Welcome to Zen Bei Butoku Kai

O’Sensei and Hanshi Leong 1978

  • Hanshi Sanford Aki-jitsu class, summer camp 2013, Vancouver Canada

Some may find the history of O’Sensei Richard Kim of great interest. The following is only a brief glimpse of the life of O’Sensei Kim.

O’Sensei Kim was born on November 17, 1917, in Honolulu, Hawaii. He began his study of the martial arts with Judo at the age of five in the early 1920s under Kaneko Sensei. At about the same time he began a study of Karate. He studied under Arakaki Sensei (a disciple of Yabu Kentsu) and Tachibana Sensei. Before World War II he traveled to both China and Japan.

On December 7, 1941, O’Sensei Kim was working as a merchant seaman on the USS President Harrison sailing in the South Pacific when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941. On December 8, 1941, a Japanese destroyer attacked the USS President Harrison and the ship was captured along with the crew and passengers. O’Sensei found himself a prisoner of war interned in the City of Shanghai for what would turn out to be the duration of the war. Yes, this was very unusual, and within a short time all but 5 of the sailors and passengers would move from being interned in the City of Shanghai to being interned in “prisoner of war camps” The five that remained as interned within the City of Shanghai were the five oriental “brothers” of which Sensei Richard Kim was on of the five. Befriended by Japanese Martial Artist’s stationed in Shanghai, O’Sensei was able to study and train in Shanghai for the next three plus years. In Shangahi he spent time studying the martial arts under Chen Chen Yuan and Choa Hsu Lai. O’Sensei’s exposure to such Masters as Wang Xing Zai and Chen Chen Yaun would effect his training and approach to the martial arts for the rest of his life.

With the defeat of Japan in 1945 O’Sensei would find himself on the U.S.S Sanctuary bound for Hawaii. He would have a short stint in the Merchant Marines as a Steward, which found him shuttling back and forth to Japan and Hawaii where he would continue his training and begin his avocation of teaching the marital arts. In 1949 O’Sensei would lose his maritime papers due to a court marital. An interesting story with the results that one door closed and another opened. Due to the notoriety of the court martial the head of the Sailor’s Union of the Pacific, Harry Lundburg, became aware of O’Sensei and offered O’Sensei the job as the representative for the Pacific Seaman’s Union to be stationed in Yokohama, Japan. O’Sensei would often say, “It is better to be lucky then smart” Richard Kim was both.

It was during this time (1949-1959) that O’Sensei lived in Japan and studied the Daito-Ryu system under Yoshida Kotaro who would live with O’Sensei for about 7 years. It was also during this time period that O’Sensei became proficient in Japanese and Okinawan weaponry including the sword, spear, tanto, jo, sai, tonfa, tecchu, and kama. O’Sensei would marry and through that marriage would become the proprietor of the Light House, a bar and boarding house in Yokohama (and sire a daughter). On a side note, Master Oyama would become a short time boarder at the Light House a friend and a fellow student of Yoshida Kotaro.

It was Yoshida Kataro that sent both O’Sensei and Master Oyama to train in Aikido (at Ushiba’s Honbo where O’Sensei would train with Nobuyoshi Tamura) and Goju-ryu at Gogan Yamaguchi’s Honbo where both he and Oyama would receive black belts in Goju-ryu. O’Sensei would also train under Toyama Kanken and Hiroshi Kinjo in Okinawan weapon’s. Early on in his stay in Japan O’Sensei would become involved in the re-forming of the then de-funk Dai Nippon Butoku Kai which was to be re-born after closing down with the end of WWII under the leadership of Ono Kano. It was Hiroshi who would sponsor O’Sensei’s Eight Dan in the Dai Nippon Butoku Kai.

But it was Master Yoshida Kataro who was guiding Richard Kim’s education.

In 1959 O’Sensei Kim had to leave Japan and arrived in San Francisco to begin a carrier of teaching the martial arts to Westerners for the next 41 years. Shortly after arriving O’Sensei had the opportunity to meet and help acclimate a young Japanese Martial Artist named Hidetaka Nishiyama who was to begin teaching Shotokan Karate in the United States. The two became fast and enduring friends and O’Sensei would become Vice President of Master Nishiyama’s organization. A position he held till his passing on November 8, 2001.

From 1964-1975 O’Sensei would teach full time in San Francisco too a small group of lucky Americans. If the class got to be over 50 students the group would be doing push-ups, sit-ups and very physical exercise till the class was reduced back to about 50 students. Many of these students became well know Martial Artists such as: LeRoy Rodriguez, Johnny Pereira, Tony Troche, Robert Leong, Chuck and Rosmary Siani, Rod Sanford, Richard Lee, Clarence Lee, Geter, Lonnie Francise, Frank and Leanore Gaviola, and Louis Jemison to name just a few.

As well as teaching the physical aspects of the martial arts O’Sensei taught the philosophy, history, strategy and spiritual aspects of the arts. He was an excellent lecturer and a storyteller second to none. O’Sensei would hold a two hour Lecture after every Saturday practice while he taught at the San Francisco YMCA. Copies of many of these lectures are available through the Zen Bei Butoku Kai and many have been published in a couple of different formats by Master Publications.

O’Sensei wrote a monthly column for “Karate Illustrated” magazine and wrote a number of books including: “The Weaponless Warriors”, “The Classical Man.” and a Kobudo series. He was named Karate Sensei of the Year and later inducted into the Black Belt Hall of Fame. He was the Director of the American Amateur Karate Federation and Vice President for the International Traditional Karate Federation. As a testament to O’Sensei’s achievements, Master Hidetaka Nishiyama of the International Traditional Karate Federation presented O’Sensei Kim with the rank of Judan at his memorial service.

O’Sensei traveled extensively throughout the United States, Canada and Europe teaching the martial arts. It was at one of these extensive seminars that O’Sensei would meet and except as a student Jean Chalamon. O’Sensei saw in Jean Chalamon a fellow martial artist, a warrior with an open heart.

O’Sensei passed away in November 2001 and placed the stewardship of his martial arts organization in the hands of his student, Louis Jemison. Louis Jemison formed the Zen Bei Butoku Kai into a non-profit 501(3)C Corporatoin (USA) in 2001 and the Kokusai Butoku Kai (the international organization Master Richard Kim began in the 1990’s) currently thrives under the leadership of Master Jean Chalamon who along with Hanshi Rod Sanford and Hanshi Robert Leong (deceased on January 1, 2013). O’Sensei Chalamon and O’Sensei Sanford currently head the Technical Committee of the Kokusai Butoku Kai, the international organization that O’Sensei left behind. Louis Jemison was elected by the Kokusai Butoku Kai as its first President and is the current holder of this position.

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