Mas. Oyama- Judo and BJJ

I’m quite active on social media as many of you reading this know. One platform I occasionally post too is Reddit. Someone asked a question there for peoples thoughts about how Mas. Oyama, in his prime, would do in modern MMA… It’s an “interesting” thought experiment! Kyokushin is known for it’s striking and hard conditioning. Unfortunately, it’s also become known as the style “that doesn’t strike the face”. Always a bit puzzling to me as the dojo I came up in we definitely DID strike to the face!

There are valuable things to be gained from fighting in tournaments. The problems start when the emphasis in everyday dojo training becomes more about winning a sporting contest and less about budo. When that happens we are left with less time to practice techniques that one might need to be adept at in the “real” world.

Shihan Cameron Quinn on his YouTube channel ( Cameron Quinn Kyokushin Karate ) has talked about the importance of being able to fight from different ranges. He pointed out in one of his live streams on YouTube that if we look at Mas. Oyama’s books, at least 70% of what he taught for self-defense was in the grappling range. Sosai Oyama was a 4th dan in Judo which addresses why I included “Judo” in the title of this piece, but what about BJJ?

Mas Oyama came up in the Kosen Judo tradition that included much more groundwork than what is seen in modern sport judo. Kosen rules are essentially the original rules under which competitions were held and could be argued are more “balanced” than modern judo (or BJJ for that matter). Ground fighting was not uncommon at tournaments until Jigoro Kano, the “Father of Judo” decided that competion on the ground was too “boring” for spectators. In 1925 the Kodokan changed the rules requiring competitors to use a throwing technique (nage-waza) in transitioning to the ground. The amount of time that could be spent on the ground was also restricted.

However, some university teams continued to compete under kosen rules. Kosen rules are closer to judo as it was originally taught. Why did I include BJJ in the title to this blog post? In addition to throws, the types of techniques we associate with BJJ, takedowns, sweeps, chokes, joint-locks, and more ground fighting were also emphasized in the curriculum. The “judo” that Mas. Oyama learned included much of what we see in BJJ. Why?

Mitsuyo Maeda was a protege of Tsunejiro Tomita, whose name appears in the very first line of the enrollment book of the Kodokan making Maeda only the second generation from Jigoro Kano himself. This meant that Maeda learned judo as it was originally taught with much more emphasis on groundwork than modern judo has. Maeda started teaching Carlos Gracie in 1917 and Carlos would go on to teach his younger brother Helio. Together they would form what came to be known as Gracie Jiu-jitsu or more commonly, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.

Judo and BJJ would evolve along different lines, especially when it came to competition. Modern sport Judo restricts the time on the ground and evolved to more of a standup style (tachi-waza) with more of an emphasis on throws. BJJ took a different path with more ground fighting (ne-waza) and less standup. Kosen Judo it can be argued, is a more balanced style.

In the early days of Kyokushin as Mas. Oyama evolved his approach, the emphasis was on what would work in a “real fight”. He was interested in what would work in the real world. In a real fight, people not only get punched and kicked, but they also get thrown and can end up on the ground. It’s little wonder that Sosai Oyama would want to add these techniques to his base of knowledge!

So how would Mas. Oyama had fared in his prime in contests which used modern MMA rules… Quite well I believe! His superior striking skills coupled with his grappling and ground game would have made him a formidable opponent!

“One must try every day to expand ones limits.”-Mas. Oyama

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Bill Stewart

I attended my first Kyokushin class in 1980.

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