Rev. Kensho Furuya (center) demonstrates a defense move with students, including Ken Watanabe and James Doi (left), in the mid-1990s. (Photos courtesy Aikido Center of Los Angeles)

A dance benefit for the Furuya Foundation and the Aikido Center of Los Angeles will be held at Pasadena Buddhist Temple, 1993 Glen Ave., Pasadena, on Saturday, Nov. 4.  Doors open at 5 p.m., dinner starts at 5:30 p.m. and dancing is from 6:30 to 10 p.m.

The event-filled evening will feature the Kokoro band, playing oldies, disco, rock, soul and contemporary dance music. Line dance lessons will be taught during the breaks. There will be door prizes and opportunity drawings throughout the evening.

Net proceeds and donations will go towards the continuance of Rev. Kensho Furuya’s teachings, and to hold true to his path of what aikido was meant to be — a true martial art and the perpetuation of the Japanese culture.

This is the sixth benefit for the Furuya Foundation, but the first since the start of the COVID pandemic in 2019. Fundraising has been essential to the survival of a brick-and-mortar, in-person dojo. In advance, we thank those who have committed to attend the event and/or have made donations.

For more information, contact Carol Tanita at (626) 487-6226 or

A Traditional Dojo in a Modern World

The Aikido Center of Los Angeles is a traditional martial arts school that teaches the Japanese arts of aikido and iaido. Aikido was developed by Morihei Ueshiba and its goal is for its practitioners to be able to defend themselves but also at the same time protect their attackers from injury. Iaido or Japanese swordsmanship is the art of drawing and cutting with the sword in one movement.

The Aikido Center of Los Angeles interior is decorated in shoin-zukuri style, which features aesthetics like a tokonoma or traditional alcove, sliding doors, and tatami floors. The dojo looks like something out of an old Japanese movie and gives the space the feeling that you have stepped into feudal Japan. The dojo was founded in 1974 by Rev. Kensho Furuya.

Rev. Furuya founded the Aikido Center of Los Angeles in 1974. Right photo: Watanabe receives his shihan designation from the Aikido World Headquarters this fall.

Rev. Furuya was an ordained Zen priest who started his martial arts training when he was eight years old in 1956. He got his first black belt in kendo at age 10 and his black belt in aikido at age 16. Born Daniel Masami Furuya in Pasadena, he was the only son of Tetsuo “Ted” and Kimiye Furuya, who were both Nisei incarcerated at Heart Mountain in Wyoming. Furuya Sensei’s father was also a member of E Company of the 442nd Regimental Combat team during World War II.

Furuya Sensei was a direct student of the founder of aikido’s son, second Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba, and trained at the world headquarters in 1969. At the time of his passing in 2007, Furuya Sensei was a sixth-degree black belt in aikido and a sixth-degree black belt kiyoshi in Muso Shinden-ryu iaido.

Rev. Furuya was no stranger in Little Tokyo. He worked for 20-plus years for the Bank of Tokyo, and the Aikido Center of Los Angeles was located in the heart of the Arts District just east of Little Tokyo for over 30 years. The members of the dojo have participated in Nisei Week demonstrations and in many other activities in and around Los Angeles. 

Unfortunately, as the Arts District became gentrified, the building the dojo was in was sold. Thus the dojo had to relocate to the east part of Chinatown near the historic grove section. The area has greatly gentrified, and although the heart of the dojo is still in Little Tokyo and we would like to move back, we remain in Chinatown “for now.”

Furuya Sensei wanted his dojo to be a place where people could come and learn about Japanese culture. He felt that Japanese Americans were losing their cultural identity and heritage and that one of the best ways for not only Japanese Americans but also people of all ethnicities to experience Japanese culture was by learning a traditional martial art like aikido.

Watanabe in the late 1990s being thrown at a festival demonstration.

Japanese culture is not something that can be obtained; it is a way of life that is centered around traditions that date back thousands of years. Understanding the difficulties in learning Japanese culture, that is why Furuya Sensei thought that studying a traditional martial art was the best way to learn all the aspects of Japanese culture without having to actually live in Japan.

Furuya Sensei died suddenly in 2007, and since then the dojo’s biggest struggle has been trying to stay true to his vision of teaching aikido as a traditional Japanese art. Traditional martial arts like aikido, tea ceremony, or calligraphy are a way of life. Aikido is not something that one can experience just once. Like culture, for something to impact one’s life, it needs to become a practice.

Recently, one of the dojo’s long-time students, Nisei Ken Watanabe, was promoted to shihan or “master teacher” by the Aikido Foundation, Aikido World Headquarters in Tokyo. Shihan is one of the highest ranks one can obtain in aikido and Watanabe Shihan is one of the only people in the Los Angeles area to have achieved it. He has been practicing aikido since 1988 and was Furuya Sensei’s assistant for 17 years. He is a sixth-degree black belt in aikido and a fifth-degree black belt in Muso Shinden-ryu iaido.

Watanabe Shihan said, “Japanese culture is about being more selfless. Learning aikido has taught me to be a less selfish person because in the martial arts and Japanese culture, we always put the other person before ourselves. Furuya Sensei would never get mad at me because I didn’t do the technique correctly. He would always get mad at me whenever I was being selfish.”

To Watanabe Shihan, instead of just learning about Japanese etiquette and culture in a book, in our dojo, we practiced it with our body, mind, and spirit. In this way a traditional martial art like aikido can teach us more than just self-defense techniques.

Today, the Aikido Center of Los Angeles is the only dojo that has konin or direct affiliation with world headquarters in Japan. Currently, the dojo is headed by Yonsei David Ito and next year, the dojo will be celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Ito Sensei said, “50 years is just a short stop on the path. Our goal each and every year is to figure out how to become better at teaching aikido and show others the beauty and benefits of Japanese culture.” 

At Furuya Sensei’s passing in 2007, the dojo formed a nonprofit whose goal is to continue his work by providing traditional instruction in the arts of aikido and iaido as well as supporting the cultural and social benefits of Japanese culture and its art forms.

The dojo has a monthly newsletter, “The Aiki Dojo,” which features articles, excerpts and teachings from Rev. Furuya’s book and writings. Others are written by Chief Instructor Ito, Watanabe Shihan, and instructors and members from the dojo and its affiliates. We also have “The Aiki Dojo” podcast, a daily message board and one-minute aikido technique. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook @aikidocenterla or @teacher.aikido.

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