Martial Arts Instructor Moves Classes to New Site in Santa Barbara

The nonprofit Aikido Kenkyukai Santa Barbara has moved to a new “dojo,” or training hall at 121 Mason St. to better serve its students and the community.

For the past two years, Sensei Lia Suzuki, the chief instructor, has taught classes at the Santa Barbara Buddhist Temple, 1015 E. Montecito St. However, it became apparent last fall that Aikido Kenkyukai had outgrown that space and a new site had to be found.

The move was made possible largely thanks to an anonymous donor who pledged $1,000, provided that the organization could raise the remaining immediate funding necessary to make the move. The additional $2,000 was raised in about three days, largely employing social media, Suzuki said.

Aikido Kenkyukai is subleasing the dojo from judo instructor Steve Hoyt, who also runs his own nonprofit martial arts group.

Aikido Kenkyukai Santa Barbara, a 501(c)(3) California nonprofit public benefit corporation, was founded by Suzuki, a sixth-degree black belt in aikido with nearly 30 years of experience in the martial art.

Suzuki said the goal of Aikido Kenkyukai Santa Barbara is to pass down the true message of aikido and to nurture a better society by creating individuals of responsibility, compassion, judgment, and character.

She teaches the “art of peace” to anyone age 3 or older. The nonprofit also runs various community projects, such as its sponsorship program for low-income and at-risk children who are given the opportunity to train in aikido.

The nonprofit organization is trying to provide South Coast residents with a path toward peace. It encourages the practice of the Japanese nonviolent martial art of aikido, promoting it as a vehicle for self-improvement and spiritual growth, as well as a harmonious way to resolve everyday stress and conflict.

She initially became interested in aikido and trained in Boston. Suzuki is a former competitive horse rider from Pennsylvania. She planned to visit Japan for a short time in 1987 and ended up finding a job as an English teacher, getting married and returning home in 1996.

“Kenkyukai” translates from Japanese to “research group,” Suzuki said. Her nonprofit group has grown steadily, as can be seen by its board members, advisory council volunteers and monetary sponsors.

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