Aikido Sensei “Koa Kimura”

Since I recently wrote a little about Tohei Sensei, who was the top disciple of Aikido Founder (Ueshiba Sensei), and introduced to Hawaii and elsewhere, and who we got to receive technique from, on occasion….I thought I’d forward an article I recently came across about our primary instructor in the old Pearl City dojo – Kimura Sensei.  In the old photo, he is the second black belt from the right; and I’m sure you can get a feel for the physical power he exuded, just from the pic.  The article is about the four sensei’s in the photo, each of whom was a pioneer of the art in Hawaii.  The other three were long-time experts in Judo or Kendo before they were converted to Aikido after witnessing Tohei Sensei’s ability to dominate each of them.  It should be noted that prior to Aikido, Tohei Sensei was a black belt in Judo, so his expertise went beyond just Aikido.  He himself had been converted after being dominated by Ueshiba Sensei’s techniques…in turn, Ueshiba was an expert in Daito-Ryu Ju-Jutsu before creating Aikido. 

Anyways, among the four Hawaii pioneers, Kimura Sensei stood out because of his brute strength, which I certainly could attest to when receiving technique from him.  One of the reasons I gradually drifted away from Aikido and took up Karate-Do was that I felt that the older guys in the dojo were all kinda “soft” and often overweight, whereas the young guys I’d seen doing Karate-Do were all in good shape (like us, haha).  The exception was Kimura Sensei…he exuded strength toughness.  In the article, you’ll learn why…his previous training was pretty unique.

2 thoughts on “Aikido Sensei “Koa Kimura”

  1. Hi Jaime,
    Thanks for your question, unfortunately my memories from the mid-1960’s are pretty vague now. It was a very pleasant dojo to train in, all of the senpais and members were exceptionally nice folks. It seems like the membership included many younger students, mixed in with older students, many with previous experience in Judo. I remember Kimura Sensei being very tanned – don’t know if this was hereditary or if he spent much of his time outdoors. Since the drills would often include grabbing wrists, I always noted how thick and muscular his were, and always, I was impressed by his strength. I was old that this was probably due to the fact that he owned a body and fender shop. My dad had heard that one time, a heavy rack or shelving at the shop had started to fall on him and that he was able to hold it back until they were able to get it fully upright. Before or after class, he’d often do some form of massage on people – I recall visitors coming into the dojo just to receive such massage. Even I was fortunate enough to receive some from him once. He had me lie on my back on the tatami and pulled my toes to show the fact that one leg was a different length from the other. Then he pressed certain points in the abdomen and afterwards, my legs had returned to being even. He did this for many people. Looking back, I always thought it was a Japanese type of massage, but who knows, it could have been a Chinese or even a Hawaiian form.

    Apparently, he also hunted. At one of our annual parties, I remember that he brought in meat from some neighbor island hunting trip. This was the first time I had ever tasted venison…in the form of jerky. Don’t know if he or someone else prepared it, but It was delicious. Despite his rather gruff and muscular exterior, he was always a kind and patient instructor to us.

    Decades later, after his passing, someone told me that his father (a judo instructor) was a drinking buddy of Kimura Sensei. He shared the unlikely story that Sensei’s daughter was the highly-regarded piano teacher, Ellen Masaki. I now believe this to be true because subsequently, I came across this bio that mentions her father being a Kimura who owned an auto and body shop.

    The article also mentioned a brother, Ernest Kimura, and I just found his obit which mentions his father, Mitsuo (Koa Sensei’s first name) Kimura, and the auto shop business.

    Jaime, that’s about the extent of what I know or heard about Kimura Sensei; hope it helps.

  2. Thank you for the link!! I am very curious about Kimura Sensei. Did you have any personal stories to share ? How did he train? What was his personality like?

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