Shihan Fumio Demura, the internationally revered martial arts instructor whose work earned widespread acclaim via the “Karate Kid” movies, passed away on April 24, surrounded by his family, friends, and students in Santa Ana. He was 82.
Visitation will be held Friday, May 19, from 4 to 8 p.m. at Fairhaven Memorial Park and Mortuary,1702 Fairhaven Ave., Santa Ana. Funeral services will be held from 9 to 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 20, at the same location with burial to follow.
He is survived by his sister Kinue and his nephew Sean of Santa Ana and his siblings Teruo, Yukio, Mitsue and Nobuo in Japan. He was predeceased by his parents.
Demura, the founder of Shito-Ryu Genbu-Kai, was a highly respected and world-renowned karatedo, kobudo, and batto-do instructor. He was a mentor and friend to many across the world.
Born on Sept. 15, 1940, in Yokohama, he began training in karate and kendo at the age of 9 under Asano Sensei. At the age of 12, he started training under Ryusho Sakagami in Itosukai karate. He received his 1st dan black belt in 1956.
In 1959, while at Nihon University in Tokyo, where he received a bachelor’s degree in economics, Demura developed a special interest in kobudo, including the use of weapons (bo, nunchaku, kama, sai, eku bo, tonfa) under the direction of Taira Shinken.
Demura’s reputation as a martial arts champion was secured in 1961, when he won the All-Japan Karate Freestyle Tournament, and was rated as one of Japan’s top eight competitors for the next three years. His many tournament wins included the East Japan Championship, the Shito-Ryu Annual Championship, and the Kanto District Championship.
Demura met martial arts scholar Donn Draeger, who introduced him to Dan Ivan. It was Ivan who helped bring Demura to the U.S. in 1965 as an instructor of Shito-Ryu karate and Okinawan kobudo.
Demura performed karate demonstrations at Japanese Village & Deer Park in Buena Park for many years. He was featured on the cover of Black Belt Magazine nine times. He authored numerous karate and kobudo books, magazine articles, and DVDs. He was inducted into the Martial Arts History Museum Hall of Fame in 1999, was inducted into Black Belt Magazine’s Hall of Fame twice and received the magazine’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
The museum released a statement, saying, “Sensei is without a doubt one of the greatest icons and pioneers of the martial arts. He was a man of great honor and one of the greatest ambassadors for karate in America and throughout the world.”
In the 1980s, Demura became involved in the “Karate Kid” franchise. He was the stunt double for Pat Morita, who played Mr. Miyagi. “Karate Kid” screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen stated that Miyagi was named after Chōjun Miyagi, the founder of the Goju-ryu karate style, and that Demura was one of the inspirations for the character.
In addition to the first film in 1984, Demura appeared in “The Karate Kid Part III” (1989) and “The Next Karate Kid” (1994). Demura was also the subject of the 2015 documentary “The Real Miyagi” and appeared in several other films, including “The Warrior Within” (1976), “The Island of Dr. Moreau” (1977), “Rising Sun” (1993), “Mortal Kombat” (1995), “Masters of the Martial Arts” (1998), “XMA: Extreme Martial Arts” (2003), and “Ninja” (2009) as well as the TV series “Walker, Texas Ranger.”
He was also technical advisor for several movies, including the soon-to-be-released series “Shogun.”
The books that he authored include “Shito-Ryu Karate” (1971), “Advanced Nunchaku” (co-author, 1976) “Tonfa: Karate Weapon of Self-Defense” (1982), “Nunchaku: Karate Weapon of Self-Defense” (1986), “Bo: Karate Weapon of Self-Defense” (1987), and “Sai: Karate Weapon of Self-Defense” (1987).
A tribute from Black Belt Magazine reiterated his impact on the world through karate: “Sensei Demura was a well-established figure in Japanese karate; but his desire to spread the art extended beyond one country. In 1965, he moved to America and became one of the first true teachers in the United States of Shito-Ryu karate, as well as Okinawan kobudo.
“He taught and inspired thousands of students and served as a model of what a martial artist should strive to be, in training and in life.”
Demura received the All-Japan Karate Federation President’s Trophy for outstanding tournament play and was awarded certificates of recognition from Japanese Cabinet officials for his contributions to the art of karate. He was captain of the U.S.-Japan Goodwill Championships of 1972 and a member of the Amateur Athletic Union national technical committee. He was on the board of the International Martial Arts Federation, chairman and president of the Japan Karate Federation International, and chief instructor and president of Shito-Ryu Karate-Do Genbu-Kai International.
In 2019, he was presented with the Foreign Minister’s Commendation from the Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles for his outstanding achievements.
Demura was presented the rank of 10th dan in 2022.
“Shihan Demura was a real karate sensei,” his family said in a statement. “He was loved by many martial arts practitioners, particularly his students. He exemplified the true meaning of being a karateka, as he traveled throughout the world teaching and sharing his knowledge. He was down to earth and loved to spend time with family, martial artists, and friends. He brought smiles to people’s faces with his gift of origami creations. One of his favorite pastimes was fishing.
“Shihan Demura was an incredible human being and made a great impact on millions of people around the world throughout his lifetime. He will be dearly missed by all.”
In the 90’s I gave Sensei Demura a tour of L.A. in one of my police helicopers at night and he loved it. We took his place in the Hilton Beni Hana Village restaurants Karate and Samauri shows for 6 months. He was a good man and consumate martial artist. RIP Sensei Demura