Hal Sharp

On Sunday, March 21, 2021, we lost Harold E. Sharp, Hal to his friends and Sharp Sensei to the many judokas lives he touched over his 70+ years of involvement in Judo.

Sharp Sensei was approaching his 94th birthday. He passed away peacefully at home and is survived by his wife Joan Joanie, son Richard, and daughters Kary, Denise, and Lisa. Last November, the Nanka Judo Yudanshakai (the SoCal Judo Association) recognized by Jigoro Kano in 1930, bestowed judo's highest rank of 10th Degree Black Belt, on Sharp Sensei.

The Sport of Judo

Sharp Sensei was known worldwide for his 1955 book, The Sport of Judo and subsequent books as well as videos. In 1954 he was gifted by the Prince of Japan for great achievements in winning an international judo competition, and being instrumental to the growth of judo after WWII leading to its eventual inclusion in the Olympics.


HSJTF's Board of Directors - Low Dong, Hayward Nishioka, John Moe, Gary Goltz, with Hal Sharp

The Hal Sharp Judo Teachers Foundation, documents Sharp Sensei's 75+ years of dedication to judo. The Foundation's website contains approximately 100 hours of instructional videos for an interactive learning experience. Much of these videos were shot by Sharp Sensei.

The complete story of Sharp Sensei's Introduction to Judo appeared as a two-part Black Belt article in 1964 & 65. (I was able to locate a clean copy of this and have meticulously reproduced it for our readers.)

Sharp Judo

Sharp Sensei's Kodokan Shodan 1st Degree Black Belt Certificate from 1953, (the year I was born!)

Sharp Sensei told me that his good friend Charlie Palmer, who was the first President of the International Judo Federation (IJF), use to say after you get your shodan, it's all downhill! Funny how that now makes sense to me. With each higher rank, our time here on earth grows a bit shorter.

Hal Sharp Sensei

Sharp Sensei with Ishikawa Sensei, with Kawakami Sensei & son, below with Watanabe Sensei circa 1955


Upon Sharp Sensei's return to the Los Angeles he taught at the San Pedro, Gardena, & La Mirada YMCAs, and opened his own dojo in North Hollywood. Among his early students was Star Trek's, William Shatner!

Valley Times Judo

Newspaper Articles from the late 50's on Sharp's Sensei's Dojo courtesy of Jerry Hays' Archives

Bruce Lee Judo

Sharp Sensei as featured in a 1968 Black Belt article that included Bruce Lee

In a conversation I had with Judo Gene LeBell this past Sunday, he expressed deep sadness over the loss of his lifelong friend Hal. Gene recalled being banned from judo tournaments after becoming a pro wrestler. However, Hal would still welcome me at his dojo anytime, Gene proclaimed proudly!

goltz lebell sharp

Gary Goltz, Gene LeBell, Hal Sharp, and OJ Soler at Judo Nationals in 1994

hal sharp kodokan

Sharp Sensei at the Kodokan in 2007 with his friend's Daigo & Osawa Sensei also 10th Dan holders.

(It should be noted Sharp Sensei introduced the late Karl Geis, 10th Dan to judo & Osawa Sensei in 1960)

hal sharp hall of fame

Sharp Sensei is in the USJF's, USA Judo's, & Nanka's Hall of Fame

Sharp Sensei continued making judo films throughout his later years. This included his coverage of the Winter Nationals®, our nation's largest tournament, which I created in 2006 and in 2019 donated to Nanka.

the road to black belt

Sharp Sensei was still innovating in his 80's, inserting QR Codes that take the reader to corresponding videos he created which underscore the theories and techniques in his final book, The Road to Black Belt.

Prior to his move to North San Diego, Sharp Sensei served for decades as the technical director of the Gardena Judo Dojo, which is one of the largest dojos in the USJF and Nanka (Hal Sharp Interview from 2013).

sharp sensei judo

Sharp Sensei was married to his beloved wife, Joanie, for over 63 years.

hal sharp family

The Sharp Family is eternally grateful to the judo community for its support of their father, Hal. He was passionate not just for the sport of judo but for all of you. His life benefitted from your friendship and made it extraordinary. They thank you judoka, for your kind words regarding their father's passing. The Sharp Family can be reached at sharpsan@aol.com. They ask in lieu of flowers, to please continue to support judo and its community…Hal Sharp's OB in Los Angeles Times.

A Zoom memorial was held on April 10thth (the day following what would have been Sharp Sensei's 94th birthday) with nearly 100 attendees. This Sharp Photo Montage and Sharp Video Clip was debuted to everyone's delight.

Hayward Nishioka Bonus: Here is a message I received from Black Belt Magazine's Two-Time Hall of Fame Member Hayward Nishioka after he read this piece –
Great job Gary for a great judoka. There are few who are as fortunate to have devoted so much of their life in a meaningful activity for the benefit of other judoka as Hal Sharp. Much of one's early life in judo is for the "self." For Hal that was 10%. The rest of the 90% was for others, and is evident in his many books, magazine articles, video's, DVD's, Social Media clips, presentations, tours, and countless hours donated to others in our hallowed dojos. There will never be another one like him. He was our special 10th Dan!


Hal Sharp Interview from 2013

Hal Sharp's OB in Los Angeles Times

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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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Competitive Edge Karate
Photo Courtesy: Jackson Rudolph

Team Competitive Edge, coached by Jackson Rudolph, Reid Presley, and Cole Presley, has become one of the premier teams in the sport in recent years. The team consistently takes home individual overall grand championships and they are the reigning U.S. Open ISKA Team Demonstration World Champions. Moving into the 2022 tournament season, they have made a huge move to deepen their roster and add seven junior competitors to the team. The new additions range from proven champions bringing their talents to the squad, some skilled workhorses who have previously joined the team for the Team Demo division, and some promising young stars who will be making their debut in the black belt division this year. Keep reading to learn more about each of the new additions (ordered alphabetically).

Gavin Bodiford

Gavin Bodiford

Photo Courtesy: Kellie Austin Bodiford via Facebook

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Riley Claire Carlisle

RC Carlisle

Photo Courtesy: Mallory Parker Carlisle

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Kodi Molina

Kodi Molina

Photo Courtesy: Priscilla Molina via Facebook

Molina is a 13-year-old world champion from San Antonio, Texas with 10 years of martial arts training under her belt. She has won many grand championship titles on the NASKA circuit, and has claimed world championships from NASKA, ISKA, ATA, and WKC. At the 2021 U.S. Open, she became the reigning ISKA world champion in 13 and under girls creative/musical/extreme weapons. She is a versatile competitor who can win with extreme bo or kama routines, performs beautiful traditional forms, and is a solid point fighter as well. She is an active member of her community and participates in a variety of leadership programs, making her a great role model for younger members of the team.

Michael Molina

Michael Molina

Photo Courtesy: Michael Molina via Instagram

"Super Bomb" is the 9-year-old brother of Kodi, who is a world champion in his own right. In his seven years of experience, he has already won a variety of titles across multiple leagues, including NASKA overall grand championships at the 2021 Battle of Atlanta and AmeriKick Internationals. Since he began training at the age of two, his regimen has included strength, speed, agility, and conditioning training at "Rojo Dojo", where a number of world champions and national contenders gather to train. He is known for his incredible performance ability, always putting on a show when he graces the stage.

Gavin Richmond

Gavin Richmond

Photo Courtesy: Bobby Benavides

Richmond is yet another world champion being added to the Competitive Edge roster. The 13-year-old from San Antonio has been training for five years and has accumulated several grand championship titles, including wins at prestigious events like the Diamond Nationals and U.S. Open. The young star is a well-rounded athlete, not only because he competes in a variety of divisions at sport karate tournaments, but he also finished in 7th place in the pentathlon at the 2021 AAU Junior Olympics which included the high jump, long jump, 100m hurdles, 1500m run, and shot put, resulting in him being named an All-American. He is currently recovering from a knee injury, but his high-flying routines will be back on the mat soon.

Madalynn Wiersma

Madalynn Wiersma

Photo Courtesy: Gabrielle Dunn

Wiersma (pictured with coach Gabrielle Dunn) is another rising star moving up from the underbelt division who is expected to make waves in the black belt division. She first moved up into the black belt ring at the WKC world championships, where she won her first world title. The 9-year-old Georgia native was the 2021 Underbelt Competitor of the Year for ProMAC and she secured underbelt grand championships at the Battle of Atlanta and U.S. Open this past year.

Elijah Williams

Williams is a 16 year old from Lebanon, Tennessee who trains at Premier Martial Arts Lebanon. His eight years of martial arts training has culminated in black belts in Tang Soo Do and Tae Kwon Do. He is on an upward trend as a competitor as he has started breaking into the top four in his divisions, which are some of the most stacked on the NASKA circuit. Williams has been a great asset to Competitive Edge in the past, stepping up to fill in for team demonstration, such as in the world championship effort at the 2021 U.S. Open.

The Competitive Edge coaching staff told Black Belt that they are thrilled to take their roster to another level with these moves. They believe that these new players will create the perfect storm to win more overall grand championships now, strengthen the team demo, and build a great foundation for the future of the program.

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