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Karate for Life (1977)
"Karate baka ichidai" (original title)

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Ratings: 7.1/10 from 157 users  
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This movie is based on the true life story of a Korean fighter named Choi Bae-dal (who later changed his name to Masutatsu Oyama), the founder of Kyokushin Karate in Japan.


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Title: Karate for Life (1977)

Karate for Life (1977) on IMDb 7.1/10

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Credited cast:
Sensei Masutatsu Oyama (as Sonny Chiba)
Kôjirô Hongô
Hideo Murota
Masaru Shiga
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Masashi Ishibashi
Yôko Natsuki
Hiroshi Nawa
Asao Uchida


This movie is based on the true life story of a Korean fighter named Choi Bae-dal (who later changed his name to Masutatsu Oyama), the founder of Kyokushin Karate in Japan.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis





Release Date:

14 May 1977 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

Karate for Life  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


This movie is based on the true life story of Choi Bae-dal (who later changed his name to Masutatsu Oyama), the founder of Kyokushin Karate. See more »


Follows Karate Bullfighter (1977) See more »

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User Reviews

Exciting stuff, but just how true is this story?
26 September 2007 | by (Bradenton, Florida) – See all my reviews

This is an extremely violent and well made martial arts movie--the final in the trilogy based on the life of Masutatsu Oyama--actor Sonny Chiba's instructor in Kyokushinkai Karate. I enjoyed the first two films and at first thought they were totally fictional (after all, who would stage a fight with a bear or a bull), but was shocked to find that for the most part the details of the story were more or less true. However, in this final movie, there is so much killing and extraordinary action that I again wonder what is true and what is exaggerated in the movie. Web sites about Oyama's life weren't all that helpful and I enjoyed the movies enough I might just try to find a biography of this incredible man.

What made the real life Oyama amazing was that like Bruce Lee, his brand of martial arts was made up of whatever techniques worked and this style emphasized winning the fight as quickly as possible. So when you see Sonny Chiba portraying Oyama, it was realistic that he dispatched many opponents with one blow or used lethal-style attacks. However, if you add up all the people he killed in the trilogy, Oyama would have probably killed a hundred or more people and I seriously doubt that Japan would have allowed him to run free!! But, for a film, showing this style of brutal fighting is great because all the silly frills and silly crap that often accompanied SOME martial arts films is gone. Instead, it's stripped down to the bone--just raw and brutal fighting. Chiba is amazing in this film (as well as other films such as the STREET FIGHTER series) because his style is intense and forceful--it's easy to imagine him really being such a dangerous fighting machine. So, for raw fighting power, these films are very similar to the Bruce Lee films. In fact, towards the end, there's an obvious homage to ENTER THE DRAGON where Oyama fights the leader of the baddies in a mirrored room.

For fans of martial arts films, it doesn't get much better than this. While not a perfect film, it is among the very best and highest rated I have seen--earning a 9 through sheer brute strength and technique.

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