The Four Founders’ Awards Nominating Essays for the 2012 Award Recipients

Prof. Cahill Prof. Estes Prof. Law Prof. Rickerts
Ward Melenich Prof Jane Carr Barb Gessner Greg Poretz


Ward Melenich, recipient of the Professor John Cahill Award
Outstanding Tournament Competitor of the Year

Sensei Ward Melenich embodies the samurai spirit: Ready to serve at all times; ready to battle or compete at a moment’s notices. In October, he drove 160 miles down from Duluth to St. Paul and showed up with a brown belt for our Saturday jujitsu class. He taught for 90 minutes, then left for the Land of Lakes Judo Tournament. Ward couldn’t see the names on the list of four or five upcoming matches, and was told his name wasn’t among them. Suddenly, people began calling out his name for a match against one of the toughest competitors at the tournament. With no warm-up, Ward leaped up for the match. He held his own, but the younger competitor eventually defeated him with an armbar he applied by trapping Ward’s arm between his legs. After the match, he congratulated his opponent warmly before returning to bleachers to review what went wrong. That’s when we began to notice that all of the competitors seemed to be under 30. The organizers inadvertently had put Ward into the “seniors” competition instead of the “masters,” which is for judoka over 30. After straightening out the mix-up, Ward went on to take a gold medal in the Master’s division. He turned 51 the next day. Minnesota judo is pretty small, so competitors often must fight outside their weight class. I’ve seen Ward take on judoka nearly twice his size, and he often beats them. Whether he wins or loses, though, he’s always gracious. Because of Ward and his students, Danzan Ryu has a good reputation in Minnesota judo circles.

Ward exhibits equal enthusiasm for jujitsu. Want to stay after class and work on a echnique? Ward will be there for you. Want to drop by on a weekend? Ward will set up special class. Need extra help before a test? Ward will drive hundreds of miles to see that you get it. He’s always ready to serve, and he gives without reservation. That’s the essence of a competitor; Ward Melenich is its manifestation.

Prof Jane Carr, recipient of the Professor Bud Estes Award
Outstanding Contribution to the AJJF

Prof. Carr has continually shown her dedication to the ideals of Danzan Ryu through tireless efforts at helping individual members. She appears at many events and makes herself available for individual assistance with jujitsu as well as Danzan Ryu Restorative Therapy training.

If you are hurt, she will fix you. If you are struggling with personal relations within the AJJF, she will find a way to reconcile your differences. If you invite her to an event, she will be there.

I have personal knowledge of times that she has been the instrument of making peace where it appeared none could be found. Often no one but the people involved know about the trouble.

Her commitment to the AJJF massage program is unfailing, having been on the Standards Committee for most of it’s 30 year existence and continues to teach 8 weekends every year.

Her integrity and ethics are held to the highest standard – no question about it.

It is with Kokua, Repect and Love that I nominate my Sensei for the Prof. Estes award.

Barb Gessner, recipient of the Professor Ray Law Award
Outstanding Contribution to the Youth of the AJJF

In the five years that I have studied at Rutgers Kodenkan, I have worked with a number of instructors. All are excellent teachers and make great contributions to us students, and I have grown to see many young members of our dojo excel in the program. Yet, the biggest contributor to the success of the students, is Sensei Barbara Gessner. Having gone to school for 9 years of my life so far, I can fairly say that Prof Barb is, by far, the best teacher I have ever known. Not only is she able to relate jujitsu to so many common aspects of peoples lives, such as musical rhythm and other sports, she is also able to relate to the students themselves. Sensei has always cared for all of the students, no matter their age or ability level. The children of the Rutgers Kodenkan Dojo all appreciate and enjoy seeing Sensei every week, for she cares for them, and makes sure that no matter how hard they work that day, they always have FUN. The ability to bring out her inner child and connect with even the youngest students of our dojo, along side her amazing teaching tactics, are what make Sensei Barbara Gessner most eligible for this award.

Greg Poretz, recipient of the Professor Dick Rickerts Award
Outstanding AJJF Sensei of the Year

Gregory Poretz Sensei helps me to do by best in each class. He offers me caring support with a firm energy expectation. I know it is important to him that I succeed. I have been with another teacher at another center before being with Sensei Gregory and I know that my Sensei Gregory really cares about his students. His heart is in this center, his work, he loves what he does. You can always depend on a big smile when you walk in the door followed by a warm heart and a serious lesson. I would dare to say that he has no ego that one could see. Although many others may be deserving of this award, Sensei Greogry should be honored with it for too many reasons to list and I would love to see him receive it.
–Connor Matthews