In Part 1 of this essay, I described Kyokushin-Kan as something different from “just another IKO.” At least it should be considered so by us. More than that, it WILL be considered something different by anyone who attends Kancho’s instructors seminars, or by anyone who embraces what’s being taught at them as taught by any of our North American instructors who have been to them. Let’s review:
(This author thought it would be beneficial to the Kyokushin-kan community to summarize, to the best of my ability, some content of Kancho Royama’s International Instructors’ Seminars, held every year in Japan. Although I do have the dual advantage of having attended more of Kancho’s seminars than any other American, and of having acted as Japanese-English interpreter for those seminars in many cases, the reader should understand that, still, I can only do the best I can to explain concepts presented by Kancho and other high-level instructors in Japan. I do have the advantage of having been there, but my level of understanding in karate is only just what it is, and I can only explain what Kancho and others explain, through the lens of my own limited understanding. Yet to assist the development of Kyokushin-kan in the West, I will do the best I can.)
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. (A virtual Dream Team, as I mentioned earlier!)
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 may 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:
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 what it once was, during that same span of 60 years. If there’s any doubt that such a thing might occur, let’s look at the following two photographs.
What do you notice to be the difference?
These two 10-year-olds became so powerful for their size (frankly) that I made them, in this final match, hold foam sponges in each fist in order to reduce their fists’ density to prevent them from injuring one another. Yet look at their fighting stance! For Kyokushin-Kan members, this is already an antiquated fighting posture. The way that they’re standing, 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 (above) and here below:
Here 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.
This is but one example, but it is an easy one to see. Kancho and Kyokushin-Kan does NOT endorse having everyone revert to using face punches in tournaments. However, Kyokushin-Kan DOES endorse inviting those adult competitors who do want to try in certain select high-level tournaments to try competitions in which punching to the head is legal. Why? So that those high-level competitors who also participate in Kyokushin tournaments with traditional rules will influence all the others towards a fighting posture that’s more like Kancho’s in the photographs, one that makes more sense, one that makes the ONLY sense, in a self-defense situation.
Look back at my 10-year-olds. I was so proud of them, because they’ve gotten so strong! But their stance is WRONG from a Kyokushin-Kan standpoint, and I will still have to teach them better.
I’ve given now about what I can today in this Part 2 of this “Kancho’s Message” essay, so I’m going to have to write a Part 3 (and maybe a Part 4) later in the week. But to conclude:
Kyokushin-Kan is a variant of Kyokushin (just like all the IKOs), 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. I, myself, don’t know enough about all of the other organizations and can not judge, but it is an obvious question to ask. Only the future will tell, but in the mean time – until Part 3 of my essay – just 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.
Remember the question I posed above? IS there a mandate that we leave Kyokushin exactly what it was at a certain point in time?
Like Kancho, this author would assert that we had better not. If we do, if we don’t continuously reach for what is Kyokushin’s varying cutting edge, we will be left by the wayside. More later in the week.
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