When he was young, he lived on his sister's homestead in theManchuria. Ōyama began studying themartial artsat the age of 9 and first learned southern Chinese from a worker named Li Soushi on said farmsteadkung fu-System of 18 hands. (also referenced under the name "The 18 Hands of Wing Chun"). At the age of 12, Ōyama returned to Korea and continued his training in traditional Korean martial artsTaekgyeonandGwonbeopaway.
Korea was de facto sinceFirst Sino-Japanese Warand a de jure colony of Japan since 1910. The Korean language and culture was suppressed by the Japanese occupiers; the whole country was to be Japaneseized. Therefore, Ōyama wanted to go to Japan, since he could expect better future prospects there than at home.
In 1938, at the age of 15, Ōyama actually traveled to Japan in hopes of becoming a fighter pilot with theJapanese Army Air Forceto be able to. However, he could not realize these ambitions (seeShimpū Tokkotai), especially because he had not reckoned with the then prevailing discrimination against the Korean minority in the Japanese motherland. He followedTokyo, worked there as a clerk in a restaurant and trainedjudo, until one day he was at the practice of studentskarate- Techniques observed. Ōyama then went to the dojoFunakoshi Gichinin theTakushoku Universityand started the karate style thereShotokanto train. Due to his extensive previous training in various martial arts, he made rapid progress and in 1940 he was able to take the 1st Dan exam in Shotokan Karate. However, Ōyama left the Funakoshi dōjō a little later because he had a different idea of fighting. The reason for this was the practice fight between Funakoshi's son andSo Nei-chu(소네이쥬, 1907–2001), a master student ofMiyagi Chojun, the founder ofGōjū-ryū- Karate style. With So Nei-chu, who like himself came from Korea and had his own dōjō, he practiced Gōjū-ryū karate from that point on. When he was drafted into the Japanese army in 1943, he had already achieved 4th dan in Goju-ryu karate. The war meant an interruption in the development of Ōyama Masutatsu. He was part of the ground crew at a military airfield near Tokyo. He was imprisoned for beating up a superior who wrongly insulted him.
After the defeat of Japan at the end of World War II, Ōyama fell into a severe life crisis. Due to the extreme shortage of food immediately after the end of the war, he joined a criminal gang. Eventually he was imprisoned for six months after beating up some American soldiers to show that he wasn't personally defeated. It was only at this time that Ōyama decided to devote his life entirely to karate. His master So Nei-chu, who was a follower ofNichiren Buddhismencouraged him to focus on the spiritual aspect of the martial arts path, which he had previously neglected, and to withdraw into solitude to correct his lack of self-control.
Ōyama therefore trained alone on Mount Minōbu inChiba, Japan. Supposedly he shaved off an eyebrow so he couldn't leave the mountain. He is said to have spent fourteen months there and then to have been forced to leave the mountain because his patron had refused him further support. Months later, after winning the Japanese National Martial Arts Championships in karate, he returned to the mountains for 18 more months, this time to Mount Kiyosumi, as he had not yet achieved his original goal of three years of solitude training. Although these accounts of Ōyama's alleged stay in the mountains have been repeatedly corroborated by many of his followers, Ōyama has never personally confirmed these circumstances.
Some parts of Ōyama's early biography are given byJon Bluming, one of his early students, is disputed.
The Kyokushinkaikan Hombu Dojo in Tokyo
In 1953 he opened his own dōjō in Tōkyō called Ōyama Dōjō. He continued to travel around Japan and the world giving martial arts demonstrations in which hebullsfought and killed with his bare hands. His dōjō first trained outdoors on an empty lot and later moved to one in 1956ballet schoolaround. His teachings soon developed a reputation as a tough, intense, and hands-on martial arts school, christened "Kyokushin" at a ceremony in 1957. However, he was also said to be very rough with his students and to have injured them more often during training. As the dōjō's reputation grew, so did the number of students who came to Ōyama for training from within Japan and abroad. Many of the later heads of today's organizations that emerged from the Kyokushin began their training during this period. In 1964, Ōyama's dōjō moved to another building, which from then on served asHombu Dojoand world headquarters of his school. In this context he also founded the International Karate Organization Kyokushinkaikan (IKO or IKOK for short) to organize the many schools that were teaching his style at the time.
Having thus given the Kyokushinkai a formal framework, Ōyama led the organization into another phase of growth: he himself and the instructors he carefully selected showed great skill when it came to marketing the style and attracting new members to the association. Once Ōyama had chosen a professor, he would open a dōjō in another city and hold public performances there, such as in the city gymnasium, the local police academy, a park, in schools, or at festivals, quickly raising a number of students for his newly founded dōjō could win. Thereafter, word of mouth in the local area was relied upon to create a committed student body.
Ōyama also sent instructors abroad, for example to theUnited Statesand afterBrazil, where Kyokushin was spread in the same way. Another method of spreading his style was the open-style Karate World Championships he organized.
By the time of his death, he had built his Tōkyō-based IKOK into one of the world's largest martial arts associations, with branches in more than 120 countries and more than 10 million registered members. In Japan, books were written by him and about him, full-length feature films colorfully described his life story, and also amangatells of his (alleged) adventures.
Ōyama died at the age of 70 on April 26, 1994 - although a non-smokerlung cancer.