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Our Story

The Oldest Continually Operating Martial Arts School in North America


Our founder, Aloysius C. Holtmann from Iowa, enlists in USMC at age 21. Graduates MCRD in San Diego and stationed in Hawaii.

1938 - 1940

Corporal Holtmann trains in Hawaii with Seishiro (Henry) Okazaki, founder of Danzan-Ryu Jujutsu. Receives Black Belt and Mokoroku (teaching certificate) May 5, 1940.

1941 - 1945

US enters World War II. Sergeant Holtmann fights in some of the bloodiest battles in the Pacific, including Battles of Guam and Okinawa. Receives multiple field promotions.

1946 - 1949

Sergeant Major Holtmann retires from USMC in 1946. Attends and graduates from SDSU in 1949. Teaches Judo at San Diego YMCA until 1949 when he opens own school. Please note: chevrons to right reflect correct USMC insignia at time of Sergeant Major Holtmann’s promotion.

1946 01

Sensei Holtmann opens the Southern California School of Judo and Ju Jitsu (which will become The Arena) on 30th Street in San Diego. Will become the oldest continually operating Martial Arts school in North America. See history of Judo in San Diego here and here.


Sensei Holtmann featured in first issue of Black Belt Magazine. Goes on to appear in Black Belt numerous times over next 3 decades.


Sensei Holtmann dies at age 85 on December 19, 2001. Taught Judo and Ju Jitsu to over 100,000 students during a 7 decade teaching career.

Sensei Holtmann posthumously awarded Rokudan (6th Degree Black Belt) from Kodokan Judo headquarters in Tokyo, Japan.
2002 2005
2002 - 2005
Sensei Gene Mauro runs the school until his passing in August 2005. A retired Air Force vet and SDPD officer, he was a Shichidan (7th Degree Black Belt) and former National Heavyweight Judo Champion.

After 57 years at the 30th Street location, the school moves to a much larger facility at 3350 Sports Arena Blvd. School name is changed to The Arena to best represent a training center for modern day warriors. Offers programs in Boxing, FMA, Jiu Jitsu, Judo, Kickboxing, MMA, Muay Thai, and Wrestling.

The Arena Circle Logo
2007 - Present

The Arena grows to becomes the single largest Martial Arts school in North America. Its’ continued mission is to be the leading center in the world for Martial Arts and Combat Sports training.

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