The founder of Karate Kyokushinkai – Sosai Masutatsu Oyama – was born on the 27th of July, 1923, in a village in South Korea. At the age of 9, while staying at his sister’s farm in Mandjuriya, he started training in Chinese Kenpo and more particular “The Eighteen Hands” form. In 1938, Oyama left for Japan with the intention to enroll in an aviation school to become a jet pilot, but he had to give up on his dream. He continued to practice Judo and box, and his interest in martial arts led him to the dojo of Gichin Funakoshi, where he started practicing Okinawa Karate.
Oyama advanced quickly due to his great dedication. He was only 20 years old when he achieved the rank of 4th Dan. In the same period of time, Oyama enrolled in the Japanese Imperial Army and started practicing Judo in order to master its hand grip techniques. In four years, he achieved the rank of 4th Dan in Judo and ended up its training.
After the Japanese defeat in Second World War, Oyama, as any young Japanese, relapsed into personal anguish. He managed to find a way out of his despair while training with So Nei Chu, a Korean master in Goju-Ryu Karate. This great teacher famous for the strength of his body as well as for his deep spirituality had a great impact on the young Mas Oyama. Master So taught him the inhesion of BUDO and the spiritual foundations of Buddhism. After some years of traning, Master So advised Mas Oyama to make a vow to dedicate his life to the Warrior’s Way, and to seclude himself into the mountains, to train his mind and body.
In October 1946, Oyama began exercising in isolation in the Minobu Mountain. Only two months later, he was forced to return to civilization due to the lack of supplies.
In September 1947, he won unreservedly the All-Japan Open Karate Championship. However, this for him was not enough, and in 1948 Mas Oyama withdrew into the Kiosumi Mountain, in Chiba prefecture. He was followed by another trainee – Yashiro. The friend/sponsor Mr. Kayama supplied them with food every month. Through vigorous training, Mas Oyama learned to overcome the anxiety caused by the solitude, but Yashiro was unable to do this. After 6 months, he escaped, leaving Oyama alone. Eighteen months later, Mr. Kayma informed Masutatsu Oyama that, due to unexpected circumstances, he could no longer support the food provisions for his isolation in the mountains. As a result, Oyama’s original plan to remain cut off for three years was untimely interrupted.
After returning from his isolation, Oyama won again the All-Japan Open Karate Championship. His success was followed by many victories in different martial championships and tournaments with dissimilar rules and regulations. Many times, he challenged to fight without rules masters from different martial arts, but they all ended up with a clear-cut win by Oyama. In this way, he practiced and perfected his Karate.
Mas Oyama was born as Choi Young-Eui (최영의) in Gimje, Korea, during Japanese occupation. 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.