The real Mr. Miyagi folds 5,000 origami cranes to symbolize healing

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Friday, March 13, 2020
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At first, Sensei Fumio Demura, the persona Pat Morita took on for "The Karate Kid," couldn't fold a single crane. But over time, he worked hard to fold over 5,000 cranes as a part of recovering from great adversity.

SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- Sensei Fumio Demura is a martial arts legend. The proof is all over his training facility in Santa Ana, but most notably in the 2015 documentary "The Real Miyagi," which reveals how actor Pat Morita took on Demura's persona as Mr. Miyagi in "The Karate Kid," including the famous wax on, wax off technique.

"Forty seven years ago, I start teaching kids by washing my car," said Demura.

He's also known for teaching Bruce Lee to use nunchucks. When Demura was doing a nunchuck demonstration, he says Lee came over to introduce himself and even studied from Demura's book.

Femio was key to bringing karate to the U.S. and then spreading it worldwide. But in recent years, he's been teaching persistence after suffering a subdural hematoma nine years ago, leaving him incapacitated.

"I was five days coma and doctor said 95% cannot survive. But somehow I wake up. But then I tried to get up and I can't move my leg and I come home and my arms and my legs, can't move," he said.

With his martial arts family worldwide torn to pieces, he knew he had to get better. To gain his strength back, he says he would go to his dojo facility every day and strike the top of the door over and over again with a wooden sword and rubber band attached.

He also has kidney problems and does dialysis every day, which gave him time to work on his motor skills through a favorite pastime, origami.

"Nothing to do in 10 hours so, I cut the piece of paper and then I make origami," he said.

At first, he couldn't fold a single crane. But over time, he worked hard to eventually uphold a highly respected Japanese tradition of folding a thousand origami cranes as part of recovering from great adversity. Fumio went above and beyond folding 5,000 cranes. Now, he passes them out to people he meets.

"Makes everybody smile. That's why I like it, yea," Demura said.

Sensei carries the cranes wherever he goes. When he sees kids, he hands them three cranes attached. The two on the ends symbolize the parents. The one in the middle is the child. He tells them to turn around and follow their parents.

"My message is, whatever you do, don't give up. Always you can find a way."