Bruce Lee™ is best remembered by those who knew him, not as a martial artist or movie star, but as a teacher and friend.
When Bruce first arrived in Seattle, he began to develop a reputation for teaching gung fu. Soon Bruce had many people wanting to study under him. One of those people was a thirty-six year old Japanese-American named Taky Kimura. Kimura had spent five years in a United States internment camp during World War II and suffered difficulty in getting a decent job afterward, under the shadow of post-war anti-Japanese sentiment. Demoralized, Kimura was seeking something to give him back his self-confidence. He found that in the young Bruce Lee™, who became his mentor, spiritual guide, and best friend.
“All the time we were growing up my mother and dad always said: “Look, we’re nothing but second-class citizens so don’t ever put yourself in the mainstream of life because you are going to get hurt,'” says Kimura. “We argued with them because the educational system told us that we were equal under the constitution. But then (when the war came along) all of a sudden things changed and we were put in the internment camps, even though we were citizens. The Selective Service put us in the 4Y category, which was an alien classification, and they told us that there were rumors that they were going to take us and ship us off to some island as soon as they could get rid of us. Anyhow, they put us in camps.
“I came out and I was just a broken man because of this humiliation that occurred within myself. And then in 1959 I had the wonderful honor of being in the right place at the right time to meet Bruce.
“He was eighteen, a typical teenager with all this boundless energy, telling dirty jokes and all that and I was thirty-six and just mentally devastated. I couldn’t relate to that, but he understood.
“Bruce came along and helped me out. He used to say, ‘Jesus Christ Kimura! Look at these clothes you’re wearing! You look like an old man!’ And I would say, ‘I’m clean aren’t I?’ But you know, he told me to wear different clothes and all this kind of stuff and it was all a part of making me realize that I am a human being, no better or worse than anyone else. He told that repeatedly to me and (by teaching you the fundamentals of physicalness within yourself) obviously you start feeling better about yourself, when you know that you can do something. I think that that is one of the great things. Unfortunately, we all have to go through this process to understand what our capabilities are. But if you don’t progress any further than that then you’re not going to get anywhere.”
Of all the people associated with Bruce Lee™, Taky Kimura is the finest. That, possibly, is why Bruce Lee™ referred to Kimura as his senior-most student and made it clear to other students that Kimura was always to be respected by them. Was Kimura the best martial artist? No, but he was the best friend of Bruce Lee™ and a man of sterling character. Perhaps it was Kimura’s moral core, not his martial art skill, that Lee recognized, and which he felt was so important to his art. Since 1964, Kimura has been the instructor of the Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute™ of Seattle. Kimura has never accepted compensation for his work in Bruce Lee’s™ name, and has quietly been the caretaker of Bruce Lee’s™ grave for almost 30 years. He is a man who is universally respected in the Bruce Lee™ community, and a shining example of the positive impact that Bruce Lee’s™ philosophy has had on people.