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The Kyokushin system is based on traditional karate like Shotokan and Goju-ryu, but incorporates many elements of combat sports like boxing and kickboxing in kumite. Many techniques are not found in other styles of karate. Today, some Kyokushin fighters (like Francisco Filho and Glaube Feitosa) appear in kickboxing events like K-1, but apart from some exceptions, Kyokushin does not allow its students to appear in paid fights and remain with the style. In the past this has caused many high-ranking competitors to leave the organization, even if they continue to practice the art and skills of Kyokushin.
In this form of karate the instructor and his/her students all must take part in hard sparring to prepare them for full contact fighting. Unlike some forms of karate, Kyokushin places high emphasis on full contact fighting which is done without any gloves or protective equipment. This apparent brutality is tempered somewhat by the fact that you are not allowed to use a non-kick or non-knee strike to hit your opponent in the face, thus greatly reducing the possibility of serious injury. Knees or kicks to the head and face, on the other hand, are allowed.
In the earliest Kyokushin tournaments and training sessions bare knuckle strikes to the face were allowed but resulted in many injuries, and, thus, students who were forced to withdraw from training. Mas Oyama believed that wearing protective gloves would detract from the realism that the style emphasizes. Therefore, it was decided that hand and elbow strikes to the head and neck would no longer be allowed in training and competition. Furthermore, many governments don't allow bare knuckle strikes to the head in sanctioned martial arts competitions. The vast majority of Kyokushin organizations and "offshoot" styles today still follow this philosophy.
Technically, Kyokushin is a circular style. This is in opposition to Shotokan karate, which is considered a linear style, and closer to Goju-ryu, which is considered a circular style. Shotokan and Goju-ryu were the two styles of karate that Oyama learned before creating his own style. However, Oyama studied Shotokan for only a couple of years before he switched to Goju-ryu where he got his advanced training. This is reflected in Kyokushin where the early training closely resembles Shotokan but gradually becomes closer to the circular techniques and strategies of Goju-ryu the higher you advance in the system.
Sparring is used to train the application of the various techniques within a fighting situation. Sparring is usually an important part of training in most Kyokushin organizations, especially at the upper levels with experienced students.
In most Kyokushin organizations, hand and elbow strikes to the head or neck are prohibited. However, kicks to the head, knee strikes, punches to the upper body, and kicks to the inner and outer leg are permitted. In some Kyokushin organizations, especially outside of a tournament environment, gloves and shin protectors are worn. Children always wear head gear to lessen the impact of any kicks to the head. Speed and control are instrumental in sparring and in a training environment it is not the intention of either practitioner to injure his opponent as much as it is to successfully execute the proper strike. Tournament fighting under knock-down rules is significantly different as the objective is to down your opponent. Full-contact sparring in Kyokushin is considered the ultimate test of strength, endurance, and spirit.
Tournament competition is an important part of Kyokushin, and most Kyokushin organizations sponsor local, national, and international competitions. Kyokushin tournaments are held throughout the year on every continent in the world, but the largest are held in Japan where they are televised on Japanese television and draw crowds of thousands. Tournaments are organized as either weight category or open tournaments. The Kyokushin World Tournaments are known as the Karate Olympics.
Kyokushin culture believes that accepting a "challenge" represents a Kyokushin practitioner's commitment to the principles of the art. One way to participate in a challenge, in which a Kyokushin student tests his/her courage and desire to defeat one's adversary, is through tournament competition.
Most Kyokushin tournaments follow "knock-down" rules in which points are awarded for knocking one's opponent to the floor with kicks, punches, or sweeps. Grabbing and throwing are generally not allowed in Kyokushin tournaments. When they are, they are legal only if performed in less than a second. Hooks are usually legal if performed for a 'split second.' Arm or hand strikes to the head, face, neck or spine are usually not permitted, but kicks to the head are allowed. If, however, the opponent turns his back while the opponent is throwing a technique, there is no penalty. Outside of Japan straight kicks to the front of the knee are usually disallowed. Knock-outs do sometimes occur and minor to moderate injuries are common, but serious injuries are rare. The most common injuries are concussions, broken clavicles, and fractured limbs and sternums. Many Kyokushin tournaments follow an "open" format that allows competitors from any martial-arts style, not just Kyokushin, to enter and compete.
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