Kyokushin Karate

WHAT IS KYOKUSHIN KARATE?

To some, it is a way to develop and maintain physical strength and learn effective self- defense techniques. To others, it is much more than that. Kyokushin karate is a way of life that transcends the aspects of training. Kyokushin karate is Budo Karate. Kyokushin karate, like most martial arts, can trace its origin to Bodhidharma (Daruma in Japanese), an Indian prince and Buddhist priest who traveled to the Shaolin temple in China in the early sixth century. There, he developed the Chan, or “Intuitive” school of Mahayana Buddhism. Under the Chan philosophy, enlightenment was sought through meditation, rather than by the practice of rituals or the study of religious texts. According to legend, Bodhidharma sat facing the wall in the Shaolin temple for nine years, until he achieved enlightenment. (Other legends have him sitting and facing a wall in a cave for nine years.) Bodhidharma also developed martial arts as a physical regimen to accompany the mental discipline of the meditation. During the following centuries, the Chan (or Zen in Japanese) philosophy spread to Okinawa and then to Japan, accompanied with martial arts. Over time, Zen and martial arts became intermingled with each other and deeply ingrained in Japanese society.

The word Karate is derived from the words:
Kara meaning “Empty”,
Te meaning “Hand”.

Kara also means “Chinese”, and the original meaning of the word karate was “Chinese Hand” because of its origins in Chinese Kempo. However, Gichin Funakoshi, the Okinawan master who brought karate to Japan and developed Shotokan karate (one of the styles from which Kyokushin was derived), believed that “empty” better described the meaning of karate:

The Kara that means “empty” is definitely the more appropriate. For one thing, it symbolizes the obvious fact that this art of self-defense makes use of no weapons, only bare feet, and empty hands. Further, students of Karate-do aim not only toward perfecting their chosen art but also toward emptying heart and mind of all earthly desire and vanity. Reading Buddhist scriptures, we come across such statements as “Shiki soku ze Ku” and “Ku soku zeshiki,” which literally mean “Matter is void” and “All is vanity.” The character Ku, which appears in both admonitions and may be pronounced Kara, is in itself truth.

The word Budo is derived from the words:
Bu meaning “Martial” or “Combat”,
Do meaning “Way” or “Path”.

Budo, the Martial Way, is a Japanese term for arts that use peaceful combat as a means of perfecting the self. The word Do comes from the Chinese word Tao and the philosophy of Taoism. Do does not mean the “way” or method of learning something, such as learning the techniques of karate, but rather it is the path of life whereby what is learned is transcended into wisdom.

Do and Zen are complementary. Zen seeks self-perfection through passive means, such as meditation. Do seeks self-perfection through active means, such as the training itself. In fact, the practice of kata is sometimes referred to as Dozen, or “Moving Meditation”. That which is gained through Budo is much more than just the techniques and applications of the martial arts, and it transforms all aspects of life.

Karate and Budo are sometimes combined as Karatedo or the “Empty Hand Way”.

The word Dojo, or training hall, literally means the “Way Place”, and it is also the name of the room used for meditation in a Buddhist temple. A karate dojo is not a gym, even though the training is physically demanding and a lot of sweat is shed in a Kyokushin dojo. It is a sacred place of learning, and as such, it is treated with respect. Karateka (karate practitioners) bow before entering or leaving the dojo. Shoes are not worn in the dojo not only to keep the dojo clean, but to keep the “outside world” out. Mokuso (meditation) is sometimes done before training to clear the mind and depart from the “outside world”, and after training to clear the mind “outside world”.

A karate uniform is called a Dogi (or Gi for short), and the word literally means “Way Clothes”. Just as a dojo is not a gym, a karate dogi is not just clothes in which to train.

A dogi is what a karateka wears on the path toward self-perfection. It should always be kept clean and in good repair. According to Mas Oyama, to repair a torn uniform is no disgrace, but to wear a torn or dirty one is.”

However, the obi (belt) should never be washed. Over time, it becomes frayed and stained with the sweat and blood of hard training. An old, worn and stained obi reflects the karateka’s unique experience of training, which should not be washed away.

Mas Oyama fully understood the nature of Kyokushin Karate as budo karate, a path toward self-perfection through the practice of the martial art: “Karate is the most Zen-like of all the Martial Arts. It has abandoned the sword. This means that it transcends the idea of winning and losing to become a way of thinking and living for the sake of other people in accordance with the way of Heaven. Its meanings, therefore, reach the most profound levels of human thought.

For a long time, I have emphasized that karate is budo, and if the budo is removed from karate, it is nothing more than sport karate, show karate or even fashion karate (the idea of training merely to be fashionable.)

Karate that has discarded budo has no substance. It is nothing more than a barbaric method of fighting or a promotional tool for the purpose of profit. No matter how popular it becomes, it is meaningless.

The philosophy of budo is evident in the name that Mas Oyama chose for his karate style, Kyokushin which means “UltimateTruth”.and the kanji (characters) displayed on the left breast of the dogi can be broken down into individual characters which read KYOKUSHINKAI.

Once the word Kyokushin adds a third suffix “kai” meaning “to meet” it signifies the gathering of people with a universal purpose. Thus the word “Kyokushinkai” correct definition translates to the ” Society of Ultimate Truth”.

Kyokushin is rooted in a philosophy of self-improvement and with the common aim to attain the ideal of truth and perfection through discipline and hard physical training.

The Kanku has become the international symbol of Kyokushin Karate, which orginated from the famous Kanku Dai kata, translated as the gazing heavenward, viewing the sky, or contemplating the sky form. This is an open hand Kata that is studied by many practitioners of karate worldwide. Throughout this kata, you continually find that your hands became joined, fingers touch together creating a diamond-like shape opening facing the skywards.

On close examination, you find the top and bottom points in the kanku are represented by our index fingers touching and the base of our thumbs connected with are to symbolize the ultimate points or training peaks throughout your journey.