Sensei Kimura


Those who were privileged to know and train with Shihan Shigeru Kimura knew they were in the presence of a great man.

Through his spirit, intelligence, guidance and ability he galvanized his students to work harder and learn more than they ever thought possible. His leadership helped create a worldwide association that to this day remains a cogent organization dedicated to training in the spirit of a man  regarded as both a warrior and a philosopher.

The following memories by those who knew Sensei Kimura personally will help keep his spirit alive in all who knew him and all who are touched by him through the study of Kimura Shukokai Karate.  (If you have memories you would like to share on this website please e-mail to: info@shukokai.com

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 Memories of Kimura, by his students

“He was the kindest, most generous man you’d ever meet”

Anyone who knew Sensei Kimura, would tell you that he was the kindest, most generous man you’d ever meet but he could also be very tough. He had a way of getting inside your head and seeing what you were thinking. The tougher the person, the harder he would be on them. If they were more timid he would be softer and gradually toughen them up. He would always push you as hard as you needed, in order to get the most out of you. But with those closest to him he didn’t pull any punches (verbally), if you weren’t living up to your full potential he’d let you know. You’d better hope that you never had to fight him, his control was impeccable but there was no doubt that you got a beating, you usually ended up on your back looking up at him.

There was a time back in 1981, I was living in the dojo and training full time. We had all been sparring one night and I didn’t do so well. I felt bad but cheered myself up by thinking that I just had an off night and would do better next time. Well, later that night I was over at Sensei Kimura’s apartment, he was cooking and I was cleaning. He turned to me and said, “you fight like $@#& tonight, you think you just had a bad night. Never have a bad night in my dojo!. You better always do your best, what if you fight for real? You’d be dead now! I think I have to fight you!” You can imagine how much worse I felt after that, it’s as if he read my mind. This was his way of saying that you always try your hardest and if things aren’t going your way, you’d better reach deep down inside yourself and find what is needed to turn the tables. A valuable lesson, one that would serve me well later in life. – Gavin Armstrong

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“He displayed a truly awesome technique, and I knew almost immediately I was hooked.”

I started training with Sensei Kimura around 1973 or 74. Even at that time he displayed a truly awesome technique, and I knew almost immediately I was hooked. Over the next twenty years I was in and out of the dojo as I was busy dealing with one’s usual life obstacles (school, work, marriage, kids…). I always remember Sensei saying “Gerry’s back”, and was always welcomed back into the fold. As such, it took me many years to earn my Shodan, but as they say, “it’s not the destination, but the journey that counts”. Thursday nights were always spent with additional focus on advanced technique, or a full night of sparring, followed of course by an evening at Miyoshi’s with Sensei and his advanced students. I remember one particular Thursday shortly before I got my Shodan. My technique was off and I was doing terrible. I think I even low-kicked a future world instructor. After class I went right home feeling like “you know what”. Around 10:00, already in bed, I get a phone call from Sensei. He wanted me to come to Miyoshi’s. When I got there he sat me next to him and gave me a short but effective lecture, sort of a pep talk. Well that little talk is something I will never forget. It’s the sum of little things like that which forever keep Sensei’s spirit alive, and Shukokai in your blood. – Gerry Wollner

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“He said that for him, he always looked at it like mountain climbing”

I once had a conversation with Sensei – we were discussing how hard it is to be a leader. At that time, I was CEO of my fledgling company and was lamenting how the future of the company depends on vision and commitment. He said that for him, he always looked at it like mountain climbing. Ordinary climbers struggle all their lives to try to get to the top of the mountain. His job, as he saw it, was to make sure that there never was a top. He had to invent a new one. This explains his reticence to have himself captured on tape doing the katas and techniques because he felt that it would freeze the style. He thought Karate should be a work in progress – always adapting and changing. We still all follow this philosophy today and it’s probably the main reason why such strong personalities gravitate to our style. – Ernie DeSalvo

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“Karate really is useful for more than fighting”

In the first Tenafly dojo, my only chance to learn directly from Sensei Kimura was at training sessions. (Later I’ve learned that he had fun teaching kids once a month, but couldn’t handle more than that.) Anyway, in trying to come up with a good story, I’ve found it somewhat difficult to separate my actual childhood memories from the countless stories others have passed on about him. One of the few things I do clearly remember, which unfortunately doesn’t seem particularly significant, is something he told us when working on front kick in a training session. Driving home after a night out, he said, a cop pulled him over and, to prove he was okay to drive, asked him to stand on one leg for a few seconds. Obviously he passed his test. He laughed to us about it- “I can do this all day,” he said. Now while the real purpose of the story was probably to teach some technique that went over my head, what I took away from it at the time is that karate really is useful for more than fighting. And of course, I was impressed by how cool he was. – Sean Grundy

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“Sensei, do you want to come out dancing with us?”

One thing that really stuck with me is hearing Sensei Kimura refer to Gavin as his “skin”. He had told this to people on a number of occasions some that I witnessed and some that others told me about. Sensei and Gavin would be together in the office in between classes and Sensei would have Gavin duplicate the technique that he was working on, Gavin would be able to take what Sensei said and show it, as if Gavin was in his skin moving as he would, this made Sensei happy. It choked me up every time I heard it. He also referred to Gavin as the son he never had, and he referred to my son Steele as his grandson. This meant a lot. Everyone of the guys who spent so much time with Sensei Kimura thought of him as a second father, and I’m sure he thought of each one of them as his son. Oh, and I’ll add, that on the second class I ever took, along with my friend Tara O’Leary, not knowing any better, and having no clue about etiquette, we asked Sensei to come out dancing with us. He told us, with a big smile on his face, “maybe next time”. – Linda Armstrong

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“The first time I was introduced to Sensei Kimura I immediately knew I was granted a “gift”

As you mature through life you realize that certain people have had an influence on your development. This realization may take years for these people to be defined as “gifts”. The first time I was introduced to Sensei Kimura I immediately knew I was granted a “gift”.

I began my training with Sensei Kimura in 1986. I was determined to become a black belt, something I had dreamed of for years. Sensei Kimura always preached that if you really want to pursue anything in life you must have the courage of total commitment. I still can remember him telling me “Carl you have to want it”.  That day came to me in 1989. We had a training session for an upcoming weekend. That prior Thursday I was talking to Orlando in front of the office in the Hackensack Dojo. Orlando asked me if I was going for the promotion test for black belt. Without having the time to answer Sensei Kimura looked at me and said, “yes go for it”. Those four words gave me all the confidence I would need. I received the black belt on the Sunday training session. I still have a vivid image of Sensei Kimura looking at me with his grading tablet in his hands telling me “you pass – you black belt”. – Carl Gulino

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“I knew that I was in the presence of a great man”

I was young between the ages of 4 and 15 training with Kimura.  Even as a child, I knew that I was in the presence of a great man.  He had an all encompassing passion for his art and a supreme love for those that struggled with him to recapture the essence of Budo.  Some say the samurai era came and went in the 1800’s but being with Kimura you knew it was still very much alive.  To me, he was the true last samurai.  He lives on at our world tournaments and gashuku’s and will be forever an inspiration to all of us as we pursue his fine art. – Justin DeSalvo

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“Sensei was so happy to sit down to such a great meal”

I took Sensei trap shooting back in the early 90’s. His nephew was here from Japan and so desperately wanted to shoot a firearm. We went shooting and Sensei’s nephew shot very well considering he never shot a firearm before. However, Sensei did not hit one single target!

Afterwards, we went to my house for dinner. My wife Donna cooked a big meal complete with lasagna and fried chicken. Sensei was so happy to sit down to such a great meal. However, in commenting on the chicken, he mistakenly asked Donna how she made the chicken to come out so “dry”. Without question, Sensei’s translation from Japanese to English caused him to use the wrong term. Immediately, Sensei realized he should have said “crispy” instead of dry. Sensei’s face was that of horror when he realized his unintended slip. He must have said “crispy” ten times in a row after the slip. We all got a good laugh out of that one. Sensei asked if he could take some fried chicken home to his wife. – Jeff Grabowski

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“Sensei Kimura invited me to join the black belts after class and join him and them for a beer the traditional Thursday”

I remember one Thursday night after class he asked Sensei Gavin to invite me to join the black belts after class and join him and them for a beer the traditional Thursday which we still try to carry on. But I had another engagement to attend so I didn’t go. Sensei Kimura passed away that July. I just think back about that from time to time. Paul Manchess

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“It is all in the way we look at things” he would say to me”

Looking back at all the times spent with Mr. Kimura leaves me with some great memories. “It is all in the way we look at things” he would say to me. “Patients and persistence will always lead the way to achieving ones goal”. One memory that puts a smile on my face was when I first started training at Hackensack. I was into my second month training and Sensei Kimura asked me to join him after class to discuss plans to build a new Dojo. Looking towards my brother Gerry I asked what I was to do. He of course said go. That in its self was fine except I had only my Gi so Gerry lent me his clothes that of course were too big.

So there I am sitting next to Sensei Kimura with a table full of Black Belts feeling totally out of place trying to figure out what I was actually doing there. Sensei toppled a beer bottle off the table and I caught it [lucky catch] and poured the beer into his glass before it over flowed, He said nothing. Then the food that Sensei ordered for me came. Not knowing what I was eating I managed to grab hold of some pink stuff with these two sticks and wrap it around some green stuff. The chore of finding it into my mouth was a bit difficult but my aim was good. So there I sat, nose running, eyes watering and mouth burning trying not to spit it all out on the plate. When I lost all hope of fighting the urge to scream Sensei passed me his glass of beer. This was followed by every one else at the table passing me there beer. When the fire was finally out Sensei pointed his finger in the air and said across the table to the others. “ he will be a good karate man, just need to eat right”. Bless You Sensei. – Mark Wollner

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