I’ve watched a lot of martial arts classes (and other kids’ classes) where there was a lot of the you-watch-me-now-each-person-takes-a-turn; meanwhile, most of the class was goofing off while waiting. This doesn’t happen at Hanabi. Dan Sensei and his staff know kids. It is obvious they love kids, every single one of them, and care deeply about each kid’s learning and moving forward.
Laury Roberts, Parent & member
Whether you are a child, teenager, young adult, or a man in his late fifties (like me), you will be in good hands with Dan Sensei and his experienced staff at Hanabi Judo in Albany. Your child will not only learn judo and coordination, but the essentials of life: mental discipline, respect for others, teamwork, concentration, etc.
Bob Craig, Parent & member
Mel Augustine, Our Founding Sensei
Mel Augustine began the Albany Judo Club in 1965 after retiring from a successful career as a competitor. He had been a national champion, the Captain of the National Champion San Jose State Judo team as well as an Air Force Combatives instructor preparing young men for the Korean War.
In 1965 the Director of the Albany (California) YMCA, John Carhart, asked Augustine to start a judo program, and within three years he had produced his first national champion.
Since then Mel Augustine has been the coach or manager of numerous American international judo teams including one to the 1971 world championships. He was an official in the Los Angeles and Atlanta Olympic Games. And the Albany Judo Club has produced over 100 state, national and international champions. His students have started over a dozen judo clubs from Richmond and Oakland to South Africa. He is a seventh degree black belt and one of the most well-known men in American judo.
Developing people of strength and character since 1965.
A part of the Albany community for over 50 years, Hanabi Judo offers classes for people ages three to seventy-three—and beyond.
Our goal is to become a healthy and fun part of your life. We have produced over a hundred state, national, and international champions, but most of our members don’t actually compete but simply enjoy working out and learning in our friendly atmosphere. We have classes of various levels for children and adults and we especially welcome women (who, not relying on strength, learn technique very quickly.)
Our head instructor, 6th degree black belt Dan Augustine, won the U.S. Senior National Championship in 1984 and was the alternate to the 1988 Olympics. He won the U.S. Master’s Championship in 1993 and 1994. He holds a master’s degree in education and has taught in New York, Tokyo, and Berkeley. He speaks both Japanese and Spanish.
Our founder, Mel Augustine—many-time national champion, U.S. coach, Olympic official, and 7th-degree black belt—began The club in 1965. We have one of the largest groups of Black-Belt Senseis in the country including Brazilian and Mongolian champions and a 2009 World Master’s champion.
You can join us at any time. Regular promotional exams will have you going from white belt to yellow and, hopefully, all the way to black. Friends and family are always welcome to watch.
Why Hanabi Judo is Special
In 19th century Japan judo’s primary goal was said to be the development of character; Hanabi interprets that in 21st century America to mean that we, as judo’s representatives, should be good people: welcoming and friendly. Hanabi is a comfortable, fun place for all.
In Hanabi’s supportive environment, “No” or “Don’t” are not words you hear often. Instead you will hear shouts of encouragement and laughter.
Judo, though an individual sport, cannot be practiced alone. We need each other to learn. And at Hanabi our members are our most valuable learning resource. Beginning students, as young as 6, help with the 3 and 4 year old Pre-judo students. Intermediates, especially our teenagers, act as assistant instructors for the beginning kids. The younger members look up to their “sempai,” or seniors, as both instructors and role models.
As we work together, we become friends. We believe that the friendships that grow here are one of Hanabi’s greatest benefits. And these friendships can last a lifetime.
It is not surprising to us that Hanabi’s members do well outside of judo. For example, our two high school senior assistant instructors, Flora Ziprin and Wesley Augustine are both excellent students. Flora is President of the 3500 member Berkeley High School student body; Wesley, with a grade point average above 4.0, has been accepted into Duke University as an Engineering Major.
Hanabi, like judo, is an international community. Japan, Russia, Brazil, Israel, Algeria, Mongolia, Germany, France, and Italy are some of the many countries that are represented at Hanabi. Hanabi offers judo classes at Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley (EB), a international French-American school in Berkeley; Bay Area Kinderstube, a German immersion preschool in Albany; and at Tehiyah Day School, a Jewish Pre-K through eighth grade school in El Cerrito.