The Four Founders’ Awards Nominating Essays for the 2020 Award Recipients



Prof. Cahill Prof. Estes Prof. Law Prof. Rickerts
Jozie Post Tim Merrill Angel Lopez Harry Burleson

Jozie Post, recipient of the Professor John Cahill Award
Outstanding Tournament Competitor of the Year

Jozie Post Has been a student of mine going back to 2019. In that time, she has rarely missed a practice and has at every opportunity traveled to other of The Dojo’s training sites to gain extra workouts.

Jozie has shown the warrior spirit by attending every judo tournament that has come her way, medaling at all of them. Just recently we were invited to an elite group’s tournament. I took four of me best student to see how they did against this class of competitor. Jozie was the only one that came away with a medal placing third in her class.

She is an asset to our little dojo. She’s always willing to help the younger students and is constantly eager to learn more. I feel it would be appropriate for her to be recognized as this year’s Cahill award recipient.

Tim Merrill, recipient of the Professor Bud Estes Award
Outstanding Contribution to the AJJF


I would like to nominate Sensei Tim Merrill for the Bud Estes Award for his outstanding service to the AJJF over decades of time. Not only is Sensei Merrill a school head, but he attends AJJF events regularly, and is active in an important leadership capacity as well. 

Sensei Merrill is a school head of Chiku Shin Dojo, and as such has trained many students– some of whom have gone on to blackbelt, and to found their own dojos. Sensei’s appeal is his understanding of the mechanics of jujitsu. As a science teacher he understands the little details of how to make a technique work: where exactly to stand, how to move efficiently, and how to exact or avoid a counter. And he is a cheerleader who gets excited when his students get it right, praising them for a job well-done. But he is not the kind of sensei who stands on the side of the mat with his thumbs in his belt…he is continually honing his own skills, whether it taking notes during convention classes, engaging in deep martial arts discussions with literally anyone, or taking Chi Gong classes to develop his inner sensibilities. 

Sensei Merrill attends contests, exams, and regional and national conventions. He teaches, tests, judges and participates. His demeanor is personable and genuine, teaching with animation and stirring enthusiasm in his students. He greets everyone with a smile and a kind word. And he is happy to teach with upcoming senior instructors, treating them as equals on the mat, supporting them to develop their own teaching skills. He is mild and modest, and because of this, Sensei is a well-known and beloved instructor. 

Finally, Sensei Merrill has volunteered for many years as Chair of the Council of Senior Instructors. This is not a small task. He coordinates quarterly contact with every AJJF school, plans conference calls, oversees special projects, collates and reports information gathered, and works in close contact with professors and the AJJF boards to help make the federation stronger by facilitating clear communication between school heads and the professors. This is an important job which Sensei Merrill takes seriously and completes with his usual enthusiasm for everything jujitsu. His work with the CSI has contribute to the betterment of the federation. 

Therefore, it is with enthusiasm that I recommend Sensei Tim Merrill as the recipient of the Professor Bud Estes Award for Outstanding Contribution to the AJJF!

Angel Lopez, recipient of the Professor Ray Law Award
Outstanding Contribution to the Youth of the AJJF

I am nominating Angel Lopez for the Professor Ray Law Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Youth of the AJJF. 

I am extremely thankful Sensei Lopez is my daughter’s instructor and that she gets to attend the Lokahi Danzan Ryu Dojo here in Chicago. Going to class is the highlight of her week. 

When I asked my daughter why she likes Jujitsu and her Sensei so much, she had many reasons. She said that her Sensei speaks to his students firmly and kindly at all times. She said that he gives her feedback in a way that makes sense to her. She also said that he makes learning fun for his students by giving them activities that are instructive yet playful. 

As a parent, I also have many reasons that I am nominating Sensei Lopez for this award. The Sensei’s energy during class is always calm and focused. He leads by example and models the rules of the mat at all times. This consistency from him clearly has an effect on the class; his students listen and learn in each class meeting. Further, I find that the expectations are clear for the students and so they are comfortable in class. I find that the children are eager to learn the rules and demonstrate them for their leader. Sensei Lopez is also unfailingly encouraging and positive. When he gives feedback to his students he does it in a way that is both constructive and motivating. I am also so pleasantly surprised at the diversity the Sensei’s class, he has such a large array of activities that that keep the students interested and engaged. Last, I really admire how much the Sensei teaches about the history of Jujitsu and about the tradition. This way of teaching gives the students a wonderful background and context for the art of Jujitsu. 

Thank you for your consideration.

Harry Burleson, recipient of the Professor Dick Rickerts Award
Outstanding AJJF Sensei of the Year

From August through October of 2021, the Dixie Fire was raging across the Sierra Nevada’s in Northern California. In its wake was the small town of Greenville, home of Sensei Harry Burleson and his Dojo “The Dojo”. Harry had been able to get one load of his belongings out in his trailer when the evacuation order came down, but was unable to get a second load when all the roads were soon closed. On August 4th the town of Greenville was run over by a firestorm.It took less than 30 minutes for the whole town to be engulfed and destroyed. I caught up with Harry later that day to ask if he was ok and what could I do to help. He told me he was fine, a survivor and he would be ok, but where was he going to teach his students now that the Rec Center in Greenville was gone? 

Prior to the fire Harry had been teaching weekly classes to his students across the mountain area at locations in Greenville, Chester, Westwood and The Nibukikan in Chico. With these classes he was also putting on mini-Judo/Sumo tournaments at different sites. At these tournaments Harry would put on a barbecue for the students and their families attending. This helped build a sense of togetherness with all the students and families from the different locations of his classes. In addition Harry was also teaching P.E. classes at the charter school in Greenville for elementary through middle school students three days a week. There wasn’t much down time in my friend’s life with traveling to the different sites to teach, preparing for his classes, tournaments he put on and the Charter school classes he stayed very busy. 

Over the years I’ve worked with Sensei’s who would only take the students they thought they could turn into champions at the local, state and national tournaments they attended. Harry treats all his students as champions, and it is his privilege as their Sensei to teach them to reach their full potential as a martial artist and a person. I’ve seen him get on his knees with a 10-year-old to teach him O-Soto Gari and see the smile on the students face when he throws his Sensei. I’ve watched him teach grips and throws to an autistic student only to have to teach the same technics the next week and the next. Why I ask? He says they keep coming back so I teach until they learn. And then I’ve also watched him chase 5- and 6-year-olds around the mat playing tiger tail to the sounds of there screams and laughter. I asked him once what he gets out of teaching these students, he told me patience, they teach me patience. I believe it’s a lot more than just that! Don’t tell him I told you but he has a big heart to go along with that patience, he’ll tell you it’s a rumor someone started to make him look soft. 

You remember that fire I told you about in the beginning of this story? It has one more attribute other than the destruction it causes. It cleans up the forest floor and allows new growth to come back stronger then ever, and with what we have dealt with over the last years, that’s a nice bright spot to look forward too. Since the fire Harry has started up his classes again. On Wednesday night in Paradise, he has a new class of students helping to rebuild the area that fire had destroyed a couple of years ago. On Thursday nights he’s back in Chester pulling all the students back together in the mountain area. They total around 30 now with more coming every class. On Friday nights he’s now in Oroville with a class in the basement of the rec. center. And on Saturday mornings he’s back at The Nibukikan in Chico taking over my old Judo classes and building on what we started there. The mini tournaments are back also with more excited students wanting to participate. Oh, and you remember those students, his champions, like the flowers on the forest floor? They’re coming back and bringing with them their friends to be taught by Sensei Harry Burleson.