Recently I was asked, “Why does Kyokushin call itself the strongest Karate?” This indeed is an interesting question. Does this discussion open an age-old dispute of whose style is the best or whose sensei/sifu is best? Was this an attempt to goad me into an argument or to challenge me as a fighter? When I am asked this or when there seems to be an ax to grind, I have a simple reply. We train at 6:00 P.M. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and 9:00 A.M. on Saturdays. Feel free to stop by— come see what we do and how we train. I know, I know it’s a bit anti-climactic but extremely effective.
When this question was posed to me, I found myself reflecting on many of the reasons why I believe Kyokushin is known as strongest Karate. As a Kyokushin practitioner, I have some pride in the thought that I train in the strongest Karate. However, is there any truth to this statement? Is there factual evidence to confirm this claim? What standard of measurement is being used to determine this? After all, a Mawashi Geri is a Mawashi Geri and within reason they all start and finish in a similar manner. If techniques are similar, then what differentiates Kyokushin from other styles? Moreover, what separates those men and women who train in Kyokushin?
Throughout many years of training in multiple martial arts I have come to the realization that we who train in Kyokushin are simply different. It’s my belief that the content of our character and the strength of our individual drive is what sets us apart from other traditional Marital Arts.
We are forged in the crucible of our training— this is where we differ and where Kyokushin gets its renowned reputation. These differences are evident from day one. Intense physical conditioning is taught to harden our minds as much as our bodies. Being pushed to endure an insurmountable level of pain is the norm. Those who lead us are first to endure, they lead by example. “Do as I do. Sweat when I sweat and we will improve together.” Training until your muscles burn and you are bent over gasping for air is common place. This is how we train. This is Kyokushin. This particular quote from Sosai Oyama, the founder of Kyokshin, is a perfect example of him and his style. Subjecting yourself to vigorous training is more for the sake of forging a resolute spirit that can vanquish the self than it is for developing a strong body.
Mas Oyama has done many things that no one will ever do again. His unusual way of hardening his body was quite unique to say the least. His punches were devastating. His prowess as a fighter was second to none. Yet the ability to run his organization overshadowed his inspiring abilities as a Karate-ka. He single-handedly ran an organization of several million martial artists. He kept them under one roof and they honored him.
His legacy is legendary—millions of practitioners worldwide. Many of those carry on his tradition of hard-hitting and extreme training, as well as being open-minded as a human being. We in Kyokushin maintain faith in the way that knows no prejudices. Mas Oyama.
I am not blind to the fact that not all Kyokushin practitioners train in the same extreme way. I also am not inferring that Karate-ka from other styles aren’t out there doing knuckle pushups on concrete and doing bare-knuckle conditioning to the body. I do say, that without exception, every time I have trained in a Kyokushin dojo, it’s been extremely hard training. I have always left the dojo with a sweat soaked gi— followed by a good night’s sleep.
Leaving nothing in our tank and pushing ourselves beyond that point where we all have to go to gain victory of self, is what it’s all about. To understand what Kyokushin means is to understand that I push myself not to beat you or your best. It is to beat my own best. Only I can push through the pain and endure. Only I can allow myself to give up.
Inevitably there is no absolute way to elevate the entirety of one style over another. However, I confidently claim that you can calculate the strength of one’s conditioning. It happens all the time in MMA. One fighter gasses out and predictably looses the fight, not due to lack of technical skill, but for lack of physical conditioning.
Could it then be said that Kyokushin is the strongest karate in terms of conditioning? One can justify that a well-conditioned fighter has the ability to last longer in a fight. This can easily lead to victory by attrition— he who is better conditioned will inexorably have an advantage.
Kyokushin is the strongest karate. TEMET NOSCE is Latin for ‘know thyself.’ What I know about myself, is that after training in multiple styles not one of them came close to the kind of training I have come to expect from Kyokushin. What I know about myself is that if someone were to approach me and demand money there is a greater likelihood of him being sent to the hospital before landing in jail. What I know about myself is that time after time being pushed past my breaking point; I have gleaned the true meaning of what the spirit of Osu means. One becomes a beginner after 1,000 days of training and an expert after 10,000 days of practice. Mas Oyama
I know there will be those who will read this and disagree and that is okay. I also know there will be those who may be offended at my arrogance, thinking that perhaps I have insulted them or their style. That was not my intention at all. I humbly apologize. I can only say, we train at 6:00 P.M. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and at 9:00 A.M. on Saturdays. Feel free to stop by—come see what we do and how we train. OSU!