The Four Founders’ Awards Nominating Essays for the 2021 Award Recipients



Prof. Cahill Prof. Estes Prof. Rickerts
Christian Burkhart Prof Hillary Kaplowitz Delina Fuchs
Special Covid Award Special Recognition Award
Ward Melenich and Nate Hill Katie Murphy Stevens

Christian Burkhart, recipient of the Professor John Cahill Award
Outstanding Tournament Competitor of the Year

I am putting forward a young man who has been training at Palmetto Jujitsu Academy (PJA) & Healing Arts Center since 2016. Up until December 2020, he attended classes on a regular basis. He is quite the competitor in Judo. He has participated in 3 ATJA/AJJF National Championships (3 golds and 3 silver), 4 South Carolina State Championships attaining 5 Golds and 1 Silver. The SC State Championships is an open tournament averaging at least 13states in attendance. Has done 4 spring tournaments called Samurai Slam earning a total of 5 Golds and 2 silvers. Is a regular at the “Greatest Camp on Earth” (largest judo camp in the USA). At this camp he attended classes from 9 AM to 8 PM three days in a row. He was used to demonstrate multiple times over the years. He attended a special training held in Atlanta, GA. This training was by invite only. He was able to train with Regional, National, International champions. He just loved it. Here at PJA, we only had to close our dojo for 2 months beginning in March of 2020. We trained as usual for competition. Christian was always leading the way. Here before class starts everyone has to do 10 14 ft. rope climbs and 10 14 ft. cargo net climbs. Next we open class do a 1 mile run and start our exercises which is usually 50 pushups, 50 sit-ups and 50 squats and this is done 3 times. Now rolls and falls. Once completed we start our Nage, Shime or combination training. Christian and his buddies push the class to complete these tasks.

In December of 2020, Christian began having some trouble with endurance and strength. One morning he woke up and had a nosebleed and bruising all over his body. His mom took him to the hospital immediately. 2 days later he was told he had Leukemia. He began his treatment via port and spinal injections the following week. We have been facetiming him into class. He was glad to see everyone and his biggest concern was not being able to do the workouts and rope climbs. He was concerned that he would loose his edge.

Well, if there are miracles (I believe there are). Christian is in remission. The doctors don’t understand it but I do. He has such a fighting spirit and all the prayers don’t hurt at all! He still has to continue his chemo for 2 years but is itching to get back on the mat. I am sure he will very soon. The way he attacks his training is the same way he is going after this set back, full steam ahead. It is for these reasons that I am nominating Christian Burkhart for the Professor John Cahill Award.

Professor Tom Ryan

Prof. Hillary Kaplowitz, recipient of the Professor Bud Estes Award
Outstanding Contribution to the AJJF

I am nominating Professor Hillary Kaplowitz for this award. She loves jujitsu like no one else I know, and her expression of that love is to study it, practice it, and live the principles. Her dedication and enthusiasm are exponentially expanded by her ever-growing circle of influence.

This past year has been rough, for everyone. We’ve been restricted in our movements, lost contact with others, and as a result struggled to stay motivated and focused. Without missing a beat, Prof. Kaplowitz engaged her dojo with on-line classes. The format has evolved, starting with lots of emotional support, self-care ideas and practices, and eventually becoming structured more like our live classes with kowami warm-up exercises and reviews of our kata, while never losing the personal interactions that have strengthened our connection to each other. Having these familiar classes on a regular, dependable schedule has been not only an anchor in these uncertain circumstances, but an opportunity to expand our repertoire and hone basic skills.

Professor Kaplowitz has created bridges to other AJJF dojos, inviting guest instructors or having “field trips” with entire dojos, where we share training techniques and practice together. Some of the classes have introduced skills that are new to her as well as to us. She is willing to be a student, which has allowed and encouraged us to develop our skills as instructors. These are experiences that have included our whole dojo throughout the pandemic restrictions, including our newest white belt, and created a bond between the dojos that have strengthened our connection to each other and our shared membership in the AJJF. I’m impressed that so many of our jujitsuka are still active and participating which is no doubt a result of her example and leadership.

Her energies are not confined to her own dojo. She has been part of many of the on-line classes and weekends hosted by the AJJF. With her knowledge of virtual teaching and instructional design, she has ensured that learning from Professors and other Sensei are some of the better experiences I’ve had in on-line learning, and I’ve attended quite a few during the pandemic. She has been a representative of the AJJF during such online events as Brown Belt Weekend, the Pacific Jujitsu Kai annual dojo event, the AJJF “Train the Trainer” Event, the AJJF Saturday Event in February, and the AWMAI Annual Convention. She is also spearheading the AJJF’s Annual Convention, making efforts to ensure this event will entice a broad audience, with a conscious effort toward the very immediate desire for inclusion and harmony to expand the AJJF’s influence.

I am not alone in my appreciation for the effort my sensei has put forth. Most of the dojo would have nominated her if they were able and sent our yudansha examples of experiences with “zoom-jitsu.” I share here some comments from Holly Watson, who is a brown belt in our dojo:

“In the past year, Professor Kaplowitz has not only helped keep her home dojo Pacific JuJitsu Kai together by holding regular classes via zoom, which include new features like “check ins” every class to make sure everyone is doing ok during this difficult time and to offer help and support if they are not, as well encouraging “field trips” with other dojos and guest instructors to help keep us connected to the larger DZR Ohana and to maintain our connections to the AJJF. Under her leadership, PJK will be hosting convention for the first time via Zoom. She has proved uniquely capable of using her background in instructional design, and in using technology in education to keep us practicing jujitsu without mats or real-life Uke’s, to helping determine what works best on Zoom and to focus our class time there so that we are encouraged to try new skills and utilize this time to our advantage. Thanks to her, this year we have explored Shichinin Shime with Sensei Stevens, Chi Gong with Professor Hudson and have had amazing guest speakers like Matsushita Sensei and Professor Ball. She has also encouraged all of her students in her dojo to keep attending our regular classes and to participate in any additional online workshops offered via the AJJF to help bolster the larger AJJF community.”

Because of Professor Kaplowitzh’s outreach to support other dojos in their online training during the pandemic, many jujitsuka in the larger DZR community as well as in our dojo have become more aware of and involved in the AJJF as an organization and community. Thank you for your consideration of the time, effort and heart my incredible sensei, Professor Hillary Kaplowitz, contributes to the AJJF and the success of Danzan Ryu.

Delina Fuchs, recipient of the Professor Dick Rickerts Award
Outstanding AJJF Sensei of the Year

In The Esoteric Principles of Danzan Ryu Jujitsu, Master Okazaki tells us that “…service to humanity is the foundation of mutual existence and common prosperity.” Throughout her life, and particularly during the pandemic, Sensei Delina Fuchs has been a model of service–to friends and family, professional colleagues and college students, Chico Kodenkan students and their families, the Chico community, the AJJF, and ultimately, humanity.

From the beginning of the pandemic, Sensei Fuchs closely followed the best and latest science in her efforts to keep students safe and well. When it became apparent that the California lockdown was going to be in effect for some time, she worked with other Yudansha to get virtual jujitsu classes going as early as April 5th, and they have continued ever since. Exercising no small amount of patience, Sensei guided all of us through the technological jungles of different Zoom links, mute button protocol, and where to bow to the Shomen in a virtual world. She has been determined that we could–that we WOULD–continue not only to train during these times but to advance our skills ever further. Students from white belt to black have received personalized attention and mentorship with dedicated class times for working on new techniques, refinements, and next rank requirements. But Sensei has also recognized the times we live in, so her creative class topics have ranged from construction and use of “pillow and scuba ukes” to household wooden weapons of opportunity (e.g., brooms, garden rakes, etc.) to active stretching while watching Netflix in order to avoid just being a couch potato.

In the 3 times per week classes that have been a staple of Chico Kodenkan during these months, Sensei Fuchs has found a silver lining in that virtual sessions allow participation from Yudansha and students who otherwise would not be able to be physically present. Such classes have enabled her to bring in guest instructors, and she co-coordinated virtual classes with Wasenshi Kan Martial & Healing Arts and Pacific JuJitsu Kai. She has worked hard this last year to maintain relationships between dojos and assist them where possible, including demonstrating the ways in which virtual teaching has worked for Chico Kodenkan for the benefit of Medford Judo Academy, so that they could learn from our experience.

The necessary cancellation of Camp Kodenkan North in August made Sensei Fuchs more tenacious about getting events back on track with the all virtual Brown Belt Weekend event in September. Hosting the weekend with Nibukikan, she orchestrated the first AJJF-sanctioned event since the beginning of the pandemic, and it went off without a hitch. Her commitment to sharing DZR was evident to all of us–students in Thailand and Australia and everywhere from South Carolina to California–and the weekend strengthened the bonds within our AJJF community.

On a personal note, I would like to share that when Sensei Fuchs learned that both my parents were ill with COVID in December, she was on the phone with me within minutes with recommended practices and herbs for health, as well as contacts I should talk with to get other recommendations. I passed the information on to my parents, and they have since recovered from the very frightening state that they were in. Her compassion and sharing were deeply appreciated, and I am so grateful.

It’s clear to anyone who has had some degree of involvement with Sensei Delina Fuchs that she consistently puts the needs of others before herself, that she pours her time and energy into serving her students, her dojo, and the AJJF, and that her personal character is an excellent model for those whose lives she touches. I humbly offer my nomination for Sensei Fuchs for the Prof. Rickerts Award.