Posts Tagged ‘Mas Oyama’

This book was written by a guy, Nathan Ligo,  who trained at the Kyokushin Kai Kan Honbu Dojo in Tokyo Japan at the same time I was there. He was an uchi deshi, one of Sosai Mas Oyama’s personal students. This is his story in his own words.  I have only read excerpts, but so far I’m impressed.


This is the Fight Quest Episode where Doug & Jimmy try out Kyokushin.  Keep a few things in mind as you watch this. 1) Doug & Jimmy’s Japanese pronunciation is horrible, they say just about every Japanese word wrong. 2) They hammed it up pretty good for the camera. For example, we never fought on stone, in fact we never fought outside the dojo. When we did fight, it was always on a hardwood floor with a little spring & give. We only trained outside the dojo on Sundays when the weather was nice; we would jog through town, then run up hills and do some kihon (basics) outside. Other than that, we always trained inside the dojo. 3) Even though Doug & Jimmy are wearing white belts, they are not beginners, they are trained MMA fighters. 4) You will not fight or train this hard until you reach a pretty advanced level. I say this because I don’t want to scare anyone away from trying out Kyokushin. There is a reason they call this “The Strongest Karate.” Watch and you’ll see why.

While researching links & such on Google, I stumbled upon a link to LIGO DOJO of BUDO KARATE. This dojo was started by a guy I trained with while I was in Japan training at the Kyokushin Kaikan Honbu Dojo, the original headquarters of Kyokushin Kai, in Ikebukuro, Tokyo. At the time, the founder and grandmaster Sosai Masutatsu Oyama was still alive and teaching a few classes a week. I knew Sensei Nathan Ligo only as “Raigo-San.”  In Japan you go by last name even if you are foreign.  All I remebered was,  Raigo-San, it was 20 years ago after all.   Raigo-San was an Uchi-Deshi, a House Disciple, a personal student of Mas Oyama.  Raigo-San, was the ripe age of 19. Uchi-Deshi, lived in a dormitory behind the dojo, and they trained I think 3 times a day;  once at  Uchi-Deshi Keiko (House Disciple training),  once in a regular class, and once on their own, weight training or running & such.  They were required to keep a journal of their training. An Uchi-Deshi trained I think about 6 hours a day or so, and they had other duties too, like cleaning the dojo. Advanced students teach, and I remember one of the Uchi-Deshi chauffeuring around Sosai (the Grandmaster).

At that time, no foreigner had completed the 1000 day Uchi-Deshi program.  Raigo-San was the only American to receive a certificate of completion, and to date I think only three foreigners (including Sensei Ligo) have completed the program.  The program was intense, to say the least, and I don’t think I could have lasted a month.  The Uchi-Deshi are restricted from leaving the dojo for the first year. I think there are some exceptions, but mostly you live in a karate dojo for three years with very little break, or rest, or contact with the outside world. You train injured, and you train and train and train.

Although I trained hard while I was in the dojo, I trained only three or four times a week for about an hour and a half.  I lived in my own apartment, ate whatever I wanted and had a Japanese girlfriend at my beck and call.  Actually I lived a pretty good life while I was in Japan.  Although I’ll never reach the skill level of the Uchi-Deschi, I still experienced the epicenter of Kyokushin Kai, and I lived a much more comfortable and enjoyable life.

One day, a Saturday I think, I went to the dojo,  trained and then went to one of the nearby department stores to buy something.  When I went to pay, I was shocked to find that I didn’t have enough money in my wallet.  I realized someone had stolen money out  of my wallet in the dojo.  We had no lockers, so someone  just cleaned me out.  I went back to the dojo to let them know, and it was Raigo-san who translated for me.  It was then that I learned the word “Nusumu, ” to steal.  After that day, we left our wallets at the reception desk, where the receptionist held them for us until after practice.  Undoubtedly this was a change over way things had been done over the previous 30 years.

I have added things to my dojo, specifically Israeli Krav Maga, and CrossFit, so I can appeal to a wider demographic. But when I think back to my time in Japan, and the people I met, like Sensel Ligo, and the special experience I had at the Kyokushin Kaikan Honbu Dojo, I also want to preserve and teach karate the way I learned it, at the source.