Stories Lived

Kahana: Teaching Life

Born in 1929 on the island of Lanai, Hawaii, Kim Kahana Sr. overcame numerous adversities, including illiteracy, to become one of the top stuntmen in the film industry. Lanai was too small to contain Kahana, however, and at the age of twelve, he stowed away on a ship to California. From there, he hitchhiked to New York City; where his uncle trained him in the traditional art of Samoan Fire Knife Dancing and spent the next several years touring in the “Flaming Sword of Samoa” show.

Kahana served in the United States Army as a Ranger in the Korean War. During his time in Korea, he was captured, taken before an enemy firing squad, buried alive and left for dead. He managed to crawl to the surface and make his way back to his unit, where he continued to serve until a grenade exploded near his face, leaving him partially blind in his left eye. Years later, traveling back to Los Angeles from New York where he had undergone plastic surgery to repair damage done to his face from the grenade, the plane Kahana was flying on crashed over a field in Texas. Kahana was the only survivor.

Like many young men after a war, Kahana drifted aimlessly, eventually joining up with the Hell’s Angels biker gang, which led to his first film role in The Wild One, starring Marlon Brando and Lee Marvin. Kahana worked in several more films as an extra before deciding he wanted to be a stuntman. So, he sought out the best stuntman in the industry, famed actor and stunt double for John Wayne, Yakima Canutt, who agreed to pass on his knowledge of stunt techniques, which, at the time, were closely guarded secrets passed down only to family members.

Kahana trained hard and soon became one of the top stunt men in the film industry. Working in films produced around the world, Kahana earned five million dollars by the time he was thirty-five, from his work as a stunt man.

Kahana is most well known for his role as Chongo in the Hanna-Barbera serial Danger Island, directed by Richard Donner. As well as being Charles Bronson’s stunt double for over twenty years.

During his career as a stunt man, Kahana has appeared on screen with a long list of Hollywood A-list celebrities such as: Elvis Presley, John Wayne, Steve McQueen, James Dean, Carrie Fisher, Burt Reynolds, Don Knotts, Linda Blair, Clint Eastwood, Jack Palance and many more.

After spending several decades as one of the top stunt men in the film industry, Kahana became the first Asian to be inducted in to the Stuntmen’s Association and opened the world’s first accredited stunt school, which was located in Chatsworth, California. According to Kahana, approximately 98% of the stuntmen working in films and television today were trained by him or one of his students. Kahana also trained his daughter and three sons to do stunts. His son Kim Kahana Jr. can be seen doubling for Willem Dafoe as the Green Goblin in the 2002 blockbuster Spider-Man.

In the 1980s, Kahana relocated his stunt school to Groveland, Florida, which has been visited by stars such as Chuck Norris, Sylvester Stallone and Danny Trejo. At 86 years old, Kahana is still active in stunt coordinating for films and television and he continues to teach and mentor aspiring stunt men and women from around the world.

More information about Kim Kahana Sr. and his stunt school can be found at his website:


About the Filmmakers
Submitted by David and Jason Brown

Carrying on the tradition of the Lumière brothers, David and Jason Brown produce low-budget films from concept to finished project entirely on their own.

The sibling duo of David and Jason Brown have shared a passion for filmmaking since they were children and made movies in their backyard using an old video camera. They made their first professional film in 2007 and over the ensuing years have produced twelve films. They continue to make films in their backyard in an old barn they have converted into a low-budget film studio.

They are currently in post production on their romantic comedy, “I Love You Because” about a couple going through the ups and downs of pregnancy.

Filmakers’ Website: