Sosai (Great Master) Masutatsu Oyama was born in Korea in 1923 and became the founder of Japan’s most renowned — and the world’s most widespread — style of karate. From the age of 9, Mas Oyama learned Chinese Kempo in Manchuria and followed into his teens by practicing Judo and boxing. Finally this led him to the practice of Okinawan karate, which ultimately served as the springboard for the creation of his own style, Kyokushin, or the “The Ultimate Truth.” By the time Mas Oyama was 20, he had received his 4th dan in Okinawan karate and, though tireless study,eventually attained a 4th dan in Judo as well.
Among Mas Oyama’s many accomplishments, he is perhaps best known for introducing tameshiwari or “stone breaking” into the practice of modern karate. Mas Oyama reasoned that through hard training he could condition his hands to be as powerful as a hammer. Since one could break stones with a hammer, he began the practice of learning how to break boards, bricks and stones with his bare hands. This incredible power he then translated directly into his theory of fighting karate, reasoning that if he could break stones, human bones would break beneath his blows as well. Perhaps his greatest contribution to Japanese karate, therefore, was the introduction and popularization of full-contact fighting karate. At the time he won Japan’s largest tournament sponsored by Okinawa’s Shotokan karate, he was often penalized for fighting too hard, resulting in frequent injuries to his opponents. It was this experience, perhaps above all other influences, that led to his creation of Kyokushin karate. After all, Mas Oyama believed, karate is a fighting art: Without taking it to its extreme by practicing to break the body of one’s opponent (for application during real life and death struggle), one could never realize the true spiritual potential of karate.