Kyokushin is a very popular traditional martial arts style among MMA fans. This is partially due to the likes of Georges St. Pierre and Uriah Hall, who have found differing levels of success adopting kyokushin to MMA. Another reason why kyokushin is a popular style among MMA afficiandos is because it is the most popular form of full contact karate.
While this specific karate style has many benefits, it does have some drawbacks—such as no strikes to the head. So with that said, should you crosstrain kyokushin for MMA? The answer depends, and here is why:
Is Striking At Your School Watered Down?
How is the striking at your school? Is the striking instructional technically sound? Do they let you spar often and with at least moderate pace?
Let’s face it, some MMA schools are nothing more than dressed up exercise classes. What’s even more dangerous with some of these MMA schools is that they teach you god-awful technique that would get you pwned in a real fight. So if your MMA school is akin to a McDojo, then you should look for another MMA school. Or you can look for kyokushin school. Kyokushin schools teach fighting with a fairly good amount of realistic sparring and technique.
But remember, kyokushin competitions do not allow punches to the head. So find a kyokushin school that trains with head punches or supplement you kyokushin training with regular kickboxing/boxing sparring.
The great thing about kyokushin striking is that you will get really good at inside pocket fighting. When you are trading shot-for-shot body shots on the inside, you really have to be able to find good angles to deliver the most damage. Also, kyokushin practitioners have really tricky kicks from inside the pocket.
Do You Want to Learn a Variety of Kicks?
I find that karate schools have much better kicking ability than general MMA schools. This could be because karate schools spend a lot of time with kihon, which is just practicing the technique over and over. Also, karate schools tend to teach a lot more kicks, including question mark kicks, tornado kicks, spinning heel kicks, etc. On the other hand, MMA, kickboxing, and muay thai schools teach the basic kicks (round house and push kicks). So if you want more variation in your kicking game, crosstraining kyokushin can be beneficial. Here is the video compilation of some really cool kicks in kyokushin.
Is Body Conditioning Important to You?
If there is one thing that is universal about all kyokushin dojos, it is the body conditioning. Because sparring is done often, without gloves, and at a fairly moderate pace, body conditioning is an important aspect of class. The conditioning will include standing there and taking kicks to the thigh and taking punches to the body. You will be fairly bruised up the first couple of weeks but your body will definitely harden. This type of body conditioning is not done too often in MMA schools anymore. Even many muay thai schools outside of Thailand don’t do this anymore.
Caveats About Crosstraining Kyokushin
Kyokushin is a great style of karate—there is little doubt of that. But it does have some limitations. The limitation is mainly because of tournaments not allowing punches to the head. Because of that, many kyokushin dojos do not train with punches to the head. Do not take the lack of head punches as the practitioners being scared of being punched to the head. Rather, the rule was made to protect competitor’s hands because competition originally fought without gloves. Now, you will find some karate tournaments allow gloves—and thereby allow punches to the head.
But with that said, not being able to punch to the head does change the game. The style of inside fighting in kyokushin is made possible because people are not threatened with repeated blows to the head. If you see kyokushin fights with punches to the head, it totally changes how they fight. Not too many people are willing to stay in the pocket and trade punch for punch anymore. So if you want to crosstrain kyoksuhin, make sure you remember that.