The Passing of Teacher

On September 8th, 2013, the great Robert Koga Sensei passed away from Mesothelioma. He was in his 80s.

Here’s a letter from the Koga household and from his school down in Southern California:

Koga Institute - Koga Sensei

Here’s a short description (via the Koga institute) of who he is.

But what about who he is to me?

He came to my dojo twice, one in 2008 a few months after I began and once the year after in 2009. He was there to show the dojo and visitors what “Practical Aikido” is. If you have read the description, he formulated the “Koga method” from his many years of experience as a LAPD officer. Using Aikido, he developed a system that was applicable to police officers. Eventually what his expertise caught the attention of not only within the LE agencies in SoCal, but across the country and in foreign nations.

I remember the first time I met him at my dojo; he was tall for an Asian. Standing around 6’0″, he towered over most of the attendees. Being an American of Japanese descent (a nisei?), he and his family were imprisoned during WW2 due to Executive Order 9066, where millions of Americans of Japanese descent were imprisoned due to their ethnicity – the fact that they were Japanese.

That was when his martial arts career started – fending himself from the gangs that formed inside the camps.

Fast forward to 2009, I remember him after the seminar, after using me as an uke stating “You’re a good uke, keep it up”.

To me, being a 3rd kyu at that time, it was something of a badge of honor; here was this man/legend – an ex-LAPD officer, Air Force vet, 40 some years of martial arts training telling some random 3rd kyu that his ukemi was good.

For several weeks afterward I wore that comment like a badge of honor.

Since then I had hoped, even dreamed that someday I’d be able to return to Koga Sensei, maybe even become a casual student of his. His methods were sharp, “blunt”, short, sweet, no-nonsense, and to the point. But above all he was a good person to be around with. I suppose it was his experience as an LAPD officer – having seen a lot of crap throughout his life (on top of the racism that was going on at that time period).

But alas, that day will never come. 2009 was the last time I saw him, his health rapidly declined some 6 months ago and I guess I’m here now wondering if there’d be any other teacher like him that would the rare combination of humility, spunk, humor, and awe-inspiring power – at 80 years old!


This comes as a funny time;  a lot of things came to an end that same weekend. A girl that I was seeing left my life that weekend, and another epiphany about Aikido came to me that same day. To say that these are strange times would be accurate.

No Give Up! ~ Motto of the Koga Institute. 

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