Growing up during the 60's and the Cold War, I recall vividly images of Khrushchev pounding his fist at the United Nations. His motorcade actually drove by my house in Pittsburgh during a rare visit to the U.S. Then there was the infamous Cuban Missile Crisis which created fear in my mind for our very own survival.

In addition to judo, I was a hobbyist (perhaps a nerd) into photography with a darkroom, and an avid shortwave radio listener. Radio Havana Cuba was easy to pick up back in 1968. I enjoyed their music plus the propaganda they sprouted was a glimpse for me on how communist block viewed world events.

Goltz electronics

When I started Goltz Judo of Claremont, California in 1988 my fascination with Cuba came full circle. Among the first people registered in the class was Orestes Joaquin (OJ) Soler a seasoned judoka who's family defected here in 1964 from Cuba following their revolution. OJ and I have grown to become best friends.

Goltz and Horiuchi

Me with (the late Keigi Horiuchi) and OJ Soler in 1988 & 2007


OJ Soler circa 1960 with his dojo teammates in Havana Then In 2012, I got to go to Cuba with OJ including a stop at their National Olympic Judo Training Center. We also visited the town of Trinidad where OJ was born including a stop at the church where he was and baptized. Here are some photos of the highlights taken over the last decade.

Cuban Judoka

Over the years many more Cubans entered my life through judo. They have become friends and colleagues such as USA Judo Board Member, Gerry Navarro and Johnny Prado who has been picked to coach the US Olympic Judo Team in Tokyo.

Cuban martial artists

Left: Pedro Kolychkine, OJ, and Larry Labrador

Middle: Me, Pedro Fleitas, and Humberto Becerra

Right: Ruperto Arteaga and me

Judoka in Cuba

Left: Amarilis Savon with Humberto at a clinic they did at our friend Jovany Varela's Dojo in Torrence, CA

Right: OJ, Cuba's famous Coach Ronaldo Veitia and me at Cuba's National Olympic Training Center

Martial artists in casual wear

Left: Me with Osmil (Os) Milan

Middle: Me and Hector Estevez at the Leon Medical Clinic

Right: Me with Jose Rodriguez

Martial artists in Cuba

Left: Delcides Diaz, OJ, me & the late Luis Guardia

Right: Me, Israel Hernandez & OJ

Recently Sergio Sanchez wrote a heartfelt essay on the meaning of judo in his life. Sergio runs the Ryoku Judo Dojo in Las Vegas that has been a powerful force at tournaments both on a local and national level. His history starting judo as a young shy kid is remarkably similar to mine. I appreciate his willingness to allow me to share his memoirs with you in by blog this week.

The Meaning of Judo in My Life

Goltz meaning of Judo

By Sergio Sanchez, 5th Dan

Judo is an important part of my life. Many years ago (I am getting old), I discovered judo and my life changed forever.

Today I asked myself why I love judo and I found many answers. I started as a student, years later I decided to teach judo and I got my two boys involved in the art. So I am a Judoka, a Sensei and a Judo Parent!

As a judoka, my life changed when I started judo. I was a shy, lonely kid that got in trouble for fighting sometimes. After judo, I discovered a new world

Old Judo Class

I made new friends, I was part of a special group of people ( not everybody can be a judoka), I was part of a team, won and lost matches, won medals, I celebrated my victories and cried with my defeats, I trained like crazy, felt buckets of sweat coming out my pores, I bled and got some broken bones (check out my fingers) and make sacrifices. But I know what judo gives me (notice I didn't write gave me) goes beyond all that.

Judo made me a better person, taught me to face the obstacles I found in my life ( too many ) without hesitation and never giving up. Judo made me stronger physically and mentally. Many times I fell and I always got up and kept fighting (I am not talking about judo matches; these are easy compare with the battles life puts in front of you). Judo gave me discipline and perseverance. Judo gave me an excellent self-defense art and gave me confidence. Judo gave me a new life.

Judo taught me that "Surrender" is not part of my vocabulary and that I will always be a JUDOKA.

As a judo parent, Judo gave me two boys that make proud every day not because they have great Judo and win medals ( they do ) but because their discipline, dedication and perseverance in life is something incredible. Thanks to judo they are great students and excellent human beings. They live the judo lifestyle and love it!

Group picture judo

If I wasn't a Judoka, I will still get my two boys to Judo every day, for sure!!

As a judo sensei, I learned a lot and had a lot of rewards. Fortunately, my students perform well in tournaments and win medals and trophies, but that is not it.

Nothing compares to having a skinny shy girl joining your Dojo because she is being bullied and feels insecure, everybody is picking on her and calling her names. Behind her hair she hides a sweet face and all her insecurities.

Months later she is part of the group of judokas that train hard, she makes new friends and wins a Gold Medal in a National Tournament.

Now, she walks straight, smiles all the time and can't stop talking!! You've got to love this!!

Or the overweight boy with no athletic abilities that had trouble performing the easiest exercises or drills, he had difficulties keeping his balance and staying up.

But he worked hard without missing a day and one day he won his first medal and his smile filled my heart, his Dad celebrated like his son won the Olympics!

Love it!!!

Same kid a year later won a Silver Medal on his first National and..... more celebration! Way to go Champ!!! Priceless!!!

Judo Competition

I have many more examples of success but it will take a lot of pages and time.

Thanks to judo, I can change lives, educate and help other people. Thanks to judo I can have fun while doing all this. Thanks to judo, I see my students become better people, go to college, become pilots or doctors, great human beings.

Thanks to judo I feel proud and happy for them! Judo is not just a lifestyle, but to me it is a GIFT.

Judo teacher with students

I can't understand why people stop doing Judo or why sometimes parents allow their children to get lazy or find excuses not to bring them to the Dojo, I guess they have no idea the benefits of judo and how judo can help them in the future.

That is the reason it hurts when they lose a match, cry, get hurt or they get in trouble. It is also a great feeling when they win and they raise a trophy or wear a medal on their chest. But losing a student is the worst feeling, it is hard to understand why they walked away from judo.

They are a part of my life; you have to be a Sensei to understand and I hope everybody understands that no sports or activities can compare to judo or Martial Arts.

Judo is a GIFT....don't throw it away!!

Judo team

Thank you to all my judo students, friends, family for being part of my life.

- Sergio Sanchez

Footnote: Sergio urges everyone to support this online petition to liberate Cuba!

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Two-Time Black Belt Hall of Famer Hayward Nishioka has been campaigning for judo in the United States to harvest more shodans (1st degree black belts) Shodan literally means student. It's analogous to being a freshman in college. It's not the end but the beginning according to Jigoro Kano, the Founder of Judo.

A very dear friend and sensei of mine the late Allen Johnson, may he rest in peace made a home at Emerald City Judo. In Redmond, Washington.

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Destinee Tartuffe

My friend Destinee Tartuffe a 4th dan and Head Sensei at Good Time Judo in Santa Rosa, CA has always been a pioneer and developer in all her life endeavors. She first took over the judo program at Santa Rosa Junior Collegestarted by my old friend Terry Kelly upon his retirement then went on to complete getting her law degree, JD.

Recently Destinee contacted me about a new training tool she’s invented. Upon my investigation, I was so impressed with this product that I asked her to write something about it for this week’s Black Belt Blog.
Judo Equipment

Members of Good Time Judo using Judo Jaime Training Tools.

As judo practitioners we know judo is an exciting dynamic Olympic or recreational sporting activity that offers social interaction, stress relief, and tons of fun. However, we also know that judo can be a dangerous, and potentially deadly activity when used for self-defense or when not practiced safely.

For all the fun and benefit that judo provides an enthusiast it seems to be the world’s best kept secret from the general populace. My coach and mentor taught me that judo is an inclusive, not an exclusive activity. So, I look for ways to get more people interested.

One of the biggest issues relates to the very idea of inclusiveness, which for me translates to one dojo cannot be everything to everybody. The age old saying jack of all trades, and master of none comes to mind.

Recently, I watched YouTube videos of three respected Judo coaches discussing the state of Judo in the United States. One of their common observations is that students who come to train with them lack the fundamental skills which would allow them to actually help those students reach a level of Judo expertise whereby the student could compete at an elite level of competition.

While I was disappointed to hear their dire opinions, they were similar to what I was experiencing in my college classroom. Honestly, I have been concerned for many years about how to continue when so many of the students come to class with an attitude of being a “super ninja” when in actuality they are often uncoordinated and seemingly unwilling to follow even the simplest of instructions. This creates a situation or environment where “bullies” prevail, injures occur, and students are lost. This attitude seems a direct conflict to the principle of Mutual Benefit and Welfare, and it made me think about hanging up my judogi.

Then, COVID caused programs to close, but as a college Judo instructor I was tasked with creating an online curriculum for my students and doing so within one week! I knew my students did not have the proper safety equipment in their homes to continue with the rolls and falls that we were practicing in class. We spent the last eight weeks finishing out the semester via Zoom class. I found the biggest challenge to be communicating to the student how they needed to correct their postures, or their ability to visualize the skill and apply my instructions for any given lesson.

The last night of class of had a vision of how these issues could be addressed. That’s when I created the Fundamental Directional Movement Mat and a Proximity Training Device that I call Judo Jaime: Your Training Uke. These tools can be used together or separately. The benefits conferred to the user by using the tools together can greatly excel the beginning students understanding of the application of Judo.

These tools are not just for beginners, it is important for even the most experienced judoka to review the fundamental movements regularly. Think about it there are pre-arranged forms (katas) that specifically address movement!

The Fundamental Directional Movement Mat is a durable vinyl mat with an elliptical design (mapping the movement of the Judoka in the plane of applied Judo). The instructor whether in-person or in an online class can assist the student by directing them to orient either along the horizontal or vertical 180 degree lines, which are also used to demonstrate and solidify 90 degree turns/pivots that are important to the fundamental movements for application of Judo. The mat also has indicators for the student to see the 45 degree angle of technique application easier.

Judo Jaime: Your Training Uke is a proximity training device that allows beginning Judoka to develop the proper posture and understanding of the proximity for applying judo techniques without the resistance, frustration, or fear that working with a partner initially brings. My years of teaching adults have shown me that despite what the student says, they often approach contact with another with fear and the mistaken belief that over-powering or resisting their partner is the proper thing to do; however, one-half the goal of Judo is that someone falls down! With Judo Jaime the student has the opportunity to develop the confidence and skills to make an actual attack when they are ready to engage with a person.

The device weighs no more than five pounds and is approximately 53” in height (when assembled). It is easily transportable and fun to use vs. the usual training dummies which are awkward, heavy and unsafe to use without proper instruction or direct supervision. While either product can be used alone we recommend using the tools together. This allows the student to fine-tune visualization skills and apply techniques, here again, without resistance from a partner. The student will develop an understanding and integration of the techniques for proper response timing more quickly.

The Fundamental Directional Movement Mat and Instructional material is copyrighted by Destar Productions, Inc.

Judo Jaime: Your Training Uke is a proximity training device with a patent pending by Destar Productions, Inc. For questions regarding orders and other product descriptions email Destinee Tartuffe at or visit our online store directly.

Judo Jamie

Judo Jaime

Fundamental Direction Training Mat

Fundamental Training Mat

Good Time Judo Outdoor workout with Judo Jaime

Outdoor Judo Jaime2

Judo training Without a Partner/ Introduction of Training Tools for Standing

This video introduces some new training tools for practicing, maintaining and gaining skills for application of Judo technique.Be sure to check out the Demon...

Demonstration of Judo Jaime: Your Training Uke

Demonstration of Judo Jaime: Your Training UkeBe sure to check out our video Judo training while social distancing.

I’m always looking for new subjects to write about regarding judo as well as contributions from my readers. Please send them to, thanks.

Gary Goltz
Xiaolin Gruv
Photo Courtesy: Carmichael Simon

Title Image: XiaolinGruv Masters 2005 : Nigel Bolton, Carmichael Simon, Kory Watkins, Anthony Gooch, and Jeriel Bey

During the 1980s as BBoys (Breakers), Poppers, and Lockers share their creative spirits within the New York City transit line, Los Angeles nightlife, and media platforms such as Soul Train, we travel a few miles from Bruce Lee’s nostalgic school where the “Arts & Soul” of Oakland, California harmonize. Orchestrating the culture of their roots, heritage of movement, and diversity of social economics, we find the Alice Arts Center.

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