By GWEN MURANAKA, Rafu Senior Editor
“Kendo is my life. My life is kendo.”
Words that Arthur Murakami lived by are inscribed in bronze at a new dojo named in his honor.
More than 100 people gathered on a rainy Saturday to celebrate the dedication of the Arthur Ichiro Murakami Sensei Memorial Dojo, including members of the Murakami family and representatives of kendo dojo from throughout Southern California.
Murakami, who passed away in 2015, was the founder and chief instructor at Industry Sheriff’s Kendo Dojo. He promoted kendo locally and nationally, serving in various capacities with the Southern California Kendo Federation (SCKF) and the All United States Kendo Federation (AUSKF). In 2012, he was recognized as a Nisei Week Pioneer for his contributions to the Japanese American community.
Kids in dark blue kendo gi stood at attention as Undersheriff Tim Murakami, the second-highest-ranking officer in the Sheriff’s Department, thanked the gathering for honoring his father. Other dignitaries in attendance included Sheriff Alex Villanueva, City of Industry Mayor Corey Moss and La Puente Mayor Charlie Klinakis.
Speaking to The Rafu, Murakami said the kendo dojo was one of his father’s passions.
“It’s an honor. He dedicated his life to kendo and training kids. The dojo in downtown, the Budokan, is one of his other dreams, so this is something we didn’t expect,” Murakami said.
“My dad basically was an example of a person who was calm, poised but who was never afraid of anything. It was a good example for me. A lot of what I learned from him wasn’t what came out of his mouth but how he lived his life.”
Inside the dojo facility, a display featured Murakami’s kendo gear, including the kote worn on his hands and a well-worn bag that carried his wooden kendo shinai. Murakami held the ranks of kendo 7th dan kyoshi and iaido 6th dan and studied under Terao Mori, who emphasized forming a strong technical foundation.
The dojo facility is open to kids ages 7 to 18 and offers classes in kendo, Shorinji kempo and judo. Tom Tew, head instructor at the Industry Sheriff’s Kendo Dojo, explained that kids practice for free and are given free shinai to use. The dojo is believed to be the only one in the United States affiliated with a police or sheriff’s department.
“This is all about love and supporting our youth,” Tew said.
Murakami’s daughter, Julia, said her father especially enjoyed teaching children. She had her dad’s iPod engraved with the words that now grace the entrance to the Murakami dojo.
“He used to say if he didn’t do kendo he would die. He was very dedicated to it. He’d really be excited to see this. He liked teaching kids because it was a clean slate. In kendo they would get really inspired,” Murakami said.
After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, some of the kendo students performed a demonstration, performing a series of deft strikes and lunges with their shinai.
Showcasing more advanced-level kendo, Jonathan Leung and Noah Nakayama squared off in a shiai.
Leung studied under Murakami-sensei when he was in high school. He graduated from UC Santa Barbara and now works in environmental compliance.
“He was very humorous but he took kendo very seriously,” Leung recalled. “He always emphasized the same things: ‘Everyone was using their right hand too much, back straight,’ stuff like that. I remember him very fondly.”
“I aim to continue this as much as I can throughout my life. I think that means teaching as well.”
For more information, visit www.industrykendo.com.