Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Mits Kawashima

Mitsuo Kawashima, who ushered in the sport of bodybuilding in Hawaii and promoted health and fitness to the islands' masses for decades, died Feb. 3, three days short of his 94th birthday.

Known by all who met him as "Mits," Kawashima popularized bodybuilding in Hawaii in the 1980s as promoter of the Hawaiian Islands contest, an event that he co-promoted with his longtime friend Arnold Schwarzenegger. Kawashima and his late wife, Dot, ran the event from 1979 to 2007, with emerging Hollywood star Schwarzenegger emceeing the first seven contests before large crowds at the Blaisdell Concert Hall.

"My thoughts and prayers are with the friends and family of Mits Kawashima. I lost a great friend and mentor this week, and the world lost one of the best advocates of fitness and bodybuilding," Schwarzenegger wrote Feb. 6 on his Twitter feed.

"Mits was one of the first people I met when I came to America. From the moment we met, he was always a loyal and thoughtful friend, guiding me and inspiring me to always be at my best, whether I was working out in his gym or later in life when he would always be a phone call away with his wisdom. The Arnold Classic will have an empty chair this year in honor of Mits, and while I will miss him, I know that he has finally been reunited with Dot, the woman of his dreams."

"He was the pioneer in Hawaii in bodybuilding," said Tommy Kono, a two-time Olympic gold medal winner. "Mits was the first one who had a good bodybuilding studio over here. He brought over the idea from California."

"Mits was the guy that everyone looked up to when it came to bodybuilding," Kono said. "He was very straightforward, and when he instructed he made sure they followed his rules. No nonsense. He had a good rapport with his students and they all respected him because of that."

Kono said Kawashima "developed Dean Higuchi and he went on to the Mr. America contest (finishing sixth)."

"Mits influenced me by just talking, like Timmy Leong, their wisdom," said Ed Morishima, a 1987 world champion in powerlifting who became the third person in the history of the sport to bench more than three times his body weight (148 pounds, benched 448). "He had his point of view on things. We talked on life, things, it didn't matter. (He was) honest, hard-working, loyal, a straight shooter … very humble."

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