We had the good fortune of connecting with Lia Suzuki and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lia, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
I simply wasn’t able to stop my art/practice of Aikido. I continued, being completely obsessed by it. Eventually it became my livelihood.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’ve always worked hard to maintain “Shoshin“ or “beginners mind“ in English. After more than 40 years practicing Aikido, I still can’t get enough. I’m never bored with it. In fact, it gets more and more interesting, the longer I do it.
So in my classes, I feel that I am exploring WITH my students, rather than lecturing them or “giving a Ted talk.“
I think this is one reason that, compared to most Aikido dojos in the USA, I have A much higher ratio of people in their 20s and 30s in my dojo.
I also encourage my students to go with me when I teach internationally. I have taught in Shanghai, Helsinki, Berlin, Sydney, and other cities around the world. When students accompany me on these trips, not only do they experience great progress in Aikido, but they make new friends around the world and get new insights that only international travel can bring you.
The path has not always been easy. During the great recession of 2008, I lost everything. We had our own dojo that we had built together. It was a beautiful, serene center.
The landlord increased our rent by 5.5 times. So suddenly we were a “nomadic dojo“, practicing in churches, parks, etc. And many of my students from that time moved away in search of work.
But eventually, I was able to rebuild.
Then in March 2020, we once again took a blow, with the coronavirus pandemic. We trained on zoom with imaginary attackers for 15 months! Finally we were able to reopen and the few students who remained gradually came back and got on the mat.
Now our joyful and intense practice has attracted more and more people in their 20s and 30s and we have rebuilt a beautiful, supportive, and vibrant dojo community.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I would take them to Griffith Park and the little outdoor café inside the park. We would also probably dedicate a day or two to go to Malibu and enjoy the outdoors. And if they were interested, we might also do a studio tour like Warner Bros., Paramount, etc.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My sensei in Japan was always so very encouraging. He could always find some positive point, delivering critiques in such a way as to make it feel the goals presented were attainable.
Other: Online Resources: https://lia-suzuki.com
Stephen Trinkle, Rick Wilkinson, Marc Falzon