A Tribute To George Hamm - My Original Sensei

(Originally posted to the Judo List on 02/01/04 - I thought I’d post this to my blog as a tribute…)

My original sensei, George Hamm, passed away Jan 23 after a three year fight with multiple myeloma. He held the rank of Hachidan. He formed one of the only two High School Judo programs in the U.S. at Hueneme High School in Oxnard California.

Retired as a teacher, he’d taught choral music… he held one BA, and three MA degrees… he was working on his doctoral degree in music as well. I can’t remember many of the courses I took in high school, but I remember well a general humanities course he taught. For a student who was heavily into science and math, it was a real eye-opener!

The thing I most remember him for was his innovative way of looking at Judo. He would never have been called a strict traditionalist, even though his classes were taught that way. He often said that he wasn’t training competitors, he was training the next group of instructors. It was Mr. Hamm who first introduced me to the theories of Geoff Gleason. He constantly encouraged me to expand my knowledge of Judo, and look deeper into what I thought I already knew.

When I started training under him in the late 1960s he only held the rank of Nidan … he often joked that he was planning to author the book “How to be a Successful Nidan.” I also well remember the advice he once gave me… I told him I was thinking of writing a book on Judo… Mr. Hamm said “Be Original be unique be the one person who doesn’t write a book on Judo.”

He was quite proud of the fact that he’d served in the Marine Corps for several years doing service in Korea. When I went into the Marine Corps, I recall helping Mr. Hamm apply to the correct USMC dept. to receive the medals he was entitled to from the Korean War.

I last spoke to him a number of months ago, when he borrowed Don Cunningham’s Secret Weapons of Jujutsu from my library. (Don - He thought it was an excellent book!). He spent time researching martial art topics until his death. He changed the course of my life, and that of many other students. He’ll not be forgotten…