Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Redevelopment of Kyokushin Karate

Below is an excerpt from a thought provoking post that appeared at The Martial Way. What do you believe is the purpose of your training and how are you working towards it? The full post may be read here.

There is no question that Kyokushin is a Budo, with a focus on bettering oneself and character, cultivating an indomitable spirit, through hard training and overcoming personal obstacles. Which is a great purpose to have.

However, when I look at the origins of Kyokushin and the words / philosophies of the founder, Sosai Mas Oyama, there was also a focus on developing a martial art that was meant to be a force to be reckoned with, that could stand with any other martial form and be an ultimate form of self-defense, or Goshin-Jitsu (護身術).

Today however, there tends to be mostly a focus on the sport aspect of full-contact, or knock-down, fighting. Which of course is great! And Kyokushin is famous for it, but not everyone will compete, and for those who do, many won’t compete beyond an amateur level, and the others can only compete for so long before age catches up. So those who remain are left with the focus being the athletics and spirit, but should there be more?

Mas Oyama wrote dozens of books in Japanese (a few translated to English), and most had a focus on self-defense, utilizing the same components that make Kyokushin a formable force in sport full-contact knock-down tournament kumite. Utilizing kihon and applications of the kata in realistic training.

This isn’t meant to be a debate on the merits of kata (bunkai), but rather open the question of realistic self-defense training focus, in ADDITION to the sport tournament side.
Kihon and kata by themselves won’t make you a good fighter and we know that. However they do have use. They develop focus, muscle and strength, muscle memory, proper breathing, and coordination, plus much more. And that’s if we put aside the bunkai aspect of kata, which can be very good…. IF and ONLY …. drilled properly.

Kyokushin isn’t just a sport, and I don’t believe it was meant to be. Knockdown fighting is the sport side of it but not the only focus. Originally there was a great focus on street techniques (developing reflexes, strikes to vulnerable parts of the body, joint locks, throws, etc.) But we don’t see much of that anymore.

There are many reasons for this I believe, but primarily it was the focus on competitive training in the 1970s, to help build and spread the reputation of Kyokushin.

Bunkai is rarely trained in Kyokushin, and other styles of karate. Realistic bunkai is even rarer. Training bunkai enough that you can use the techniques, as well as you can the kumite techniques, is almost unheard of.
Mas Oyama believed that if you wanted to use karate effectively for self-defense, you had to train hard and fight hard. In addition to traditional Kyokushin kihon (basics) and kata (forms), with their self-defense applications, Mas Oyama incorporated jissen kumite (full-contact fighting) into his style, but not exclusively.

The early days also incorporated grabs, throws, clinching, grappling, joint locks and much more. Remember, Sosai was also a 4th Dan in Judo, not to mention a teaching license in Aiki-jujutsu and Taikiken practice.
As a result, Kyokushin Karate evolved into one of the most formidable martial arts styles in Japan, and the world. It soon became known as “The Strongest Karate”, not only because of the incredible feats of strength and endurance that Mas Oyama performed, and not only because of the sport aspect, but also because of the rigorous requirements of training.

When you see pictures of Sosai in the early days, as well as his books, they incorporated strikes, joint locks and throws that come from kata and that are not used in kumite because of the rules.
Recently I have noticed an increase in popularity for authentic scenario based training again and resurgence in traditional training methods. I believe this is in part because people are seeing moves in mma and thinking, hmmm… that looks familiar, I’ve seen that move before somewhere. Never noticing before that it was always a part of the kata, and had never trained it as such.

Many of the moves you see in mma are not exclusive to one martial art. There are techniques you see in BJJ, Sambo, Muay Thai, etc., that can be found in the traditional syllabus of Okinawan Karate. The human body can only move and react in so many ways.

You don’t have to train for this purpose. Kihon and kata are very good strength and conditioning exercises. For example doing a kata in horse stance develops very powerful and strong legs and doing the basic blocks and punches as drills develop strength, as the same muscle groups are used as in sparring. However, there is so much more, if you are willing to put the time, effort and training in, as well as forgoing ego.

My own personal background included many years training in a purely self-defense system. Kenpo. An offshoot of the system Shihan Bobby Lowe was doing before his switch to Kyokushin. However, it lacked realism and contact, so I sought out Kyokushin and an incredible teacher to fill that gap.

Now having trained for a few years in Kyokushin I see that it can be an ultimate form of martial art, because it does have those components as well. We just don’t focus on them often.

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