About Kyokushin Karate

Welcome to Kyokushin, a full-contact style of Karate founded by Sosai Mas Oyama. Read here about:

  1. What is Karate
  2. Sosai Mas Oyama & the Founding of Kyokushin
  3. Kyokushin Kata
  4. Kumite (Fighting)
  5. Gradings
  6. Tournaments
  7. Tameshiwari (Board Breaking)
  8. Ranks & Titles

Watch this video to give you a flavour of Karate training with KIMAA:

1. What is Karate

There are many books outlining the history of Karate, and Kyokushin Karate in particular. The following is a brief outline.

Black Belt grading, September 2014.

The earliest forms of unarmed combat were brought to China from India by Buddhist monks. In particular, around 500 AD a zen Buddhist monk named Bhodidarma arrived in China and as well as teaching Zen, he also taught an unarmed system of combat called Shorin Kempo. Bhodidarma also linked his combat system with yoga and Zen meditation making a more complete system. Even today Zen has an inseparable link with the fighting arts.

From China, kempo spread North to Mongolia, east to Korea and South East to Okinawa (around 1393). In Okinawa, at various times in its history (1400 and again in 1609) authorities forbade the use of arms by the populace. During this time, unarmed combat became even more widely taught throughout Okinawa for obvious reasons.

It was not until the late 19th Century after many centuries of cross development that mainland Japan showed any interest in the combat art that came to be known as Karate (the way of the empty hand). In 1916, Master Gichin Funakoshi came from Okinawa to Tokyo and pioneered the modern system of Karate in Japan.


2. Sosai Mas Oyama & the Founding of Kyokushin

The founder of our system, Masutatsu Oyama, was born in 1923 near Seoul in South Korea. He started studying Chinese Kempo when he was nine years of age. In 1938 he moved to Japan, where in 1941 he entered University. Initially he studied Judo but switched to Karate becoming a student of Gichin Funakoshi. Oyama made such rapid progress that at 17 he was graded 2nd Dan. In 1943 he was drafted into the military – he continued training under Sodeiju, then karate instructor at the Goju school, where he was graded 4th Dan. In 1947, he won the All Japan Karate Tournament.

Sosai Oyama

In 1948, deciding that he wanted to devote the rest of his life to spreading knowledge of karate, he spent the next years in seclusion from human society, living in temples and in the mountains subjecting himself to the physical rigours of martial arts training day and night. He also meditated on Zen precepts seeking enlightenment. During this period he struggled with wild animals, smashed rocks and trees with his bare hands and meditated under icy waterfalls in an extremely harsh course of self discipline.

In 1951 he returned to civilisation. His fame spread rapidly as his ability was sensational. Among other things, he had killed a bull with his bare hands. In 1952 Oyama did what no other master had done before or since. He toured the United States where he took on all comers in over 200 matches. He won all of these fights by knockouts, competing against professional boxers and wrestlers. Oyama showed the world the amazing power of Karate and proved himself to be in a class of his own.

Sosai Oyama performing Sanchin kata

After many other successful tours through Asia and other areas of the world demonstrating his skills, he set up many dojos in Japan. His fame, so widely spread also led to other dojos being set up all over the world. In 1965 the present day headquarters for Kyokushin was opened in Tokyo.

Kyokushin means the “ultimate truth” and from its inception Oyama intended his system to be as realistic as possible with the stress being on combat effectiveness and fighting. In 1969 Oyama introduced his ‘knockdown’ tournament concept with the first All Japan Karate Tournament, allowing heavy contact to the head and body with a wide range of techniques, though no punching to the head was allowed. In 1975 the first World Open Tournament was held in Tokyo. Since 1975 the world tournament has been held every four years.

Sosai Mas Oyama had a close relationship with Hanshi Howard Lipman, who he appointed to Australian Branch Chief in in 1989 and South Pacific Representative to the International Committee of Kyokushin in 1993. Hanshi Howard was graded to 5th Dan (Shihan) by Sosai in in 1992, and Shihan Rick Cunningham was graded to 3rd Dan by Sosai in 1993. Sadly, Sosai passed away in 1994.


Meaning of Kyokushin


The word “Kyokushin” literally translates as “the way of the ultimate truth”. While there are many interpretations of this, basically it means the further you go down the path of Kyokushin Karate, the more you begin to learn about yourself.

The Kanku

Kyokushin Karate is Budo (fighting) Karate and not sports karate. It is practical and readily usable in everyday life. It is a style noted for its power and effectiveness and is known the world over by the name “the strongest Karate”.

Kyokushin Karate develops spirit through the depth of training involved and the high level of conditioning undertaken. This fighting spirit will allow you to keep going even when you think you can do no more. During training this fighting spirit will be tested frequently.


Benefits of Training

Confidence, fitness, and the ability to defend yourself are only three of the many benefits of training with Kyokushin Karate.

You will also find that your reflexes will improve, along with a much improved cardiovascular system. The ability to cope with the stresses and strains of everyday life and pressure situations are further benefits of Kyokushin Karate.

As with most elite sports, Karate and Kobudo offers a range of benefits when you commit to training a minimum of two times a week. As you progress through each kyu (level) you’ll find that the principles applied in this discipline can be extended to other areas of your life.

Strength & fitness training in Kyokushin - Sempai Don Cheung
Strength & fitness training in Kyokushin, demonstrated by Sensei Don Cheong.
  • Self-confidence
  • Learn to be goal oriented
  • Learn to be an achiever
  • Reduction in body fat
  • The ability to perform under pressure
  • The abilty to concentrate for long periods
  • Learn the ability to defend yourself
  • Increase in muscular strength and tone


3. Kyokushin Kata

Shihan Peter Olive performing the Kata Kanku-Dai.

A kata is a sequence of blocks, kicks and punches from one or more stances, involving movement forward, backward and to the sides. The number of movements and their sequence are very specific. The balance between offensive and defensive techniques, the stances used and the direction and flow of movement all serve to give each kata its distinctive character.

Through the practice of kata, the traditional techniques used for fighting are learned. Balance, coordination, breathing and concentration are also developed.

Done properly, kata are an excellent physical exercise and a very effective form of total mind and body conditioning.

Sosai Mas Oyama performing kata
Sosai Mas Oyama performing kata.

Kata embodies the idea of ren ma, or “always polishing” – with diligent practice, the moves of the kata become further refined and perfected. The attention to detail that is necessary to perfect a kata cultivates self discipline.

Through concentration, dedication and practice, a higher level of learning may be achieved, where the kata is so ingrained in the subconscious mind that no conscious attention is needed. This is what the Zen masters call mushin, or “no mind.” The conscious, rational thought practice is not used at all – what was once memorized is now spontaneous.

The practice of traditional kata is also a way for the karateka to pay respect to the origins and history of Kyokushin Karate and the martial arts in general.

Click here for videos of Senseis demonstrating Kyokushin Kata.


4. Kumite (Fighting)


Kumite literally means “meeting of hands”. An important part of Kyokushin is kumite training. Students begin with three-step-sparring, which is typically a rehearsed series of movements. They progress to free light contact sparring, and eventually full contact.

Students practice kumite in class against each other. Each grading has a required number of fights to be completed, depending on the belt. Tournament fighting has its own rules and variations, and is the pinnacle of kumite in Kyokushin.


History of the Hundred Man Kumite

Shihan Rick Cunningham has completed the Fifty Man Kumite.

The hundred-man kumite is widely regarded as the ultimate test of physical and mental perseverance in Kyokushin Martial Arts.

In essence, the exercise consists of a 2-minute round of kumite with 100 opponents within one day, preferably sparring a different person for each round. In addition to the basic requirement of 100 fights, the competitor must clearly win at least 50% of the fights and if knocked down, should not stay down for longer than 5 seconds.


Yamoaka Tesshu’s Hundred Man Duel

During the mid-nineteenth century there lived a great sword master in Japan by the name of Yamaoka Tesshu, who was the founder of the Hokushin Itto-Ryo. This man is reputed to have completed a 100 man duel, in which he fought (and defeated) one hundred consecutive opponents with the shinai (the bamboo sword used to practice kendo).


Masahiko Kimura’s Two Hundred Man Throwing

Masahiko Kimura, arguably the most famous judoka in the history of the sport, was a close friend of Mas Oyama. Oyama said of him that Kimura was the only person he knew who trained as hard or possibly harder than Oyama did himself!

Kimura’s record in All-Japan Judo title was bettered only by Yasuhiro Yamashita, who held the title for 9 consecutive years. In the Japanese Judo world, there is a saying that goes “Before Kimura, no Kimura. After Kimura, no Kimura”.

It is said that that Kimura once completed Judo throwing against two hundred black belts over two consecutive days, and was not defeated once.


Mas Oyama’s Three Hundred Man Kumite

Sosai Mas Oyama

It was with these examples in mind that Oyama decided to test his own abilities. And he would go one day better! He chose the strongest students in his dojo, who were to fight him one at a time until they’d all had a turn, and then they’d start from the beginning again, until the three hundred rounds were up. He defeated them all, never wavering in his resolve, despite the fact that he himself suffered severe physical injury in the process.

Each student had to face him about four times over the three days, though some never made it past the first day due to Oyama’s powerful blows. Legend even has it that Oyama was willing to go for a FOURTH day, but no one else was willing or able! This took place long after he had completed his mountain training.


5. Gradings

Our grading system will allow you to chart your own progress rather than compare yourself with other students. There are 10 levels up to black belt with each level called a kyu and cover 5 coloured belts. Each kyu has 2 levels with the higher denoted by a black stripe. The belts follow the order orange, blue, yellow, green and brown. Black belts also vary in degrees with 1st Dan denoted by one gold stripe, 2nd Dan by two and so on.

Kyokushin Karate Belt Levels – click to enlarge
Kyokushin Karate Belt Levels for Kids – click to enlarge

Tests for the various grades are held every 3 months up to 5th kyu, every 6 months for 4th to 2nd kyu, and 1st kyu having to train for 1 year before attempting black belt. The tests for your gradings are carried out in accordance with the grading syllabus which you wil be given once you join the dojo.

Given consistent training and constant practice you’ll see that it takes around 4-6 years before you can attempt your black belt grading however we stress that achieving the rank of 1st Dan should not be the “end of” your path in karate, but the beginning of a new journey, for like the ten levels below black belt, there are ten levels which one can aspire to after black.


6. Tournaments

Sempai James Campbell (far right) in the Okinawa Karate Tournament 2015.
Sempai James Campbell (far right) in the Okinawa Karate Tournament 2015.

Kyokushin Karate is a fighting karate style however we don’t expect you to enter tournaments if you have no desire to do so. As you progress you may wish to compete. There will be opportunities for you to compete. These take the form of non-contact, semi-contact, and full contact.

Your first tournament will likely be non-contact to introduce you to competitive fighting and give you an opportunity to experience in a controlled situation before moving on to full-contact.

Full-contact tournaments will require a great deal of dedication to training and a tremendous test of courage, stamina, technique and spirit. In addition there are kata tournaments which you can compete in to show your karate technique without having to fight.

KIMAA students of all ages compete in local, state and national tournaments regularly, and other national championships; whether they are experienced or beginners, in both Kobudo and Kyokushin.

Select students even compete internationally – click here for videos from the 22nd Okinawa Karate Tournament, March 2015.


7. Tameshiwari (Board Breaking)

Seiken (forefist break)
Sosai Oyama performing a break

Breaking (tameshiwari) tests technique, develops strength, and fosters a positive mental attitude. Breaking boards is easy once you learn the correct techniques and understand the physics behind the technique. Board breaking is not taught until the senior grades when students have become more confident in their ability to do breaks and have the technique necessary for tameshiwari.

You can view more board breaking photos here or here.


8. Ranks & Titles

KIMAA observes the ranks of Shihan, Sensei, Sempai and Kohai in day to day training.

  • Kohai generally refers to all Kyu (non-black belt) grades, or ‘junior student’.
  • Sempai, ‘senior student’, refers to 1st and 2nd Dan black belt. If a Kohai is taking a class, they would also be addressed as Sempai. This title is also often spelled ‘Senpai’.
  • Sensei refers to 3rd and 4th Dan black belt. The term generally means ‘he who has gone before’, but has also taken on the more general term of ‘teacher’.
  • Shihan refers to 5th Dan or above, and is a chief instructor. It is also often translated to ‘Master’.
  • Sosai is a unique title reserved for Masutatsu Oyama. It translates approximately to ‘President’ or ‘Director-General’.

Other titles in martial arts can include Shihan-dai (4th Dan), Renshi (6th Dan), Kyoshi (7th Dan) or Hanshi (8th Dan). The attribution of these titles varies between styles. While some of KIMAA’s senior instructors are owners of these titles, they are still just usually referred to as Sensei or Shihan, as outlined above, with the exception of Hanshi Howard Lipman.