1 Robert K. Koga, 83, died peacefully at his home in Fallbrook, California on Sunday, September 8th. He was in the company of family and friends when he lost his struggle with Mesothelioma, a cancer resulting from asbestos exposure. After serving in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War, Robert became the second Asian police officer hired by the Los Angeles Police Department in 1955, retiring in While assigned to the LAPD training academy, he saw that officers were experiencing problems with their arrest situations. He completely revamped their arrest-related training by developing and implementing an integrated system of search, handcuffing, arrest control and self-defense techniques that came to be known as The Koga Method. When the department was faced with challenging civil unrest events, he devised unique methods to separate and control demonstrators without the need to use physical forces. Robert s arrest and crowd control techniques, now known as the Koga System, are now utilized around the world by law enforcement, military and civilian specialized services. The Koga Institute continues to provide this training today. For decades, Robert taught a wide variety of police skills across the U. S. and in several other countries, focusing on improving safety and control practices for law enforcement personnel. He developed systematic techniques for street police officers, SWAT teams, riot and crowd control teams, and for detention and corrections officers. He provided training for the Secret Service, Federal Air Marshals, and various other agencies including the Navy Seals, Delta Force, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, as well as the Royal Brigade Guards of the King of Saudi Arabia and many U.S. police departments and other public safety agencies. His techniques are also taught in other countries including Japan, China, and at the Police Academy in Vera Cruz, Mexico. Robert established a huge and far-ranging community of peace officers who strive to follow his relentless example of dedication to the highest standards of personal and professional conduct and accountability. He is remembered by family, friends, and students as a man with an extraordinary focus, a remarkable ability to anticipate the actions of others, and a lifelong dedication to raising standards of training throughout the law enforcement profession. Those who knew him understood that he was a law enforcement teacher and mentor above all else; he made it his life's commitment, embodying the "No Give Up" philosophy. Many of his students have commented on how his teachings and philosophies have changed their lives and have certainly saved many lives Throughout his life, Robert embraced all forms of training and earned many black belts. He would later study with Aikido Master Koichi Tohei, traveling with Master Tohei during his tours through the United States. Robert actually began his martial arts studies when he was 12 years old, in order to combat the gangs he and others faced in the Japanese Internment Camp in Topaz, Utah, where he and his family had been forcibly moved at the beginning of WWII.
2 Robert was inducted into the World Martial Arts Masters Hall of Fame, and the Costa Mesa, California Martial Arts Masters Hall of Fame. He has authored several books and was featured in many magazine articles over the years, emphasizing his adaptation of traditional Aikido to the needs of law enforcement. Robert was widely recognized in the law enforcement community, and he received many awards. In 2000, he was the Lifetime Achievement recipient of the California Governor's Award for Excellence in Peace Officers Training. He was the first president of the California Asian Peace Officers Association, and a past president of the National Asian Peace Officers Association. Robert had boundless energy, was a voracious reader, and had a wide range of passionate interests. Perhaps surprising to many people, Robert was an avid fan of the historic American West. He enjoyed wearing western style clothing; he loved steer roping; he loved his horses and enjoyed riding the rough and rugged land. He would have been happy to have been born a cowboy a hundred years ago. Robert is survived by his wife Susan; his children Michael, Frank, Kelleen, and Thomas; his grandchildren Kelsey, Jared, Kamryn, Trent, Rylee, and Kai; and by his stepfather Frank Shoda. On Wednesday, September 11th, the California Senate session was adjourned in Robert's memory, with remarks by Senator Joel Anderson. After a private family interment service, a public celebration of his life will be announced at a later date. Details will be provided on the Koga Institute web site at An online guest book will be available shortly through Legacy.com.
3 ROBERT KOGA It is 1942, summer time. On December 7th, 1941, Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor. Shortly after midday on the 8th, President Roosevelt had asked Congress to recognize that a state of war existed between the United States and Japan. On the 9th, the President, in one of his famous fireside chats, informed the American people that We are now in the midst of a war, not for conquest, not for vengeance, but for a world in which this Nation, and all that this Nation represents, will be safe for our children. But now, just a few months later, a twelve-year-old boy, a Japanese-American boy, stood looking down the bleak, unpaved street of an internment camp in the Utah desert. The president in his reassuring speech forgot to mention that American history included a distinctive feature that Asian-Americans knew only to well: inequality. It was hot on the Utah desert that late summer day in September. But nine miles to the northwest, Topaz Mountain offered an illusion of coolness. It appeared, to the eyes of a child, far closer than it was. Tantalizingly close. He could imagine the heights, the cool wind. But there was barbed wire around the camp, guard towers, machine guns. In another year, the boy would try to reach the mountain, but now he was confined to the camp and the heat. The barracks behind him, silent beneath the hot, copper-colored sky, offered no refuge. Wooden structures, covered with tar paper, they concentrated the heat of summer and scarcely kept out the rain and cold of winter. The boy was restless, filled with a child s energy and imagination. Under the barracks he would be free from the heat and the scrutiny of the guards; free even from his parent s controlling hand. The dirt beneath the desert floor was cool. He found a shovel and at the back of the building he began to dig a slanting hole in the ground, a cave, an escape from the oppressive heat, and perhaps the kind of loneliness only a child can feel when his whole world has changed and he doesn t understand why. There, curled like a small hedgehog in the cool earth, the boy, Robert Koga, waited for the sun to set. (Excerpt from "Robert Koga - The Man Behind the Legend", a biography about Sensei Robert Koga co-written by John Winterle and David Yancey, one of Koga's students. 2003) 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 wounded and was returned to Japan to recover from the injuries he received. After the war, Koga returned to the 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, one of a very few Asians within the Department in 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.
4 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 26 baton, later extended to 29, 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 officers, 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 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 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. Koga s 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 6th 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 Kobudo and Koryu, the use of modern and ancient weapons. Koga-sensei is a master in Jodo (Japanese stick fighting), which includes the use of the jo, hanbo, and tanjo. 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.
5 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 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 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 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
6 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. No doubt, if he could return in another life it would be as a cowboy and take the opportunity to once again ride one of his favorite horses, Ashes, Six or Poncho.
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