Meet the Karate master who trained by fighting bulls with his bare hands

Yesterday we briefly examined the strange history of contemporary bear wrestling. But in the 1950s, Kyokushinkai Karate pioneer — and trainer of such luminaries as actor Sonny Chiba — Masutatsu Oyama took his training to insane man-versus-wild levels. How absurd did it get? Two words: bare-knuckle bullfights.

When he wasn't training by living as a hermit in the mountains or punching rocks or subjecting himself to grueling tournaments right out of Van Damme films, Oyama apparently tested his mental steel by sparring with cattle. According to one widely circulated statistic and martial arts lore, the fighter duked it out with two-score-and-twelve bovines:

In 1950, Sosai (the founder) Mas Oyama started testing (and demonstrating) his power by fighting bulls. In all, he fought 52 bulls, three of which were killed instantly, and 49 had their horns taken off with knife hand blows. That it is not to say that it was all that easy for him. Oyama was fond of remembering that his first attempt just resulted in an angry bull. In 1957, at the age of 34, he was nearly killed in Mexico when a bull got some of his own back and gored him. Oyama somehow managed to pull the bull off and break off his horn. He was bedridden for 6 months while he recovered from the usually fatal wound. Today of course, the animal rights groups would have something to say about these demonstrations, despite the fact that the animals were already all destined for slaughter.

You can find old footage of a (somewhat stylized) match between Oyama and a bull above. Sonny Chiba later reenacted these bullfighting bouts in the 1975 Oyama biopic Karate Bullfighter. It is unknown if cooling off in the never-ending geyser of blood (as displayed onscreen) was also part of Oyama's training routine.

Top image: Willington Karate Club. Hat tip to my colleague Chris Person over at Kotaku for the heads up.