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Wrestling / Masahiko Kimura

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The legend.
"Kimura no maei ni Kimura naku, Kimura no ato ni Kimura nashi." note 
—attributed to Tsuneo Tomita, son of Tsunejiro Tomita, about Kimura.

Masahiko Kimura (1917-1993) was a Japanese Judoka and Professional Wrestler, considered the greatest judo practitioner in history, a pro wrestling pioneer and one of the first Mixed Martial Arts fighters. He trained in the Kodokan school run by Jigoro Kano, turning out to be a promising rookie and gaining sound accomplishments for his age, among them three all Japan championships. A crazy training fanatic, he swore not being defeated ever, and also trained in karate with Gichin Funakoshi and Mas Oyama to round his skills. However, after leaving the school and failing a career experiment with pro judo, he became a professional wrestler in order to gain money for his ill wife. He roamed the world and eventually landed in Brazil, where he defeated Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu figure Hélio Gracie in a famous match. At his return to Japan he founded Kokusai Pro Wrestling association and resumed competing by invitation of Rikidozan. Kimura formed a star tag team with him and helped to found a branch of Japan Wrestling Assocation which brought Mexican lucha libre to Japan for first time, and also competed in Brazilian vale tudo again. After leaving the business, he returned to judo as director and trainer until his death by lung cancer in 1993.

"The Demon of Tropes":

  • The Ace: He mastered all the fields of judo: throwing, pinning and grappling.
  • Absurdly High-Stakes Game: After losing four matches in 1935, he seriously swore to commit Seppuku if he ever lost again and began training even harder than before. Those four losses would end up being the only ones of his entire judo career.
  • The Alcoholic: Was a heavy drinker and is said to have at least three liters of alcohol for dinner, with it going up to about 5 or 6 liters.
  • Almighty Janitor: After graduating from university, he stayed on it for a time working as just an assistant to the judo club, but he actually got paid more than other teachers due to his achievements as a student.
  • Always Someone Better: Unconfirmed and probably not true, but should be stated: Billy Robinson claims to remember that Kimura once travelled to the Snakepit in Wigan and got beat in a catch wrestling match "easily", and not by someone highly skilled. If true, it's would not so surprising, though, as the catch wrestler would have been more familiar with the rule set and had an advantage.
    • Is it really an applicable trope if its unverified and likely a lie?
  • Arch-Enemy: The Sharpe Brothers during his tag team with Rikidozan.
  • Asleep in Class: He recalled it happening to him very often, as he liked to spend the nights training. Badass as he could later be, it's not difficult to imagine an anime-like scene of a young Masahiko dozing off over his desk next to the classroom's windows with Gozo Shioda poking him with the elbow to awake him before the stern Japanese teacher realized and threw him a chalk.
  • Badass Teacher: Later in his life.
  • Bash Brothers: With Rikidozan, at least until their falling out.
  • Beat Them at Their Own Game
    • At the all Japan judo championships, he defeated the judoka Katsumi Tokizane, who was an expert in the use of osoto gari, with an osoto gari of his.
    • He defeated Hélio Gracie, master of an art based in groundfighting, via ground hold. Considering Kimura himself had been a champion of kosen judo (a mat-based judo competition) in 1936, it should not come as a surprise.
  • Blood from Every Orifice: Downplayed. His headlock on Hélio Gracie was so strong that it supposedly broke a blood vessel in his ear, causing it to bleeda bit over Kimura’s sleeve.
  • Blood Knight: The kind of person who recalls having a little devil whispering on his ear to kill his opponent even when he is being headbutted and pounded on the ground by said opponent.
  • Bullying a Dragon:
    • In his autobiography he recalls several cases of crazy people picking fights with him only to be thoroughly beaten up.
    • Kimura's first boxing trainer was a big guy who enjoyed brutalizing his student whenever they were gloves on instead teaching him properly. This lasted until Masahiko got angry on him, blocked a hit and picked up the boxer high for an ippon seoi nage, and only got him down when he implored for his life. From then, he resolved to teach Kimura the right way.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: His way of train gave him a prodigious strength, supposedly making him able to rip maples trees up from the ground with throws. Not less impressive, he was able to throw around Gory Guerrero (yep, that Gory Guerrero), who was known for crushing judokas under his massive weight like if they were frogs.
    • Massive weight? Gory Guerrero was 5'9 and billed at 210 pounds.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Kimura's interviews and autobiography sometimes have him sharing rather abnormal thoughts. For instance, he didn't like the concept of sleeping because he considered it was too similar to death and he would rather be training than slumbering. And if it doesn't look that grave, here is another: he once stabbed himself in the abdomen with his wakizashi to see if he can really die or not.
  • Combat Pragmatist: When pitted in self-defense situations, he would use headbutts and groin attacks along with his already dreaded judo.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Against Hélio Gracie. Without being in danger at any time, Kimura threw Gracie several times, easily got the better of him in ground fighting during the second round, and broke his arm twice (the same arm, in two different places) before Gracie's cornerman conceded the fight. The armlock that Kimura used to win has been named in his honor among MMA and Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: An indirect, but otherwise certain example: he was greeted by an American occupational captain and even invited to teach judo at his base after Kimura wiped the floor of a train station with some troublesome soldiers who were harassing people. The captain remained as a friend to Kimura and earned his black belt under him in one year.
  • Defeat Means Respect: Contrary to Brazilian sources, Kimura never claimed that Hélio Gracie should be declared the winner if he lasted more than three minutes with Kimura, nor he invited him to teach in Japan as it is sometimes said, but the judoka nonetheless gained respect for him after Gracie refused to tap and got his arm broken in their match.
  • Determinator: In 1949, he fought a match against the judoka Takahiko Ishikawa which lasted fifty minutes, the second longest judo match to the date.
  • Don't Think, Feel: One of his principles when fighting, discussed in his autobiography and taught to his students.
  • The Dreaded: Him and especially his osoto gari, which many opponents asked him not to use in fear of injury.
  • Finishing Move: Osoto gari and gyaku-ude-garami.
  • Groin Attack: He once finished an opponent in a street fighting by squeezing his testicles after throwing him down. According to him, Kimura was known for using this technique on the streets from his high school times.
  • Heroic BSoD: Had one after being defeated four times. He found the experience of losing so humilating that he first considered quitting judo and later devoted himself to never lose again.
  • Hero Killer: For the Brazilians, even if the Brazil press tried to pass the defeat of Gracie as a moral victory for them.
  • I Know Karate: He learnt the Shotokan and Goju-Ryu styles of karate, mostly to strengthen his hands, and was also friends and training partners with Masutatsu Oyama. He also trained in western boxing and is said to have trained in Takeuchi Santo-ryu Jujutsu in his youth. Also his judo skills speak for themselves.
  • Just Toying with Them:
    • According to Donn Draeger, Kimura liked to lie down on his back during the grappling training and let any partner to have one of his arms, only to escape any hold they tried and then submit them in any way.
    • Some believe that he actually toyed with Hélio Gracie to allow some action in the match and entertain the audience before going to finish him. Whether true or not, he did take his time to throw him around despite knowing it would not knock Gracie, and there is documentation of Kimura locking triangle chokes and bodyscissors on Hélio at will (the latter hold admittedly causing Hélio to faint for a moment) only to release them and follow with another thing. The legendary Georges Mehdi, who witnessed the match, went to say that Kimura played so much with Hélio that the fight "was a joke".
  • Lightning Bruiser: Was a enormously strong guy and very fast for his size.
  • No Social Skills: According to training partners, Kimura was better throwing people down than socially interacting with them.
  • Odd Friendship: With professional wrestler Karl Gotch, a grappler of a completely different background, style, attitude and philosophy (although possibly not so odd, considering that both Gotch and Kimura were training fanatics with little social skills). One of Kimura's apprentices, Kiyotaka "Hishakaku" Otsubo, would become Gotch's gym assistant and even had a hand in training Antonio Inoki.
  • One-Hit Kill: It's said that most of judo matches with Kimura did not last more than 10 seconds, the time he needed to crush any resistance and throw them to the ground.
  • Opposing Combat Philosophies: He disdained the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu strategy of lying and waiting for an opportunity for hours if needed. Kimura prefered creating his own opportunities by pounding the mat with his opponent.
  • Person as Verb: He popularized the gyaku-ude-garami, which got it renamed "Kimura lock", "Kimuriana" or simply "Kimura". Contrary to popular belief, this happened during his earlier professional career and not during the Hélio match, although the latter certainly helped to make the hold famous.
  • Ramming Always Works: Pitted against an agile judoka named Yoshimi Osawa, Kimura's solution to take him to the mat was forgetting the finesse and tackling him straight down. He immediately won by osaekomi.
  • Red Baron: "Keiko no Oni" ("The Demon of Training").
  • Religious Bruiser: His "religious" beliefs are hard to describe, if any, but he prayed to the gods and buddhas before important matches.
  • Shrinking Violet: Hard to believe in a legendary badass like him, but Masahiko was very shy as a kid, and Gozo Shioda was who helped him to open himself.
  • Sore Loser: Kimura hated losing, to the point he thought to quit judo after a string of loses in 1935. He was convinced by his pals to stay in the art, but he swore not losing again and devoted his life to his brutal trainings. And he succeeded.
  • Take a Third Option: Back when Kimura was in military service, an instructor of jukendo or bayonet fighting called him for a demonstration in front of the rest of recruits. Knowing that he would get beaten down or even injured if he attacked and probably punished if he did not, Masahiko took a different approach: he threw his rifle to the instructor, and when the guy guarded up to deflect it, Kimura tackled him low to with a double leg takedown and pinned him on the ground until the fight was broken up.
  • Training from Hell: Learning it from Tatsukuma Ushujima, Kimura gave these to himself everyday. To put a single example, he started his mornings doing 1000 push ups and hitting the makiwara other 1000 times.
  • Unconscious Objector: According to Kimura, he once lost consciousness due to exhaustion while training and his body still executed a throw on his opponent. Afterwards, he supposedly had an out of body experience, and when he woke up, he characteristically asked his students why they had been looking at his unconscious body instead of training.
  • Unknown Rival: Possibly Billy Robinson, as Billy told people the stories of how Kimura learned the famous hold from Karl Gotch, and how Kimura once went to Wigan only to be trashed by someone Billy claims was not that good. We'll probably never know the truth of these matters as both men are gone.
  • The Worf Barrage: A do-jime or bodyscissors (possibly it was a yoko-sankaku-jime or reverse triangle choke, though) was enough to put Hélio Gracie to sleep in his match with Kimura, but when the judoka faced Waldemar Santana years after, the latter shrugged off the technique thanks to his much stronger build.
  • The Worf Effect: He got beat up by Rikidozan in a pro wrestling match that turned into a shoot. To be fair, Rikidozan had naturally the advantage of surprise over the unaware Masahiko, and he went for Kimura's neck in his first attack to incapacitate him fast and ensure the judoka didn't hit back.