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A Once in a Lifetime Ceremony in the Martial Arts

Students and the Fullerton community witness a truly unique moment in Goju Shin Ryu Karate history

Shihan Brad Wenneberg with Shihan Bob Gray and Senseis

It is not often that a student of the martial arts gets to experience the events that occurred this past weekend during our formal promotion ceremony. Even for those that are more experienced with the process that goes into such an event truly felt that this weekend was unique.

I say it is unique because this event not only recognized students making the transition to the rank of Black Belt, but it also bridged together a personal history spanning 45 years of which I have been fortunate and privileged to experience.

Families and students at our dojo have always recognized their instructors as the mentors and guides through their journey at American Martial Arts Academy – and beyond them, they have recognized Shihan Brad Wenneberg as the “teacher to the teachers”. This weekend, those who attended our ceremonies got a chance to be introduced to a teacher of his own….Shihan Bob Gray.

As a student of Shihan Wenneberg’s instruction from before he started American Martial Arts academy, I remember being in awe of the few senior Black Belts who have laid the foundation from which Shihan Wenneberg based the training that we all follow to this day. This week Shihan Wenneberg, the Senseis and all the Black Belts of our Academy had the awesome opportunity to physically train with him and receive insight of our history and legacy that very few practitioners are privy to know.

Through training with him, we had the rare opportunity to ask questions about the history of karate; why certain moves have been adapted or changed over the years, as well as hear Shihan Gray’s experience of working with legendary martial arts teachers and having him share light hearted, candid stories of his earlier training days with Shihan Wenneberg.

His visit to our dojo was an experience that is seldom heard of in the world of martial arts today, as there are very few high ranking martial arts masters who possess the humility and desire to openly train with such a large group and make themselves available as he now has.

During the formal ceremony on May 18th, he made a special once in a lifetime presentation that is not traditionally witnessed by a dojo’s student body or the general public. In addition to officially recognizing Sensei Jason Wenneberg, Sensei Nikhil Joshi and Sensei Caleb Beller as “Joukyu Sensei” (senior Sensei), Sensei Jeremy Schilling, Sensei Tom Barbarick and Sensei Megan Joshi as “Shidouin Sensei” (the official title of Sensei Instructor) – he bestowed the title of “Shihan” to Shihan Wenneberg’s long time training partner, collaborator and friend, Dr. Jeffrey Bodwin, and officially awarded and recognized Shihan Wenneberg’s 7th degree Black Belt and title of “Kyoshi Shihan” (teacher of teachers).

These official titles go beyond the walls of our studios in Fullerton and Placentia, CA and are now known in the system of Goju-Ryu Kenkyu, which provides a broader recognition to our names in the martial arts industry. For Shihan Gray to openly recognize AMAA’s instructors and founder is a monumental privilege and honor for our school and the legacy we’ve carried since its creation, and further connects American Martial Arts Academy to its roots in a system that has impacted thousands of lives in a profound and positive way.

To all who attended to witness the occasion, we thank you for being there. And to all of our families at American Martial Arts Academy, we thank you for your continued support in making this a community, a family – and more than just a place where one can train in the martial arts.

From Sensei Jeremy Schilling