Is Kyokushin Karate effective?

Kyokushin karate is one of the most famous full-contact karate styles in the world. Founded in 1964 by the great Mas Oyama, Kyokushin is a style that embraces a method of hard training and self-improvement.

Today, Kyokushin has many organizations and millions of students. It is well spread on all seven continents and it seems like every town has at least one school. So to learn more about Kyokushin, we have made a decision to bring you closer to what makes it so special and how it stands against some other styles.

Training sessions are very hard

Training sessions are very hard, and all students must have decent cardio levels. Also, all dojos ask for nice behavior and mutual respect among the students. In short, training methods consist of three major parts:

👊🏻 Kihon (basics)

👊🏻 Kata (imaginary forms of fight)

👊🏻 Kumite (sparring)

The father of Kyokushin, Mas Oyama, created it to be very useful in real life as well as against other styles. So as you would expect, the system heavily depends on sparring and real application. In some dojos, students sparr on a daily basis and this can be a pure hell at times, notably for new students.

Photo by Ignstd found of Flickr

Students usually begin every class by drilling the moves first. Then, they go on to carry them out in sparring with the partner. As in BJJ, sparring stands for the fastest and best way of learning new techniques.

Yet, Kyokushing sparring differs from other standup styles like kickboxing. In Kyokushin, students sparr without hand wraps, gloves, or shin pads. In other words, they do not wear any protective gear. So this form of karate isn’t for everyone, and it can be really unpleasant at times.

It may sound odd, but despite the lack of safety gear, Kyokushin isn’t a dangerous martial art. Yes, it is painful at times, but, the risk of injuries is the same as in other styles.

Most of the injuries occur in competition or by accident and this is something you don’t have to worry about.

Benefits of fighting without the protective gear

Throwing hard strikes without shin pads and gloves may sound crazy and brutal. In some way, it is. But when it comes to realism, this method has many benefits.

Photo by Amit Shah found on Flickr

In other styles like boxing, fighters use hand wraps and gloves to prevent knuckle injuries. So this means that boxers can throw hard punches without thinking much about the injuries. Although this is very safe, it can prove bad in a street fight or other fighting scenario.

You see, a boxer or kickboxer is not trained to punch without the safety gear. So in a street fight, they can easily break their hand by throwing the same hard punches they throw in training. We’ve all heard stories about someone who broke their hands in a street fight simply because they used too much power.

As said earlier, Kyokushin students don’t wear gloves or shin pads when they sparr. So, they must know how to manipulate the power in their strikes to avoid injuries. And they are also used to receiving and landing strikes without any gear. In some way, their bodies are actually immune to strikes.

As we can see, the lack of gear actually has many benefits. Few martial arts systems allow you to experience such a high level of realism.

Kyokushin teaches you very good striking skills

Kyokushin karate is a very technical style and there is a small science behind every move. Set against other traditional styles, many pros actually see it as the best striking style. This is mainly because it is very realistic and useful in self-defense.

Photo by Amit Shah found on Flickr

Kyokushin is not just about utilizing sheer power without skill. All students must learn how to generate power in the strikes by using hips and weight transition. This lets them throw kicks and punches without using much energy. But at the same time, these strikes have a lot of power and speed behind.

Further, all students must spend many hours improving their footwork and learn how to use angles. This results in a better lateral movement and a more effective execution of techniques. These are all true basics when it comes to any form of fighting.

Is Kyokushin Karate effective in a street fight?

It is very useful on the streets since it is a full-contact style. As said earlier, it embraces a hard method of training and a lot of sparring sessions. Along with the lack of gear, this can help any person to prepare for a real-life fighting scenario.

Further, fighters must put a lot of time and effort in drilling the moves. Drilling, in fact, helps them to stamp the moves into muscle memory and improve instincts for fighting. So once in a street fight, a person will carry out the moves without even thinking about it.

Kyokushin techniques are useful in both close and distance fighting. In the pocket, fighters can land the barrage of nasty punches and vicious kicks to back off the attacker. Also, they can use vicious elbow and knee strikes that can do much damage.

What is the major drawback of Kyokushin Karate?

The biggest flaw of Kyokushin karate is the lack of punches to the head. In the early days, Kyokushin did allow the punches to the head. Yet, this was just too brutal since these strikes often resulted in serious head and knuckle injuries. Kyokushin needed to change this in order to be accepted around the world.

Photo by Ignstd found on Flickr

So as you would expect, not many people wanted to train a sport like that. They didn’t want to include gloves either because that would harm the realistic part of the technique.

So elbow and hand strikes to the head are not allowed in both training and competition. Yet, there are some karate schools that allow punches and kicks to the head. Fighters from these schools can compete in modified karate tournaments that allow punches to the head. But, we must say that the majority of schools and tournaments actually forbid these strikes.

The difference between Kyokushin and Shotokan Karate

Shotokan Karate is much safer than Kyokushin Karate. This is because the focus in Shotokan is not on using power strikes and do huge damage like in Kyokushin. But for some reason, people tend to compare these two styles despite the fact they are very different. So deciding which one is more superior is not an easy task.

Shotokan is light contact karate in which the action stops after every strike. Once the punch or a kick lands, the officials must stop the action to decide how many points you get. So many people see Kyokushin as a better style since fighters can throw many strikes.

Further, there is a clear contrast in safety as well. As said earlier, Kyokushin fighters use limited gear and protection. Shotokan, on the other hand, is much safer in this aspect as all students must wear full safety gear.

The biggest difference is actually the fighting style. Shotokan karate allows you to strike just the upper body, including head strikes. This is where many people think Shotokat has the advantage. But don’t forget that striking in Shotokan centers on scoring points. So the actual goal of the competition is to outscore the rival

Kyokushin, however, doesn’t allow punches to the head. But unlike in Shotokan, it is more realistic since the main goal is to KO the rival, not to outscore them by points.

Shotokan Karate

As we can see, the two styles are different in almost every aspect. But which one is more effective?

Kyokushin is a better choice for self-defense as it is much more realistic. In a street fight, it allows you to neutralize the attacker and knock them out.

But, Shotokan is a much safer style and there is no question about it. Serious injuries occur very rarely since all students must wear safety gear.

Muay Thai vs. Kyokushin Karate

The rivalry between these two martial arts styles has been around since the 1960s. They used to fight under the kickboxing rules in various Asian tournaments. Despite these are two different sports, they actually share many similarities.

You see, Kyokushin karate is also known as “Muay Thai in a gi” since it allows knee and elbow strikes. Yet, there are plenty of differences as well.

The most obvious one is Kyokushin karate doesn’t allow clinch fighting. So, many people think that Muay Thai is a more complete martial art but this stays open for debate.

Photo by John Newton found on Flickr

For instance, the clinch is very important if not the most important aspect in Muay Thai. Fighters use the clinch to land hard knees to the body and sharp elbows. In karate, however, fighters need to throw these strikes while being at distance and separated from the rival. So these strikes are actually more useful in Muay Thai.

No matter on which side you are on, we must respect both styles.

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Tomislav Zivanovic

Tomislav Zivanovic

Mixed martial arts analyst and writer.

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