The Four Founders’ Awards Nominating Essays for the 2013 Award Recipients

Prof. Cahill Prof. Estes Prof. Law Prof. Rickerts
Mark Crooks Jr Gerry Halligan Keith Pollak Kevin Colton


Mark Crooks Jr, recipient of the Professor John Cahill Award
Outstanding Tournament Competitor of the Year

I first met Mark Crooks Jr at the Redding Jujitsu Academy kata contest in October 2012. He is a 6 year old pee wee. He had only recently started classes at the Chico Kodenkan and was already attending his first tournament. It was very impressive to see his kata demonstration. He knew all of his techniques and followed all of the mat protocols precisely. It is surprising to see someone so young with such attention to detail. It wasn�t surprising at all that he received the high score of all of the juniors at the contest that day.

I saw him again a few months later at the Chico Kodenkan freestyle contest in February 2013. I was doing the tabulation of score sheets during the juniors competition. I could watch some rounds for each contestant, but I could hear all rounds while running the adding machine. It is common in a freestyle contest to hear only the whisper of feet on the mat and the occasional thump of a fall. This is true for juniors as well as adults. Suddenly, while scoring, I hear a contestant kiai! Not only once, but repeatedly. A sharp, vigorous, piercing kiai! I turned around to look and it was Mark Crooks Jr. Again he received the high score of all of the juniors at the contest that day.

Who knows what lies ahead for young Mr. Crooks. He may or may not continue with jujitsu. But he has made a dashing start. For the reasons described above, I wholeheartedly nominate Mark Crooks Jr for the Prof John Cahill Outstanding Tournament Competitor of the Year award.

In kokua,
Sensei Murph Stevens

Gerry Halligan, recipient of the Professor Bud Estes Award
Outstanding Contribution to the AJJF

Sensei Halligan more than shares the vision of the Bud Estes award, he leads it. At his baseline level of activity, he actively promotes and regularly attends AJJF clinics from Chicago, New York, New Jersey, and South Carolina. Improving his own understanding of the arts, he brings what he learns to his “home” dojos in western New York.

Most recently, and the real impetus for this nomination, is sensei Halligan’s organization of Grassroots Training, a sanctioned monthly event in which students of the four AJJF schools in western New York meet and train. Each of the four schools, in turn, hosts the training session,and the sensei of that school teaches. This cross-fertilization has noticeably improved the jujitsu skills of the students and the teaching skills of the sensei. Beyond the pedagogical benefits, these regular meetings have nurtured the sense of mat-family among the jujitsuka. As with any AJJF dojo, those in western New York always have an open door for visiting Danzan Ryu practitioners. Since the Grassroots training began,the local jujitsuka are more likely visit another school and walk through those open doors.

One last comment that might provide insight into sensei Halligan’s character is that for the past several years, he has not had his own school. All of his efforts have focused on strengthening the AJJF presence in western New York and building kokua among the nearby regions.

Keith Pollak, recipient of the Professor Ray Law Award
Outstanding Contribution to the Youth of the AJJF

Sensei Keith Pollak received his shodan under Sensei Roy Lonnberg while attending graduate school at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. After receiving his doctoral degree in Chemistry, Mr. Pollak moved to the Buffalo area and was hired by Dupont. During his first few years in Buffalo, he continued his Danzan Ryu training at Konjo jujutskai with Sensei Gerry Halligan and Bob Kunkel. After attaining the rank of Sandan, he married and moved to Lewsiton, New York which is just north of Niagara Falls.

With a sense of purpose, Mr. Pollak began to look for a place to teach DZR. He found an opening for classes at the Niagara Falls YMCA. A number of adults and children signed up for his intial demo classes and he never looked back. For more than 10 years, he has conducted classes two nights a week and now has a growing core of kyu ranks. Several ikkyu are preparing for AJJF exams in 2013.

Sensei Pollak is a compassionate instructor and has his own personal well of self motivation. He organized his classes based on the age, ability and educational priorities of his kids. Many are released in stages from class to allow them time to complete their school work and reach home at a reasonable hour.

Due to a myriad of factors in this urban dojo setting, students are unable to travel to major events. However, Sensei Pollak’s progressive teaching methods continue to provide his student the fundamental principles of DZR. He is deeply respected & loved by all of his students and held in high regard by all jujutsuka in the Northeast Region. I feel that Sensei Pollak reflects the standard and spirit set by Prof. Ray Law. Thank you.

Kevin Colton, recipient of the Professor Dick Rickerts Award
Outstanding AJJF Sensei of the Year

I would like to nominate Sensei Kevin Colton for the 2013 Professor Dick Rickerts Award for Outstanding AJJF Sensei of the Year.

Sensei Colton deserves this award on many levels.As rokudan school head of Santa Clarita Valley Jujitsu, Kevin is dedicated to building the foundation of our federation by doing a job that he not only is born to do, but absolutely loves: teaching Danzan Ryu Jujitsu.

In addition to teaching adult classes five nights a week, Kevin gives private and semiprivate lessons, and makes special arrangements to work on the weekends with students practicing for belt promotions or contests. Most notable is the fact that Kevin caters his teaching to meet the needs of his students: he compassionately instructs students with various disabilities and/or medical concerns such as arthritis or congenital disease, injuries that call for special accommodations, even students who are wheelchair bound.He is particularly attentive in his teaching to law enforcement students, training them in joint-locks and takedowns, cuffing techniques and safe weapon removal. And he addresses issues that his female students are concerned with: rape scenarios, blind attacks from the rear, or chokes.His students return night after night because of his gentle way of teaching, his patience with the repetitive aspects of learning complex moves, his enthusiasm for the art, and his sense of humor. When Sensei is teaching, his students feel that they are the most important people in the world to him. It’s no wonder that in the 41 years he has been teaching, Sensei Colton is responsible for a remarkable 40 Shodan promotions (15 of whom have gone on to achieve Nidan, 8 Sandan, and 2 Yodan!)

Due to his successful teaching style, Kevin is an “in-demand” teacher at clinics, seminars and regional conventions across the nation. He teaches an annual Woman’s Self Defense course for Councilmember Tony Cardenas’s district in Los Angeles. And Sensei travels teaching the Ryu in various cities in California as well as Colorado, Utah, New York, Hawaii, and South Carolina. It is routine at the close of these classes that his students give Sensei a heart-felt ovation.

In addition to his enthusiasm for teaching, Sensei Colton never misses an opportunity to participate in the examination of black belt candidates, testing about 20 candidates a year, approaching each exam with a positive and encouraging attitude. Sensei still ukes for exams as well.

If this isn’t enough, Sensei Colton promotes Danzan Ryu as a Certified Massage Technician in Seifukujitsu Massage, having encouraged a number of his students to improve their understanding of the Ryu by studying the art of massage.

Sensei Colton hosts the annual Southwest Region Convention and Exams, has hosted Black Belt Seminar, and serves the federation on theAdvisory Committee. He runs the AJJF Store, and this is his fourth time hosting National Convention! He spends hours of time planning, organizing and delegating to operate a first rate dojo and contribute his best effort to the AJJF.

Due to his dedication to the system of Danzan Ryu and the students he teaches, it is with rousing enthusiasm that I nominate Sensei Kevin Colton for the Professor Dick Rickerts Founder’s Award for the AJJF Sensei of the Year!