Shigeru Kimura

Good overall technique evolves from a sound understanding of Karate basics.

Shigeru Kimura

Those who trained with Shigeru Kimura were in awe of him. Having a questioning nature, he was always looking to improve himself and his Karate. He was one of the youngest men to achieve the rank of 7th Dan.

Shigeru Kimura was born on 2 March 1941, in Kobe, Japan. An active child, he began practising Judo at the age of 10. Later, he also practised Kendo.

In 1957, aged 16, Kimura began his Karate journey under Chojiro Tani. Tani had trained under both Chojun Miyagi and Kenwa Mabuni. Based on the concept of body mechanics and Shito-Ryu, he began teaching his style of Shukokai Karate around 1946. Initially, Kimura found the training very hard.

Kimura dedicated himself to his training and was soon one of Tani’s best students.

In 1961 aged 21, Kimura won the All Japan Championships. The following year he retained his title. However, he began to question the validity of the techniques used in his tournament successes. He felt that the techniques he used would be ineffective in real combat situations. With the blessing of Tani, he began to explore how his techniques could be improved.

Building on Tani’s use of body mechanics, Kimura took a scientific approach to improving his techniques. His research lead to new advancements in Shukokai Karate.

With Tani’s blessing, Kimura travelled to Southern Africa in 1965, to promote his improved version of Shukokai. He arrived on the African continent not being able to speak English. However, he was able to communicate his ideas. He taught in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and South Africa.

Yoshinao Nanbu, another of Tani’s students, had been promoting Shukokai Karate in Europe. He had been invited by Henri Plee to teach at his Parisien dojo in 1964.

In 1968 Kimura arrived in the UK, where he conducted a number of courses and demonstrations, assisted by Nanbu. This included a demonstration held during a tournament at Crystal Palace. He also held an open course in Chigwell Essex.

The Shukokai Karate Union (SKU) was established in the UK in 1969. Tani was named President, with Kimura being named Vice President. Nanbu was named Chief Instructor. Students of the SKU included Stan Knighton, Bob Aikman, Roy Stanhope, Peter Consterdine, and Eddie Daniels.

As ambassadors of Shukokai Karate, Kimura and Nanbu travelled around Europe, showcasing their version of Shukokai. They travelled to France, where Nanbu was based.

Kimura also travelled to the Glasgow dojo of Tommy Morris, an early pioneer of Shukokai Karate in Europe. Kimura taught a number of classes at the dojo. He also travelled to Belgium, Yugoslavia, and Norway to promote Shukokai.

In 1970, with Shukokai Karate established in Europe and Southern Africa, Kimura moved to the United States. His aim was to promote Shukokai in the country. He taught at the Judo dojo of Yoshisada Yonezuka, which was based in Hackensack, New Jersey.

In 1972 Kimura opened his own dojo in Hackensack, New Jersey. The dojo also functioned as the Shukokai Headquarters. Even though he was based in the US, he made frequent visits around the world, conducting courses and gradings.

By 1981 Shukokai had become established around the world. That year the 1st Shukokai World Tournament was held in the US. It became a fixture in the tournament calendar, being held every two years.

In 1987 Kimura moved his dojo from Hackensack to Tenafly, New Jersey. This was a new professional dojo, with a large training area and better facilities. It also had accommodation for students visiting from other parts of the world.

On 7 July 1995, the Shukokai world was shocked by the sudden death of Shigeru Kimura from a heart attack. He was only 54 years at the time and was survived by his wife, who he had married in 1980. At the time he was a 9th Dan. He was posthumously awarded his 10th Dan.

Following Kimura’s death, the Kimura Shukokai International (KSI) was formed by his senior students. The aim of the KSI was to promote his style of Karate, Kimura Shukokai Karate. The KSI was the official governing body of the style. It was co-led led by Kimura’s four most senior students, Eddie Daniels, Bill Bressaw, Chris Thompson, and Lionel Marinus. They had all trained with him for over 25 years.

Self-improvement was at the heart of who Shigeru Kimura was. He always looked to improve himself and his Karate. His teachings and legacy continue through his students. The world lost a great martial artist. There is no telling where he would have taken Shukokai Karate.

Author: Patrick Donkor

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