The Four Founders’ Awards Nominating Essays for the 2016 Award Recipients

Prof. Cahill Prof. Estes Prof. Law Prof. Rickerts
Michael Thompson Prof Tom Ball Anton Muller Nerissa Freeman


Michael Thompson, recipient of the Professor John Cahill Award
Outstanding Tournament Competitor of the Year

I would like to nominate Michael Thopmson of Makoto Kai for the Professor John Cahill Award. Michael began his jujitsu training in October of 2011 and has been an exemplary student since that time. He is patient with lower ranked students and will always answer in the affirmative whenever something is asked of him. Michael has always been interested in participating in both kata and freestyle contests and whenever the next one in our area rolls around he was always quick to inform the sensei that he would be attending. As time has progressed nobody even asks if he is planning to attend the next contest because it’s assumed that he will. In 2015 alone he went to three kata and three freestyle contests. He faces a unique challenge nearly every time he prepares for a kata contest: he enters nearly every one as a single competitor. He practices during regular class time with whoever is available and when the contest day finally arrives he picks an uke on the spot and always preforms with distinction. It’s been a pleasure working with him and seeing his competitive spirit change and become more refined, and he sets a good example for contest goers.

Prof Tom Ball, recipient of the Professor Bud Estes Award
Outstanding Contribution to the AJJF

He loves Danzan Ryu and he loves the AJJF. This really sums up Prof Ball’s dedication to the AJJF as an organization and to Danzan Ryu in general. He has devoted his entire career – more than 50 years’ of it – to the betterment of the AJJF. When he first started, he dedicated himself to hard, consistent training under his sensei, Prof Bud Estes, and worked his way through the Danzan Ryu curriculum. He committed himself to the healing side of Danzan Ryu, serving on the DZRSI Standards Committee. He teaches at as many seminars and clinics as possible, despite his limited personal time and funds. He has turned his home into Camp Kodenkan North every year for nearly 40 years. He as devoted countless hours of writing, research, and conversation to the okugi program and the development of the new kata manuals. And, there’s more… I’m absolutely positive there are many more ways he has contributed to the AJJF that I don’t even know about. What makes him more impressive, however, is that despite his knowledge, status and busy schedule, he seems always seems to have a moment for a kind word of encouragement. Prof Ball completely embodies the intention of the Prof Bud Estes Award. I hope the committee will consider him worthy of receiving it.

Anton Muller, recipient of the Professor Ray Law Award
Outstanding Contribution to the Youth of the AJJF

I love Anton’s energy and ability to get children to have fun learning Jujitsu. He ran the children’s banquet for me at the 2015 convention and did an amazing job with the children there.

Nerissa Freeman, recipient of the Professor Dick Rickerts Award
Outstanding AJJF Sensei of the Year

Sensei Nerissa Freeman is strong but does not rely on strength. Anyone who has tried to keep up with her in difficult warmups or long striking sessions knows that she is strong, and anyone who has been thrown by her has felt none of that muscle. This carries through to her personality and leadership as well. In a freestyle contest you will see Sensei Nerissa’s ferocity, but when she is leading class or coordinating hordes of people for Camp North she simply and quietly commands respect.
Sensei Nerissa values effort but does not demand immediate results. I have been working on my Mute Yoko Sutemi for years and while she encourages me to work on it during every class she is also understanding when, as happened a few days ago, I managed to bungle a Migi Mute Yoko Sutemi so badly that I elbowed her in the foot as she was spotting me. She has a perfect balance of patience and “pushing”, which also exemplifies her tenacity. With students that have fears of falling, for example, she is great at pushing their limits without pushing them away.
Sensei Nerissa clearly loves Danzan Ryu. You can see it in every technique she does and her demeanor in class and this enthusiasm is contagious to her students.
When I joined Wasenshi Kan I had worked with 3 physical therapists and an orthopedist over the course of 2 years of trying to heal from patellar tendinitis. While it would sometimes get better it was always a problem, and it would regularly get worse to the point of needing crutches. I had mostly given up on my knees getting better, and just wanted to try to get back into jujitsu doing what I could. I was ecstatic to find that my new sensei was a physical therapist, and could thus tell me what techniques I should and shouldn’t attempt with my injury, but I didn’t realize that Nerissa would do so much more than that. Nerissa gave me exercises to do at home, gave healing massage almost every class, and helped me understand when I was pushing my knees too far (injuring them still further) and when I was babying them too much (atrophying the muscles that stabilize my knee and making it more prone to re-injury). I now have healthier knees than most people, but I definitely could have spent more years inured, and possibly be on crutches even now, had it not been for my favorite physical therapist. And her efforts haven’t stopped there; Through various injuries, minor and major, Sensei Nerissa has helped me heal and better understand the signals my body is giving me so that I can prevent injury from happening in the first place. And I am not the only one. I think it is fair to say that everyone in our dojo is healthier for having had Nerissa as a sensei.
Whenever we have struggles in our lives, related to jujitsu or not, we know that we can talk to Sensei Nerissa. If Nerissa gives you advice, you know it has been well considered and is taken from her depth of experience. And when presented with problems she doesn’t have advice for, she gives her sympathy. Her wisdom and compassion are both great comfort in times of trouble. I am proud to call Nerissa my Sensei, and blessed to have her as a friend.