Eight young students will be promoted in a belt ceremony at 2:45 p.m. Dec. 17 at Aikido Kenkyukai Santa Barbara, 121A E. Mason St.

Aikido Kenkyukai Santa Barbara, a 501(c)(3) California nonprofit public benefit corporation, was founded by “sensei,” or teacher, Lia Suzuki, a sixth-degree black belt in aikido with nearly 30 years of experience in the martial art. Suzuki’s dojo is on Mason Street in Santa Barbara’s “Funk Zone.”

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

Suzuki said her nonprofit organization is providing 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.

Suzuki 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.

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.

She visited Santa Barbara in 1990 and was taken with the South Coast. She taught at YMCAs in Pennsylvania for a while, and then decided to return to Santa Barbara. About that time, she reached her fourth-degree black belt.

“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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— Lia Suzuki is the founder and teacher of Aikido Kenkyukai Santa Barbara.