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Head to Head Review


Karate Bullfighter  -  Fighter in the Wind


Karate Bullfighter

Copyright© 1975 Toei Company

Karate Bullfighter

aka ''Champion of Death''

aka '' Kenko Karate Kyokushinken

Hello and welcome to our 3rd Head to Head film battle ,this month in our month of JAPAN we look at the life of the founder of Kyokushin Karate ,Mas Oyama aka Choi Bae-dal .

Now you can see more about Master Oyama on our dedicated Karate page ,now for our films and first up is Karate Bullfighter. Now to put people in the know ,this is the first of a trilogy of films that where converted from a comic strip (manga) of the life of Mas Oyama and not a totally truthful account of the masters life ,many elements where blown out of proportion for the comic strip to make it more dynamic .

What's more surprising is both this and the later ''Fighter in the Wind'' where taken from the comic or book as described in many reviews of Fighter in the Wind. What's more surprising is how so many elements of the story differ ,but more on that later.

Now for Karate Bullfighter ,they had to get someone who could portray the man known as one of the hardest men in the Karate world . Who more suitable then a student of master Oyama and martial arts actor and idol in Japan . Yes the one and only Shinichi ''Sonny'' Chiba portrays Master Oyama in this film ,what's more many of the fighters are students of Kyokushin and students of Master Oyama . On top of that Mas Oyama served as technical advisor on the film and even appears in the end of the opening credits.

Now this film is set after Oyama has trained hard and put up with the strife of being a Korean in a foreign land. . And there fore his character is referred  to as Master Oyama and not his Korean name of Choi Bae-dal .

It all begins when Oyama turns up at a Karate tournament after the end of the war ,Karate has been reinstated to be practiced (after the Japan Military had banned the teaching of martial arts during the war) , a tournament is in progress and Oyama turns up to challenge the might of Japan Karate .

The head of the Karate organization a man named Nakasone is not enamored with the appearance or manner of Oyama. But Oyama shows his might in a blistering show of Tile breaking and hand to hand combat against the top fighter of the Japanese schools a determined man by the name of Nanba .

After the tournament and his destruction of Nanba ,Nakasone and his officials invite Oyama to help push Japanese Karate ,though he would have to tidy up and embark on the etiquette road so to speak, but with Oyama's accusation that their Karate is just only a dance without any real power ,Nakasone and his men become outraged and they agree to disagree and Oyama leaves.

As he leaves holding his trophy of winning he is chased by a student of Nakasone ,the young man begs Oyama to teach him as he is the best in Japan ,the best Oyama replies ! ,The young man says, ''yes you won ,that trophy proves your the best ,With this Oyama this cup says I'm the best ,with that Oyama trashes the trophy and responds by saying '' I'm not the best at Karate for a dance''

Oyama gets down to living his life and keeping himself fit , he gets a job as a rickshaw driver and it's this time that Oyama gets to see a young Japanese woman he once saved from thugs in his past.

When the young woman goes off with a American GI (who just happen to get in his rickshaw) ,Oyama gets the wrong idea and thinks she is prostituting herself . In a rage he stops the rickshaw pulls out the GI and goes about teaching the girl a lesson by raping her .

Now I did find this hard to believe that Oyama had actually raped a young girl and that being privy to the story did not say a word ,secondly that his student Chiba portrayed his master as such . But I suppose for dramatic effect it works and keeps you thinking.

It's after this event that the young girl ( Chiako) tells him she is a translator and that he had just taken her cherry.

Of course now Oyama don'''t feel to good and goes about trying to make it up to her. Back at his apartment where Chiako frequents on occasion Oyama asks her to marry him ,she shrugs him off but you know there's something in the back of her mind.

It's also here that the young man who had asked Oyama to teach him turns up pleading again . With reservation Oyama agrees and the young man named Shogo ( Jiro Chiba) begins training with him

This is also a good point to see Kyokushin in full flight as the two spar the blows look mighty powerful ,once again Sonny Chiba portrays Karate so powerful that it sends shivers down your spine . One of the funny things is when Oyama gargles water and spits it out right on the face of the floored Shogo. Showing he has no airs and graces but is honourable nether the less.

Things seem to get worse for Oyama from this point in ,especially when he he gets the idea to save the village from a raging bull , rushing to the scene he confronts this crazed beast grabbing it by the horns and fighting for life , as the villagers look on Oyama literally rips the bulls horns from it's head .

Hailed a hero and labelled in the local papers a s the toughest Karate man around ,that he has taken to fighting Bulls as no man is a match for him.

This leads to more animosity towards him from the Japanese Karate organizations.

Things go from bad to worse when Shogo Ariake hears a group of Students from Nakasone's dojo talking ill of his Sensei ,claiming he had drugged the Bull before he fought it.

Enraged by these accusations he confronts the group and demands they retract their statements ,when they just laugh at Shogo he goes in to a rage and attacks them ,resulting in them being badly injured.

Now Nakasone has the Police after Shogo ,they arrest him but he escapes and goes to the Nakasone dojo for revenge , even though Oyama had already visited to apologize for his students action.

Enraged even more of the news that Oyama had been to offer apologies ,he disowns Oyama as being to nice and sets about attacking the students of the dojo . When the Police arrive Shogo goes on the run only to be cornered after beating the police savagely ,as Oyama arrives to talk sense in to the young man Shogo gets excited and the reaction of the police result in him being shot several times .

Oyama takes his students body for burial. Now Oyama is so down in the dumps that he frequents a local bar of one of his Local Gangster friends . But even poor Oyama can not even have a peaceful drink as in to the bar walks a recently released prisoner form jail , a gangster loosely attached to the Nakasone clan .

Demanding that the club is his now he's back out of prison ,the owner says (Oyama's friend) ''I don't think so ,It may have been yours but now it's mine ''

A massive brawl breaks out with weapons appearing ,Oyama intervenes and when the head Gangster attacks Oyama with a knife,Oyama takes the thrust of the Blade and unleashes a punch to the assailant so hard he dies.

Proclaimed as self defense ,Oyama is released from Police custody ,only to be confronted by the widow and child of the man he has just killed .

Feeling remorse like never before (having killed with his bare hands) he vows never to practice Karate again.

He ends up turning up at the widows lodgings where the family have a piece of land they cultivate to live of.

Offering his services ,he says he will make up for the loss of her husband by helping her ,of course at first they shun him and tell him to leave ,but after camping outside their house for days they kind of let him stay ,he befriends the young boy in a and the boys mother gets to accept his help. ( thing is their father was a murderous gangster who I am sure did not get out of prison to farm,good riddance I say). Now Nanba the Karate exponent he had fought at the beginning has been in training and turns up at the farm to confront Oyama , reluctant to fight due to his promise of not fighting .

But Oyama can see Nanba has changed and just as he's about to engage the young boy appears ,Oyama can not break his promise ,The young lad shouts at Oyama to fight and use his Karate . Nanba turns and leaves due to Oyama's stern position on not fighting.

The next day Chiako turns up to see Oyama ,she reports about rumors of how he is disgracing the woman and her child by being there.

Later that evening the widower tells Oyama that he has done enough for her and that he should go back and fight and be the best he can. He leaves a carving for the child ,as he sleeps as he turns to leave the boy awakes and tells Oyama to win ,Oyama says he will see them again.

Barley does he leave that a assassin appears in the rain ,armed with a samurai sword the attacker has been hired to take him out and this will be a fight of honour as the two combatants engage in some classic mixed combat.

Oyama prevails and is set to meet Nakasone at a agreed place in some open land. Nakasone being the coward he is positions vast numbers of Karateka at numerous points to trap Oyama .

But using a stealthy attack and making Nakasone nervous by being late Oyama sneaks in under the cover of foliage ,he strikes at the opportune moment landing a flying kick with such ferocity on Nakasone ,killing him instantly. .

Now he must escape the the hordes of fighters by hiding and taking them out in small groups ,of course his final confrontation will be with Nanba where the two will fight as Karate should be with respect and honour as it should be.

Now I must say this film is such a ride of action and emotion ,to think that one man could go through all this in such a small space of time is maddening . Shinich ''Sonny'' Chiba delivers a brilliant portrayal of the Kyokushin founder who was his mentor. Of course many elements are dramatized for the screen ,and you must remember that this taken from a comic manga of Oyama's life.

But even if only 50% reflects what actually happened ,it still shows what a complicated life Master Oyama had . Don't forget there are another two films after this one. (soon to be covered on this very site) .

The fighting is done with such authenticity due to the many true life Karate fighters in the film ,but the films dramatic scenes do not suffer from this, what's more Sonny Chiba's younger brother .Jiro who plays Shogo Ariake also puts in a top performance as the over the top student who goes of on a vendetta.

And don't forget the Bull fight of which a real Bull was used ,though quite comical to look at ,just think about it ,Master Oyama confronted many Bulls in real life , ask your self this,could you confront a Bull and keep your cool ?

Review Date: 30-07-2011

Sertes Nake

Karate Bullfighter stills


Karate Bullfighter Credits

Directed by Kazuhiko Yamaguchi
Written by Norifumi Suzuki
Starring Sonny Chiba
Yumi Takigawa
Mikio Narita
Jirô Chiba
Studio Toei Company
Distributed by United Artists
Release date(s) USA August 9, 1975
March 1977
Running time 85 min.
Country Japan
Language Japanese

Karate Bullfighter Alternative Artwork and Posters


Fighter in the Wind

Copyright© Big Blue Film 2004


Fighter in the Wind

No sleep for this film reviewer , back with the story of Kyokushin Karate legend Mas Oyama …...

With this 2004 adaptation of the life of the legend ,the story focuses on the earlier life of Master Oyama . Now being a film of Korean production the film focuses heavily on the fact of Master Oyama's Korean heritage ,through out of most of the film he is referred to as Choi-Bae-dal (he did not change his name till later on in life ) .

The story open with the young Bae-dal in his home of Korea and due to the invading forces the Japanese are recruiting Koreans for the cause. After seeing leaflet about being a fighter pilot for the Japanese army he stows away to get to Japan so he can get to enrol in the fighter plane squadron, Now the film does not focus on this to much as it really stars towards the end of the war where our Korean squadron have been tied to poles to foe insubordination for not wanting to go on Kamikaze runs.

The commanding officer tells them the Kamikaze runs are sacred and honourable way of dyeing for Japan and that they should not taint the ritual with Korean blood. This of course upsets a few of our fellow Koreans and they give some backlash verbally ,in the end the Commander by the name of Kato challenges Bae-dal to a fight saying if he wins he will let his comrades live and if not ,well death awaits.

Bae-dal who had had some training in the arts back in Korea fights the commander in a brawler manner ,Kato soon puts a end to the proceedings telling him he has no dignity for Karate . As he about to lop his head of the Allies attack resulting in the Japanese fleeing leaving the Korean pilots for dead.

With his friend Chun Bae (when they first met Chun Bae tried to rob Bae-dal) sets up a pachinko stall in local market place . Local gangsters try and collect protection money from Chun Bae and Bae-dal intervenes with the end result being that after being beaten he is humiliated and degraded .

But when a Korean martial artist who is from Bae-dal's home town turns up to teach the gangsters a lesson ,Bae-dal is impressed by his stature. The Man Bum-soo resides at a circus and after some thought agrees to teach Bae-dal some of his fighting moves.

To try and esatblish a normallife Bae-dal gets a job as a rickshaw driver and ends up getting caught up in the act of saving a young Japanese girl named Yoko from rape from American GI'S . This sets Bae-dal on a mission to save the people from the GI's and this gets him the recognition as a hero even though the Americans do not know his identity .

Now the local gangsters get their revenge on Bum-soo by killing him ,of course this sets Bae-dal and his fellow Koreans on a vendetta to get the gangsters but when a confrontation sees him knocked out , Bae-dal vows he will never lose a fight a again .

H e goes and lives in the mountains ,training himself ,just living of the land and wearing only his tattered Gi.

When he decides it's time to see what he has achieved he returns to challenge various Karate dojo's by basically destroying their best fighters in unarmed combat. When the head of the Japan Karate Association (JKA) hears about this he decides Bae-dal must be taught a lesson for thinking he can do better Karate then the Japanese . On top of that Bae-dal has changed his name to a Japanese one ,that of Oyama .

What could be worse ,well the head is former Japanese commander Kato ,who had already beaten Bae-dal (or is it Oyama ) in the past.

But Oyama continues to defeat and challenge Japanese martial art schools ,not just in Karate but Kobudo,Ninjitsu ,Judo and more ,each time coming out the victor. Oyama' becomes big news as the media report on his every move .This just goes to annoy Kato more and more and when they decide to send a Assassin to kill Oyama ,the assassin ends up being the one on the receiving end of death .

When Oyama finds out that the assassin had a wife and child ,he vows to quit Karate and goes to help the widow and her child . Turning up at their lodgings he waits outside ,bearing the weather and trying to help the poor family. (I have been here before) ,When local kids bully the young boy of the dead assassin for not having a father ,Oyama helps the boy who is still resentful of Oyama.

But Oyama will prevail by taking the boy to the top of the mountain ,a wish of the boys for many a year. ( in fact he kidnaps the kid ,I'm surprised he was not done for it ) .

It seems that Oyama will be the father figure in the boys life something lacking from his past. The boys mother also begins to come to terms with Oyama's persistence in his penance .

Once they realise Oyama's honour the mother gives Oyama back his Gi that he had relinquished to her . She tells him to go and face the people out to get him and become the best Karate fighter in Japan.

Oyama returns to the city to find out that his family had been threatened ,though Kato was not involved ,they challenge him to a match against Kato. The two meet in clearing with Kato surrounded by his students and the Martial art masters.

As Oyama ploughs through Kato's subordinates with out breaking as much as a sweat it becomes apparent to Kato that he must deal with Oyama himself . Even though Kato is a supreme opponent of his style it is also apparent that Oyama's conditioning and power is more then the Japanese master can handle .

Oyama show's mercy to Kato and with this turns away and walks off.

Now with this more up to date version of the story ,which by the way is taken from the comic book /manga strip and not from say a proper biographical knowledge of Master Oyama,there are quite a few differences , in the parts that crossover in the story form Karate Bullfighter.

But as a standalone film of the life of Master Oyama it gives a good portrayal of his strife in pursing his art . Being of Korean production ,the Korean back story is emblazoned more ,making him a hero of Korea.

The film it self is so dramatically shot with the fight scenes though not consisting of many long cuts give a dynamic look to the proceedings . I know not of the title role stars ( Yang Dong Geun) experience in the arts ,but he performs well and looks the part ,the rest of the cast are very good to with the Part of Kato played with much honour by Masaya Kato. ( wonder how they got his name )

The part of Yoko by Aya Hirayama is a mesmerizing and brilliant to watch. The transformation of the belittled and trodden on Bae-dal in to this wandering warrior named Oyama is quite amazing ,throughout the film he is compared to a modern day Myamoto Mushashi ,something which upsets the Japanese Karate heads even more , But one thing for sure it is a fact that when Master Oyama did retreat to the mountains to train he took one book with him and that was ''The Book of Five Rings'' In reality he also took a student along who eventually left one night when Oyama was asleep having had enough of living in a shed. On a freezing cold mountain.

Review Date : 31-07-2011

Sertes Nake

                                    Fighter in the Wind stills


          Fighter in the Wind Alternative posters and artwork

Korean Poster

French poster

                                   Fighter in the Wind Credits
Directed by Yang Yun-ho
Produced by Jeon Ho-Jin
Written by Yang Yun-ho
Starring Yang Dong-geun
Masaya Kato
Aya Hirayama
Music by Choi Man-shik
Cinematography Shin Ok-hyeon
Editing by Park Sun-deok
Distributed by Big Blue Film
Cinema Epoch (U.S.)
Release date(s) August 12, 2004 (South Korea)
Running time 120 min.
Language Korean

The Verdict



Now how do you compare films which take the same story ,from different periods of one man’s life ( even though some areas cross) It's not easy I say ,many traditionalists would go for the original 70's film ,due to Master Oyama's actual students being in the film and even with a cameo or snippet of the man himself.

The authenticity of the Sonny Chiba role will sway many with it's very rough and ready camera angles and feeling of following this man around with a camera while he went about fighting people and bulls. It is shot in a very realistic yet stylistic way . In places it's like someone’s caught a fight on camera and had filmed it for you-tube. (it could be real) .. The use of the real Bull is brilliant and everything flows in destructive manner till the final encounter.

With the more up to date Fighter in the Wind (FITW) the story is more a of a rag to riches ,though the route is somewhat fraught with dangers. You know your watching a film ,the freeze frames and quick cuts just go to show this . When the film content crosses the same time frame ,there are less characters to deal with .like the widows story ,in the original he is gangster,in FITW he is the same assassin that tries to kill Oyama when Oyama leaves the widow in the original.

Oyama is not portrayed as a rapist in the newer film ( bet that was relief to his family ) I f I was taking the original as it's trilogy then of course it would get top scores over FITW ,but as it stands on it's own the two films have something of equal appeal .

My only conclusion is that the films should receive the same score of ….........

8 out of Ten

Sertes Nake.

July 2011








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