My name is Helen and I’m here to represent the Hsu family, who have known and loved Sensei Furuya for more than 30 years of blessed friendship, and all of us who had the privilege to know Sensei’s complexities personally.
I’m humbled to stand before you and try to do any justice to Sensei’s legacy. Initially, our lives came together because of martial arts, where Sensei’s renowned reputation and quality writing speak for themselves. But beyond his credentials and great accomplishments, he became a family member to us. When I told my Dad the sad news of Sensei’s passing, he was incredibly sad. Everywhere my Father or Sensei went, anywhere in the world, they would think of one another and send packages across the oceans: books, tea, calligraphy supplies--recently Sensei even sent European cheeses all the way to Taipei. Together they would lament the compromises in quality of martial arts these days, to a depth only they could truly understand. My father’s latest book has just been published, with a very special dedication to Sensei Furuya, for years of sincere encouragement and countless hours of careful editing and enthusiasm. My father sends his deepest regrets to miss this service as he is caring for my fragile grandmother in Taiwan.
When I told my mother of Sensei’s passing, she said, (sigh): “See jie you sao luh ee guy tuh bieh ren zhong luh,” or : “The world has lost another of these special kinds of people.” Indeed.
When I told my brother, he said, “Wow, that is really sad.” and we agreed that Sensei was like a really fun and Japanese version of our father, if one can imagine such a thing!
A friend once said that it is technically incorrect for me to refer to him as “Sensei.” After all, I was never accepted as a dojo student. I have never focused and trained my way up the Dan ranks. But over the years he taught a great deal through thoughtful example. When I moved to Los Angeles for college in 1992, and for graduate training in 2000, I lived under the protection of an “L.A. Dad” at the dojo.
Sensei gave me the Daruma which resided on my desk for five years--until I could color in that last black eye at the completion of my Doctoral degree. When I opened my own practice, a beautiful Japanese scroll was the first gift to arrive and bless the therapeutic space, much like the three exquisitely beautiful scrolls he donated to my nonprofit Asian Community mental health services--where he was happy to learn his scrolls had set off a series of heated bidding wars at the charity auction.
I’ve taken a few quotes from Sensei’s e-mail correspondence with me, that seem quite relevant today. Early this year, January 1, 2007 to be exact, he was extending his support to me regarding my grandmother’s ill health. He wrote:
Once a priest was invited to conduct the funeral service for a family, and the head of the family invited him to write something to console all of the family members. He wrote, "Grandpa dies, Father dies, Child dies." When everyone saw this, they were enraged at the priest for writing something so awful and horrible but the priest explained, "This follows the natural order of things so it is really a ‘blessing’ that our lives go as they should.”
It is only too sad when this order is altered or changed. . .
How does one convey the complexities of a man so firmly in many worlds? An old-fashioned brow beating teacher, the funny man who would cover his mouth and giggle, who was the same man who could knock you over with a disapproving look? Sensei was a man who could diligently study calligraphy or tea ceremony for hours, and then go out for lamb risotto and crack up over really awful kung fu movies. He reported to me how funny it was that he and his Aikido students celebrated Chinese New Year at Canter’s Jewish deli. He took us out for the most elegant dinners but was also comfortable at Aunt Kizzy’s Back Porch where they added him to their wall of celebrities.
Furuya Sensei could be prone to blunt words and sharp criticisms, yet was still a big softy in his heart; who would fret, and worry, and make plans, and buy gifts for people…even while complaining about them. He would be so thrilled at all the wonderful and fascinating people here this evening, who best represent all the diverse ways he touched and influenced lives literally all over the world. And like an authentic Aikido master, he did this without force.
I hope Sensei’s stubborn dedication to preserve the integrity of Aikido, and of Little Tokyo, will live on and flourish in us all. On Jan 27th, 2007, He wrote me:
As long as you love your work - keep working! Despite the fact that I will never be a "success" in the common usage of this word, I love my work, and I will continue to work my head off until I bite the dust.
We are saddened to lose the companionship and guidance of this generous soul. But I am glad Sensei Furuya is free from all the stress and suffering of this life, and it is in the natural order of things, that I, that we can be here to mourn him. I am deeply grateful that he was able to pass his last moments surrounded by the art and the students he cherished, in the beautiful dojo he built.