Shigeru Kimura was born in Kobe, Japan, on March 2, 1941. After having tried Judo and Kendo, at 16 years of age, he began learning karate with Sensei Chojiro Tani (1921 – 1998). At 21, he won the All Japan Championships and repeated the win the following year. Even though successful, Kimura doubted the effectiveness of his karate, so he decided to try full contact fighting with other students. The punches were fast, but much less effective than what he had expected. This frustrated him and he began his life-long search for greatness.
Without the slightest knowledge of English, Sensei Kimura left Japan in 1965 for Africa, where he taught in Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa. The first country where he was to stay longer – and have a considerable influence on karate – was South Africa. Wherever the Master was at work, successful schools with well-trained instructors were the result.
His search then led him to Europe, where he settled in England. Ultimately, his journey ended in the USA where, thanks to Sensei Kidachi – a renowned Judoka – he settled and opened his first dojo. The dojo soon became too small and Sensei Kidachi was again at hand, as they set about looking for a larger training establishment. The two masters remained close friends and visited one another often.
The Shukokai Headquarters were set up in Hackensack, New Jersey, and would remain so for 18 years. Sensei Kimura was then 37 years old and one of the youngest ever to have held the 7th Dan with an acknowledged style.
Sensei Kimura married Kaoruin in 1980. She lent more serenity to his life and gave him a solid foundation apart from his karate students.
Sensei organised the first Shukokai World Tournament in the USA in 1981 – an event that established itself and has since then taken place every two years. Shukokai Karateka from all over the world were now visiting the headquarters regularly. Even karateka of other styles often sought advice from Sensei Kimura as well.
He continued to develop the Tani-Shukokai further, something which constantly challenged, irritated, and frustrated him; but above all, brought his students further. He revolutionised his entire Shukokai once again. The manner of practicing Shukokai now differed considerably from the Tani style, which is why the term Kimura’s Shukokai is used today. In 1991, Kimura’s Shukokai was being practiced world-wide by 20,000 students in 14 countries.
Even in his later years, Sensei remained innovative and open. Students who were closed to developing further were out of place with him, proof of which were the numerous partings of ways. Sensei Kimura was a man of no compromise. His influence is still present and the newly formed Kimura Shukokai International organization comprises of 30 countries and thousands of participants.
In 1987, Sensei Kimura had already begun contemplating the replacement of his dojo, which was too small and somewhat run-down. To everyone’s delight, he was able to fulfil the dream of having his own new headquarters, this time in Tenafly, New Jersey. This dojo was beautiful and professional, with a kitchen, recreation room, large training room, and the option of overnight stays.
Sensei Kimura, full of plans for the future, died suddenly of a heart complications at the age of 54. At the time of his death, Sensei Kimura was 9th Dan in ranking. He has been posthumously promoted to 10th Dan and granted the title Soke (founder of a style) by his four principal 8th Dan students who are Shukokai’s current chief instructors. Shihans Bill Bressaw (USA), Eddie Daniels (UK), Lionel Marinus (South Africa), and Chris Thompson (South Africa) carry on the style and the techniques taught to them by Soke Kimura.
Many of the long-term students have opened dojo’s around the world. In the spirit of Soke Kimura’s dream, Shukokai continues to host world tournaments in different countries every two years and the chief instructors from around the world meet for training sessions regularly. In the spirit of budo, we honor our master.
Used with permission from Kimura Shukokai International.