Masahiko Kimura

One of the most famous names in Brazilian jiu-jitsu was a Japanese judoka, who also studied karate and later became a professional wrestler.

So how did a shoulder lock, involving an attacker grabbing his own wrist and that of his opponent before applying a brutal twisting motion to the vulnerable limb, become known as a Kimura?

The story of how the name became attributed to the powerful submission attack started in 1917, the year Masahiko Kimura was born in The Land of the Rising Sun.

He began judo aged nine and at 18 is reported to have become the then youngest ever fifth degree black belt.

Kimura is regarded as one of the greatest-ever competitors in the sport, having allegedly only ever lost four matches.

He was said to be so committed to improving, he would train for nine hours-a-day, doing 1,000 push-ups and practicing throwing actions against a tree.

Despite this success, Kimura’s legend arguably comes from one match, against Helio Gracie on October 23, 1951, at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.

The bout arose as the result of a challenge by Gracie to judokas who were in the country.

There was much hype around the match, including Kimura being accused of not being Japanese by a newspaper. Determined to refute that claim, he went to the country’s embassy in Brazil to prove his heritage and get a retraction.

Showing the high level of interest in the contest, there were 20,000 fans in attendance, including the president of Brazil, Getulio Vargas.

Such was the passion in the stands, Kimura was said to have been attacked with raw eggs, while Gracie sympathisers brought a coffin to symbolize the judoka’s demise, which was expected in their eyes.

The match was contested in the gi over three 10-minute rounds. There was no weigh-in. The only way to win was through knock-out or submission.

Early on, Kimura scored throws Gracie which rolled out of.

The mat was soft enough that these moves were not concussive blows, as the Japanese had intended.

Eventually Kimura pinned down his opponent and the Brazilian appeared to lose consciousness, only for the judoka to move to a new position, which woke up the home hero.

In the second round, after throwing and pinning his opponent, Kimura attacked with what would become an iconic submission.

He said: “As soon as Helio fell, I pinned him by Kuzure-kami-shiho-gatame.

I held still for two or three 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.

And thus, a legend was born.

Brazilian press referred to the move as the Kimuriana when the Japanese returned to the country in 1959.

This was later shortened to Kimura and the name has stuck, long past the judo master’s death in 1993, aged 75.

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