Thank you Grandpa. A Tribute to Takeshi “Grown” Yugawa.

Row 1- Betty Nishijima, Corrinne Yugawa, Barbara Jean Nishimoto, 2 unknown, Eleanor Fujimori, Cherilyn Ito, Robert Garcia
Row 2- Francis Ouye, Gaylen Udo, Rudy Morishita, Lincoln Fujimori, Vandall Furusho, Wayne Yoshida, Lestor Alipio.
Row 3- Clyde Yoshimura, Calvin Motoda, Neal Ouye, William Garcia, Maurice Motoda, Delbert Ouye, Paul Yoshida.
Back row- Masa Sunahara, Takashi Nonaka, Takeshi Yugawa, Jack Ouye, Merril Ito

Takeshi “Grown” Yugawa (Short for overgrown because he as a tall kid) 5th Dan was born in Hilo, Hawaii  in 1920 to Kazuo and Yae Yugawa. He was raised in Hakalau on the Big Island along with 2 brothers and 2 sisters. “Grown” enlisted in the Army during the 2nd World War and when he came back married Hanako Uyeno. “Grown” and Hanako raised 6 children in the Hakalau plantation camp area. “Grown” worked in the Hakalau plantation mill nearby for many years and was a council member of the local union. He was an avid ballroom dancer and loved softball in his later years.

“Grown” was introduced to Aikido in 1957 by a demonstration of the Hilo Aikido club in Hakalau. “Grown” was already friends with Takashi Nonaka Sensei (8th dan former Hilo Ki Society Chief instructor) who was the head instructor at the Hilo Dojo. Nonaka Sensei stated ” He trained hard.. I saw potential having we need a leader in Hakalau..I trained him to be an instructor…Hakalau had a nice group”. The Hakalau Aikido club practiced on the 2nd floor of the Japanese school next to the Hakalau Jodo mission. The assistant instructors were Masa Sunahara and later Wayne “Pops” Yoshida. The building was demolished in the mid to late 70’s. Nonaka Sensei was driving to train in Hilo, Keaau and Hakalau (Around 30 miles) several times a week to train the then new art of Aikido to newcomers.  “Grown” achieved shodan in 1961.  In March 1961, O Sensei visited the Big Island and the members of the Hakalau dojo took part of the seminars and demos in Hilo, Honokaa and Kona. According to my Father and family, O Sensei visited the Hakalau Dojo and had dinner at the Yugawa household on one occasion during his visit. My one Uncle stated he was amazed that O Sensei could do the splits and touch is forehead to the ground. My other Uncle who was lucky to practice with O-Sensei stated ” When I grabbed his hand there was a weird energy around it.. Like you weren’t supposed to be there grabbing him”.

“Grown” was known to be a hard and strong practitioner of Aikido. Hajime Uyeki Sensei a local Sensei from Hilo stated ” When “Grown” threw you he meant business…He was a good instructor and well liked by everybody”. The people living in Hakalau were country plantation people who worked hard in the mills and practiced hard also.  My father told me that my Grandfather  trained the women in the dojo to be extra hard on men to the point where none of the men wanted to train with the women in fear of being hurt.  A strict disciplinarian, sometimes would “discipline” his children in the dojo for troublesome behavior in school. Also in this dojo, instead of tatami they used Kaynick a byproduct of sugar cane leaves and epoxy over concrete which made for a “slightly” harder ukemi.

“Grown” also followed the Big Island dojo in following Koichi Tohei Sensei when the “split” happened in 1974. The Big Island group was close and tight knit and made the decision without hesitation.  My Grandfather may have been there at the Oceania floating restaurant when the “Split” was official. “Grown” was an active teacher until the mid to late 70’s when the Japanese school building was demolished. He still participated in activities and parties associated with the Aikido club for many years.

I never saw him practice or trained with him but heard stories from when I was a little kid. He did show me once how to roll when I first started taking Aikido. My renewed interest in Aikido and its early history was partially due to not being able to find any information or pictures. I was not able to speak with him in depth as I was living on the mainland when he passed away in 2005.  I don’t think he trained anyone famous and am not sure if any of his students are still practicing but,  ask anyone that grew up in the Hakalau area in the 1960’s and 1970’s and they will remember him fondly. I feel an obligation now to continue practicing and also to train my son when he is ready. Thank you Grandpa.


6 thoughts on “Thank you Grandpa. A Tribute to Takeshi “Grown” Yugawa.

  1. Thank you for sharing this interesting part of Aikido history.
    ..”my Grandfather trained the women in the dojo to be extra hard on men to the point where none of the men wanted to train with the women in fear of being hurt” it sounds like our Sensei
    and our dojo;)

    • Thank you for your comment! My father told me that my Grandfather felt Aikido had to be effective and the women had to be extra brutal because men were larger. I heard one lady that was a practicing member was extremely feared by the men and no one wanted to be uke for her shodan.

  2. It has been my joy to read the living history of your grandfather. My family, Ernest Akimseu, Sr. lived in Papakolea & I remembered attending Kalanianaole Elementary School. I grew up & lived down the road in Kalau’a. In fact I have fond memories of walking to school ‘Barefooted.’ Those were the dazes eh? I remembered walking up the road & Sundays were the days that Japanese TV was on. Kazikozo – the Wind Warrior I’ll never forget. There was a Hongwanji Temple that I passed before to cross the highway to get to Kalanianaole Elementary. Again thanks for the memories.

    • Ah thanks for the comment! I wish I could remember more of that era.Such a time of simple tastes and fun.

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