Monday, November 22, 2010

What Karate Bad Ass, Mas Oyama, Can Teach Us About the Martial Arts.

Mas Oyama (1923-1994) was a Karate Master of Korean descent and creator of Kyokushinkai Karate. He is most famous for the impressive way in which he trained and tested is Karate.

Oyama's name is synonymous with "hard training". He once spent a total of 2 years 8 months training in solitude on Mt. Minobu and Mt. Kiyosumi in Japan. This wasn't your ordinary training either. We're talking about daily training that started at dawn and, often times, didn't end until well after the sun had set. Oyama would train kihon (basics), kata, lift stones, use trees as makiwara, and take daily runs up the mountain. He would also make time daily to read Buddhist scripture and meditate. His training was harsh but it made him one of the most influential martial artists of the 20th century.

Oyama went on to win national full-contact Karate tournaments, challenge matches, and even 3 consective days of the infamous 100 Man Kumite (that's over 3 hours a day of full-contact fighting with 100 fresh opponents - for 3 days straight!).

Ever since hearing of Mas Oyama and his exploits I've been very interested in his Karate (Kyokushin) and his martial arts philosophy in general. I have been particularly fond of his "Eleven Mottoes" as I feel they present a very profound and practical approach to the martial arts.

Oyama's Eleven Mottoes:
  • The Martial Way begins and ends with courtesy. Therefore, be properly and genuinely courteous at all times.
  • Following the Martial Way is like scaling a cliff - continue upwards without rest. It demands absolute and unfaltering devotion to the task at hand.
  • Strive to seize the initiative in all things, all the time guarding against actions stemming from selfish animosity or thoughtlessness.
  • Even for the martial artist, the place for money cannot be ignored. Yet one should be careful never to become attached to it.
  • The Martial Way is centered in posture. Strive to maintain correct posture at all times.
  • The Martial Way begins with one thousand days and is mastered after ten thousand days of training.
  • In the martial arts, introspection begets wisdom. Always see contemplation on your actions as an opportunity to improve.
  • The nature and purpose of the Martial Way is universal. All selfish desires should be roasted in the tempering fires of hard training.
  • The martial arts begin with point and end with a circle. Straight lines stem from this principle.
  • The true essence of the Martial Way can only be realized through experience. Knowing this learn never to fear its demands.
  • Always remember: In the martial arts, the rewards of a confident and grateful heart are truly abundant.
Truly inspirational stuff. I really think that, regardless of your martial arts style, these Eleven Mottoes can prove beneficial to your training.

I've recently printed out a copy that I leave out in my personal training area. Each day, when I train, I make sure to look over them so that I can keep these precepts with me when I train and it helps me to remember them when I'm not training (just as important).

You may want to take up a similar practice. I'm sure that if you do it will make you a better martial artist.

Train Hard,
Josh Skinner (donjitsu2)


  1. Oyama was a true badass. His style and teaching methods were very effective. Good article.

  2. Thanks, man. BTW, I've really been enjoying your blog.