Is Kyokushin Karate still “Kyokushin” without Kata?

This is a question I pose, and I do not propose to have the answer. When Sosai Mas Oyama created Kyokushin, he created it to be the ultimate martial art at its time, combining the base he had in Judo, Shotokan, Goju-ryu and Taikiken.

Sensei Darren Stringer

Kyokushin was built on hard practice, strengthening the mind and body, through perseverance, with a foundation of Kihon, Kumite and Kata.

I know many argue that Kata is useless, that the only way it can work is with diligent practice and breakdown of the bunkai, or application, and even then the jury is out on it’s effectiveness. However, it also imparts the practice of proper form, transitioning, distribution of power through torque and hip movement. It teaches Kime and focus. It has many attributes that improve the martial artist.

It is true you can be a fantastic fighter without kata. Look at Kickboxing as a prime example, but it isn’t Kyokushin. Though much of modern kickboxing (Dutch style, K1) was built with Kyokushin principles and foundation.

However, there is a movement in certain areas and organizations to remove Kihon and Kata training from Kyokushin all together, or not practice it or use it as a grading requirement. There are high-ranking black belts in Kyokushin who do not know basic Kyokushin kata. Are they still Kyokushin?

Historically, all the great Kyokushin champions knew and practiced kata, Matsui, Midori, Kazumi, Filho, etc, and they continue to teach and practice Kata today. But it seems sometime after the passing of Sosai, kata practice in some groups and areas fell out of practice, with the focus on fighting.

Sure, they can be fantastic fighters, but are they Kyokushin? What constitutes Kyokushin? Is Kyokushin only a philosophy, or is it also an amalgamation of the physical components of Kihon, Kata and Kumite? Or both physical and philosophical?

What would Sosai Mas Oyama say about the situation if he were still alive?

For myself, Kata training is important for varied of reasons.

Body conditioning (stance training), mental awareness including; zanshin (relaxed awareness), fudoshin (composure), mushin (no mind), shoshin (open mind), kensho (insight), health, visualization, proper form and technique, control, proper hip rotation, and the list goes on.

For an instructor it helps with transmission of knowledge and student goal setting, as kata take a long time to learn and contain a systematic way to evolve.

And finally, unlike kumite, kata can be practiced and performed throughout your life, well into your senior years. It is rare to see seniors kickboxing and fighting, perhaps a little light sparring, but you will find many masters of karate still working, perfecting and deriving meaning from kata practice well into their 80s.

For myself, without kata, karate loses it’s “martial art” and becomes a combat sport like kickboxing, boxing and wrestling. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but for myself, there is something missing and I am not sure if I still call it Karate Kyokushin.



Tensho Kata led by Shihan David Pickthall (IFK Vice-President)


Comments 10

  1. Coleman Ridge

    Why does it matter whether or not it is Kyokushin?

    Why isn’t intelligent, graceful, technical, spontaneously improvised fighting art?

    1. Post
  2. Hanshi Liz

    Kyokushin, Seido, USA Oyama
    Trained in all them all. These men were my Teachers for many years and are men that are one of a kind.
    I was a female fighter since I’m 12 years old and now @ 48 years in Hanshi , World Champion Sensei and Mom, Kata and Zen are critical…
    My Sensei Mas Oyama all-ways said to me as a child, I need zen and Kata.
    Every grading Zen And Kata. Used to be a joke among my friends. Now In my older years it’s my in Path….
    Train Hard and stay True to Kyokushin way not the nonsense of Want to bees. Train hard and True to your self
    Never Give up!
    Hanshi Liz Delgado

  3. Martin Marlborough

    If they do not practice Kihon and Kata they are NOT Kyokushin they are Kickboxers ECT
    To many breakaway clubs are using the name Kyokushin but not using the training practice
    of Sosai Oyama, They only want to use the name, They are not Kyokushin, I have trained in Karate and other Martial arts for 55 years now 10 in Shotokan and 35 in Kyokushin as well as Judo and Jujitsu
    Sandan in Shotokan, Nidan in Jujitsu and 6th Dan Shihan in Kyokushin. Kihon , Kata and Kumite
    is Kyokushin. OSU

  4. Christopher Shabazz

    Kata is what takes you into your elder years of practicing and perfecting your karate. Bunkai is subjective or interpreted on a varied level. It’s great that we have them and use these aspects in our training or we just become a combat sport not an art. Anyone can perfect a punch out kick depending on their capabilities and body makeup. Kata is the equalizer in all that. Everyone can participate even those with missing limbs or blind. Kaicho Nakamura has classes for the visual impaired and they perform Kata flawlessly. Kata also calms the mind and spirit while at the same time builds your physical strength. I remember learning Kendo and the master of my Sensei was about 75 or 80 years old. In every respect her was an old man in both stature and gate. When he stepped onto the dojo floor with his shinai he was as agile and nimble as any of us or more so. Kata, in his words, were what kept him this way even as she has taken a toll on him.

    That’s my take.

    1. Peter G.N. GRIFFIN

      TO: Christopher SHABAZZ-san,

      1. You state, “Bunkai is subjective or interpreted on a varied level”. Your statement reflects that of sheer ignorance !

      2. Bunkai within KYOKUSHINKAIKAN KARATE by design was through an amalgamation between SHOTOKAN, and GOJU RYU Karate which was and is directly from DAITO RYU AIKI JU-JUTSU, as now under KATSUYUKI Kondo, in JAPAN.

      3. There is NO “subjective nor interpreted on a varied level” within KATA as you would so have.

      4. Please research your history thoroughly on those Sosai Mas OYAMA spent time with outside of KYOKUSHINKAIKAN KARATE and those he learned directly from prior – Sosai was also a member of an underground secret society whom fought against the CABAL, and its very important you understand those he stood along side against such by rallying together a formidable army of Yudansha whom have become some of the most powerful people in global political society today.

      5. Again, there is no mis-interpretation of ANY Kata regardless of their origin and or style. All KATA and the techniques practiced are by design resultant in TAP, NAP, or SNAP (i.e. Chokes, locks, and throws) – there are NO strikes, nor kicks – NONE ! These are aesthetic at the very least for overemphasis in body movement and flexion through our natural ageing process.

      Domo Arigato Gozaimasu

      Osu !

      Peter G.N. GRIFFIN
      Sempai IKO3 / IKU

  5. Richard Trammell

    Kata is practiced to pay respect to the traditions, custom and culture of Karate. Many of the kata we practice are recent (not ancient) creations, and many represent a philosophy or principle of certain individuals. Kumite is truly the heart and soul of Karate. Mas Oyama even stated that without fighting there is no truth. Kyokushin spread because it put common sense into Karate when most were practicing no contact point fighting. Full contact training changed things up. When you at the 1st Kyokushin World Championships and compare it to subsequent tournaments, you see the evolution to a style of fighting that looks more like kickboxing. Karateka would go from using old training methods (makiwara boards, stones for resistance trainin) to modern methonds (heavy bags, weight machines, etc,). The previous generation did not have various methonds of competition like we do now. The bunkai that we see today is a recent development and overcomplicates karate because a lot of it simply will not work in real combat. Those of us who practice Kata, do so for reasons that are not fight related. We practice them for exercise, focus, and tradition. They don’t teach movement, reaction, timing, contact, etc. Most of the technqiues are not in your arsenal when you spar or fight.

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