Above all other content at Kyokushin-kan’s International Instructors’ Seminars is Kancho’s message, “Attend these seminars! Take what you’ve learned back to your countries!” One should understand that Kyokushin-kan is NOT “just another IKO.” We are not just another label under which Kyokushin dojos and instructors worldwide continue their snapshot versions of what Kyokushin has been to them up until that point. Sure, we are that ALSO, but Kyokushin-kan is also in possession of a “cutting edge” team of instructors that’s both highly informed as to what the whole picture of international Kyokushin looks like in the present day, AND has the expertise to guide our members to the forefront of Kyokushin’s world-wide evolution.
Kancho Royama’s central message regarding Kyokushin-Kan seminars: “Attend them, attend them regularly, take what you learn back to your countries!”
Of course we have all learned Kyokushin from various instructors who were taught by students of Mas Oyama, or from teachers who themselves learned from Mas Oyama directly at various eras of Kyokushin’s development. Of course, that content is valuable too! Kancho would never deny it. However, one should also have no doubt that there is a specific content that is unique to Kyokushin-kan, and that every member should endeavor to understand what that content is, and every instructor should endeavor to bring that content back to his/her country and introduce it to his/her students.
No one disputes that Kancho Royama is the man to go to, worldwide, in terms of Budo, Japan’s martial tradition that formed the basis of Mas Oyama’s Kyokushin synthesis. No one disputes that his seniority over almost all active Kyokushin instructors in Japan means that he is better positioned to understand Kyokushin as a whole, better positioned to know what part of its evolution made it stronger over the years, and which parts of what made it strong originally were lost along the way. Our vice-chairman, Shihan Hiroshege, is well known for being the teacher of more of Japan’s (and the world’s) champions than any other instructor. No one in Japan disputes that Kyokushin-kan’s Shihan Okazaki is one of the best in the world in terms of kata and bunkai. In these areas, the other organizations often take their pointers from us. Kancho, having learned Ikken from Sawai Sensei (who also taught Mas Oyama) now brings the Chinese master Sun Li to our instructors’ seminars in order for us to learn directly from Sawai Sensei’s successor.
Our Vice-Chairman, Shihan Hiroshige.
Who Should Attend International Seminars? Who Can?
The answer: Any adult student of Kyokushin from any of the world’s branches who wants to, and who can manage the cost of travel. The seminars are earmarked for “instructors and black belt level students” but the reality is that every year, there are several non-black belt adult foreign students who travel to Japan and attend the seminars “as long as they are accompanied by” their instructor or a back belt level student, and, thus far, this participation by non-instructors is encouraged, not dissuaded. All instructors who possibly can, SHOULD endeavor to attend (This is Kancho’s request of us, after all!) and all instructors should endeavor to attend regularly. Of course, it’s expensive to travel to Japan, but with a little planning it can become a reality.
Shihan Hiroto Okazaki.
Under Mas Oyama, Kyokushin was not just one organization, but it was also one style of karate. When Mas Oyama died and the would-be successor failed to keep Kyokushin from splintering, it became multiple organizations - Clearly!- but it also became multiple variants on a style. Of course it did! Each organization has its own priorities, and its own instructors. In theory, none of them are exactly like Sosai, all of them differ in some way, and therefore each organization from the time of the split started traveling down slightly different, but mostly parallel, paths. In the case of Kyokushin-kan, our path is guided by Kancho Royama, Vice-Kancho Hiroshige, Shihan Okazaki, and others.
Have no doubt though, there IS a style variation that differentiates Kyokushin-kan from the other IKO’s (i.e. just as they differ from one another) and it might be said that Kyokushin-kan’s difference just might be a little bit greater than the differences between some of the others. Let’s examine how that might be, based on one single question that Kancho regularly presents at his seminars: IS there a mandate that Kyokushin remain exactly what it was, like a snapshot, at the exact time of Mas Oyama’s death, OR, worse than that, is there a mandate that we leave it exactly what it was at the exact moment that every single one us learned Kyokushin from Mas Oyama or, worse, from whoever our own personal teacher was?
Kancho Royama’s answer at his seminars is a resounding “NO.”
Having witnessed Kyokushin’s evolution since the very beginning (at Oyama Dojo before Kyokushinkaikan) right up until Sosai’s death and beyond, Kancho Royama is constantly citing examples of elements of Kyokushin that evolved during Kyokushin’s short life (up until now), and other elements that devolved, or got worse than how it was once done, during that same span of 50 years. If there’s any doubt that such a thing might occur, let’s look at several photographs, starting with several stills of an iconic golden-age bout.
We were all moved beyond words by the spirit and determination with which both of these fighters refused to be beaten, and there is no doubt that that “spirit” is the spirit of Budo karate. The way that they’re standing here at the end, however, leaning in towards one another ONLY works because punches to the head are illegal. I.e. it only works because of that artificial rule that was created for Kyokushin tournaments for obvious reasons (to keep the fighters safe), but that also completely differentiates the fighting style from anything you’d want to use in a real self-defense situation. Now look at Kancho’s stance here below:
In this Seminar in Capetown, South Africa, Kancho Royama is demonstrating the fighting posture used by students at Oyama Dojo before Mas Oyama founded the Kyokushinkaikan. At that time, in the dojo, punching to the face (and kicking to the groin and knees, and grabbing and throwing, and eye gouging, etc.) were all legal in dojo kumite. As a result, the fighters maintained their balance in what students of my generation would consider a “back-leaning” stance, so that they could move faster (one can’t move fast without balance) and so that their faces were not constantly in reach of their opponents’ punches. What occurred to influence Kyokushin in a negative direction, Kancho tells us, goes straight to the heart of the “moved beyond words” reaction of the spectators in bouts like this famous one (pictured above) between Matsui and Sampei. An entire generation of young fighters, and youths even, had images like this one impressed on their understanding of what Kyokushin karate was. Yes, that fighting spirit was great! But the posture, set karate backwards, a step away from the Budo that Mas Oyama had intended. Proof occurred in a later generation, when Chairman Matsui of the IKO remnant sent Kyokushin champions to fight in K-1 kickboxing rings without first training them to protect their heads. They had greater spirit, sure, but they were defeated nevertheless.
Note the observant, head- and face-mindful posture of the competitor in one of our Shinken Shobu Rules tournaments.
This is but one example, but it is an easy one to see. Kyokushin-Kan is a variant of Kyokushin (just like all the IKO’s), but it’s one in which there is a definite “method.” Yes, it is NOT the same as what Kyokushin was at the exact moment of Sosai’s death. Some of the other IKO’s pride themselves on being just that: Exactly what Kyokushin was at one moment in time. Kancho’s theory, Kyokushin-kan’s, is that this is exactly what will lead some of the other IKO’s towards becoming obsolete. One should probably ask if the “preservationists” take pride in not innovating, exactly because they don’t have someone on their team who’s innovative enough to further develop the art. It is an obvious question to ask. Only the future will tell, but in the mean time, please remember that Kyokushin-Kan IS unique among the IKO’s, how exactly it’s unique is revealed by Kancho at his seminars, and all instructors should endeavor to attend, and all students who can’t should look to those instructors who do to understand exactly what Kyokushin-kan is all about.
But what if you can’t do it? What if it costs too much? Well, first of all, we would recommend this solution: IS there someone in your dojo, one of your younger black or brown belts who COULD make it to Japan if they had your encouragement? If so, make that person your dojo’s delegate that does go each year and tries to bring back some of what he/she learns. Bottom line, don’t quit practicing Kyokushin “as you’ve know it until now.” By all means, practice it harder! But if at all possible, do try to supplement it with what Kyokushin-Kan has to offer in the present day. If you can do so by attending seminars, that’s the best way.