. Retrieved 2013-10-26. 
  10. "Kyokushin-kan Official Website". Retrieved 2013-10-26. 
  11. "International Federation of Karate". 2013-10-06. Retrieved 2013-10-26. 
  12. "Home". 2013-09-18. Retrieved 2013-10-26. 
  13. "International Kyokushinkai Union (IKU)". Retrieved 2013-10-26. 
  14. "International Kyokushinkai Association". 
  15. "International Kyokushinkai Karate Federation". 
  16. "What is Kyokushin?". Retrieved 2013-04-23. 
  17. Groenwold, A. M. (2002) Karate the Japanese Way Canada: Trafford Publishing.
  18. "What is Kyokushin?". Retrieved 2013-10-26. 
  19. "Budo Karate of Mas Oyama". Retrieved 2011-11-25. 
  20. "Kyokushin Karate - Taikyoku Sono Ichi". Retrieved 2013-10-26. 
  21. "وبسايت آموزشي كيوكوشين كاراته ايران". Retrieved 2013-10-26. 
  22. "Kyokushin karate iran". Retrieved 2013-04-25. 
  23. "All Japan Glove Karate Federation". 2011-10-31. Retrieved 2011-11-25. 
  24. "Jin Kazama". Retrieved 2011-11-25. 
  25. "". Retrieved 2011-11-25. 
  26. "کیوکوشین کاراته ایران". Retrieved 2013-10-26. 
  27. Eshchenko, Alla. "Putin becomes eighth-degree karate black belt". CNN. CNN. Retrieved 23 November 2014.