Classes were just spooling up again for students at Gerry Blanck’s Martial Arts Center in the 881 Alma Real building, when Blanck was told that he had to evacuate his basement space by the end of December.
“The kids were so sad,” he told Circling the News. “A bit of normalcy was just coming back with the classes and now it’s gone again.”
We contacted the building’s owner, Sandstone Properties, and was told the matter “was confidential between the landlord and tenant.”
Blanck said that in October, he was told he could go month to month, but two months later he learned he had to be out by January 1.
“Worst New Year’s ever,” said Blanck, who moved to the Palisades back in 1982. After initially teaching in five different clubs in that spot at 881 Alma Real (La Sante, Tech Fitness, Pritikin, Century and Pacific Athletic Club – which moved to Sunset and PCH and is now the Bay Club), he and Emily Kay Tillman of Fancy Feet Dance Studio took the spaces that had been occupied by health clubs in 1994. They added flooring and mirrors for dance and martial arts.
Psychologist Tamar Springer, who was one of Blanck’s students before becoming one of his instructors, told CTN, “It’s very sad. Gerry was in that spot for something like 27 years. It’s impossible to think that our beloved dojo, a community center and much more than martial arts classes, is not there.”
Blanck said that his space was $12,000 a month and during Covid, he was unable to teach classes, which meant he was behind on rent, but “I paid them” as cash came in.
He’s looking for a new Palisades location because “I want to march with my students in the Fourth of July parade – this would be the 21st time of doing it and this would be my 40thanniversary.”
Numerous Palisades residents attended the martial arts center as kids and their children were some of Blanck’s students at the end of 2021. More than 100 students received their black belts at the studio.
His students ranged in age from three years to a person in his 80s, and he has coached professional athletes such as Sugar Ray Leonard as well as the actors Tom Hanks and Steve Guttenberg.
Thousands went through Blanck’s doors as they learned the athleticism and discipline necessary for karate, kickboxing, jiu-jitsu, judo and self-defense.
“Martial arts help build confidence and improve discipline,” said Blanck, a native of Pensacola, Florida, who began practicing karate as a teenager. He became serious about the martial arts as a student at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, when Grand Master Yamamoto, a tenth-degree black belt who founded Yoshukai Karate, visited the school from Japan.
Blanck received his black belt in 1977 under sixth-degree black belt Hiroaki Toyama and under Master Yuki Koda. In 1982, he moved to California to fight for a world title in martial arts, and a year later he won the titles of World Karate Association Super Featherweight Champion and International Kickboxing Association Junior-Lightweight Champion. He retired from fighting in 1985 with a record of 23-2.
Blanck, who has been active in the community, is also an enthusiastic supporter of the Pacific Palisades Baseball Association, sponsoring a team every year.
In recognition of his involvement, he was chosen as Fourth of July parade marshal in 2012. He was a member of the Chamber of Commerce for decades and received the Mort Farberow Business Person of the Year Award in 2013.
Whenever there was a Chamber-sponsored community event in town, Blanck and his students participated—just as they did at Ho!Ho!Ho! in Simon Meadow in December.
Currently, Blanck has his office and a small store at 877 Via de la Paz and can be reached at (310) 720-3994. He has promised to let CTN know when he has a new space, so that its location can be shared with the community. Currently he is teaching at the Palisades Recreation Center and offers private lessons.