Bruce Lee was cool…but Kimura was the MAN.
Time to put your nunchaku down, take the track suit off and meet a REAL bad ass.
Once upon a time when Brazilian Jujitsu was called Judo there lived a man called Masahiko Kimura.He’s best known for being the guy who defeated Helio Gracie with a move called Udegarami (Entangled Arm). Today that technique is simply called “The Kimura”.
Kimura was only 185 pounds (84kg) and 5′ 7″ (170cm) tall but at one time he was the toughest man on the planet.
Unlike most people who seek martial arts after being bullied or scared, Kimura wanted to learn Judo so he could beat up a teacher who punished him. In 4th grade his teacher caught him misbehaving and bullying the other kids and stopped him by throwing him to the ground repeatedly. When Kimura discovered this teacher was a 1st Dan in Judo he decided that he would need to be a 2nd Dan in order to defeat him, so he started training.
One story that reveals a lot about Kimura’s character is illustrated when his younger brother was attacked by some neighborhood dogs. (Taken from his book “My Judo”)
“When I was in the 7th grade, my older brother came home crying, saying that he got bitten by dogs. The next night, I went out for revenge. I found three mid-size dogs at a storage of a geisha house that was about 50 meters away from my house.
They were the enemies.
I called them one by one with a whistle, and kicked it with a geta (wooden sandal) by full force. Later when I passed by the storage, all the 3 dogs were covered with a bandage. Through this experience, I developed boldness and confidence for fighting with humans.”
After Kimura won the All Japan Championships for the first time in 1937, there was only one weight class…OPEN, he celebrated by doing 500 push ups, 1km of Bunny Hops and 500 reverse punches on the makiwara. This was after 4 fights all ranging from 4 to 15 minutes against the toughest Judoka in the world. The final fight lasted a grueling 30 minutes!
In 1945 following the end of WWII Judo, Kendo and all martial arts were banned by the occupying forces. It was a dark time for Japan and the occupying forces were not always kind. Kimura often found himself fighting thieves and even occupying soldiers.
Kimura Beats up 4 Military Policemen (Taken from his book “My Judo”)
“I was standing at the end of a line of 60 or 70 people waiting for a train at the Mukae-Machi station (near Kumamoto city, Kumamoto prefecture, Japan), and was reading a paperback. Suddenly, 4 MP men passed through the line nearby me forcibly. When I turned my eyes to them, I found them shouting, “Jap, Jap” repeatedly. One of them grabbed the Japanese man at the front of the line by the collar, pulled the Japanese man toward him. He then made a ring with the pointing finger and the thumb, and struck the nose of the Japanese man with the flipped pointing finger with full force. The man covered his nose with his hands, and stooped down from the pain. The MP men did this to everyone on the line one by one including women. When someone did not stoop down, they delivered another strike.
My turn was approaching.
While I was wondering about what to do, my turn came. One of the MP men extended his arm trying to grab my lapel. I struck his hand with full force. Their facial expression changed suddenly. The four MP men surrounded me and took me to the middle of Nagaroku Bridge nearby the station. This was not an ordinary fight to me. I had to win this fight to defend the honor of judo.
One of them suddenly threw a right straight at my face. I blocked the punch with my left arm, and kicked him in the groin with full force. He crumbled on the spot. When I turned back my head, another huge MP extended his arms and attacked me trying to grab me from behind. I then hit his right arm hard with knife hand, and then threw him into the river by Seoi-nage (Shoulder Throw).
The other two were watching this scene in amazement, but charged at me one by one. I delivered a head butt into the face of the third man. He was knocked out.
I disposed of the last man by squeezing his balls with full force. Ever since I was in junior high, I have been called Master Groin Squeezer, and had absolute confidence in this technique.”
The result of his fight with the MPs? Kimura got a job teaching Judo to some American soldiers a couple of times a week. Capt. Shepard of the US Army found Kimura and thanked him for setting those particular MP’s straight. Capt. Shepard later earned a 1st Dan in Judo.
By 1951 Judo had a good foothold in the world due to the efforts of imperial Japan to export it’s culture. Brazil was a place where it flourished and the Grace Family were excellent. Brazil had a growing Japanese population and Kimura was invited to visit on behalf of the Japanese Newspaper, The Sao Paulo Shinbun.
The Sao Paulo Shinbun, which was in a slump, came up with an idea of doing pro wrestling to revive their business. The period of contract was 4 months. The participants were Kimura, Yamaguchi, and Kato 5th dan. This promotion was a big success. Wherever they went, the arena was packed. This made president of the paper extremely happy – so much, he tripled their original pay. In addition to pro wrestling, they gave judo instruction wherever we went.
One day, Helio Gracie, a Judo 6th dan (according to Kimura), issued the challenge to the Japanese Judoka. The rule of the bout was different than judo or pro wrestling.
The winner was decided by submission only.
A clean throw or pin didn’t count and there was not striking. Only submission.
Gracie first issued a challenge to Kato 5th dan.
The gong rang and the match started.
Kato was in good condition, and threw Helio a number of times. However, past the 15 minute mark, Kato got frustrated. The throws had no damage on Helio since the mat was soft.
At 30 min mark, it was evident that Kato was tired. The Japanese crowd told Kato to go to ground fighting”What’s the matter, Kato, go to Newaza, don’t stand up!”
Kato then threw Helio down by O-soto-gari, mounted on Helio, and started Juji-jime (Collar Strangle). While the audience roared with excitement, Helio was also applying a choke from below. They were trying to choke out each other.
This lasted about 3 or 4 minutes. Kato’s face started to turn pale. Kimura shouted, “Stop!” to the referee, and jumped into the ring. When Helio released his hands, Kato collapsed onto the mat, face first.
Below is the video of the match. I apologize for the music, but it was the only one I could find without any commentary.
Two days after this bout, Kimura saw Helio’s students marching down a city street carrying a coffin. They were shouting, “Dead Japanese judoka Kato is in this coffin. He got killed by Helio. We ask your support for Judo Master Helio Gracie!”
This pissed Kimura off…big time.
Add to that after the loss, the popularity of their business declined rapidly and the Japanese they met in the streets called them fake!
Helio issued another challenge, this time to Yamaguchi.
The president of the paper begged Yamaguchi to please kill Helio, this time. But Yamaguchi seemed reluctant, and asked to think it over. If he fought a judo match under the Japanese rule, Yamaguchi is superior to Helio both in Tachi-waza and Newaza. But under the Brazilian rule, if Helio got pinned on the ground, all he has to do is to stay calm and be cautious not to get caught in a choke or joint lock, and remain still till the time runs out. Helio could fight to a draw in this way. If he used this tactics, it would be difficult for Yamaguchi to make Helio surrender.
Kimura stepped up and finally said to Yamaguchi, “Do not bother to come up with a plan to make Helio submit. I will accept the challenge.”
Three days before the bout, local newspaper had a big headline, saying “Kimura is not a Japanese. He seems to be a Cambodian. Helio cannot fight a fake Japanese.” Kimura was surprised to see it. He rushed to the Embassy of Japan with his passport, and got proof that he was Japanese.
20,000 people came to see the bout including the President of Brazil.
Helio was 5′ 10″ (180cm) and 176 pound (80kg). Kimura, 185 pounds (84kg) and 5′ 7″ (170cm).
Kimura Recalls the Fight (Taken From “My Judo”)
“When I entered the stadium, I found a coffin. I asked what it was. I was told, “This is for Kimura. Helio brought this in.” It was so funny that I almost burst into laughter.
As I approached the ring, raw eggs were thrown at me.
The gong rang.
Helio grabbed me in both lapels, and attacked me with O-soto-gari and Kouchi-gari. But they did not move me at all. Now it’s my turn.
I blew him away up in the air by O-uchi-gari, Harai-goshi, Uchimata, Ippon-seoi. At about 10 minute mark, I threw him by O-soto-gari. I intended to cause a concussion. But since the mat was so soft that it did not have much impact on him.
While continuing to throw him, I was thinking of a finishing method. I threw him by O-soto-gari again. As soon as Helio fell, I pinned him by Kuzure-kami-shiho-gatame. I held still for 2 or 3 minutes, and then tried to smother him by belly.
Helio shook his head trying to breathe.
He could not take it any longer, and tried to push up my body extending his left arm. That moment, I grabbed his left wrist with my right hand, and twisted up his arm. I applied Udegarami.
I thought he would surrender immediately. But Helio would not tap the mat.
I had no choice but keep on twisting the arm. The stadium became quiet. The bone of his arm was coming close to the breaking point. Finally, the sound of bone breaking echoed throughout the stadium.
Helio still did not surrender.
His left arm was already powerless. Under this rule, I had no choice but twist the arm again. There was plenty of time left. I twisted the left arm again. Another bone was broken.
Helio still did not tap.
When I tried to twist the arm once more, a white towel was thrown in. I won by TKO. My hand was raised high. Japanese Brazilians rushed into the ring and tossed me up in the air. On the other hand, Helio let his left arm hang and looked very sad withstanding the pain.
Below is the famous fight between Gracie and Kimura
Now the fight you DON’T hear about was another one that happened in Brazil against Adema Santana a 25 year old boxing heavy weight champion. He was also a 4th dan in judo, and a capoeira champion as well. He was 6′ (183cm) had a well proportioned impressive physique. His weight was close to 220 pound (100kg). Kimura was injured. He had a sprained knee and was cautioned not to fight, but the promotor and the police chief were scared that the crowd was going to riot if the fight was canceled.
Adema Santana actually defeated Helio Gracie the previous year (1957), and after 2 hours and 10 min, Helio got kicked in the abdomen, could not get up, and was knocked out. Not a type-o. The fight lasted 2 hours and 10 minutes!
The fight was under Vale Tudo rules. No shoes or gloves. When the fighters are separated they’re not allowed to strike. Once in contact, every strike is allowed except groin strikes. All types of throws and joint locks are legal. The winner is decided when one of the fighters is KO’d or surrenders. Biting and hair pulling were illegal. Since bare knuckle punches are traded, taking direct 2 or 3 hits in the eye means the end of the fight. There were rumored to have been many cases in which a fighter got hit in the eye with an elbow and the eyeball popped out from the socket.
Kimura recalls the fight (Taken from “My Judo”)
“I have no choice. I will fight.” I said. Then, the promoter grinned, took out a form and told me to sign it. Yano translated the content, which said, “Even if I die in this match, it is what I intended, and will not make anyone accountable for my death.” I nodded, and signed the form. On my way to the ring, someone raised his arm and waved at me. It was Helio Gracie, whom I had not seen for several years. Helio was at the radio broadcast seat. He was the commentator of the match. The gong rang. Adema and I circled the ring first. I lightly extended my fingers in a half-body posture, and prepared for his kicks. Adema, also in a half-body posture, had tucked his chin, tightened his underarms, as he would do in a boxing match.
Once in a while, he delivered high kicks to my face. I blocked the kicks with my hands, and returned a kick with my right leg. Adema started to deliver right and left round house kicks. I stepped back and dodged them, but suddenly, I received a fire-like impact on my face.
It was an open hand strike.
I had overlooked his hand motion, paying too much attention to his kicks. When I got hit in the temple, and the core of my head became a blur, left and right round house kicks came. When I blocked his right kick with my left hand, a tremendous pain ran through from the tip of the little finger to the back of the hand. I had jammed the finger. I traded kicks with him. The entire audiences were standing with excitement. Even in this situation, I was able to think clearly. While I was thinking “Adema is one level higher than I both in kicks and open hand strikes. In order to win, I must take the fight to the ground”, another fast kick flew at my abdomen.
I struck the kick down with left knife hand, and jumped in to deliver a head butt on his abdomen with a momentum that could penetrate through his body. This must have had an effect on him. He covered his abdomen, and stepped back while wobbling. I wanted to get close to him, throw him, get on top of him, and use Newaza. If I succeed in this, I could use elbow strikes and head butts. Adema recovered from the damage, and delivered a kick to my face again. I ducked the kick, and jumped in for a clinch. I got in a tight clinch to prevent him from using knee kicks or elbow strikes. We traversed along the rope. All of a sudden, I received a head cracking impact. I experienced a tremendous ear ringing, and got momentarily unconscious. I received a head butt on my left temple. It was a head butt from a side. I had thought that all the head butts would come from front. I never knew a side head butt. “I cannot lose here. I must win even if I may die”, I thought. Driven by this willpower, I tried to find a way to fight back. The referee then came in between to separate us. We were already covered with blood. The fight was brought back to the center of the ring again. Adema threw a right open hand strike. I caught the arm and attempted Ippon-seoi. It seemed like I could score a clean throw. However, it was a miscalculation. We were both heavily covered with sweat as if a large amount of water had been poured onto our heads. Moreover, he had no jacket on. There was no way such a technique could have worked under these conditions. His arm slipped through, and my body rotated in the air once forward, and landed on my back. “I screwed up!” I shouted in my mind, but it was too late. Adema immediately jumped at me. If he got on my chest, he could freely strike my eyes, nose, and chest with his elbows. I caught him in a body scissors. I squeezed his body with full force hoping to sever his intestine.
Adema crumbled momentarily, but did not surrender. Since the body scissors did not finish him, I realized that I was in a disadvantageous position. When I lifted my head, hundreds of stars flew out of my eyes. I took a straight punch between my nose and my eyes. It was an accurate intense punch. The back of my head got slammed onto the mat.
Moreover, an intense head butt attacked my abdomen. It felt like my organs would be torn into pieces. Once, twice, I hardened my abdominal muscles to withstand the impact, and waited for the 3rd attack. At the moment the 3rd head butt came, my right fist accurately caught Adema’s face by counter. It landed between his nose and eyes. Blood splattered. I had also already been heavily covered with blood. The blood interfered with my vision. “Kill him, kill him!” the devil in my mind screamed. Adema wobbled, and stepped back, and tried to run with the ropes on his back. I chased him throwing kicks and open hand strikes. He returned head butts and elbow strikes. But, neither of us was able to deliver a decisive strike. Maybe we were both exhausted, or maybe the blood in our eyes prevented us from aiming clearly at the target. After all, the 40 minutes ran out, and the match ended in a draw.”
Bruce Lee? Nah, I don’t think so..
PS. In honor of Kimura, my friend Dan Fagella (a BJJ man) has put out a video specifically on the Udegarami or the “Kimura” technique. It costs about $1 and you can get it HERE.