Tuesday, September 22, 2009

AJJF Senior Professor Succession

The last couple of weeks has been difficult in the American Judo and Jujitsu Federation (AJJF). On September 10, 2009, the Senior Professor of the AJJF, Lamar N. Fisher passed away in Chico, CA. Having started his study of Jujitsu in the late 1940's with Prof. Bud Estes, Prof. Fisher has been a stalwart in the world of Jujitsu training. At his funeral the following Tuesday, he was mourned and remembered by many of his friends, family and students.

In too many instances of the passing of a martial arts leader, those who have left behind fail to act in moving ahead. While we want to wallow in our sorrows, I believe that the departed would have wished us to forge on. The AJJF has acted in a way that has paved the way for future progress. 
The weekend after Prof. Fisher's funeral, the board of Professors met on the issue of succession and issued the following statement:

American Judo & Jujitsu Federation, Inc.

Board of Professors
September 17, 2009
Subject:  Sr. Professor Succession

The American Judo & Jujitsu Federation Board of Professors announces the succession of the title ‘Sr. Professor’ upon the passing of our esteemed leader, Sr. Professor Lamar Fisher, Judan.

The successor is:  SR. PROFESSOR TOM BALL, KUDAN.

The AJJF BOP further created a Sr. Professor’s Council.  Two additional Professors will serve as advisors to the Sr. Professor. The advisors are:  
          Professor John Congistre, Kudan
          Professor Jane Carr, Hachidan

PROFESSOR HENRY S. OKAZAKI  proclaimed the advancement of Danzan Ryu through the ‘credo of the gentle way’.

Following the tradition of our Founding Fathers and preceding Professors, Sr. Professor Tom Ball will fulfill Professor Okazaki’s dream realizing:

“Leadership is the influence of others in a productive vision-driven direction and is done through the example, conviction and character of the leader”.


I applaud the actions of the AJJF Board of Professors and their decisive action.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


It is the eventual terminus for all of mankind that we enter into that long sleep. So it was with the recent passing of AJJF Senior Professor Lamar Fisher in Chico, CA. A fine tribute was given by his long-time student Prof. Geoff Lane who noted that, in his last days, Prof. Fisher wished to attend his own funeral and express his affection for everyone. Indeed, the large gathering of his friends at Prof's services recalled that love of more than sixty years of service and "had a good time."

Any time there is such a loss of a leader in our Danzan-Ryū family, several things happen. We certainly mourn the loss. We remember the one who has passed. We revisit our training under him/her. One thing that we must do, albeit sometimes uncomfortable, is to move forward with next steps. This last point is essential. In an ideal situation, the passing of a martial art leader opens a position for the next one to step in. In the past, such transitions have been handled in a variety of ways; some smooth and others not so good. 

In the past couple of decades, it has been my observation that the AJJF has developed a coherent corporate structure with well-defined policies, procedures and oversight. It would certainly be a great tribute to the memory of Prof. Fisher that this transition goes well. I suspect that it will.

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Next Generation

The year was 1993 and a special gathering was held by a group of nearly thirty people to bring a focus back to many disperse ideas. The event included a set of training sessions designed to propose the statement, "Here is the truth." Some eventually let this knowledge lapse into the annals of time, where others nurtured the seeds and harvested them into abundant fruit. At that time, I observed that those who attended that class would form the core of the next generation of Danzan-Ryu leadership. This has come to pass.

Yesterday, I had the great pleasure to attend the "Summer Slam" kata and Sumo tournament in Woodland Hills, CA. The event was sponsored by Sensei Greg Poretz and his Kenshokan Dojo. The atmosphere outside was warm (over 100 degrees) and a little overcast (smoke from the La Canada fire near Burbank). The atmosphere inside was exciting. The competition ranged from pee-wee white belts to master black belts. The competition was tight and the presentations were all enjoyable to watch.

I had come down from the bay area to this event because my two original teachers: Mike and Steve Belzer had decided to compete in this tournament. They had been two of the leading competitors in the 1970's and 80's in these types of contests and having them back on the mat after nearly 30 years was an event I could not miss. The brothers did not disappoint. Their presentation was exciting, dynamic and real. It was a true pleasure to see them perform again.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Headin' South

A couple of months ago, my original Sensei, Mike Belzer (a.k.a. Malasia Mike, a.k.a. Menkyo Mike, a.k.a. Butch the Mugger) told me that he and his brother Steve would be heading back to competition.

Many years earlier (more than forty), Steve and Mike (along with their father, Bob) had been students at the famed Penmar Judo Kai under the late James Marcinkus. While there, the brothers were well-known as laser-sharp technicians at kata competitions. They often took honors with their partners Geoff Kyron (Steve) and Dave Marcinkus (Mike) and sometimes partnering with each other. Their performances contributed to the notoriety of the Penmar dojo. But that was long ago.

When I heard that the Belzer brothers would be competing at the Kenshokan "Summer Slam" (hosted by Sensei Greg Poretz), I knew I had to be there. In fact, I plan on driving down there in the next day and attend one of their practices prior to the event. To be sure, I will have a camera or two to capture and archive images of this historic event.

For those interested in attending this contest, see the following flyer:


I hope to see you there.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mokuroku and Kaidensho e-Book

In 1993, I saw the catalog scroll (Mokuroku) given by Professor Okazaki to Sig Kufferath upon his graduation from the Kodenkan. Over the next three years, I set about the task of translating this and a couple of other scrolls. I also worked on translating the complete transmission certificate (Kaidensho) that I received at the 1993 Okugi class. (This certificate was identical to the one awarded by Professor Okazaki to a special black belt class in 1948.)  Since these documents were written in old-style Japanese, this was no easy task. Despite that I wanted to learn EXACTLY what these documents said.

In 1996, I published my book, Mokuroku and Kaidensho: The Official Documents of Danzan-Ryu Jujutsu. This book provided a line-by-line exposition of these documents including the following: 1. image of the line, 2. printed kanji version of the line, 3. Romanization of the kanji, and 4. direct translation of the line. This type of translation makes these documents accessible to anyone regardless of their knowledge of the Japanese language. This makes this a valuable book for any martial artist and an essential resource for students of Danzan-Ryu.

The current 4th edition is a vast improvement over previous versions including improved, cleaner kanji fonts, a rigorous overhaul, and new material about the Okuden and Koden techniques past those in the Mokuroku. In the new e-Book PDF format, the reader can easily search the document for any word or phrase. This is very valuable for any type of research.

I hope you will take advantage of the new discounted price of $27.00 for this updated e-Book.

Purchase it at: http://www.danzan.com/HTML/BUY/buymoku.html


Monday, August 24, 2009

Do we have enough techniques?

Teachers of Danzan-Ryū have sometimes been presented with the problem of having a student who has learned "everything". Specifically, the student has reached a level of learning where they have gone through all of the techniques for their rank. This presents the greatest difficulty when the student is a black belt at about the Nidan or Sandan level. The apparent problem is that the student will lose interest if they continuously are required to do the same arts over and over.

One way that teachers have approached this problem is to add requirements to, or "pad" their testing requirements. In some cases, this padding has come from other non-DZR martial arts (Karate, Judo, Aikido, Eskrima, or whatever.) Another way that this has happened in the past is for a teacher to create a new board and proclaim inclusion in Danzan-Ryū.

There are martial arts which contain only a handful of techniques and are very effective with their short curriculum. The proper approach (in this writer's view) is to do what the Professor laid down for us. The collection of techniques found in the boards should not leave us bored.