Judo Blog: The Legendary Hal Sharp was a Real Mensch!
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.
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 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.
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!
Newspaper Articles from the late 50's on Sharp's Sensei's Dojo courtesy of Jerry Hays' Archives
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!
Gary Goltz, Gene LeBell, Hal Sharp, and OJ Soler at Judo Nationals in 1994
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)
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.
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 was married to his beloved wife, Joanie, for over 63 years.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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!
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