July 27, 1923
Gimje, Zenra-hoku Prefecture, Japanese Korea
|Died||April 26, 1994 (aged 70)|
|Teacher(s)||Gichin Funakoshi, Gōgen Yamaguchi, Nei-Chu So (1908–1995)|
|Rank||10th Dan Black Belt in Kyokushin Karate|
4th Dan Black Belt in Shotokan Karate
7th Dan Black Belt in Gōjū-ryū Karate
4th Dan Black Belt in [Kosen judo 高專柔道]
|Notable students||Bobby Lowe, Shigeru Oyama, Yasuhiko Ōyama, Sonny Chiba, Jon Bluming, Tadashi Nakamura, Steve Arneil, Hideyuki Ashihara, Hatsuo Royama, Terutomo Yamazaki, Yoshiji Soeno, Peter Chong, Loek Hollander, Katsuaki Satō, Howard Collins, Azuma Takashi, Tae Hong Choi, Jhoon Goo Rhee, Ticky Donovan Georges St. Pierre|
|Revised Romanization||Choe Baedal|
Masutatsu Ōyama (大山 倍達, Ōyama Masutatsu, born Choi Yeong-eui (Hangul: 최영의 Hanja: 崔永宜); July 27, 1923 – April 26, 1994), more commonly known as Mas Oyama, was a karate master who founded Kyokushin Karate, considered the first and most influential style of full contact karate. A Zainichi Korean, he spent most of his life living in Japan and acquired Japanese citizenship in 1968.
Mas Oyama was born as Choi Young-Eui (최영의) in Gimje, Korea under Japanese rule. At a young age he was sent to Manchuria, Northeast China to live on his sister's farm. Oyama began studying Chinese martial arts at age 9 from a Chinese farmer who was working on the farm. His family name was Lee and Oyama said he was his very first teacher. The story of the young Oyama's life is written in his earlier books.
In March 1938, Oyama left for Japan following his brother who enrolled in the Yamanashi Aviation School Imperial Japanese Army aviation school. Sometime during his time in Japan, Choi Young-Eui chose his Japanese name, Oyama Masutatsu (大山 倍達), which is a transliteration of Baedal (倍達). Baedal was an ancient Korean kingdom known in Japan during Oyama's time as "Ancient Joseon".
One story of Oyama's youth involves Lee giving young Oyama a seed which he was to plant; when it sprouted, he was to jump over it one hundred times every day. As the seed grew and became a plant, Oyama later said, "I was able to jump between walls back and forth easily." The writer, Ikki Kajiwara, and the publisher of the comics based the story on the life experience Oyama spoke to them about – thus the title became "Karate Baka Ichidai" (Karate Fanatic).
In 1963, Oyama wrote What is Karate which became a best seller in the US and sold million copies all over the world. It is still considered by many to be the "Bible" of Karate to this day. It was translated into Hungarian, French, and English.
Post-World War II
In 1945 after the war ended, Oyama left the aviation school. He finally found a place to live in Tokyo. This is where he met his future wife Oyako Chiyako (大山 置弥子) whose mother ran a dormitory for university students.
In 1946, Oyama enrolled in Waseda University School of Education to study sports science.
Wanting the best in instruction, he contacted the Shotokan dojo (Karate school) operated by Gigō Funakoshi, the third son of karate master and Shotokan founder Gichin Funakoshi. He became a student, and began his lifelong career in Karate. Feeling like a foreigner in a strange land, he remained isolated and trained in solitude.
Oyama attended Takushoku University in Tokyo and was accepted as a student at the dojo of Gichin Funakoshi. He trained with Funakoshi for two years, then studied Gōjū-ryū karate for several years with Jok Young Joo (조영주 / 曺（曹）寧柱, 1908–1995), a senior student of the system's founder, Chojun Miyagi. So was a fellow Korean from Oyama's native province.
Around the time he also went around Tokyo getting in fights with the U.S. Military Police. He later reminisced those times in a television interview, "Itsumitemo Haran Banjyo" (Nihon Television), "I lost many friends during the war- the very morning of their departure as Kamikaze pilots, we had breakfast together and in the evening their seats were empty. After the war ended, I was angry- so I fought as many U.S. military as I could, until my portrait was all over the police station." Oyama retreated to a lone mountain for solace to train his mind and body. He set out to spend three years on Mt. Minobu in Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan. Oyama built a shack on the side of the mountain. One of his students named Yashiro accompanied him, but after the rigors of this isolated training, with no modern conveniences, the student snuck away one night, and left Oyama alone. With only monthly visits from a friend in the town of Tateyama in Chiba Prefecture, the loneliness and harsh training became grueling. Oyama remained on the mountain for fourteen months, and returned to Tokyo a much stronger and fiercer karateka.
Oyama gave great credit to reading The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi, a famous Japanese swordsman, to change his life completely. He recounts this book as being his only reading material during his mountain training years.
He was forced to leave his mountain retreat after his sponsor had stopped supporting him. Months later, after he had won the Karate Section of Japanese National Martial Arts Championships, he was distraught that he had not reached his original goal to train in the mountains for three years, so he went into solitude again, this time on Mt. Kiyosumi in Chiba Prefecture, Japan and he trained there for 18 months.
In 1953 Oyama opened his own karate dojo, named Oyama Dojo (form of Gōjū-ryū), in Tokyo but continued to travel around Japan and the world giving martial arts demonstrations, which included knocking live bulls unconscious with his bare hands (sometimes grabbing them by the horn, and snapping the horn off). His dojo was first located outside in an empty lot but eventually moved into a ballet school in 1956. The senior instructors under him were T. Nakamura, K. Mizushima, E. Yasuda, M. Ishibashi, and T. Minamimoto. Oyama's own curriculum soon developed a reputation as a tough, intense, hard-hitting but practical style which was finally named Kyokushinkai (Japan Karate-Do Kyokushinkai), which means 'the ultimate truth,' in a ceremony in 1957. He also developed a reputation for being 'rough' with his students, as the training sessions were grueling and students injuring themselves in practice fighting (kumite) was quite common. Along with practice fighting that distinguished Oyama's teaching style from other karate schools, emphasis on breaking objects such as boards, tiles, or bricks to measure one's offensive ability became Kyokushin's trademark. Oyama believed in the practical application of karate and declared that ignoring 'breaking practice is no more useful than a fruit tree that bears no fruit.' As the reputation of the dojo grew students were attracted to come to train there from inside and outside Japan and the number of students grew. Many of the eventual senior leaders of today's various Kyokushin based organisations began training in the style during this time. In 1964 Oyama moved the dojo into the building that would from then on serve as the Kyokushin home dojo and world headquarters. In connection with this he also formally founded the 'International Karate Organization Kyokushin kaikan' (commonly abbreviated to IKO or IKOK) to organise the many schools that were by then teaching the kyokushin style.
In 1961 at the All-Japan Student Open Karate Championship, one of Oyama's students, Tadashi Nakamura, at 19 years old (1961) made his first tournament appearance, where he was placed first. Nakamura later became Mas Oyama's Chief Instructor as referenced in Mas Oyama's book, "This is Karate." In 1969, Oyama staged the first All-Japan Full Contact Karate Open Championships which took Japan by storm and Terutomo Yamazaki became the first champion, which have been held every year since. In 1975, the first World Full Contact Karate Open Championships were held in Tokyo. World championships have been held at four-yearly intervals since. After formally establishing Kyokushin-kai, Oyama directed the organization through a period of expansion. Oyama and his staff of hand-picked instructors displayed great ability in marketing the style and gaining new members. Oyama would choose an instructor to open a dojo in another town or city in Japan, whereupon the instructor would move to that town, and, typically demonstrate his karate skills in public places, such as at the civic gymnasium, the local police gym (where many judo students would practice), a local park, or conduct martial arts demonstrations at local festivals or school events. In this way, the instructor would soon gain a few students for his new dojo. 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 United States, Netherlands, England, Australia and Brazil to spread Kyokushin in the same way. Oyama also promoted Kyokushin by holding The All-Japan Full Contact Karate Open Championships every year and World Full Contact Karate Open Championships once every four years in which anyone could enter from any style.
- Steve Arneil, 10th dan and founder of the International Federation of Karate (Kyokushin)
- Hideyuki Ashihara, founder of Ashihara Karate
- Takashi Azuma founder of kūdō daido juku
- Jon Bluming, 10th dan and founder of the Kyokushin Budokai and IBK
- Sonny Chiba, popular Japanese actor and martial artist
- Tae-hong Choi
- Howard Collins8th dan
- Francisco Filho, first non-Japanese karateka to win the World Full Contact Karate Open Championship in 1999
- Loek Hollander 10th dan'
- Andy Hug
- Seiji Isobe, 8th dan, designated to Brazil, became Shihan after spread Kyokushin through South America, who taught and trained Francisco Filho, Glaube Feitosa and Everton Teixeira.
- Kenji Kurosaki, taught many practitioners including Shigeru Oyama, Yasuhiko Oyama, Tadashi Nakamura, and Hideyuki Ashihara
- Bobby Lowe, 8th dan who served as branch chief of Hawaii for many years.
- Akira Masuda, 8th dan, Rijichō (Chairman) of the International BudoMan Association (IBMA-KyokushinKai)
- Shokei Matsui, 8th dan, Kancho (Director) of the International Karate Organization (Kyokushin-kaikan)
- Kyosuke Machida, Japanese actor.
- Kenji Midori, winner of the 5th World Full Contact Karate Open Championships and current president of World Karate Organization (Shinkyokushinkai)
- Miyuki Miura 8th dan
- Tadashi Nakamura, founder of World Seidō Karate Organization (Seidō-juku)
- Jōkō Ninomiya, founder of Enshin Karate
- Shigeru Oyama, Founder of World Oyama Karate 
- Nicholas Pettas, Last Uchi Deshi
- Judd Reid, First Australian Uchi Deshi and first foreigner to graduate from the Uchi Deshi program 
- Hatsuo Royama, 9th dan, Kancho (Director) of the Kyokushin-kan International Honbu
- Katsuaki Satō, winner of the 1st World Full Contact Karate Open Championships and All-Japan Championships on two occasions
- Makoto Nakamura, winner of the 2nd and 3rd World Full Contact Karate Open Championships
- Etsuko Shihomi, actress who specialized in action films
- Bob Curzon Siggers founder of East Bentleigh dojo
- Yoshiji Soeno, founder of Shidōkan Karate
- Peter Urban
- Kenji Yamaki, founder of Yamaki Karate and winner of the 6th World Full Contact Karate Open Championships
- Terutomo Yamazaki, the first champion of the All-Japan Full Contact Karate Open Championships and former professional kickboxer
- Nobuyuki Kishi, Uchi-deshi of Mas Oyama, founder of Kishi Karate, featured in the documentary film The Strongest Karate
- Ian Lennox, founder of Yamaneko-Ryu Karate, succeeded by Ivan Rossi & Giovanni Rossi
- YASHIKAZU MATSUSHIMA, founder of International karate Organization- MATSUSHIMA
- Peter Chong, 9th Dan founder of KyokushinRyu, Singapore
- Ikuo Yasuda, founder of International Kyokushin Yasuda Karate
- Naoyuki Sonoda (園田直幸), 1991 All Japan Middle Weight Champion, founder of International Karatedo Organization Kyokushinkaikan Sonoda Group.
Oyama tested himself in a kumite, a progression of fights, each lasting two minutes, and each after the featured participant wins. Oyama devised the 100-man kumite which he went on to complete three times in a row over the course of three days.
He was also known for fighting bulls bare-handed. In his lifetime, he battled 52 bulls, three of which were purportedly killed instantly with one strike, earning him the nickname of "Godhand". However, nowadays his feats are considered as mostly propaganda and legend, with Jon Bluming stating that the Oyama had never fought a true bull in his entire career. According to Joko Ninomiya, Oyama relied on wrestling techniques to ground the ox (similar to steer wrestling) then striking the back of the horn, which is much less durable, failing when he tried chopping the front. In addition, Bluming has quoted Kenji Kurosaki as stating that the horns were often loosened on the oxen with a hammer beforehand.
Oyama had many matches with professional wrestlers during his travels through the United States. Oyama said in the 1958 edition of his book What Is Karate that he had just three matches with professional wrestlers plus thirty exhibitions and nine television appearances.
In 1946, Oyama married a Japanese woman, Oyako Chiyako (1926-2006) and had three children with her. In the late 1960s, Oyama and Chiyako were having marital problems and decided to separate, and Chiyako, who did not want her husband to start seeing other women, arranged for a Korean woman and family friend named Sun-ho Hong to become Oyama's companion for some time. With Hong, Oyama had three more children and he would remain romantically involved with both Hong and Chiyako until the end of his life.
Later in life, Oyama suffered from osteoarthritis. Despite his illness, he never gave up training. He held demonstrations of his karate, which included breaking objects.
Oyama wrote over 80 books in Japanese and some were translated into other languages.
Final years and death
Oyama built his Tokyo-based International Karate Organization, Kyokushinkaikan, into one of the world's foremost martial arts associations, with branches in more than 100 countries boasting over 12 million registered members. In Japan, books were written by and about him, feature-length films splashed his colorful life across the big screen, and comic books recounted his many adventures.
His widow Chiyako Oyama, made a trust foundation to honor his lifelong work.
In popular culture
- A manga about Oyama's legacy, Karate Baka Ichidai (literal title: "A Karate-Crazy Life"), was published in Weekly Shonen Magazine in 1971, written by Ikki Kajiwara with art by Jirō Tsunoda and Jōya Kagemaru. A 47-episode anime adaptation was released in 1973 which featured several changes to the plot, including the renaming of the Mas Oyama character to "Ken Asuka". A trilogy of live-action films based on the manga was also produced: Champion of Death (1975), Karate Bearfighter (1975), and Karate for Life (1977). The films featured Oyama's pupil, Japanese actor, and martial artist Sonny Chiba, in the main role. Oyama himself appeared in the first two films. Another film adaptation, Fighter in the Wind, was released in 2004, starring Yang Dong-geun.
- During the 1970s, Oyama and some of his top students were featured in a documentary film The Strongest Karate (released as Fighting Black Kings in the US market) followed by two sequels, all having Ikki Kajiwara as executive producer.
- Takuma Sakazaki (a.k.a. "Mr. Karate"), a character from SNK's King of Fighters and Art of Fighting video game franchises, was inspired by Mas Oyama. Within the mythology, Sakazaki is the founder and grandmaster of the fictional Kyokugenryu Karate, which is a nod to Oyama's own Kyokushinkaikan.
- The works of manga author Keisuke Itagaki feature at least two characters inspired by Oyama: Doppo Orochi from Grappler Baki and Shozan Matsuo from Garouden.
- The Pokémon Sawk was inspired by Mas Oyama.
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- What is Karate? ISBN 0-87040-147-5
- This is Karate. ISBN 0-87040-254-4
- Advanced Karate. ASIN B000BQYRBQ
- Vital Karate. ISBN 2-901551-53-X
- Essential Karate. ISBN 978-0-8069-8844-3
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- An Interview With Goshi Yamaguchi by Graham Noble. Seinenkai.com. Retrieved on 2015-07-28.
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- Sosai Masutatsu Oyama – 100 Man Kumite. Masutatsuoyama.com. Retrieved on 2011-05-30.
- Lorden, Michael L. (2000). Mas Oyama: The Legend, the Legacy. Multi-Media Books. p. 184. ISBN 978-1-892515-24-7.
- "Did Mas Oyama chop the horns off bulls, or was that bull?". www.mixedmartialarts.com. Mixed Martial Arts. 2015-12-28.
- Ninomiya, Zorensky, Joko, Ed (1998). Sabaki Method: Karate in the Inner Circle. Berkeley, CA: Frog, Ltd. ISBN 9781883319748.
- Sosai Masutatsu Oyama – Sosai's History Archived 2011-07-14 at the Wayback Machine. Masutatsuoyama.com. Retrieved on 2011-05-30.
- "DVD Review: The Masutatsu Oyama Trilogy". Trades. Archived from the original on 2012-03-21. Retrieved 2011-01-18.
- "Sonny Chiba – Masutatsu Oyama Trilogy". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2011-01-19.
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