Z-Ultimate Self Defense Studio Will Close

James Herzog, better known as “Sensei” Herzog, will close his Z-Ultimate Self Defense studios at the end of the month.


There’s no easy way to say this: on March 31, the Palisades branch of Z-Ultimate Self Defense studios will be closing for good after 27 years.

“A lot of things happened all at once, and well… I just couldn’t keep paying the rent on the building,” said owner and 3rd degree black belt James Herzon, who is a practitioner of Saikyo-style karate.

Herzog moved to California from Pennsylvania with his family when he was 16. He attended UCLA, where he took his first karate class on impulse and became instantly hooked.

Quickly rising through the ranks, he attained a black belt, then opened his own Saikyo dojo. He owned a dojo on Palisades Drive in Pacific Palisades in 1997.

In 2014, he moved to his current location on Sunset at Marquez Avenue. The past five years there have been issues. First it was Covid that shut down the dojo, and then in January 2023, a car drove into the studio. Although no one was injured it took two months to reopen. https://www.circlingthenews.com/car-ran-through-…-planned-april-3/ ‎.

Over his career, Herzog has had 500 students, of whom only 13 have gone on to become black belts.
That’s about as far as I can go with an unbiased perspective. I’m a student of Sensei’s and am deeply saddened to see him go. I first started training with Sensei about 10 years ago, when I was a cheeky brat who thought he knew everything (You’ll see that not too much has changed).

In that time, I’ve grown and changed a lot as a person, and I can attribute a significant portion of that growth to Sensei’s influence.

Z-Ultimate has 10 belts of various colors, ordered from lowest to highest rank as follows: white, yellow, orange, purple, blue, blue-green, green, green-brown, brown, and black. Currently, I am at green-brown rank.

To rank up from a lower belt to a higher one, one must take a test and demonstrate knowledge of techniques for that rank, as well as general karate fundamentals. Tests take at minimum two hours, getting steadily longer as one progresses in rank. To reach my green belt, the test took four hours. Non-stop, no breaks.

Thanks to Sensei Herzog, I learned discipline, and how to deal with negative emotions as well. When Sensei said he was closing the dojo and retiring, a favorite quote of his came to mind. “The world is unfair. But it’s unfair to everyone, so that makes it kind of fair if you think about it.”

Sensei may be done teaching full-time, but he will still sub in if other teachers need him to teach classes temporarily.

“And I’m not gonna stop training,” he laughed. “One day I’m going to Japan to train with the Shorinji monks.”

In his retirement, Sensei’s number one plan is to spend more time with his two sons. “I definitely won’t miss driving from Huntington Beach to the Palisades every day,” he said.

My test for brown belt is coming up in May, and I plan to train as much as possible with Sensei this month to ensure I pass. That’s about the only way I can think of to repay him for what he’s done for me.

Sensei Herzog works with a student in the dojo at Marquez and Sunset.

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One Response to Z-Ultimate Self Defense Studio Will Close

  1. Russell Long says:

    This Sensei is an inspiration to anyone who knows him. As a current student of his, I am saddened but wish him the very best in his retirement. I also will continue to train. There are other Z Ultimate Self Defense dojo’s. The closest one to PP is in Westwood.

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