Soke Shigeru Kimura, 10th Dan, Kimura Shukokai Founder
Soke Shigeru Kimura was born in Kobe, Japan on March 2, 1941. He began studying Karate at the age of 16 as a student of Sensei Chojiro Tani (1921 – 1998), who taught the style Shukokai (meaning The Way for All) which was based on the study of body mechanics. At the age of 21, Sensei Kimura won the All Japan Karate Championship, and then repeated that feat the following year. He retired from competition after his back-to-back victories, and dedicated himself to the evolution and refinement of Shukokai Karate. In a continuous search for more power and speed, he tried full contact fighting with other students. He noted that his punches were fast but much less effective than he had expected: thus began his quest for power, speed and control that would become the hallmarks of Kimura Shukokai.
At Sensei Tani’s urging, Sensei Kimura left Japan in 1965 for Africa, where he taught in Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa. Even though he had no knowledge of the English language whatsoever, anywhere he set about teaching he attracted many students, and successful schools with well-trained instructors were the result. His quest led him next to Europe, where he then settled in England. Ultimately, his journey ended in the USA, spending his first few years teaching out of other instructors’ schools in Cranford and Hackensack, New Jersey until 1972, when he opened his own dojo. Sensei Kimura was then 37 years old and one of the youngest ever to have attained the rank of 7th Dan in an acknowledged style.
For the next 18 years the Hackensack dojo served as the headquarters of Shukokai Karate. The school grew rapidly, produced a powerful cadre of local karateka, and became a place where Uchi Dachi (visiting students) from around the world would sojourn: some for a few days, others for six months or more, while a few students devoted themselves to the dojo for years. Visitors would return to their own dojos to share the techniques Sensei Kimura was emphasizing at the time. Being an Uchi Dachi was an incredible experience, as well as a demanding responsibility. It generally entailed 6 - 8 hours of training a day, teaching classes to lower belts, cleaning the dojo, and sleeping on the floor in a poorly insulated room which saw temperatures below freezing in winter and well over 90 degrees in summer. Sensei Kimura expected absolute commitment and was intolerant of anything less.
It was here that Sensei Kimura’s most senior students would meet and challenge each other’s skills one night a week. These Thursday night sessions were a trial of strength and the strongest will, and were an opportunity for Sensei Kimura to assess the technique he taught to his Uchi Dachi against visitors who had not yet seen that mechanism. It was his way of developing the technique, and at the same time encouraging students from near and far to continually train at his dojo so as not to miss out on his latest advances. These heated sessions helped to forge Sensei Kimura’s devoted practitioners into a family and created a spirit of Bushido - a code of honor, obedience, duty and self-sacrifice based on the way of the Samurai, among his students.
It became tradition, following the Thursday class, for Sensei Kimura and his students to gather for dinner, usually at Miyoshi, a local Japanese restaurant. It was here that Sensei discussed many philosophies with those whom he shared dinner: he was not remiss at pointing out weakness in his students and to correct any deviation from the way of Bushido. He would insist on improvement, perseverance and commitment to his technique and the way of Shukokai Karate. He would consult his most senior students regarding any issues he thought might cause trouble in the building of his unique international family. If he decided that someone did not have the honest character and commitment to his way, he would dismiss them from the organization.
In 1981, Sensei Kimura organized the first Shukokai World Tournament in the USA, an event that continues to take place every two years. He kept his dojo in Hackensack until 1989, when he established the Shukokai World Headquarters in Tenafly, New Jersey, fulfilling his dream of a large, professional dojo with accommodations for visiting students along with a kitchen and recreational facilities. Those fortunate enough to have been invited upstairs by Sensei Kimura were treated to the outstanding sukiyaki (Japanese beef stew) that he prepared, and perhaps also enjoyed a cup of special sake or traditional Japanese tea. While comfortable and happy with his new accommodations, Sensei Kimura was compelled to continue traveling around the world twice a year to teach at schools established by his students: in this way he was able to maintain the integrity of the style he created.
When he succumbed to a heart attack in 1995 at the age of 54, leaving behind Kaoru, his wife of 15 years, he also left stunned legions of followers who quickly decided that they would dedicate themselves to continuing his quest for excellence: they became the founders of Kimura Shukokai International, which is dedicated to preserving Sensei Kimura’s Bushido and vision of a perfect technique for future generations to study and learn. His devoted following is a testament to the unique style he created and the importance of his contribution to the Martial Arts.
In 2005, ten years after his death, he was awarded the honor of Tenth Dan by the joint World Chief Instructors, and given the title “Soke”, a term of respect that denotes Shiguru Kimura a Grand Master and the Ultimate Authority.