Kim Kahana

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Kim Kahana, Sr. (born 1930) is an American actor, stunt performer and action choreographer of Hawaiian and Japanese descent. He has done stunts for over 300 movies and television programs and runs a stunt school in Groveland, Florida that has trained over 15,000 students.[1]

Early life and military service[edit]

Unable to read or write, Kahana dropped out of school in third grade. At age 13 he hitchhiked across the United States by himself, sometimes stealing in order to eat.[2]

Kahana served as a paratrooper in the Korean War where he was captured and shot by an enemy firing squad. Feigning death, his captors left him in a mass grave from which he escaped. A hand grenade explosion also rendered him sightless for two years and permanently blind in his left eye. The U.S. Military awarded Kahana one Silver Star and two Bronze Star Medals, as well as two Purple Hearts for his services.[3]

In 1955 Kahana survived a plane crash in the state of Texas that killed the other 32 other people on board. Surviving this crash and his experiences in Korea imbued Kahana with a personal life philosophy of, "Maybe I'm right where I ought to be."[3]

Film and stunt career[edit]

Kahana began his work in film as an extra. When he saw that stunt performers were paid more than extras, he pursued a stunt career, training with Yakima Canutt and John Eppers.[4]

During the 1960s and 70s, Kahana performed and coordinated fight scenes and stunts (often uncredited) for numerous TV shows, including 28 episodes of Kung Fu, and made numerous appearances on other programs, including Vega$, Magnum P.I., Charlie's Angels, Quincy and Fantasy Island.

In 1968, Kahana played a leading role in the Hanna Barbera children's adventure serial Danger Island that appeared on the Banana Splits Adventure Hour. His character, Chongo, was a mute castaway from a shipwrecked merchant marine ship who communicated only using hand signs and bird calls. As the comedic sidekick to fellow castaway Elihu Morgan (played by Rockne Tarkington), Chongo's antics prompted his friend to call out, "Uh-oh Chongo!", a catchphrase that became popular with children during the following decade that would follow Kahana in his work and personal life.[4]

Over his first three decades of work as a stunt performer, Kahana broke his bones more than 60 times. By the 1980s, Kehana had moved away from doing "life-threatening" stunts while still continuing to coordinate action scenes and perform his own stunt work.[2]

Kahana has served as a member of the Stuntmen's Association of Motion Pictures and spent eight years on the Screen Actors Guild's Safety Investigative Team and the Stunt Safety Committee. He runs a production company called Stunt Action & Safety Coordinator, Inc. that runs second unit production for major motion pictures.[5] He opened the Kahana Stunt School in 1972 to train performers in stunt work and safety, as well as how to navigate the motion picture and TV industries.[1]

Other work[edit]

Kahana holds six black belts in karate and once killed two armed men (one by karate kick) who were assaulting a woman in a parking lot. In addition to teaching stunts, he is a martial arts and hand-to-hand combat instructor and weapons expert.[5] Kahana has also run a bodyguard agency, employing as many as 30 people at once.[3]

Personal life[edit]

Kim Kahana had three sons (Tony, Rick, and Kim Jr.) and one daughter (Debbie), all of whom teach at Kahana's school, hold black belts in karate and have also performed in numerous blockbuster films. In 2005 Kahana Sr. married his wife Sandra, who works as the lead administrator for the stunt school.[6]

On July 24, 2012, Kim Kahana's son Rick Kalua Kahana passed away at his home in Canoga Park, California.[7]

Selected filmography[edit]


  1. ^ a b "About Us". Kahana Stunt School. Retrieved 12 April 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Martinez, Al (14 January 1985). "He is a tiger dozing in the sun now, a predator at peace with the jungle. : A Smile on the Face of a Tiger". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 12 April 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c Martinez, Al (4 February 1982). "NY Times on Kim Kahana". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 April 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Rutherford, Mike. "Interview: Kim Kahana (Chongo)". Doin' the Banana Split. Retrieved 12 April 2012. 
  5. ^ a b "About Kim Kahana". Kahana Stunts. Retrieved 12 April 2012. 
  6. ^ "Instructors". Kahana Stunt School. Retrieved 12 April 2012. 
  7. ^ "Rick Kahana, Respected Stunt Performer". The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 8 July 2013. 

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