American Martial Arts Academy celebrates 25 years of ‘Making a Difference’

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Sensei John McCray embraces Sensei Frank Bianchino. Sensei John McCray embraces Sensei Frank Bianchino.

By DEBORAH PATTERSON
Correspondent

SEAVILLE – The American Martial Arts Academy celebrated its 25th anniversary on Friday, Aug. 17.

“It has been a long road to today, but one he enjoyed every step of the way,” said Sensei John McCray, who began teaching martial arts when he founded the academy.

McCray said he wanted to share the journey and thank all of the people who had a part in helping, encouraging and inspiring him so he celebrated the 25th anniversary of the American Martial Arts Academy by inviting everyone involved. Over 300 guests filled the room in the academy’s building on Rt. 50 in Seaville as one-by-one McCray acknowledged those who helped him and the school.

He began the evening by talking about the sensei he first trained with in 1980, Master Malcolm Perkins, who is still teaching at the Ninja Karate Academy in Ventnor. McCray began his own class on Aug. 17, 1987 and has awarded 533 black belts since.

McCray thanked everyone involved in his success, from his accountants, his staff, his wife and office manager Maura, and everyone in between.

In 1992, McCray came up with the name “American Martial Arts Academy.” The academy started in a building in the Cedar Square Shopping Center. In 1997 it moved to its present location at 96 Rt. 50.

"You are the future of this academy,” he told students. “Remember, to be a great student you have to think about what you're doing and always try your best. You will always get better."

McCray spoke about those who have inspired him and helped him develop his creed of teaching martial arts in a spirit of non-violence, with respect to be offered to everyone.

Sensei Beth Emma and Sensei Lynn Brady were awarded their third degree black belts during the celebration. A special time was also set aside to honor instructor Frank Bianchino who was promoted to the level of sensei, becoming the youngest sensei ever at the academy.
The evening continued with each instructor receiving words of thanks and praise. There were also commemorative plaques given out, including one to Jesse Rossner who was in McCray’s first black belt class.
Current students recited the Martial Arts Creed. McCray told them, "If you think you can become a black belt, you're right. If you don't think you can become a black belt, you're also right."
John and Jill DeRobertis, whose 13-year-old daughter Samantha earned her brown belt in the academy’s youth program, said their daughter has learned good values and developed friendships with students from all over Cape May County.

“It becomes a family. There is a commitment that is supported by the teachers and Sensei John,” said John DeRobertis.

"I love going and I learn a lot every day that I go,” said Samantha.

The evening was well planned and the building was decorated with balloons and flowers. What was unplanned was the return of love, respect and spirit McCray got back that night.

A young student named Haley Schull performed an interpretive dance for McCray to the song “Sunshine on My Shoulder.” Brady got up and spoke of her years working with McCray and her admiration for his dedication to the students. Emma sang a rendition of “You Made Me Love You,” which she said she had been practicing for quite some time. She then showed an amusing power point presentation on the benefits of earning a third degree black belt.

The evening was a testimony of how John McCray felt toward his students, but it also showed how his students felt towards him. That is why the American Martial Arts Academy will probably be around for another 25 years.

Haley Schull performs to the song Haley Schull performs to the song

Some former black belts line up for a picture. Some former black belts line up for a picture.

Level two instructors, from left, Captain Bryan Helm, Mike Fala and Stephen Campbell were also acknowledged. Level two instructors, from left, Captain Bryan Helm, Mike Fala and Stephen Campbell were also acknowledged.

Current students were invited to recite the Martial Arts Creed. Current students were invited to recite the Martial Arts Creed.


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