Gerry Blanck’s Dojo at 881 Alma Real Closes, After 27 Years

Kids and adults from Gerry Blanck’s martial arts classes performed at the Ho!Ho!Ho! in 2019 and again this year at Simon Meadow.
Photo: Shelby Pascoe

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.


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8 Responses to Gerry Blanck’s Dojo at 881 Alma Real Closes, After 27 Years

  1. Marlene Schaffner says:

    Gerry taught both of my sons, Adam & Brent Burnett, about 35
    Years ago. This is very sad to hear and if there’s anything
    us Palisadians can do please publish and I’m sure there
    will be a big response!

  2. M says:


  3. Lisa Sweetingham says:

    It’s shameful to think a Palisades legend and pillar of the community like Gerry Blanck is being shut out of the space he taught at for 27 years. Any landlord would be fortunate to have Gerry as a tenant; his dojo is a hub of activity, learning, and families. Gerry was my first karate instructor many many years ago and he’s always been a great friend to me, and to all his students. I hope the Palisades doesn’t lose him to another town!

  4. Linda Ellrod says:

    I am one of Sensei Blanck’s first students from 1982. I was a member of the health club La Sante. Almost 40 years ago, as I walked from the weight room to the locker room, I stopped and saw someone teaching kickboxing and karate. As a 15 -year- old, I thought to myself, ” this is super cool, and he is super cute” and decided to give it a try. I continue to train and teach in the Palisades. In addition, I met my husband of 31 years here.
    My life has been very challenging mostly due to the fact that I have raised 2 children with severe special needs. Karate has been an integral part of my life which has made me into the resilient and dedicated woman that I am today. I would not be who I am today without Sensei Blanck and my practice of martial arts.
    It’s very sad for me to see my “dojo” empty, but I will follow my Sensei wherever he decides to continue. Hopefully he will find a permanent location very soon because so many of his students need him and love him. He is a legend in the Palisades and will continue to be forever.

  5. Jennifer McIntosh says:

    As one of Mr. Blanck’s first students 40 years ago and an active Black Belt, I am thrilled to see his continuation of classes. Sensei Gerry is an inspiring teacher and friend, always positive, friendly with a twinkle in his eye and a joke to tell. He has been an important part of my life as a friend and instructor with a positive influence on me and his many students.

    I learned from Sensei Blanck about martial arts and have met other dedicated people who benefit from his inspiration. Sensei Gerry is one of the top martial artists in our worldwide organization. Mr. Blanck is one of my best friends in and out of training. He attracts good people to our organization.

    It has been difficult for him to deal with an uncooperative landlord and to move his location. But, he has persisted. I am happy that he has chosen to continue teaching which will benefit the many kids and adults who love him and benefit from his knowledge and friendship.

  6. Cristina says:

    I been lucky enough to call Gerry a good friend and a amazing teacher. Used to take kickboxing classes and also teach time to time! Very sad about the news when he told me that he has to close the dojo.

  7. Art D. says:

    I had the privilege of meeting Sensei Blanck back in 1993. I was immediately accepted into his martial arts family and was instantly and have since been treated with great friendship and generosity. Gerry has always been there for me, even going so far as to allowing me to shoot several personal and USC student film projects in his beloved dojo, even going the extra mile to starring in a few projects himself. Sensei Blanck is a good-natured, charitable human being — one of the most benevolent and well-loved people I know, and I am proud to call him Sensei and friend. It was heartbreaking to help him dismantle this classic multi-decade, multi-generational institution; a legit piece of Palisadean history, but I guess some people [callous landlord] value money above the things that truly matter — honor, respect, kindness, and love — all qualities abundant in Sensei Gerry Blanck. This is not the end, it’s an awesome beginning to a new chapter!

  8. Finn-Olaf Jones says:

    Having had four kids go through Gerry’s dojo (including one who got his blackbelt there) this is truly a tragedy for the community.That enormous multigenerational space with parents milling about and socializing in the relaxed spectator area was really the Pacific Palisades Palisades unofficial village square. What silly landlord would want to lose that?

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