Today is exactly 8 years since Sensei Robert Koga left us. Let’s remember the great Master and his difficult life path.
Robert K. Koga (February 15, 1930 – September 8, 2013)
At the tender age of 12 a young Robert Koga was snatched from his familiar home in the East Bay area of California and sent to the Japanese Internment Camp at Topaz, Utah at the beginning of World War II. It was here that he started his martial arts career, taking up Judo training to protect himself from the gangs that formed within the camp. He took his studies seriously and became an excellent student of the art. He later took up Roman Greco-style wrestling while in high school, an art in which he also had a high degree of success.
After the war his family returned to their humble life, finally settling in Chicago, and the young Koga continued his Judo studies. In 1949 he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and was eventually stationed in Japan where he naturally continued his studies by joining a local Judo school. Later, after hostilities started in Korea, he was transferred to serve in that arena. While in Korea, Koga was injured and was returned to Japan to recover from the injuries he received.
After the war, Koga returned to the United States and resumed civilian life. Still having the desire to serve, Koga applied for and was accepted to a position within the Los Angeles Police Department, the second of two Asians within the Department in 1955. His training and youthful Asian appearance made him a natural for the Vice Squad. During his stint with that unit, Koga found a void in practical training for police officers and so began to formulate some of the ideas that would later be incorporated into the Koga System, Koga Jutsu.
In the early 1960`s, Mr. Koga was introduced to Koichi Tohei, one of few students formally awarded the rank of 10th Dan by Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido. Koga was amazed at the ease with which Tohei Sensei was able to dispatch even multiple attackers and began his studies under Tohei`s tutelage. Again, he excelled at the combat arts and progressed rapidly. It was this training that later formed the foundation of his system. Koga took from Tohei`s teachings, his previous martial arts instruction, his experience on the streets of Los Angeles, and the needs of law enforcement. The Koga System began to take form, a system of self-defense and arrest control techniques designed to serve law enforcement within the bounds set by modern society. Koga asked for and received permission from Tohei Sensei to alter the Aikido he had been taught in order to develop his system and the Koga System was officially born.
Koga began teaching his techniques at the Los Angeles Police Academy becoming a pioneer in the area of Officer Safety. He introduced vastly improved search and handcuffing techniques. He introduced the Koga Baton, a straight 26th baton, later extended to 29th, with no knurling and no leather strap along with an arsenal of techniques designed to make use of the baton more efficient. He spent several years at the Academy before moving on to other assignments and watched the training at the academy revert to the former methods. It was then that Koga Sensei took his training methods to other police departments and academies. Then, in 1979, sensing that he could do more for law enforcement devoting his time to training, Koga retired from the LAPD and devoted himself to The Koga Institute, a non-profit educational corporation in the State of California, developed by Sensei Koga, that offers training to law enforcement, correction and detention officers, and private security.
Incorporated in 1973, the Koga Institute has offered high-quality, no-nonsense training in the use of force (arrest control, impact weapons and self-defense), as well as officer safety. He also went on to teach at Southern California area colleges including Cal State LA, Pasadena City College, Cerritos College and Rio Hondo Community College. He has also authored four texts on the subject. The first two, no longer in publication, were co-written with John G. Nelson. The first, titled The Koga Method: Police Weaponless Control and Self Defense Techniques was originally published in 1967. The second, The Koga Method: Police Baton Techniques was published a year later. His second two books, co-written with William L. Pelkey were Controlling Force: A Primer for Law Enforcement, in 1994 and Redirecting Force: A Manual for Law Enforcement Self Defense in 1998.
Mr. Koga has also provided training to various other agencies including Navy Seals, Delta Team, Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Royal Brigade Guards of the King of Saudi Arabia, as well as many U.S. Police Departments, too many to list here. Mr. Kogas techniques are also taught in other countries including the Police Academy in Vera Cruz, Mexico; Japan, and in China.
Sensei Koga is proficient in other martial arts including Jiu-jitsu and Judo, holding a 5th Dan in Jiu-jitsu, awarded to him by Seki Sensei and awarded a Sho-dan in Judo while serving in Japan with the United States Air Force. Koga-sensei is well versed in the use of modern and ancient weapons. Koga-sensei is a master in Jodo (Japanese stick fighting). Koga-sensei has also trained in the use of the Manrikigusari, a length of chain-weighted on each end, developed by a castle guard for the Shogun. The Marikigusari is not well known and few have mastered its intricate and complex techniques.
During his 25 year career with LAPD, Sensei Koga spent a considerable length of time applying his knowledge of Aikido to the real-life rigors and demands of law enforcement. He also developed the Practical Aikido training course which focuses on the practical application of Aikido to a more real-life self-defense situation. It helps one to gain true balance in their study of Aikido, under less than ideal circumstances against ideal or contrived attacks. He has recorded a 5 DVD series on the subject titled Practical Aikido, produced by Black Belt Magazine in 2001. He is currently working on a video series on Arrest Control Techniques and Self Defense Techniques for law Enforcement.
Sensei Koga was inducted in the World Martial Arts Masters Hall of Fame in Hartford, Connecticut in 1996 and to the Martial Arts Masters Hall of Fame in Costa Mesa, California in 1998. In 2000 he received the State of California Governor`s Award in the Lifetime Achievement category for Excellence in Peace Officer Training. Koga has also been the subject of numerous interviews and magazine articles. Included in these are an Aikido Today Magazine featured an interview of Robert Koga “Aikido and Law Enforcement” by Susan Perry in May 1993; An Inside Kung Fu Presents: Martial Arts Legends cover article titled “Master Robert Koga: The Real Deal: America’s Biggest Martial Arts Secret”: by John Bishop in September 1994; A 2000 Journal of Asian Martial Arts article, “Baton Defenses” featuring Koga and his baton techniques; A Black Belt Magazine article, “Aikido for the Street”, by Sarah Fogan in May 2002; Aikido Today Magazine article, “Koga in China”, by Don Black, one of Koga`s long time students, July/August 2002; and Martial Art – The Voice of Traditional Martial Arts article by Doug Jeffrey in December 2002 titled Practical Aikido featuring the martial arts system of Koga Jutsu, a system personally developed by Robert Koga.
There is a side of Koga most do not know. When he is not traveling the world teaching law enforcement officers, he likes to relax in an uncommon way. He is an avid fan of the American West. He loves horses and was a competent steer roper at one time. He loves to wear western-style clothing and ride the rough and rugged land just as they did over 100 years ago.
One of his students, Josafath Herrera, shared with us his memories of his teacher. Josafath Herrera – international instructor in family and corporate self-protection. High-Performance Mental Coach. Movement Gymnastics Personal Trainer. CEO in INKOGA (since 1998), CEO in Spiral, Arts & Training.