Fuku-Kancho Hiroshige and Kyokushin-kan’s Leadership
Hatsuo Royama, Kyokushin-kan Kancho (Chairman)
Hatsuo Royama was born in Saitama, just north of Tokyo, in 1948. Inspired by a country-wide boom in popularity of celebrity fighters and wrestlers, he traveled to Ikebukuro at the age of 15 and entered Mas Oyama’s legendary “Oyama Dojo” where his Kyokushin Karate was being born. Having trained there at the birthplace of Mas Oyama’s Kyokushin, Kancho Royama was one of a very few of Mas Oyama’s students to still be closely affiliated with Mas Oyama’s organization from so close to the beginning all the way until Mas Oyama’s death in 1994.
Kancho Royama rose to some notoriety when, at the age of 25, he became champion of Kyokushin’s 5th All Japan Tournament, and later when he defeated the American, Charles Martin, a giant who stood nearly a foot taller (about 30 cm) than himself, in the 1st World Open Karate Tournament in 1975. This young prodigy of Mas Oyama then went on to a historic finish in that 1st World Open Tournament, when a split-decision was finally broken by the tournament judges in the final match and 1st place was given to Katsuaki Sato, leaving Kancho Royama with no choice but to accept 2nd place. The day following the tournament when more than a few fighters entered the hospital for injuries sustained during the competition, Kancho Royama attended his usual training.
No one who knows Kyokushin Karate today can hardly separate the style from its devastatingly powerful low shin kick. Not everyone knows, however, that it was Kancho Royama who made this technique famous. At the early World Tournaments the Japanese would hear the foreigners yell, “Low kick! Low kick!,” and since the pronunciation of “R” in Japanese is so similar to “L”, it was an honest mistake for them to hear “Ro kick! Ro kick!” instead, believing that even the foreigners had named this technique after the first Japanese fighter to make it famous. After all, it was with Kancho Royama that all of Japan had associated the introduction of this bone-breaking technique ever since they’d watched him break down Charles Martin in the 1st World Tournament with one destructive low shin kick after another.
Please click here to read Kancho Royama and the Birth of Kyokushin-kan.
Tsuyoshi Hiroshige, Kyokushin-kan Fuku-Kancho (Vice-Chairman)
The Vice-Chairman (Fuku-Kancho) of Kyokushin-kan, Hiroshige Tsuyoshi was born in Japan on November 1st, 1947. From a young age, spiritual discontent led him on a search that finally ended when he began his study of budo karate at the age of 25. As a high school student Hiroshige had excelled as a handball player. In 1966 at the age of 19, he began working for Honda and ultimately worked for a total of three companies before ending his career as a “salary man” to become an Uchi Deshi (live-in disciple) of Mas Oyama.
Hiroshige began his training at Kyokushinkaikan So-Honbu Dojo in June of 1972. Three years later he entered Mas Oyama’s Waka Jishi Ryo (Young Lions Dormitory) where he became Dormitory Chief responsible for overseeing the activities of younger uchi deshi. At the unheard-of late age of 28 Hiroshige began tournament fighting with his debut in the 8th All-Japan Tournament. After this tournament he supplemented his karate training with Ikken, and took 7th place in the next year’s 9th All-Japan tournament. Hiroshige then went on to take 4th place in the 10th All-Japan tournament, and 5th place in the 11th All-Japan Tournament. In 1979 he represented Japan as a member of the 2nd World Open Karate Tournament team.
In June of 1978, Hiroshige founded the Jonan Branch of Mas Oyama’s Kyokushinkaikan in Tokyo, and there, due to his original teaching style, emphasis on hard training, and special attention paid to special characteristics of each potential fighter, he made three successive world champions, Midori Kenji in 1991, Yamaki Kenji in 1995 and Tsukamoto Norichika in 1999. Since the World Tournament was only held once every four years, this means that Hiroshige’s students remained world champions for 12 years. Additionally, Hiroshige made All-Japan champions, Kazumi Hajime and Takaku Masayoshi.
Hiroshige coached the Japanese Kyokushinkaikan World Cup team for the Paris competition in 1998, and the Japanese team for the 7th World Open Karate Tournament in 1999.
In December of 2002, Hiroshige left Kyokushinkaikan, and founded Kyokushin-kan together with Royama Hatsuo with the intention of reviving Kyokushin Karate to the status that it held during Mas Oyama’s lifetime.
Akio Koyama, Honbu Chief, Kyokushin-kan
Akio Koyama was born in August of 1958 in Tottori Prefecture, Japan. At the age of 21 he begain training at Ikebukuro’s Kyokushinkaikan So-Honbu. Afterwards he transferred to Royama Dojo in Saitama and became Royama Kancho’s first uchi deshi dormitory chief. After learning the essense of budo karate at Royama Dojo, Koyama founded Kyokushinkaikan’s Sanin Branch. In December of 2002, he resigned from the Kyokushinkaikan along with Hatsuo Royama and Tsuyoshi Hiroshige and helped to create Kyokushin-kan, where he was made Honbu Chief.
Hiroto Okazaki, Vice Honbu Chief, Kyokushin-kan
Hiroto Okazaki was born in April of 1961 in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan. From his first year in middle school he began his practice of Kyokushin Karate and upon graduating from high school he entered Royama Dojo and became an uchi deshi. He recieved Royama training since the time he was in Saitama Branch and after learning the essense of Royama’s karate, he founded Kyokushinkaikan’s Fukushima Branch. He also practiced Koryo Karate and Iaido for many years and he is known as an expert of kata. In December of 2002, he resigned from the Kyokushinkaikan along with Hatsuo Royama, Tsuyoshi Hiroshige and Akio Koyama, and helped to create Kyokushin-kan, where he was made Vice Honbu Chief.
Jacques Sandulescu, Senior Chairman, Kyokushin-kan International Committee
“Big Jacques” Sandulescu had been Mas Oyama’s close friend and “gaijin brother” since the early 1960s, when they met on one of Sosai’s early trips to the United States. It’s a meeting made legendary in the “Karate Baka Ichidai” comic books, with the result that people always ask Jacques, “Did you fight him?” (Isn’t that always how strong men become friends?)
Let the answer remain shrouded in mystery; what we can say is that Jacques – then a Greenwich Village coffeehouse and jazz-bar owner, today an author and actor – trained with Sosai for six hours a day up to the rank of nidan, and received one of Sosai’s own belts. Though Sosai did award Jacques a 6th dan consonant with his advisory status, Jacques has never worn it and still trains in that “old” belt.
Jacques helped to arrange some of Sosai’s spectacular demonstrations that introduced the power of karate to the U.S. The photos here give a sense of how close they were, and remained to the end of Sosai’s life. Jacques is still training and still active as an advisor to Kyokushin-kan and a friend to many Kyokushin Karateka around the world.
Perhaps the reason Jacques understood Sosai so well is that hardship, physical strength, and the will to achieve the impossible had been so central to his own life. Jacques had been taken prisoner by the Red Army in his native Romania in 1945, when he was 16.
After working for 2 years as a slave labourer in the Donbas coal mines (now in the Ukraine), he was injured in a mine cave-in, and then escaped in mid-winter to avoid the amputation of his legs. You can read his autobiography, DONBAS, on the net at http://donbas.com. He is adding a special epilogue about his friendship with Sosai Oyama, including more photos.
José Millán, Chairman, Kyokushin-kan International Committee
At the time José Millán began his practice of Kyokushin Karate under Sosai Mas Oyama in April of 1963 at “Oyama Dojo” as a contemporary of Kyokushin-kan Chairman, Hatsuo Royama, he had already practiced Judo in his native Spain and was a successful Judo player while in university (He now holds a 5th dan in Judo). After practicing at Oyama Dojo and upon his return to Spain for the first time in the summer of 1966, he became the first person to hold a black belt in karate in that country. Unfortunately, however, due to laws set up by the Sports Ministry of Spain, the practice of karate was prohibited, and he finally returned to Japan where he has lived for 40 years.
When the King and the Queen of Spain come to Japan in 1972, Mas Oyama organized a karate demonstration and a group of Kyokushin karateka, including Millán, performed in a two-hour demonstration that had only been scheduled to last ten minutes. The King enjoyed the demonstration so much that he asked to see more and once the demonstration was finally over he congratulated each participant one by one.
Until 2001, Millán participated as either a referee or judge in every one of the All Japan Tournaments and every World Open Karate Tournament, appointed to this honor since the very beginning by Mas Oyama himself. Alter Sosai’s death, Millán became an advisor to the Kyokushinkaikan Honbu, a position which he held until Hatsuo Royama established Kyokushin-kan. This establishment, Millán realized, would have met with the approval of his original teacher, Mas Oyama. Millán’s two daughters have also followed in his footsteps by training for many years in Japan under Kyokushshin-kan Vice-Chairman, Tsuyoshi Hiroshige.
José Millán is Professor Emeritus at Yokohama’s KanagawaUniversity in Japan, making him the only foreigner to hold this honor. He has been a professor at this university ever since 1964. In 1998, Millán was decorated Knight Commander of the Civil Merit Order by Juan Carlos I, King of Spain.