Kim Kahana

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Kim Kahana, Sr.
Born Kim Kahana
Nationality American
Occupation Stunt performer
Martial arts instructor
Years active 1953–present
Spouse(s) Sandy Kahana
Children Kim Kahana, Jr.
Debbie Kahana
Rick Kahana
Tony Kahana

Kim Kahana, Sr. (born 1929) is an American actor, stunt performer[1] 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.[2]

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.[3] His performing career began as a knife and fire dancer in a stage show called Samoan Warriors.[1]

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.[3] The U.S. Military awarded Kahana one Silver Star and two Bronze Star Medals, as well as two Purple Hearts for his services.[1]

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, television and stunt career[edit]

Kahana entered film after the Korean War, working as an extra, playing a motorcycle rider in 1953's The Wild One.[1] When he saw that stunt performers were paid more than extras, he pursued a stunt career, training with Yakima Canutt and John Eppers.[4] By the 1960s and throughout the 70s and 80s, he worked steadily as a stuntman for many films including Cool Hand Luke (1967), Planet of the Apes 1968, Che! (1969), Patton (1970), The Omega Man (1971), Joe Kidd (1972), Soylent Green (1973), Burt Reynolds' Smokey and the Bandit franchise, and the disaster films of Irwin Allen. Kahana also doubled for Charles Bronson in his films for over 20 years.[1]

Kahana also 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 Mission Impossible, The Six Million Dollar Man, Vega$, Magnum P.I., Charlie's Angels, Quincy. Fantasy Island and The Brady Bunch. Because of his size (5' 7", or 168 cm) Kahana frequently acted as stunt double for female actors, including Stephanie Powers of The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and Sally Field on The Flying Nun.[1]

In 1968, Kahana played a leading role in the Hanna Barbera children's adventure serial Danger Island, a live-action serialized adventure story that appeared as part of the Banana Splits Adventure Hour. His character, Chongo, was a mute castaway from a shipwrecked merchant marine vessel 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!". The catchphrase became popular with children during the following decade, and inevitably followed Kahana in his work and personal life.[4] Because Danger Island aired weekly and Kahana worked both as an actor and as a stunt performer, he was one of the highest paid stunt people in the business.[1]

Over his first three decades of work as a stunt performer, Kahana broke his bones more than 60 times. By the 1980s, Kahana had moved away from doing "life-threatening" stunts while still continuing to coordinate action scenes and perform his own stunt work.[3]

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.[2][6]

Other work[edit]

Kahana studied martial arts in Japan where he earned six black belts in karate, aikido and jujutsu. 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.[7]

On July 24, 2012, Kim Kahana lost his son Rick Kalua Kahana, who died at his home in Canoga Park, California.[8]

Selected filmography[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Gene Scott Freese (2014). Hollywood Stunt Performers, 1910s-1970s: A Biographical Dictionary, 2d ed. McFarland. ISBN 9781476614700. 
  2. ^ a b "About Us". Kahana Stunt School. Retrieved 12 April 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c d e 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. 
  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. ^ Doug Smith (March 22, 1987). "Shooting Pains : Students at Kim Kahana's Stunt School Learn That Failure Means Fractures for Those Taking Falls on Film". LA Times. Retrieved 2014-08-16. 
  7. ^ "Instructors". Kahana Stunt School. Retrieved 12 April 2012. 
  8. ^ "Rick Kahana, Respected Stunt Performer". The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 8 July 2013. 

External links[edit]