by Masahiko Kimura
After I graduated from Takushoku University in March 1941, I remained in the university as an assistant in the department of Martial Arts. Because of my achievement during my student days, I was paid a salary higher than full professor’s salary. However, since I was scheduled to join the military 8 months later, I resigned the university in November 1941, and returned to my home in Kumamoto. On Jan 11, 1942, I entered Amaki Air Defense Unit. One day, there was an announcement that a master of Jukendo (Note: Juken = bayonet, Jukendo = martial art for using bayonet, created exclusive for the military use, where practitioners wear the same protectors used in Kendo, i.e, face-neck guard helmet, hand-forearm pad, and chest-abdominal cover, and use wooden weapon shaped like a military rifle conjoined with a bayonet), will come to our unit. His name was Y (Note: the name is kept anonymous) who was regarded as number 1 in Japan and was 8th dan. All the members of the unit got together in the field at 1 pm to receive instruction from Mr. Y. He explained the basics of thrust and defense. He then looked around us and said, “Any volunteer for practice with me? Come forward without any reservation.” But nobody came forward. “If I engaged in a match with such a master, I would get humiliated or could get killed,” men around me whispered. Suddenly, Captain called my name. Now, I cannot retreat. I walked up to the master as slowly as possible to buy time and come up with a workable strategy. If I engaged in a bayonet combat, there is no way I can win. It would be like a fight between an adult and a child, since I had never held a wooden gun in my life. We bowed to each other, and held the wooden gun toward each other. I tensed up. The instructor said “Thrust, thrust. Come on, what’s the matter?” I knew I would lose as soon as I thrust the gun at him. So, I waited for the right moment for attack. I fainted a thrust, and then threw the wooden gun at his face with full force. At the moment he deflected the wooden gun, I tackled at his knees. He fell to the ground. I mounted on his chest, removed his face guard despite his shouting “Wait, wait!” and tried to deliver a finishing blow to his face. “Stop, stop! It is over!” Captain stepped in and separated us, but it was clear that I won the fight. The master looked as if he did not understand what happened to him, dropped his head, and left the scene.
If I had lost the match, I might not be here today. One day, an announcement “If you wish to go to the battle field, report to the captain” was posted. I volunteered. Special 5-day vacation was given to all the volunteers. I went back to my parents’ house. After I returned from the vacation, Captain of the Unit called me. He said, “I have known about your achievement in judo. I like judo, too, and often practiced in Kodokan. Compared with you, I must be like a kid, but still got the 4th dan.” He poured whisky into a glass and continued, “The match you did with the Jukendo master was very interesting. First, nobody stepped forward. I knew nobody had a chance against him since he was the best master in the country. But if nobody volunteered, the dignity of our unit would be tarnished. So, even though I thought I would be discourteous to you, I picked you. But once the match started, I got badly shaken when I saw your posture since you looked like a complete novice.” “Yes, that is right. I have never grabbed a wooden gun.” “I thought so. But I did not even imagine the tactics you used. I felt like bowing to you, thinking, ‘After all, a man who excels in one art is different from others.’ After the match, Mr. Y came to me and asked, “Who in the world is he”. I then told him about your achievements. He was deeply impressed, saying, “No wonder, he is the number 1 judo master in the world.”
He then paused, and turned his eyes downward engaging in thought. He continued, “This is a super top secret. So, do not tell this to anyone.” He lowered his voice tone, and said, “Do you really want to go to the battle field?” “Yes, absolutely.” “Really? But that’s a problem.” I had no idea about what the problem was. “You will be sent to Solomon Islands”, he said. “It is certain that B29’s will be waiting for our unit. Our plan is absolutely reckless. All the members on board will perish in the ocean. Don’t you think it is better to use your talent in judo and work for the benefit of the country instead of wasting your life on the battle field. I think that is the right thing for you. Do you still want to go to the battle field? I replied, “Yes, I do.” Suddenly, his tone of voice changed, “My order is Emperor’s order. You are not allowed to go!” After all, it became an order. I had to follow his order. I said, “I will withdraw my volunteer application.” He then said, “Very good, very good”, he murmured. Later on, I heard that the transportation ship unit I was going to get on board was discovered by B29’s immediately before reaching Solomon Islands, had oil scattered over the entire deck, received numerous bombs, and was engulfed in flames. Of over 500 and several ten members, only one of them survived and managed to swim to a nearby island despite a severe burn. In retrospect, I owe my life to the captain. Judo moved him and saved my life.
I got married on July 1, 1945. That day, at night, 300 B29’s suddenly attacked my town. Thundering sounds of machine gun sweep, and the sound of explosion woke me up. I ran down the stairs, pulled and lifted two straw mats to create a shield and hid my parents and wife underneath the mats. But, I judged that being in the house was dangerous, and took them into a nearby mulberry field while dodging bullets. Bombs exploded one after another. The town was engulfed in flames. People ran around in panic. Children were crying and screaming with fear. My peaceful town was changed into a hell in a moment. Fortunately, my family managed to escape the hell.
Soon the war ended. In Nov 1945, Great Japan Butokukai was ordered to close by GHQ, and judo and kendo were banned. One day, in the summer of 1946, a Jeep stopped in front of my house. A number of curious neighbors gathered around my house. It was MP’s Jeep. In those days, every Japanese was afraid of MP. Knowing what brought the MP Jeep, I watched them get off the Jeep, thinking, “The time has finally come. I do not care about what happens to me.” But I did not see any mean look in their faces. Rather, they were smiling and looked friendly. The interpreter said “This is Captain Shepard of MP”, pointing at one of the men and introduced the other MP to me. They presented two super huge cakes to me, and said, “If you do not mind, we would like you to come to the MP head quarter with us” through the interpreter. I did not understand their intention. I sat in the back seat of the Jeep and recalled a week old incident.
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. 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.
I had asked all the audience to keep it quiet since I would be in a big trouble if the news got to MP supervisors. But somebody must have leaked the news. I started to regret what I did. But my concern turned out to be unnecessary. When I got to the MP head quarter, Capt. Shepard said, “Thank you for punishing the rogue MP’s. They are the worst ones in our unit. They have sexually assaulted women, ate and drank without paying, threatened people with a pistol. We were about to be forced to punish them. They are all so depressed after you beat them up. I am truly thankful to you. I heard that you are the greatest judo master in Japan. I have a request to you. Could you teach us judo, once or twice a week. Of course, we will pay you. I myself am anxious to learn judo.” It was a big surprise to me. After this, I taught judo to them once a week for 1 hour. Captain Shepard earned 1st degree black belt one year later.
In those days, there was a black boxer named T. He was a big man weighing about 100kg, and has won a pro title. He was the best boxer in the US Marine Corps. “I am no match to you in judo, but in boxing, you will never beat me.” He boasted. One day I practiced boxing with him. Since I was trained in Karate, I thought “Even though I cannot kick as in karate, it is similar to karate. So, I would be OK.” But the result was miserable. I took blows after blows. In a few minutes, my head started to “ring”, and got knocked down. I also took a lot of body blows, and I was completely groggy. It was not even to be called a match since I closed my eyes even when his glove lightly passed in front of my eyes. This boxing practice was like a fight between an adult and a child. I covered my aching head and body, and thought, “If I did not know this type of fighting in addition to judo, I would not be able to defend myself from a danger.” After this I asked him to give me boxing instruction twice a week. But the boxing “instruction” was a rough one in which I got only beaten up in a one-sided manner. One day, the state of taking so many blows really got to my nerves that I blocked his right punch with my left arm, lifted him up for Ippon-seoi and tried to slam him onto the mat. He then said “No Judo, no, no!” with a pathetic tone of voice. So, I took him down safely to the floor. This practice lasted for 1 year. Thanks to my effort, I became able to go 40-60 with him. Of course, I was the 40.
In November 1945, all school judo was banned and in November 1946, Great Japan Butokukai got shut down permanently. On July 1, 1947, West Japan Judo championship was held in Fukuoka. I beat Yasuichi Matsumoto in the final and won the championship. On March 15, 1948, Kyushu vs Kansai championship was held in Fukuoka. In the final of the individual tournament, I faced Yasuichi Matsumoto again. I threw him by my original Ippon-seoi in which both arms of the opponent are locked. His arm broke making a snapping sound, and he flew out of the platform.
On May 5, 1949, 2nd post war All Japan Championship was held. My 1st opponent was Teruhisa Hatori 6th dan. He was 170cm and 110kg. His specialty was Tsuri-komi-goshi, Ippon-seoi, Kouchi-gari, and Tai-otoshi. I was 170cm and 86kg. We both exhausted all the techniques we had, but round one ended in a draw. In overtime, I scored Okuri-ashi-barai, making him fall horizontally. When he became on all four trying to stand up, I caught his left arm in Ude-garami, and scored Ippon. My 2nd opponent was Yoshimi Osawa 5th dan from Chiba. He was a small man, but had the reputation of “the greatest Ashi-waza master”. The bout started. I tried to grab him, but he was very elusive. I stopped chasing him, and stepped back. He advanced for a few steps. I jumped in for a tackle. He was caught off-guard, and fell to the floor. He tried to get up immediately, but I had already initiated Osaekomi. I scored Ippon by Kuzure-kami-shiho-gatame. My 3rd opponent was Tokuharu Itoh 7th dan. He was over 190cm, and was good at O-soto-gari, O-uchi-gari, Uchimata, and O-goshi. I attacked him with O-uchi-gari and sasae-tsurikomi-ashi. He countered with O-soto-gari and Uchimata. I threw him by Ippon-seoi, but it was outside the platform. The bout went to overtime. I scored points by a successive O-soto-gari, and Seoinage, and won by dominance. But I opened my legs too wide when I executed O-sotogari, and the left inner thigh muscles got torn, causing a big swell.
In the final, I faced Takahiko Ishikawa 6th dan. The platform was small. When I attempted an attack, he quickly escaped outside the platform. Chief Referee Kyuzo Mifune did not give Chui. I then tackled him down and attempted Osaekomi, but again he escaped to outside. I then tried Seoinage, but he retreated, and escaped to outside again. It was like pushing against a curtain. After all, the bout went to overtime. I tackled him down again, and caught him Osaekomi, but he crawled out of the platform. The 2nd overtime started. I attempted O-soto-gari, his body wobbled, but barely managed to withstand the pressure, and countered with Tai-otoshi. The 4 columns at the 4 corners of the platform got in the way. When I pushed him, he again escaped outside. I followed with Tachiwaza and Newaza, but the time ran out. After the 2nd overtime, the judges’ decision had to be rendered. The 3 judges all raised both Red and White flags. It was a draw.
On April 16, 1950, Pro Judo was started with 21 members. It was sponsored by a construction contractor named Mr. Takano. In the final of the first tournament, I faced Toshio Yamaguchi 6th dan. I took him down by O-soto-gari, and scored Ippon by Kuzure-kami-shiho-gatame in 2 minutes. I became the first pro judo champion. At first, it was very popular, but after 4 or 5 months, the popularity dropped suddenly. Moreover, Takano Construction, which was our sponsor, started to lose profit. Our pay started to decrease as Takano Construction started to fall. Eventually, we received no pay, which lasted about 2 months. In those days, my wife Tomiko was hospitalized for a lung disease. Because of the serious food shortage in those days, most poverty stricken people never survived the disease. I had no choice but leave pro judo to save her.
One day, Yamaguchi brought the president of Matsuo Enterprise in Hawaii who was a 2nd generation Japanese American. He asked me to demonstrate judo on 8 Hawaii islands for 3 months. Yamaguchi, Sakabe, and I signed the contract, left pro judo. 6 months after this, Pro Judo went out of business. In Hawaii, Sakabe and Yamaguchi demonstrated judo self defense, and I accepted challenge matches for 10 men in a row. This pleased residents of the islands. Wherever we went, the arena was super-packed. Every town was talking about judo. It was no wonder since the Japanese who were completely defeated in the war tossed around and toyed with Americans. The business was a big success, and the 3 months ended quickly. 3 days before the end of the 3 month-contract, a pro wrestling promoter Earl Karasic visited us at our hotel. He asked us if we were interested in doing pro wrestling in the Civic Hall 4 times a month. The pay was about 4 million yen in today’s value. Sakabe declined the offer, but I and Yamaguchi accepted it. Thanks to the money I earned in pro wrestling, I was able to buy expensive medicine for my wife. My wife recovered thanks to these medicines.
After I returned from Hawaii, I went to Brazil by the invitation of Sao Paulo Shinbun (Note: local Japanese newspaper company in Sao Paulo). 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 I, Yamaguchi, and Kato 5th dan. This enterprise was a big success. Wherever we went, the arena was super-packed. This made Pres. Mizuno of Sao Paulo Shinbun very happy. When we asked for a pay raise, he tripled our original pay on the spot. In addition to pro wrestling, we gave judo instruction wherever we went.
One day, Helio Gracie, judo 6th dan, issued a challenge to us. The rule of the bout was different from that of judo or pro wrestling. The winner was decided by submission only. No matter how cleanly a throw is executed or how long Osaekomi lasts, it does not count. He issued a challenge to Kato 5th dan first. The gong rang. Kato was in good condition, and threw Helio a number of times. However, past 15 minute mark, I started to see frustration in Kato’s face. The throws had no damage on Helio since the mat was soft. At 30 min mark, it was evident that Kato was tired. “What’s the matter, Kato, go to Newaza, don’t stand up!” Japanese audience yelled. Kato then threw Helio down by O-soto-gari, mounted on Helio, and started Juji-jime. The audience roared with excitement. But, as I watched carefully, 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. I shouted, “Stop!” to the referee, and jumped into the ring. When Helio released his hands, Kato collapsed onto the mat, face first. Two days after this bout, I 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!”
After this bout, the popularity of our pro wrestling show declined rapidly. The Japanese whom we encountered on the street murmured, “They must be phonies, losing in such a pathetic manner.” Helio issued another challenge, this time to Yamaguchi. Pres. Mizuno of Sao Paulo Newspaper also begged, “Mr. Yamaguchi, please kill Helio, this time.” But Yamaguchi seemed reluctant, and asked “Let me think for one night.” 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. I then said to Yamaguchi, “Do not bother to come up with a plan to make Helio submit. I will accept the challenge.” Until the day of the bout, we continued pro wrestling shows every other day. 3 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.” I was surprised to see it. I rushed to the Embassy of Japan with my passport, and got a proof that I am a Japanese.
20,000 people came to see the bout including President of Brazil. Helio was 180cm and 80kg. 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.
In November 1951, I founded Kokusai Pro Wrestling Association. After I came back from US doing pro wrestling matches, I did pro wrestling shows throughout Japan. In those days, Rikidozan also started a new organization called Japan Pro Wrestling Association. So, mass media started to talk about Kimura vs Rikidozan match. I met with Rikidozan and asked his opinion. He said, “That is a good idea. We will be able to build a fortune. Let’s do it!” The 1st bout was going to be a draw. The winner of the 2nd will be determined by the winner of a paper-scissors-stone. After the 2nd match, we will repeat this process. We came to an agreement on this condition. As for the content of the match, Rikidozan will let me throw him, and I will let him strike me with a chop. We then rehearsed karate chop and throws. However, once the bout started, Rikidozan became taken by greed for big money and fame. He lost his mind and became a mad man. When I saw him raise his hand, I opened my arms to invite the chop. He delivered the chop, not to my chest, but to my neck with full force. I fell to the mat. He then kicked me. Neck arteries are so vulnerable that it did not need to be Rikidozan to cause a knock down. A junior high school kid could inflict a knock down this way. I could not forgive his treachery. That night, I received a phone call informing me that several ten yakuza are on their way to Tokyo to kill Rikidozan.
In March 1955, I went to Mexico to do pro wrestling match. 8 months later, I went to France to teach judo during the daytime and do pro wrestling at night. I did the same in London. After spending 1 year in Paris and London, respectively, I went to Spain to teach judo and do pro wrestling matches, and stayed there for 4 months. I then went back to Paris to teach judo for 1 week, and went back to Japan in January 1958. As soon as I arrived at Kumamoto station, I was surprised to see 80 to 90 dressed up women all lined up. I wonder if any celebrity has arrived in town. My question was soon solved. Sugiyama, Vice President of “Cabaret Kimura”, had lined up the hostesses. Before I left for Mexico, I had him manage the cabaret. While working as the owner of the cabaret, I contacted pro wrestling promoters in London, France, Germany, and Brazil, Mr. Takeo Yano in Brazil replied to me immediately. He was from Kumamoto Prefecture, and was also a graduate of Chinsei Junior High, 8 years senior to me. I decided to go to Brazil again.
“If you refuse to fight today, the angry audiences will set fire on the arena. If this arena got burnt to ash, I would make you accountable for the damage.” The promoter glared at me. “Don’t be ridiculous”, Yano quickly replied, and continued, “The doctor told him not to fight. He is in no condition to fight. The match should be postponed.” I had sprained my left knee when I demonstrated judo techniques in Rio de Janeiro. But the arena was already full, and over 5000 people were waiting outside the arena. The start time of the match had already passed. The audiences were booing. To the promoter, money is more important than my injury. Eventually, I and Yano were taken to a room where 3 black policemen were gathering. A small man then came out from behind the policemen, and said to me, “You are a Japanese, Mr. Kimura, aren’t you? My father is also a Japanese. A while ago, a boxer became unable to show up for a fight due to an injury. The audiences then got angry and set fire on the building. The building was burnt to ash. No one knows who set the fire. Moreover, the boxer got shot with a pistol on his way home. He got killed instantaneously. Nobody knows who shot him either. Mr. Kimura, you’d better show up for the fight. Even if you may lose, it is better than getting shot to death.” He also added that he was the only Japanese in this town, and all the rest are blacks.
Now I had to make a decision. My opponent Adema Santana was a 25 year old black man, and was a boxing heavy weight champion. He was 4th dan in judo, and a capoeira champion as well. He was 183cm had a well proportioned impressive physique. His weight was close to 100kg. Bahia, where the match took place, is a port city where black slaves were unloaded. The slaves were forbidden to carry a weapon. As a result, many martial arts were developed by them, I heard. Vale Tudo is one of such martial arts. In the south of Sao Paulo, pro wrestling is popular. But the farther one goes to the north, the more popular Vale Tudo becomes. Helio Gracie, whom I had previously fought, was the champion in Vale Tudo. But Adema Santana challenged him the previous year (Note: 1957), and after 2 hours and 10 min, Helio got kicked in the abdomen, could not get up, and got knocked out. Thus, Adema had become the new champion. In Vale Tudo, no foul is allowed. 1 foul results in an immediate disqualification. No shoes are allowed. When the fighters are separated, they are not allowed to strike with a fist, and they have to use open hand strikes. But once they get in contact with each other, every type of strike is allowed but 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. I was told there have been many cases in which a fighter got hit in the eye with an elbow, and the eyeball popped out from the socket by half, and got carried to the hospital by an ambulance. Therefore, there were always 2 ambulances at the entrance of the arena.
“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. It was my first Vale Tudo experience. That night, my face was badly swollen. I had a number of cuts on my face. Every time I breathed, an excruciating pain ran through my belly, and I could not sleep. I received an injection from a doctor, and cooled my belly with a cold towel all night. However, I learned a very important lesson in this fight. That is, one must never fear death. If I had not had the iron will to fight despite the possibility of getting killed, his head butts would have torn my intestine into pieces.
I rested for 1 week after this match, and left Bahia for Sao Paulo. In Sao Paulo, a huge man named Gorry Guerrero was waiting for me. He was 198 cm and 200 kg, and had tight and super strong muscles. One day, a judo 5th dan, who weighed about 120kg, tried to throw Gorry Guerrero by Uchimata. Gorry Guerrero then lifted up the judoka overhead at once. After this incident, his reputation as a man of unparalleled strength spread throughout Brazil. He always played the role of a heel in pro wrestling, but was well liked among the wrestlers as a gentle nice guy. One day, after I finished a pro wrestling match, Gorry Guerrero came to see me. He said he fought many matches against judoka from Japan, but when he deposited his weight on the judoka as soon as the judoka tried to execute a throw, the judoka collapsed like a frog, and some of them got badly hurt in the lower back and got hospitalized. He then said, “I learned judo for about 6 years when I was a child. I was taught that the essence of judo is that a small man can throw a big man. I want you to show me real judo.” I had never practiced with such a big man. I spent 2 or 3 days thinking what techniques to use. One day, when my pro wrestling match ended early, I and Guerrero stood at the center of a ring. All the audiences had gone home. The arena was empty.
I, who am 170cm, looked like a child hanging on an adult no matter how I moved, and had no idea about where and how I should attempt a technique. Whenever he swung me with his hands, I wobbled side to side. When he pulled me up, my feet were lifted up in the air. He attempted O-soto-gari with his right leg. I withstood the pressure with full force. It was fortunate that he did not make transition from O-soto-gari to O-soto-otoshi using his weight. He followed with O-soto-gari, O-goshi, and Ashi-barai. I let him attack and concentrated on defense. He must have thought he was gaining the ground. He came forward with a momentum. I measured the timing and initiated Ippon-seoi. His huge body was carried on my hip. He lost the center of gravity, rolled forward, and fell on his back. As he tried to get up, I threw him 3 more times in a row. He finally made a gesture of surrender, and said, “Thank you, real judo is wonderful, after all” repeatedly.
Note: This excerpt from the book “My Judo” was translated from the original Japanese by member pdeking (edited for spelling by Neil Ohlenkamp) and submitted to the Underground Forum in March, 2000. “My Judo” was written in 1984 and was first published on Jan 31, 1985. It is no longer in print.
For more information on Masahiko Kimura please see this short biography, a longer biography, or the latest article by Jim Chen. Also read the Interview with Helio Gracie where he reveals that Kimura had choked him unconscious.