Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Bring It On!

     One day, as I was walking up to the building where I conduct my Yiliquan classes,  I noticed two of my die-hard students standing outside talking. One of them was relating stories which I had told him about the legendary karate master, Mas Oyama. I joined the discussion and provided them with perhaps a few new insights into the man and the nature of real martial arts as opposed to much of what we see today.

Speaking of the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Challenge).........

    In the mid -1950's, Masutatsu Oyama was very interested in popularizing karate in the U.S. With a well-known judo teacher named Endo, he toured 46 states and gave dozens of demonstrations. However, he also utilized another ploy to gain recognition while also demonstrating the great power of his art. He would set up a boxing ring and a prize of $1,000 was offered to anyone who could prevent him from knocking them out for 60 seconds!

     That's right. Sixty seconds.

     A thousand dollars was a great deal of money in those days (probably comparable to ten or even twenty times that amount nowadays). And Oyama would happily take on all comers. He engaged several professional wrestlers as well as the usual street-fighting "tough guys" and even professional boxers.

     Nobody ever collected the money. In 46 states.....!

     Oyama would later say this his toughest opponent was a pro boxer; not because the boxer could hit hard (although I'm sure he could), but because his quick footwork enabled him to dance away from Oyama and avoid his sledgehammer punches. The time limit was getting close and Oyama hadn't been able to hit this fellow once! So he feigned exhaustion and the boxer sneaked up in the hopes of landing a solid punch (by the way, no gloves of any kind were used in these bouts).
     Imagine the fellow's surprise (and horror) when Oyama snapped up and struck him with a reverse punch. End of fight. Oyama's striking knuckles were the the stuff of legend and he only needed to land one blow to end a confrontation. It would be quite literally akin to getting hit with a couple of ballpeen hammers.

     While we all enjoy such stories and imagine the scenario of dozens of "tough-man" Americans doing their best to cold-cock this little Japanese guy.....and receiving a religious experience instead, we need to bear in mind that this is not too far removed from today's "UFC" bouts. Except that nobody ran around in little tights.... And yet, we no longer see this kind of formidable technique.

     We watch contestants from every kind of martial discipline compete in these events.  From Jujitsu to Sumo to Karate and Kung-Fu to just plain tough streetfighters, they all jump in and give it a whirl. I see karate stylists being tackled and beaten. Kung-Fu stylists are pinned to the floor. Sumo practicioners are beaten to a pulp.


     What ever happened to real martial arts?

     I don't have to guess at what would happen if a young Oyama walked into that ring. After all, he was the first to do it in the U.S. and he never lost a match. Unlike the young Brazilian jujitsu exponent who won a few UFC events (by the way, his family owned the event at the time), Oyama fought and won several HUNDRED matches. He performed in 46 states. If he only fought five opponents in each state, that would give him 230 bouts!

     And he never lost. He never won on a TKO (Re-read the deal above - he had to knock you out or you'd get the money). He knocked out every opponent! Every one.

     Why don't we see this kind of skill nowadays? Two reasons that I can think of......

(a) Those who posses it aren't going to jump into a circus and show it off. That's not what they're about. 


(b) Very few people are willing to train that hard nowadays.

     Oyama trained very, very, very hard. For years. Throughout his youth he trained with the intensity of a man possessed. He did a thousand sit-ups a day along with a thousand push-ups. In his weight training, he would bench press his own body weight once for each year of his age...three times a day or more. Instead of a standard striking post, he used young trees (sans padding) and would strike them 1,000 times with each hand every day...until the tree died and then he'd find another one. He did his forms dozens of times daily. He meditated under ice-cold waterfalls, ran several miles daily, and practiced forms in cold streams in waist-deep water. This kind of training he endured for three years while he lived alone on a mountain.

     When he came back to civilization, he wanted to test the strength of his thrust and he struck a large streetlamp post. He was disappointed because it only swayed! He'd hoped to break it. Imagine THAT punch striking you in the face. It'd only take one.

     Oyama never studied boxing. Or wrestling (although he was quite good at judo). Or homemade karate forms. Only traditional karate. And he never lost.

     So to our UFC people who insist that "traditional" martial arts don't really work, I have this to say.....


1 comment:

  1. Standing ovation!!! Great post. Master Oyama was truly one of the old time greats. I studied with Kyokushinkai back in the 70's...totally brutal and painful...tested to the limits.