Discovering Kyokushin Karate

Karate is perhaps the most popular and well-known martial art world wide. Popularized in the media and with a widespread adoption that makes it easy for most anyone to pick up, it's an easily accessible sport that teaches self-improvement, discipline, and self-defense. Easily accessible doesn't necessarily mean less complex, however. Karate encompasses a number of fighting styles, and the most capable Karate practitioners from any discipline are incredibly dedicated athletes and competitors. One school in this broad martial art is Kyokushin Karate.  

History of Kyokushin

Kyokushin is a form of full-contact karate with a relatively recent foundation. The fighting style was established by Korean-Japanese practitioner Masutatsu Oyama. Kyokushin can be translated as "the ultimate truth," and fighters are trained in more than just self-defense. Kyokushin is as much philosophy as it is a combat sport, and it serves as a guideline for improving oneself and living a happy and productive life.

After Oyama founded the Kyokushinkaikan, the sport began to rapidly expand. As shrewd marketers in addition to teachers and martial artists, he and his followers began to advertise the new style and show their ways to the rest of Japan. Soon enough, Kyokushin Karate had built up a sizeable following. Today, the influence of the style has spread worldwide, with an estimated 12 million practitioners over the last 40 years.

Unfortunately, Oyama did not manage to name a successor before he passed away, which led to conflicts between high-ranking members of the organization. To this day, the sport of Kyokushin Karate is split into multiple schools that all believe they are the rightful leader of the organization.

Despite this fragmentation, the core concepts are largely the same. Hard training, both mental and physical, to pave the path towards self-improvement.


The Kyokushin Karate fighting style is split into a couple of main sections, the first of which being Kata. Kata is a sort of ritualized self-training; pre-set combinations of moves and techniques are practiced over and over in order to train the body to react instinctively in combat situations. The repetitive nature of Kata ensures that responding to aggression and outmaneuvering an opponent becomes second nature.


Another aspect of Kyokushin Karate is sparring. As with most martial arts, a large portion of the path to mastery is utilizing skills — such as those picked up during Kata practice —and applying them to a fight. As much as Kata is useful, it has limited scope that can't substitute for a real match with a real opponent. Learning to anticipate and respond to a dynamic environment is a large portion of training in sparring.

Self Defense

Like the majority of martial arts, one of the primary parts of Kyokushin Karate in its original incarnation was the ability to apply what you've learned through sparring and other practice in the dojo to a real life situation. Self-defense in Kyokushin, also known as Goshin Jitsu, is the specific techniques of the style. These techniques largely draw from Mas Oyama's study of Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu under Yoshida Kotaro.

For better or worse, Kyokushin Karate has become more of a sport in recent years rather than a method of self-defense. Goshin Jitsu has largely fallen into obscurity, and is currently only practiced in a limited number of dojos.


The colored belts of most martial arts have their origin in Judo, as does the training "gi." In Kyokushin, the order of the belts varies in some groups. The kyu ranks are listed below, but the kyu grade black stripes are an optional inclusion. The table is formatted from the lowest grade to the highest.
​Mukyu ​White Belt
​10th Kyu ​Orange Belt
​9th Kyu​Orange With Black Stripe
​8th Kyu​Blue Belt
​7th Kyu​Blue Belt With Black Stripe
​6th Kyu​Yellow Belt
​5th Kyu​Yellow Belt With Black Stripe
​4th Kyu​Green Belt
​3rd Kyu​Green Belt With Black Stripe
​2nd Kyu​Brown Belt
​1st KyuBrown Belt With Black Stripe​
​1st Dan​Black Belt 1st Dan
​2nd Dan​Black Belt​ 2nd Dan
​3rd Dan​Black Belt​ 3rd Dan
​4th Dan​Black Belt​ 4th Dan
​5th Dan​Black Belt​ 5th Dan
​6th Dan​Black Belt​ 6th Dan
​7th Dan​Black Belt​ 7th Dan
​8th Dan ​Black Belt​ 8th Dan
​9th Dan​Black Belt​ 9th Dan
​10th DanBlack Belt​ 10th Dan


 Kyokushin is a prolific sport with a wide reach, and since its origins it has influenced a number of martial arts. The "knockdown karate" competition format is now used in other formats. Styles that originated in Kyokushin are numerous, and include Ashihara Karate, Budokaido, Godokai, Enshin Karate, Seidō juku, Musokai, Shidōkan and Seidokaikan.

Several styles that originated independently of Kyokushin, such as Kansuiryu Karate and Byakuren, have also adopted the competition the same competition style. Kickboxing has also been seen as a natural extension of Kyokushin, and many of Japan's top Kickboxing competitors have origins in the sport.

It's plain to see that Kyokushin is an incredibly popular sport — and for a good reason. It provides an exciting and accessible form of fighting that appeals to its practitioners' competitive spirit. If you're looking or a martial art that revolves around sparring and events, Kyokushin may be right for you.


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