Goshi Yamaguchi on Mas Oyama and Kyokushin Karate

This is an excerpt from an interview Graham Noble conducted with Goshi Yamaguchi, the third son of Gogen Yamaguchi (teacher of Mas Oyama). This interview took place at Potter’s Leisure Resort, near Great Yarmouth, England. 14th July 2008, IKGA European Gasshaku. They of course discussed Goju-ryu and his legendary father, but as well they talk about Masutatsu (Mas) Oyama, who was a student of Gogen Yamaguchi. Here now is that portion of the interview:

GN: Did your father do all the teaching at the Asakusa dojo?

GY: Yes, that is correct.

GN: What was his teaching like?
GY: Well obviously he taught Goju technique, and the kata. His sparring (teaching) was not so much contact, he liked controlled kumite, good technique.

GN: And he did jyu-kumite (free sparring) with the students?

Masutatsu 'Mas' Oyama 18 years old

Masutatsu ‘Mas’ Oyama 18 years old

GY: Oh yes. And at that time (early 1950’s) sensei Oyama, Masutatsu Oyama, was also at the dojo.

GN: There’s a well known photograph of Gogen Yamaguchi and Oyama doing kumite.

Mas Oyama and Gogen Yamaguchi

Gogen Yamaguchi and Mas Oyama doing kumite

GY: Yes, I know that photograph. At that time Oyama sensei was an Asakusa dojo member.

GN: He was an actual member of the dojo?
GY: Yes, he got 6th dan from my father. (Looking at an old group photo of the dojo -). . . Ah, this is me, the small boy in the front. This is sensei Kei Miyagi, the son of Chojun Miyagi sensei. And this is my oldest brother, and the second brother –

GN: Gosei and Gosen.
GY: Gosei and Gosen yes, and me, and most of the senior members (are in the photo).

GN: So did your father teach Mas Oyama?

Gogen Yamaguchi and Mas Oyama

Gogen Yamaguchi and Mas Oyama

GY: Yes, because you know sensei Oyama started (Goju) karate with sensei So Neichu, a Korean instructor. Now So Neichu was a kohai (junior) to my father at Ritsumeikan University. So Oyama sensei came to the Asakusa dojo. Not so many times, but he was a member of the Goju-kai.

GN: What was his Goju technique like, very strong?
GY: It was, very powerful. Before he separated and started his own group, he discussed with my father many times about karate. Oyama sensei had different ideas. My father liked controlled technique, but Oyama sensei liked to develop a strong body for hitting –

GN: Contact –
GY: Yes, contact, so one time they discussed very strongly – I’m not sure which one correct! (laughing). So Oyama sensei made his own club, Kyoshushin. But at time still my father understood, he had his own ideas and could form his own club.

GN: But when he started Kyokushin Oyama kept Goju kata like Selunchin and Saifa. (Looking here at the kata in Oyama’s first book, “What is Karate?” (1959)
GY: Yes, many senior members (of Goju) visited his club. This here in the book, sensei …

GN: Eiji Yasuda.
GY: Yasuda sensei, yes, he was my father’s student.

GN: Oh yes?
GY: Yes, he is a Korean. He was 2nd dan with my father, Asakusa Goju. He moved to Oyama sensei.

GN: Masashi Ishibashi, one of the early Kyokushinka sensei, he was from Goju also.
GY: Yes, he graduated from the same university as me. In fact, he is still a member of our Goju-kai. But Ishibashi sensei too moved to Oyama sensei’s club after he set up his group. So many senior (Goju) members visited his club, and so there were good connections before he started Kyokushin.

GN: In the early photos of Kyokushin, when they do jyu-kumite they take up neko-ashi stance, like Goju-kai.
GY: That’s right, very similar.

GN: Is it right you saw Oyama sensei bend a coin?

Mas Oyama breaking for Gogen Yamaguchi

Mas Oyama breaking for Gogen Yamaguchi

GY: Yes, I saw many times. I still believe because at that time I was a little kid and he showed me how to break (a coin). Some people say something different, but I didn’t know that. At that time I was surprised, you know. He showed us many strong techniques. He would wrap bamboo together and hit it with his fingers. He showed us many breaking techniques.

GN: Did you see him do kumite? What was it like?
GY: Oh, very strong. He liked to grab, (and throw people down). Of course, he used big techniques, but he did “kumite” with me, when I was just a child… that’s a very nice memory for me.

Mas Oyama throwing an opponent

Mas Oyama throwing an opponent

GN: Did you know the early foreign students of Goju, like Peter Urban?
GY: Yes, I knew him.

GN: He was at the dojo when you were there?
GY: Yes, he came training with sensei Oyama. The funny thing about Peter Urban was normally he could not come to that area of Asakusa. Because he was an officer in the army. But he came anyway.


Copyright © Graham Noble. All rights reserved.

To read the full interview, click here.


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