Sword Award

For Dedication and Service to Goshin Jitsu

The Goshin Jitsu Sword Award is usually given annually to club members demonstrating through their actions both dedication and service to Goshin Jitsu. Sadly this award is usually given upon the said member graduating school and leaving the happy confines of the mat. The Sword Award is an honor and sign of gratitude from Goshin Jitsu instructors and students (despite what you will read below, injury is not a prerequisite for earning the award).

2018 Kaushik Ponnapalli

Kaushik is the airborne participant in this picture.

2017 Natasha Mazumdar

2013 David Min

2011 Alain "the Alainimal" Sothikhoun

Alain is the small Asian guy with the voice like a 300 pound line backer and an unpronounceable last name. He's also the nicest guy you could meet (as he told some meathead after throwing him on his head) and when he's not ruling the World of Warcraft he's on the mats helping teaching, training hard, and going the extra mile for the club. Alain is made of a soft shell encasing a raging furnace of heart. Always open for a laugh and stepping in with a smile against athletes that are bigger, stronger, and more well rounded. Alain served the club not only on but off the mat as both treasure and president. An accounting grad, Alain currently works in the Champaign-Urbana area.

2011 Jarred "Curly" Meyers

Jarred started his first semester freshman year with the club, a skinny toothpick with a giant, curly, fro who basically couldn't walk or chew gum let alone both at the same time. We (fine I) called him Curly because I couldn't be bothered to learn the name of someone who obviously wasn't going to survive until the Fall break. Curly, however, had unstoppable, unyielding dedication to becoming good at Goshin Jitsu. I taught a drill, he did it, even if he was about to faint because he hadn't eaten all day or become another shade of cyanotic blue because he came back too soon after having pneumonia. Despite almost killing him once a semester, he learned and actually graduated. He went from novice to teacher, running practices both for GJ as well in the community, traveling to far off lands to be cornerman, and fighting in his own tournaments here in the States.

2010 Peter Roubal

Peter has served as a valuable student, training partner, and coach for the club with and without injuries. He always trains hard and tries harder than person next to him and is always willing to do an extra round. His quiet manner combined with a sarcastic humor has a quick way to inspire those lagging behind to try a little harder. In addition he serves as a valuable member of our instructor staff, always ready to hold pads for someone's benefit. Peter is also a master of mic stand kobudo, the art of warding off attackers with a mic stand. He continues to teach and play music in the Champaign area while serving as one of Goshin Jitsu's instructors.

2008 Brittany "Sweet As Honey" Combs

With her fearsome battle cry of "GRRRRR...lalalala" Brittany would throw herself into practice. While never a ferocious athlete, Brittany always gave her all in practice becoming expert at holding pads for partners much larger and stronger than herself. She also served as our president, constructing the most organized system of records to date. Her sweet nature hides a will of iron, she pushed her team mates and herself, always working to improve herself but not worrying if it didn't all happen at once. Brittany now works for Motorola in the Chicagoland area.

2007 Jim Daleiden

Jim will be the first and only person in Goshin Jitsu to tell someone that he has no technique and is a terrible grappler, kick boxer, or mixed-martial artist. He strives for unattainable perfection without realizing how good he actually is, both as a competitor and as a coach. Jim has trained with Goshin Jitsu for many years and has grown with as well as been a key contributor to the growth of the club. He has served as an officer, training partner, coach, and corner man. When someone really needs him, Jim is always there; traveling to support the team, keeping the books, trading heavy shots one moment and then turning around to teach the next. Jim finished his BS in Chemistry in 2007 and works in Chicago.

2006 Jeff Serafin

Jeff looks like a typical Midwestern college kid, but that peaceful demeanor hides an encyclopedia of honed grappling techniques and sinews of tensile steel to execute them with. He was already an accomplished grappler when he joined Goshin Jitsu and during the intervening time has become more dangerous in all areas of the fight game...all the better (or worse) for his training partners. But despite his impressive fighting resume Jeff remains a humble and friendly team mate as well as being a technical and motivational coach. Jeff motivates his students when he explains that he is not an athlete but by hard work and dedication he got to the high competitive level that he has attained, with the same training dedication they can, too. His never say die attitude is an inspiration in the face of adversity in the gym, the ring, and on the road of life. Jeff has a BA in history and can recite fight records verbatim on demand. He currently coaches Team Serafin McVicker BJJ in Evanston, IL.

2005 Corrina Crane

Corinna is one of our smallest Goshin Jitsuka with the biggest heart and the most caring for her club members. Although she does not hold a single national title or tournament victory, she is our staunchest supporter, attending events, taking pictures and filming fights. In addition she helps in anyway she can and trains diligently, supporting new female members and helping them in the face of size disparities and overzealous training partners. Corinna is always alive and laughing even when wrestling with some sweaty behemoth or drilling conditioning rounds on the Thai pads. Corinna lives and works in Chicago with her husband and children

2004 Andy Stubbs

Andy has been a solid if unobtrusive cornerstone of Goshin Jitsu from his first day of training. Whether serving in a demonstration (i.e. being brutalized for the entertainment of others) or helping new students learn the basics, Andy is always ready to help. If you ask Andy to try, he will and by doing so he sets an example for other students to strive for. Andy is the most commonly called "demo guy" for the big throws, because his falls are the best and he is the guy closest in size with Mike. Andy will always be famous as the guy who bikes to and from class year round, without ever asking for a ride. Andy completed his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering in Spring 2005.

2004 Jean-Francois Chamberland-Tremblay

J-F was the backbone of our club during his time with Goshin Jitsu. Always ready to help, from being the demo guy to teaching new students to helping with French homework, J-F was an invaluable resource, friend, and moral center of the club. He would always push himself to the limit, and if anyone of his fellows needed someone to push them for competition or testing he would do his best as a training partner. Even after his knee injury and surgery, J-F was in the Combat Room, doing what he could do for his own training and helping out as a coach and teacher. J-F received his Ph.D. in the summer of 2004 and is currently an assistant professor at Texas A & M.

2004 Jennifer Danos

Jennifer is probably the toughest and most persistent Goshin Jitsuka in our history. During her tenure she not only came back from a horrific open arm fracture (she was training two weeks after the fracture with her cast on) but she also became the 2003 IKF North American Amateur Muay Thai Womens Lightweight Champion. She also earned a brown belt in Jeet Kune Do and a faixa azule (blue belt) in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Jack McVicker. Jennifer rarely had a partner her size but she kept training, always learning and making herself better, even when "defeated" by larger and stronger partners. Jennifer graduated with her Master of Fine Arts in Fall 2004.

2003 Yars Tsaytak

Yars (left) was the hardest drinking and probably the most athletic (pound for pound) Goshin Jitsuka we have ever had. He was also one of the most able club presidents we have had, we had more seminars, new Goshin Wear, and a greater legal solidification of Goshin Jitsu during his tenure. He was also instrumental in generating the first budget surplus in the club's history. Besides these contributions, he was an able assistant instructor and did a fantastic job with both new and experienced students.

2002 Erwin "Easy" Mangubat

Erwin started the year that Mike Aref and Joe Tan took over the club. Through four hard years and a torn ACL (not by us!), Erwin was unswerving in the perfection of his martial arts skills. Erwin could well be considered the heart of Goshin Jitsu: patient, kind and good natured. He is now a neurosurgeon.

2001 Sensei Doug Musser (honorary award)

Sensei Musser (performing throw) has led Illini Jujitsu since before Goshin Jitsu was founded. Doug has been an invaluable source of knowledge, a healer of broken Goshin Jitsuka, and friend to the members of the club. Truly a class act and a great martial artist, Doug was a fixture of the U of I and Central Illinois' martial arts community for many years.

2001 "Sakura" Bart Haton

Bart (left with former UFC Heavyweight Champion Andrei Arlovsky) is another of the "Five to Keep GJ Alive". Bart found martial arts later in life but with a greater passion (perhaps making up for lost time). Always questioning and reasoning, Bart was always in the know about mixed-martial arts athletes, technique videos, and the latest in martial arts magazines. Bart also served as club treasurer and as one of our "idea men".

2000 Tim Parker

One of the "Five to Keep GJ Alive" (one of the five members of Goshin Jitsu during the summer after Mike and Joe took over), Tim chose Goshin Jitsu over Ultimate Frisbee and became one of our most dedicated and hard working members. Tim had incredible work ethic and probably holds the record for consistent attendance. He became a talented striker, thrower, and submission artist. Tim graduated from Electrical and Computer Engineering and now works in California where he trains Danzan Ryu Jujitsu.

1998 Brent "Bip" Metcalf

1998 Joe Tan

1997 Meggan Weeks (1973-2007)

(Meggan Weeks passed away in late June 2007 after tragically taking her own life) Those of us who knew Meggan remember an attractive, smart, laughing, joyful girl who was always willing to help her friends. She was forced into Goshin Jitsu by her playful nature, in the same way a near grown tiger cub is playful, she liked to hit and tackle people. She'd spar, happy to hit or be hit. She'd throw and be thrown and seemed to enjoy both results equally. I remember having trained with GJ for a year or two when I was partnered with this tall, pretty, brunette for throws. In those days Goshin Jitsuka wore kimonos and did many traditional jujitsu nage. As I was uncoordinated and learning a new throw I was intensely concentrating on the set-up. All of a sudden I heard a disgusted "EXCUSE ME" and looked into Meggan's angry face, I rapidly came out of my learning stupor and discovered that my right hand was inappropriately and intimately placed on Meggan's chest. My face must have betrayed my embarrassment because the next moment Meggan was laughing so hard that tears came pouring down her face and she was reassuring me that she understood it was an honest mistake.

Meggan was also a student in the physics department with an interest in geology/geophysics. We shared classes there, too, but the experience has fewer embarrassing anecdotes. She used to recruit folks for activities like playing pool, and she'd gently twist your arm to go, but her verbal jujitsu was so good you'd think it was your idea.

After Meggan graduated she received her Sword Award, moved away, and got a job. One day I got a call out of the blue from her, with laughter in her voice telling me how glad she was that Goshin Jitsu was still an active club. Like many of our alums some of her fondest college memories surrounded the club and its members. We stayed in touch, although she always did a better job calling me or sending e-mail. We'd chat every couple of months about everything from serious social political issues to grousing about the insanities of the opposite sex to inane commentaries about why we both enjoyed hitting people. She even came up a few times to visit her sister, drop by for a practice, and catch a meal with a few folks from the old days. As always she was happy and friendly, with laughter in her voice.

I will miss my friend. We had spoken of her prior severe depression but this horrible pain appeared encased in a resilient, happy shell, it seemed that those problems were in her past. Sadly that was not so and the world is a smaller place because of it.

Mike Aref

June 28, 2007

1996 Becky Zerlentes (1971-2005)

(Becky Zerlentes passed away April 3, 2005 from a traumatic brain injury sustained in a boxing match) Becky started training with Goshin Jitsu after coming to one of the club parties on Green Street. She defected from synchronized swimming to do this, although she still enjoyed swimming and ice skating, following her GJ assimilation. She trained with and later became the chief instructor of the club. She also trained boxing, Danzan Ryu Jujitsu, and Okazaki massage. During her tenure here she also completed a doctorate in geography, I remember filming her thesis defense.

The first time I ever watched a Goshin Jitsu practice. Becky was the only person who talked to me and encouraged me to join. Later I remember confidently striding up to her to be thrown only to eat mat harder than I ever had before, her turning radius was considerably shorter than my own. Becky always said she had little confidence and that she deferred easily, but she had no problems ordering guys two or three times her size around and I never recall her shying away from sparring or grappling with anyone. Becky said it and it got done, I'm still running the club because she told me to when she graduated.

Becky was the both the sweetest of women and most ruthless of fighters. She helped reshape certain belligerent attitudes I had with a winning smile and a soft explanation. She also taught a street self-defense class where I ended up in a crumpled heap on the floor. She was supportive of others but self-deprecating. She told me, "One of these days I'm going to see your name in Grappling," but failed to mention her own teaching and competitive milestones. Becky could also set spines and gave awesome massages, but her hugs could cure anything

I want to say that Becky died doing something she loved and it was a warrior's death, but these are hollow words that don't reflect the loss of Becky's unstoppable and unforgettable spirit. She will be missed and those of us lucky enough to know her are lessened by her passing.

Mike Aref

April 5, 2005