But recently, I heard something that blew all of those stories right out of the water. Legendary karate master Mas Oyama apparently fought over 50 bulls hand-to-hand (or hand-to-hoof, as it were), killing each of them with his bare hands. Oyama reportedly even killed three of them with a single punch, earning him the nickname “Godhand.”
Who was this guy?!
Oyama’s Early Life
Oyama, for the bull-killing karate master that he was, had pretty humble beginnings. He was actually born in Korea with a Korean name (Yeong-eui Choi) during the Japanese occupation. He moved to China when he was young and began to learn martial arts from a worker from the farm on which he lived.
And here’s where another incredible martial arts story comes along. Legend has it that the Chinese worker that got Oyama started on the road to karate bad-assery gave the young master a seed. The worker told Oyama to plant the seed and to jump over it 100 times every day. Even as the seed grew into a big tree, Oyama kept at it.
Once he reached adulthood, Oyama decided that he wanted to become a pilot for the Japanese army and adopted his Japanese name, Masutatsu Oyama. (Years later, Oyama would become a full Japanese citizen.) After completing his pilot training, Oyama wanted to become a kamikaze pilot, writing letters in his own blood to high-ranking officers pleading to give him the chance.
After the war, Oyama’s martial arts training kicked into high gear. He learned all there was to know about karate from the top dojos in the country, earning more black belts and honors than you could shake a stick at.
He made several retreats into the mountains on his own to train, presumably by standing under freezing waterfalls, punching rocks, and fighting bears. He came down from the mountains and won the National Martial Arts Championship.
And after all that, he decided to start his own martial arts school and show everybody how it’s done.
The Harvard of Kicking Ass
Oyama founded his own karate school that taught a style known as Kyokushin karate. Kyokushin means “the search for ultimate truth.” It’s a full-contact martial art that includes sparring without any protective gear and an intense training regimen that included getting beat up by Oyama pretty much on a regular basis.
Well, if not Oyama himself, then about 100 of his students. You see, Oyama developed a brutal test of skill called the 100-man kumite, an event that pits you against 100 different opponents, usually over the course of three days. It’s no wonder that Kyokushin has such a reputation for being such a tough style.
Kyokushin in the Movies
Kyokushin karate made a cameo in the James Bond movie You Only Live Twice, and is quite possibly the only accurately Japanese thing depicted in the movie. At the time the movie was made, there was no better endorsement for Kyokushin than Sean Connery using the style on the big screen.
What time did Sean Connery go to watch the match at Wimbleton? Ten-ish.
Connery hasn’t been the only actor to study at the feet of the master. Japanese actor Sonny Chiba not only knows Kyokushin and has a black belt in the martial art, but studied with Oyama himself and even played Oyama in a few movies.
Oyama died at the age of 70, of all things, lung cancer. You might expect that somebody whose living was based off of intense physical training and fighting bulls, Oyama might have died some other way; but maybe it isn’t surprising that the only thing that could take him down was disease.
Today, his legacy is carried on by the more than 12 million people who practice Kyokushin all over the world. Oyama’s life has been immortalized in lots of movies and even a manga series. Sure, some of Oyama’s life has probably been exaggerated and
embullished embellished; but it’s still no exaggeration that Mas Oyama was an accomplished martial artist and all-around legend.