Wayne Joseph’s Blog

Running with the Big Dog

Hilo’s Doc Klein – Aikido Black Belt

Robert Klein practices the art of Aikido

Robert Klein (right) practices the art of Aikido

   Through my travels and adventures I’ve met all types of people, some of whom have been featured in this column.

    I especially enjoy telling the stories of our local people who help our community through volunteer work or through their profession.

   One such person is Dr. Robert Klein, who has his own practice in Hilo, where he serves as a Chiropractic Orthopedist.

    Klein grew up in New York City, Queens, during the 50’s and 60’s when Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris were blasting out home runs and becoming living legends.

   “The Yankees were winning championships year after year and everyone was a fan of theirs then,” Klein said.

   “When my friends and I were young and couldn’t go far from home, we played “stickball” in a back alley.  All that was needed was a broomstick and one of those cheap pink rubber balls,” he said.

   Klein would spend his summers at a county home in upstate New York and learned to swim at an early age.  “I never tried very hard to compete and never thought of myself as being an athlete,” he said.

   Organized school sports never interested Klein and gym class was one of his least favorites. Instead Klein opted to attend Boy Scout camp during the summers and participated in outdoor activities such as hiking long distances, camping, backpacking, climbing and the like.

Sensi Bob Klein
Sensei Bob Klein

In college Klein was introduced to a Japanese martial art called aikido.  “I became a very enthusiastic practitioner of aikido and within a few months I was attending about 10 hours of weekly classes,” Klein said.

   “Practicing aikido entailed training in physical, mental and spiritual aspects.  I was taught about the flow of mind/body energy called ki.  Around this time I first learned about chiropractic, a profession involved with natural healing restoring the energy flows of the body,” he said.

   After completing Chiropractic College in Chicago the Klein’s decided to move someplace warm and settled on Hilo in 1980.  “Winter in Chicago is like being exiled to Siberia.  Once we got to Hilo we never wanted to leave again.  I love the natural beauty, the surrounding ocean and the rural lifestyle of the Big Island,” he said.

    During the ‘90’s Klein trained for three years to become a Chiropractic Orthopedist all the while continuing with his training in aikido.

6th Degree Black Belt
6th Degree Black Belt

“After three years of classes and multiple examinations I was able to specialize in non-surgical and non-drug treatments of bone, muscle, joint and nerve disorders,” Klein said.

   Today Klein continues his weekly five day training in aikido.  “With special classes and seminars in aikido I often end up practicing everyday for about one or two hours per day,” he said.

   In a typical one hour class, Klein will begin with about 15 minutes of warm up exercises by stretching all the parts of his body which includes breathing and centering activities.  “After warm ups we practice in pairs doing aikido techniques.”

   The aikido pair will take turns attacking with a strike or grab while the other defends, avoiding injury and subduing or throwing their partner.  “Being the attacker is a lot more work because you are thrown to the ground and have to fall smoothly without getting hurt and then get up again,” Klein said.

   Klein’s wife, Barbara, is also skilled in aikido and both are sixth degree black belts (rokudan) by having trained close to 40 years with master instructors from all over the world.  “We teach and/or practice almost every day and devote a lot of time to promoting this art on the Big Island,” he said.

   That’s right, Dr. Klein refers to aikido as an “art,” not a sport as I mistakenly called it while I was speaking with him at his clinic.

   “Aikido is not a sport and unlike many other martial arts, has no competition.  Aikido is more a way of life, a path of becoming a better person.  It has many physical and mental benefits, but also teaches us much about life and getting along with others,” Klein said.

   In their effort to stay healthy and fit the Klein’s prefer to eat “simple, less processed foods” which leads them to consuming more fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, poultry and fish.

   “I believe that humans were designed to consume “natural” foods.  The other ninety percent of what is in our supermarkets has all been created in the past century by profit-seeking corporations.  Even many of the so called healthy foods, now marketed as low fat, low calorie, low sodium, low cholesterol, high fiber, vitamin enriched, are so highly processed that much of their nutritional value has been lost,” Klein said.

   And Klein believes in a basic, simple to understand philosophy about life.  “If you take care of yourself, you’ll be around for a long time.  You need to keep improving yourself, but you have a whole lifetime to get it right, so relax,” he said.


August 10, 2009 Posted by | Health and Fitness, Profiles | , , , , , | Leave a comment