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.


An expirience with Yamamoto Sensei by Kurt Von Quintus


Front L-R Yukiso Yamamoto,Kurt Von Quintus

Back Row L-R Mr. Kohashi, Eugene Watanabe, and Mr. Obayashi.


Kurt Von Quintus on the end of Yamamoto Sensei’s infamous Nikkyo.



Nikkyo again!

I was introduced to Kurt Von Quintus Sensei through Susan Brantz, a longtime practitioner of Shin Shin Toitu Do Aikido. Mr Von Quintus was gracious to provide his experience and some pictures of Yukiso Yamamoto.

An experience with Yukiso Yamamoto

I came to the island of Oahu in April 1978 with the explicit purpose of studying aikido and Filipino martial arts (and whatever else I could find). I grew up in Austin, Texas, and have been studying martial arts since I was 15 years old. I stopped training in aikido in early 1990’s. I still train in Shindo Muso Ryu Jo.

During high school and college, I studied Danzan Ryu jujitsu (aka Kodenkan Jujitsu), an art developed by Henry Okazaki, a Japanese-American Hawaiian. Around 1975, I began transitioning into aikido and for a while studied both arts simultaneously. My teacher was named Bill Lee (Susan Branz is also an old friend and student), who had studied aikido in Hawaii and California starting in the early 60’s. He was one of the people who inspired me to travel to Hawaii. I was ranked ikkyu by the time I left for Hawaii and really wanted to travel to another dojo to earn my shodan. I was restless after college so I earned enough money to see me through for about three months and I left for Hawaii.

I lived in the Kalihi District (Kam IV Rd) of Honolulu and worked for Freeman Guards, an agency that contracted out security guards to various businesses. Most of the time I worked at Honolulu Construction and Dredging. Since I worked all night, I would typically train during the following morning then go to bed in the early afternoon. Yamamoto Sensei’s class was at 8AM. It was a small but loyal group of people who trained with Yamamoto Sensei at the Palama Gakuin dojo. The address was 620 A Waipa Ln.

The participants shown in the attached group photo include (from left to right starting with the front row) Yamamoto Sensei, myself, then Mr. Kohashi, Eugene Watanabe, and Mr. Obayashi. I never learned the first names of Mr. Kohashi and Mr. Obayashi. Yamamoto Sensei and both of these gentlemen were well into their 70’s but trained like much younger men. Mr. Watanabe was an ex-karateka who had switched to aikido (a gentle giant). He was probably in his mid-50’s. I was 23. Despite our varying ages, we had lots of fun mixing it up.

I studied with many of the other teachers at the Palama Gakuin dojo (aka Hawaiian Ki Society), including: Seichi Tabata, Minoru Shibata, Frank Fujishige, Harry Eto, and Clayton Naluai. I also studied with Kawawaki Sensei (outstanding massuer), but I can’t remember his first name. I also got to study with Suziki Sensei from Maui and Nonaka Sensei from the Big Island. I also had two opportunities to study with Koichi Tohei when he came to Oahu from Japan.

The thing I liked about Yamamoto Sensei’s teaching was that it was a bit more practical than the rest. Not that the other teachers were lacking, it was just my personal preference. With my jujitsu background, I tended not to just fall unless I felt the need to do so. No problem for Yamamoto Sensei. He was the first person to throw me without feedback, that is I hit the ground and for a bit, I didn’t know how I got there (no prelimary movements). He did this with his magnificient yoko sutemi waza. He would drop underneath me and I was gone. Even though I knew what he was doing, I still couldn’t stop him. He had this impish twinkle in his eyes and would emit a happy chuckle after throwing me. I just enjoyed the ride. Now I was very good at taking falls and Sensei liked this alot. He could play and I could take it. What fun we had. At one point, I was even showing Mr. Kohashi and Mr. Obayashi how to do side falls. They picked it up real well and we had fun until Mr. Obayashi threw Mr. Kohashi on his head (he had to wear a neck brace for a couple of weeks). I received a severe lecture from Tabata Sensei and had to curtail any rambunctious training with those guys.

The early pioneers of Aikido in Hawaii- The Four Sensei


L-R Kazuto Sugimoto, Isao Takahashi, Mitsuo “Koa”Kimura, and Yukiso Yamamoto

When Koichi Tohei sensei arrived in Hawaii in 1953, one of his biggest challenges was to overcome was the skepticism of the Issei and Nisei some of whom were seasoned martial artists in their 40’s and 50’s. These four senior high ranking martial artist converted to practicing Aikido during the early 1950’s and helped pave the way for us today. These early practitioners helped lead the way for the dissemination and growth in Hawaii and the mainland.

Yukiso Yamamoto (1904-1995) was an Issei born in Hiroshima. Yamamoto Sensei moved to Hawaii to join his parents when he was  19 years old. A long time Judo practitioner, he was 49 years old when he met Koichi Tohei Sensei in 1953. Yamamoto Sensei was amazed at this young man who could throw him effortlessly despite training in Judo for over 30 years. Yamamoto Sensei Became the Chief instructor for the state of Hawaii in 1959 and was the Chief instructor at the Honolulu Aiki Kwai after its construction in 1961. Yamamoto Sensei known for his brutal nikkyo and hard training in the early days. When asked why he applied techniques to harshly Yamamoto Sensei said “That is mind control..I wanted to show you how to protect yourself in case you are in that situation”. Sometimes he was known to be quite harsh on certain individuals to test what they would do and see if they caught what he was teaching. Clyde Takeguchi Sensei said of Yamamoto Sensei’s black belt seminar class “Eight hours of agony…just training…you would be crawling out afterwards”. ” According to Meyer Goo Sensei , he stated ” he could take you down and choke you in 10 seconds”. Donald Moriyama Sensei said” He was a dojo disciplinarian..if you were a beginner there certain principles you had to learn, until he felt you had understood them he did not show anything else”. He was known to have used atemi techniques to vital areas, but only showed those techniques to certain individuals in secret. When Koichi Tohei created the Ki Society Yamamoto sensei joined and was active till his passing in 1995. In his later years his style became more soft and he became more philosophical. Ira Lerner wrote an excellent book called “Diary of the Way” containing a biography and photos of Yamamoto Sensei along with 2 other high ranking Hawaii based martial artists in 1976.

Isao Takahashi (1912-1972) was born in Maui but lived in Japan during his youth for a number of years. Takahashi was a high ranking kendo sensei when he started training in Aikido in 1953. Takahashi sensei was known for his gentle and soft technique. His training in kendo had given him advanced understanding of ma-ai, being centered and relaxed. He was appointed assistant instructor in the late 50’s. Meyer Goo sensei said “Takahashi would constantly say don’t use your strength use your mind”. He would often use live blades in class to demonstrate how the blade could take your mind and how important it was to be relaxed to cut properly. One of the things Takahashi taught was the 4 diseases of the samurai: fear, surprise, worry and doubt. In his bokken lessons, Takahashi Sensei would teach to leave openings for a small cut but, counter with a vital cut. One of the stories I heard (I am not sure if he visited Hawaii during O Sensei’s visit) was of Takahashi Sensei meeting O Sensei and training with the bokken. O Sensei put his bokken on Takahashi Sensei forehead and Takahashi Sensei was unable to move or find any openings to strike. Takahashi moved to Los Angeles in 1960 and became the head of the Los Angeles Aikikai.

Kazuto Sugimoto (1908-1973) was a quite and gentle instructor. Sugimoto Sensei was a Judo instructor and his  technique was soft and counter based. His style contrasted with Yamamoto Sensei who was aggressive and hard. Meyer Goo Sensei states ” Sugimoto Sensei was flexible and soft ..his style was like Kyuzo Mifune Sensei”. He often said “There may be a time and a place to put your life on the line”. His attitude was by keeping a non offensive attitude hopefully the situation can resolved without conflict. He was made an assistant instructor along with Takahashi Sensei in the late 50’s. Unfortunately there is little information about Sugimoto Sensei in general.

Mitsue “Koa” Kimura (1902-1997)  was born in Makaha Valley on Oahu. His nicknames were Koa after the one of the hardest trees in Hawaii and the Palama bull for being strong as one. The story goes that after being picked on for being small as a child, Koa Sensei started training with a punching bag full of rocks and stones. He would push the bag and punch it when it swung back. After training for some time (He eventually could stop the swinging 200lbs bag with a punch will no injury)he got in a fight with 4 local Hawaiians and severely beat (He broke a couple of jaws and knocked them out.)them earning the name Koa. Koa Sensei trained in Lua and Kempo Karate but never revealed who he learned any of his training from. In those days Lua training was very secretive and not just anyone could train. Koa owned a body fender shop and would take out dents by putting a wood block on the dent and punching the dent out!  According to Roy Suenaka Sensei, Koa Sensei would punch a tractor tire 1000 punches every day before work. Once at Pearl City dojo (Where he taught) in a talk with Koichi Tohei Sensei, he told Tohei Sensei “This is Ki!” jumped and punched the concrete ground full power in front of the students. Tohei sensei calmly stated ” That is Baka (fool)” and told everyone not to do that. Randy Scoville Sensei recalled Koa Sensei doing a tsuki technique with Tohei Sensei, to which Tohei Sensei avoided and Koa Sensei punched and cracked a concrete wall to no ill effect. Koa Sensei was a generous kind person often bringing meat from hunting to dojo parties and using Hawaiian deep massage to realign organs and improve health. According to Ralph Glanstein Sensei “On the mat he was a murderer… he had perfect timing”. Koa Sensei taught at Honolulu Aikido dojo, Windward dojo and was the head instructor at Pearl city.

Special thanks to Clyde Takeguchi Sensei, Meyer Goo Sensei, Donald Moriyama Sensei and Randy Scoville Sensei for contributing information. Meyer Goo provided the picture.

The 1962 Statewide Hawaii AIkido instructors seminar


In 1962, the 2nd Statewide Hawaii Aikido instructor’s seminar was held in Maui, Hawaii Sep 1,2 and 3rd. The chief instructor of Maui was Shinichi Suzuki Sensei 3rd dan at the time. A decorated police officer, Suzuki Sensei was given an commendation by then Governor William Quinn at this seminar. Several noted Hawaii Aikido practitioners are present including Takashi Nonaka Sensei, Seichi Tabata Sensei, Sadao Yoshioka Sensei, Robert Aoyagi Sensei, Yukiso Yamamoto Sensei and Clyde Takeguchi Sensei.

1966 Kauai Aikido instuctor seminar

In 1966 Kauai hosted the statewide Aikido seminar. The Chief instructor of Kauai was Ichiro Ishii 2nd dan. This was the 4th statewide seminar held in Hawaii. The Seminar was most likely led by Chief Instructor Yukiso Yamamoto as Koichi Tohei Sensei was not present in the picture. Of note, a young Yoshimitsu Yamada sensei is sitting to the right of Yamamoto Sensei. Yamada Sensei did a short tour of the islands in 1966 before returning to New York.

The 1964 State Aikido Instructors Seminar

The third state Aikido instructors seminar was held at Andrews gym( One block away from my house!) in Hilo, Hawaii. Since 1959, the late Koichi Tohei, Ki No Kenkyukai founder then chief instructor of Aikido headquarters arranged for the state instructors to receive special training every three years in various locations. The picture of the seminar is very interesting for several reasons. The first being that this is long before the split in 1974 so there are all the top instructors of Aikido in Hawaii in this picture ( I realize that some of the early instructors are not in this picture such  Kazuto Sugimoto). Unfortunately, the Chief instructor of the Hilo Aikido club Takashi Nonaka Sensei (Currently 8th dan Ki no Kenkyukai) is not pictured due to being ill. Second, everyone in the picture is smiling! This is quite unusual as with most early pictures of Aikido portrait  a serious or tough demeanor. Being that this was Hawaii, I have heard that Koichi Tohei was more approachable and relaxed here rather than Japan. Perhaps he wanted to reflect the harmony and Aloha he felt when he came to Hawaii in this picture. In my own opinion this picture captures everything about Aikido in Hawaii when i first saw it. This also was the first time I saw my Grandfather in his prime (Takeshi Yugawa) in an Aikido picture. I don’t have much information on the seminar other than Ralph Glanstein’s interview here If anyone has more information or corrections on names please let me know.

Front row L-R – Tokuichi Segawa(1918-1989)- Hilo dojo, long time Children’s instructor, Onuma, Hirano, Yamamoto( These three instructors I think were from Japan), Shinichi Suzuki (1917-2009)- Head instructor Wailuku Aikido Dojo then Maui Ki Aikido , Koichi Tohei (1920-2011) Then Chief instructor of Aikido headquarters founder of Ki Society, Yukiso Yamamoto (1904-1995)Former Judo instructor Chief Instructor of Hawaii, Bishop Gyokuei Matsuura- (1911-2008) Kona Aiki dojo and Kyodu Sensei, Dr. Yorio Wakatake (1907-1990) Then president of Honolulu Aikido dojo, Takaji Ishida Sensei (1904-1996) Former Judo instructor, later established the Central Pacific Aikido Organization, Nobu Fujitani Sensei- Kauai instructor Kapaia Hongwanji Aiki Dojo

Second row L-R-  Palk ?, Furukawa Sensei , Sadato (?)Horiuchi Sensei, Thomas Ishihara Sensei Honolulu Aikido Dojo, Ogawa Sensei,  Katsumi Yano- Honolulu Aikido Dojo, Richard Hirao- Owner of Nisshodo Candy store, Honolulu Aikido Dojo, Richard Iwane Sensei,Kenneth Kawamura Sensei, Sadao Yoshioka Sensei- Became chief instructor of Aikido of Honolulu in 1970, Created the Hawaii Aikido Federation, Meyer Goo Sensei- Hung gar kung fu and Lua instructor, Honolulu Aikido Dojo, Matsukawa Sensei, Takeshi “Grown” Yugawa (1920-2005)- Head instructor of Hakalau Dojo.

Third row L-R- Seiichi Tabata-Currently Chief instructor of Honolulu Ki Society, Murakami Sensei, Noriyasu “Cisco”Matsumura Sensei- Honokaa Aiki Dojo, Kanemoto Sensei, Yasuo Iwasa Sensei- Hilo and Olaa Aikido instructor, Kazuo Takaki- Hilo and Olaa instructor, Clyde Takeguchi- Olaa member, Currently founder and director of Capital Aikikai, William Ahana Sensei, Ralph Glanstein Sensei- Honolulu Aikido Dojo, later founded the Windward Aikido club, Lloyd Nakagawa Sensei- Lihue Christian Church Aiki Dojo, Barbara “Bobbie” Mehoula- Wailuku Aikido dojo on Maui, Charlie Oka Sensei, Sakai Fujimoto Sensei, Nishimura sensei,

Fourth row L-R Henry Horii Sensei- Former President of the Hawaii Aiki kwai, Honolulu Aikido Dojo, Chun Sensei , Takamoto Sensei, Sueichi Kawashima Sensei- Judo and Aikido Head instructor Honokaa Aiki Dojo,  Sugai Sensei, Sueo (?)Sakamoto Sensei, ?, ?, Hajime “Jimmy” Uyeki- Mr. Territory body building champion 1947,1948,1958, Hilo dojo, later Pahoa and Hilo Daijingu dojo, James Lindo Sensei, Nobou  Tengan Sensei, Minoru Gushiken Sensei, Michael (?) Samura- Hakalau Dojo

Fifth row L-R Alan Gusukuma Sensei- Hilo or Mountain view?, Hisashi (?)Kimura- Kona Aiki Dojo, Isa Sensei, Stanley(?) Hashimoto, Robert Kuniyoshi Sensei, Yamauchi Sensei, Dr Denis Teraoka Sensei- Retired Dentist, WW II vet Honolulu Aikido dojo, Takahashi, Saito, Saito, Matsuura, Yoshida

Sixth Row L-R Yanagizawa, Kanda Sensei, Kimura, Miyashiro, Robins, Ralph Uyema ( Possible misspell), Haruo Sato Sensei, Robert Aoyagi Sensei (1920-2010) Chief instructor of Aikido of Honolulu, Howard Sato Sensei- Former Chief instructor Aikido of Honolulu, Isamu(?) Takaki Sensei, Yodogawa Sensei, Callahan Sensei, Takaki, Earl Takeguchi- Olaa dojo, Jack (?)Ouye- Hakalau Dojo

(Aikido of Honolulu, Wailae dojo and Honolulu Aikido dojo are the same)

Special thanks to Kenneth Kimata sensei for the picture and Takashi Nonaka Sensei for information about the seminar.

Aikido in Hawaii.. where do I start?

This is my first post on my research on Aikido in Hawaii. I have been working on this since June 2009 and have made slow but steady work. The reason I started this project was because of the lack of information on Aikido in Hawaii in general. It was surprising due to Hawaii was one of the first places outside of Japan to have been exposed to the art in 1953 with chief instructor Koichi Tohei. 

    In the research I was doing I realized that Hawaii has a rich history in martial arts in general. Aikido was no exception with some of the longest practicing and highest ranking people in world teaching here in Hawaii. On the other hand, some of the fiercest political schisms have also climaxed here within the Hawaii Aikido organizations. In my quest to find out about Aikido here,  I have met in my Aikido journey some of the most wonderful, knowledgeable people whose dedication to this art has been inspiring.

    I am also trying to bridge the gap between the different organizations here in Hawaii. The two largest Aikido organizations in Hawaii are the Aikikai and the Ki Society whose separation in 1974 left lasting scars in the Aikido world. Both of these organizations played important parts in the growth and dissemination of Aikido in the islands.

    In the future I hope to have interviews with Hawaii Sensei, historical pictures and a detailed account of O Sensei on his trip to Hawaii. This blog should keep me out of trouble!!