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Monday, February 18 , 2019, 1:37 pm | A Few Clouds 57º


Fun, Fundraising All Rolled into One at Aikido Kenkyukai Santa Barbara

Kids and adults unite in a Roll-a-Thon to help the dojo find a new home.

Aikido Kenkyukai Santa Barbara students were ready to roll all night long.
Aikido Kenkyukai Santa Barbara students were ready to roll all night long. (Denise Wior photo)

When Aikido Kenkyukai Santa Barbara was forced to move in mid-2007, it could have been the death of the dojo. But nearly two years later, operating out of temporary quarters on the Lower Eastside, Lia Suzuki and her students are just as motivated and united as an inspiring part of the Santa Barbara community.

The nonprofit organization held a Roll-a-Thon last week in the hopes of raising money for a new dojo, or training hall. The group has been without a permanent home since it lost its Lower State Street location when the rent was increased by more than five times. After regrouping and reorganizing, adult class members came together at the Veterans’ Memorial Building, 112 W. Cabrillo Blvd., and urged Suzuki to return as the head instructor. Now the group is located at the Buddhist Church of Santa Barbara, 1015 E. Montecito St.

Tuesday’s fundraiser, much like Aikido Kenkyukai Santa Barbara, was a community effort — children set up soda and pizza, while instructors set up the training mats. Parents recorded time, grandparents and friends donated to the cause, all while kids rolled for more than an hour. Although it seemed the students’ energy could have lasted late into the night, the instructors finally called it quits around 7 p.m., leaving time for a quick explanation of aikido.

Aikido, “the art of peace,” is a way of resolving conflict through the physical medium of the body. Aikido focuses on breathing and one’s ability to stay grounded and think forward. This, along with its specific techniques, enables one to see from different perspectives, create possibilities, and make the best decision on the next course of action, Suzuki explained.

“I try to draw parallels between what goes on here and what goes on in my life,” Suzuki said. It is this relevance of aikido training in every day life that makes AKSB so valuable to so many of its members.

Adults took the fall, too.
Adults took the fall, too. (Denise Wior photo)
Linda Placencia, Aikido Kenkyukai Santa Barbara’s administrator, says the organization would like to serve the community’s at-risk youth with this philosophy, but it needs a dojo to do so. The biggest problem is not having a permanent place to store the mats required for each training session. Surprisingly heavy, the rice and straw mats need to be taken out and put away for every class. This not only tears down the expensive equipment but poses problems for the children with allergies.

Suzuki said she had three goals for the Roll-a-Thon:

» Further strengthen the bond within the group.

» Educate the public about the benefits of Aikido.

» Raise enough funds to pay off the legal fees associated with starting up the nonprofit organization, meet the current operational costs and put money toward a facility Aikido Kenkyukai Santa Barbara can call its own.

“This gave us a chance to show the public a little about the peaceful aspects of aikido and how it’s different from other arts,” Suzuki said. “And having the adults work with the kids pulled those groups (which usually don’t train together) closer and formed a special bond.

“Also, every time we perform in front of the public the kids especially get more confidence and self esteem, which is another major goal of aikido training.”

A pause for a photo opportunity before the controlled mayhem begins.
A pause for a photo opportunity before the controlled mayhem begins. (Denise Wior photo)
Even with all Aikido Kenkyukai Santa Barbara has been through in the past two years, its members are still dedicated to keeping it running. Suzuki reflected on how humbled she was to find so many of her students patiently waiting for her classes to resume, a year after she was forced to close the doors. Placencia spoke about the extra time parents put into setting up the mats for every class, just so their children can participate.

So why all the work?

Marliese Hirsch says it’s because of the life lessons Aikido Kenkyukai Santa Barbara has taught her 12-year-old grandson, Spencer. She says it has been a way of “collecting aggression in a positive, beautiful way that has meaning.”

Francesca, age 12, says it has been a way of gaining confidence through a strong sense of community.

“Whenever I get something wrong, I don’t feel embarrassed like I sometimes get in school,” she said. “(The other students) have been helping me, and I’ve been helping them.”

Still, perhaps the best reason to enroll your child in Aikido Kenkyukai Santa Barbara is for the sheer fun of it. Watching her 3-year-old son roll himself silly, one mom couldn’t help but shout out loud, “He’s having so much fun!” And after all, isn’t that worth it?

Click here to make a tax-deductible donation or to get more information on Aikido Kenkyukai Santa Barbara.

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