On April 07, 2012, Andy Cranmer, a local man, is due to receive his first degree black belt in the Japanese martial art Aikido. The certificate will be arriving from the Aikido World Headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, which is overseen by the grandson of the founder of Aikido.
Andy trains at Santa Barbara’s premiere non-profit Aikido organization, Aikido Kenkyukai Santa Barbara (AKSB), under Lia Suzuki Sensei, a 30 year Aikido veteran who started the organization in 1999. After training in Japan, the homeland of Aikido, for almost ten years, Suzuki brought the traditional style of Aikido to the states. First, she started a dojo in Pennsylvania in 1996 then she moved to Santa Barbara where she currently resides.
Aikido is a Japanese martial art that is unique due to the fact that it is the only martial art where the practitioner not only strives to defend himself, but also to keep his attacker from harm. Aikido training therefore offers the practitioner not only great health and fitness benefits, but also opportunities for self-improvement and spiritual growth. Andy Cramner has been training with Suzuki in this martial art since 2006 and is now prepared for his shodan or first “dan.” This is the technical term for degrees of black belts. Suzuki currently holds a rank 6th dan black belt.
The Belt Ceremony will be held Saturday, April 7, 2012. It will commence at the training facility in downtown Santa Barbara with a special mixed-ages/mixed levels class. It will then continue with a traditional congratulatory “Kampai” (or toast) and a dinner reception that will be sponsored by local Japanese restaurant Sushi Teri (http://www.sushiteri.com/).
Since its transition to a non-profit, AKSB has been gaining community attention. Contributions from individuals and companies in Santa Barbara, as well as Boston, Zürich, Caracas, Tokyo, and other cities around the world have been pivotal in the continued success of AKSB. Recently a production company donated $10,000 worth of videography services to AKSB making it the first “Emperor Level” donor.
In addition to offering traditional Aikido classes to beginner through advanced levels, Suzuki Sensei has also done pioneering work by utilizing Aikido as a therapeutic vehicle for youth and adults with mental health and substance abuse issues. She is currently expanding AKSB in order to better serve the community and the organization’s mission.