Prof. James Marcinkus

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James A. Marcinkus
(1948 - 2000)

Prof. James Marcinkus, Rokudan, was the co-founder of the Southern California Jujitsu Association. He was also the founder of the famous Penmar Jujitsu Kai in Venice, CA and served as its chief instructor for 17 years. He passed away on February 2, 2000.

James Anthony Marcinkus was born on September 5, 1948 to Tony and Bertha Marcinkus in Gardner, Massachusettes. His family was proud of their Lithuanian heritage. At age 6, Jim and his family moved to Venice, California. When he was 10 years old, the first of three major events occurred that were to shape his life.


At age 10, Jim began to study Jujitsu with Prof. William G. Randle in the Santa Monica YMCA's "Junior Judo" program. Though many will only remember Jim as an attorney, for 41 years, the defining element was Kodenkan (Danzan-Ryu) Jujitsu. Even as a youngster, he showed glimpses of the Sensei he would become, where he helped his teacher to re-organized lists of techniques for the junior class.

An avid competitor, Jim earned trophies in both Judo and Jujitsu. In addition, he showed such responsibility in the Jujitsu class that when his teacher temporarily left the class, Jim was put in charge.

In 1965, Randle entered the Holy Cross brotherhood in Texas for several years and his senior black belt, Mike Chubb went to serve with the U.S. Army in the Viet Nam war. At this time, Marcinkus took over the Santa Monica YMCA class even though he was a brown belt. The next year, Prof. Raymond L. Law, acting in place of Prof. Randle, promoted the 17 year old Marcinkus to Shodan (a rare occurrence in Danzan-Ryu.) Marcinkus continued at the Santa Monica YMCA until 1967 when he founded the club at the Penmar Recreation Center in Venice, CA.

By 1966, Jim had established the Penmar Jujtsu Kai dojo. This school gained fame through its many outstanding students who took the club to 16 southern California and 4 national Kata championships. Penmar was also the home dojo for such notable instructors as David Marcincus, Mike Belzer, Steve Belzer, Leif Bennet, David Bellman, Lawrence Boydston, Mark Wald, John Quijano among many others. During Prof. Marcinkus' 17 years as chief instructor at Penmar, he promoted approximately 45 black belts and taught over 1000 students.

During this time, Marcinkus was a member of the board of the American Judo & Jujitsu Federation (AJJF) and served as Region 2 (southern California) director. The AJJF was very strongly centered in northern and central California, and at that time many areas of service were lacking to the southern California group.There were also philosophical differences between Marcinkus (and others) with the AJJF board of Professors in the north. This led to a break-away of many of the southern California schools.  In 1980, recognizing the need for support at a more local level, Marcinkus formed the Southern California Jujitsu Association (SCJA) to effectively provide services to dojos by centralizing administration of contests, examinations and promotions.

In 1980, with more than 40 schools in his organization, Jim retired from active teaching at the rank of Rokudan and the title of Professor. His Jujitsu lineage is one of the largest and most distinguished in all of the Danzan-Ryu community.


In 1969, Jim embarked on another path that would define a major aspect of his life. As the war in Viet Nam was heating up, Jim joined the Army Reserve Mobile Hospital unit based at the Santa Monica Airport. After several years in an enlisted billet, Jim went to officer training and accepted the commission as a 2nd Lieutenant. Twenty-three years of weekend training later and having also served in the Inspector General office, Jim retired at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

During these years, the summer training took Jim to such exotic locales as Alaska and Norway.  He applied his organizational abilities to upgrade his unit's readiness and efficiency. He probably could have made the Army a career, but by staying in the Army Reserves, Jim was able to remain in the community and continue teaching Jujitsu. He also continued in his university studies and helped in his parent's real estate business. For Jim, it was about service and doing his duty for his community.


The third milestone of Jim's life came in 1981 when he passed the California Bar exam and embarked upon his career as an attorney. He earned a Doctorate in Law (LLD) from Loyola Marymount University. Working briefly for a large law firm, he quickly established his own practice in Westchester near LAX. Later, he moved his office next to his parent's real estate office. Despite the fact that the Westchester office was much more spacious, Jim opted to stay near his many clients in the Venice and Mar Vista neighborhoods.

Herein lies another clue to the character of Jim Marcinkus. He always tried to be a "good guy". Jim was not about money. He was about helping people. He was the kind of attorney sought out by people who were intimidated by the law; friends and the family of friends, suddenly confronted with a legal issue, turned to someone they felt they could trust -- someone they knew would "take care of the problem." It was like having a lawyer in the family, and Jim was family.

Specializing in real estate law, owing to his family's business, Jim also practiced general law. Jim was the "family attorney" to an entire neighborhood. Jim was the first and only resort for many who were afraid of entrusting their fate to a stranger. He was the solid, stalwart guardian of an entire community, standing silently in the background; the one person you could always depend upon. Someone who would always be there in time of need.

Jim's Passing

One draw back to a life of service is that the true servant is willing to give his life for his friends. After having some abdominal trouble, Jim went to the hospital for treatment. However, due to his busy schedule, Jim checked himself out early and went home to do some legal work. He died from complications of the earlier problems.

Jim Marcinkus will be sorely missed. Son of Bertha and Tony, brother of Dave, teacher, counselor and friend to many; he was the link that tied toether a vast extended family spread out far beyond the city and county, reaching across the country.

There is a document known as "The Esoteric Principles of Judo", which was adapted from the graduation scroll of Danzan-Ryu founder, Prof. Henry Seishio Okazaki, lays out the goals for perfection and development of one's character. In it are terms that seem out of date today: "honor your parents", "be  of service to others", "foster good citizenship" by serving your community.

Jim was all these things -- not because he was consciously trying to manifest some arcane philosophy, but by naturally living a life of service. Doubtless, he was largely unaware of the esteem in which he was held by many; the positive impact he had on lives that had long since drifted away and, yes, the love that will certainly be expressed in grief. We often find ourselves too busy to say, "Thank you", until it is too late. Thank you, Jim.


Note: The following information was provided to this page by both Prof. James Marcinkus and Sensei Steve Singleton.

Other Images of Prof. Jim Marcinkus


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Jim Marcinkus (left) as a Rokkyu (6th class) white belt with his instructor Sensei Bill Randle.
Thanks to Mike Belzer and Mike Dingman for submitting this photo.

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Jim Marcinkus (seated right) as a brown belt at the Westside YMCA. Senseis Bill Randle (standing center) and Mike Chubb (standing left) are also shown.
Thanks to Mike Belzer and Mike Dingman for submitting this photo.

Penmar Jujitsu Kai Sensei Jim Marcinkus teaching the use of the club in the early 1970's at YMCA Camp Big Bear.

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Sensei Jim Marcinkus awards the coveted black belt to a student at the Penmar Judo Kai in 1971. Joe Burlin stands at left. Prof. Lamar Fisher of the AJJF is seated at the far right.
Thanks to Mike Belzer and Mike Dingman for submitting this photo.

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Jim's brother David Marcinkus

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Jim's black belt indicating the rank of Professor.

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Jim's Sensei Prof. Bill Randle (seated center) along with students (L-R) Steve and Mike Belzer gather to remember Jim on Feb. 12, 2000. George Arrington (R) was a student of the Belzers in Virginia in the 1970's.


This page maintained by George Arrington.

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