Events will honor karate master with ‘Karate Kid’ connections, famous students

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When you’ve taught as long as Fumio Demura, you get elaborate anniversary parties. And distinguished guests.

The 76-year-old karate master, who runs the Shito-Ryu Karate-Do Genbu-Kai International dojo across the street from Santa Ana College, will celebrate a half-century of teaching in Orange County this weekend. Saturday evening, friends and former students will join him for a banquet at the Hilton Orange County/Costa Mesa — and, given his resume, there may be a household name or two.

“I did the 25th anniversary, and Pat Morita, Chuck Norris, they came over,” Demura said at his dojo last week. “And I thought I’d never make 50. Then I made it.”


Among martial artists with Hollywood connections, Demura has a privileged place. He served as Morita’s stunt double in the “Karate Kid” movies, in which Morita played the philosophical karate instructor Mr. Miyagi. He worked with Hilary Swank on “The Next Karate Kid,” before she was a two-time Oscar-winner. Norris, Bruce Lee and Steven Seagal rank among his students.

Filmmaker Kevin Derek, the founder of the Irvine International Film Festival, recently completed the documentary “The Real Miyagi,” about Demura’s life and career. And this weekend, the karate master is being feted by another longtime admirer: Susan Nakamura, his assistant, who has coordinated four days of events in his honor.

“Sensei Demura genuinely is a presence across America and around the world,” Nakamura said. “He genuinely cares about people and he’s been a force in countless lives, and we love him.”

The festivities were set to begin Thursday with a black-belt seminar at the dojo. Saturday and Sunday will feature a series of competitions in the Costa Mesa High School gym, while two screenings of “The Real Miyagi” are planned for Friday at the Anaheim GardenWalk’s UltraStar Cinemas.

As Nakamura noted, that “real Miyagi” status has earned Demura quite a bit of attention over the years. And it took quite a few years, starting in modest circumstances, to get there.

When Demura moved to Orange County in 1965, he converted a two-car garage into a dojo and led karate demonstrations in the area. His business surged, he recalled, when Lee’s action film “Enter the Dragon” became a smash hit in 1973 and led to crowds around the dojo.

“I’m teaching on the inside, and outside, people are practicing,” Demura said.

Among those who came to practice was Jacki Long, who began as a student in the 1970s and helped teach the children’s classes after her daughter enrolled. Long went on to teach karate for decades in Costa Mesa and still leads classes at Demura’s dojo.

This weekend, she plans to enjoy the festivities in her mentor’s honor.

“He’s magic with kids,” Long said. “And he makes learning really fun. I had taught public school a long time before that, but I learned so much from watching him.”

If You Go

What: 50th anniversary celebration for Fumio Demura

Where: Assorted locations in Orange County; see website for full calendar

When: Feb. 19 through 22

Cost: Varies by event

Information: (714) 543-5550 or