Kyoshi Ronald John Pardini, senior Judo instructor at Spirit Forge Martial Arts, has spent a lifetime practicing Judo. Kyoshi Pardini, as one of the founders of The Pittsburgh School of Judo in 1962, was instrumental in establishing Judo in the Pittsburgh area. Kyoshi Pardini teaches a Master class at Spirit Forge Martial Arts on Saturday afternoons.
Kyoshi Ronald John Pardini
The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.–Pablo Picasso
Ronald John Pardini’s roots in Pittsburgh Judo run deep.
Pardini, Shichidan, 7th Dan, Kyoshi, began his lifelong study and practice of Judo in 1959 at the age of twenty-two at the Pittsburgh YMCA by attending a four-week course taught by Sensei Shale Paul, a Dan-ranked Judoka from Washington State. Although Sensei Paul returned to Washington State at the conclusion of the course, Sensei Pardini and his Judo classmates continued to train at the YMCA, often turning to Jigaro Kano’s seminal text, Kodokan Judo, for instruction.
In 1962, Sensei Pardini and several fellow Judoka from the YMCA course undertook construction of The Pittsburgh School of Judo on the second floor of a building adjacent to the Pittsburgh Observatory on the North Side of Pittsburgh. To the best of his recollection, Sensei Pardini lists this group as: initially, Charles Katz, David Katz, Steven Mitro, Garland McCune, Albert Sterling, Daniel Colclayzer, Joseph and Thomas Vukson, Thomas Esenbaugh, Robert Voge, James Poschel and the Igim brothers, later joined by Nick Zufuto, Frank Resinkski and Joe Bova. Many of these gentlemen became familiar names in the Pittsburgh Judo community. The school was built with their own hands, largely with salvaged building materials, which included padding their tatami with sawdust from a friend’s sawmill shoveled into a rented truck then hauled to the second floor in bags! The Pittsburgh School of Judo was notably successful, often attracting twenty to twenty-five Judoka to its training sessions. In 1963, when the building housing The Pittsburgh School of Judo was slated for demolition as Pittsburgh’s North Side urban renewal reached its doorstep, the group lost its lease and moved to Crafton, Pennsylvania outside of Pittsburgh to join Joseph and Thomas Vukson at a dojo founded by their father.
The Pittsburgh School of Judo was part of the Shufu Yudanshakai, a charter member of the USJF, United States Judo Federation. Founded in 1952 by Senseis James and Edwin Takemori, the Shufu Yudanshakai covers a large portion of the Mid-Atlantic States including the Washington DC metro area, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, the Carolinas and Georgia. The Shufu Yudanshakai provided an opportunity for the members of The Pittsburgh School of Judo to participate in tournaments with competitors drawn from several states and provided a formal system for rank promotion.
In the early 1960’s, upon learning of the great All-Korean Judo Champion Kyu Ha Kim, the members of the Pittsburgh School of Judo contacted Kyu Ha Kim and invited him to instruct at their school. Sensei Pardini and Robert Voge later sponsored Kyu Ha Kim’s (February 24,1935-May 14, 2021) application for US citizenship. Kyu Ha Kim agreed to teach at the Pittsburgh School of Judo and did so for a number of years, which began Sensei Pardini’s long association with Kyu Ha Kim. (Note: the legendary Kyu Ha Kim came to be addressed as Kwanjangnim, Grandmaster, GM, his honorific in the martial art of Taekwondo, or simply by his preference, Mr. Kim). After teaching at the Pittsburgh School of Judo for several years, GM Kyu Ha Kim established his own martial arts school, Kim’s Judo and Karate (later Kim’s Martial Arts and Fitness, KMAF, which became a Pittsburgh institution and is still in operation), attracting many of Pittsburgh’s Judoka, including Sensei Pardini. The opening of KMAF was the end of The Pittsburgh School of Judo, which closed its doors shortly after KMAF began operation. Several of the original members of The Pittsburgh School of Judo went on to found Judo dojo in the Pittsburgh area.
Sensei Pardini was a member of KMAF for decades, initially as a student, later as Sempai and valued senior instructor. Training several times a week, he not only freely shared his considerable knowledge of Judo, but also provided a role model for aspiring Judoka who were privileged to share time with him on the mat. Over the years, Sensei Pardini steadily advanced in rank; he was promoted to 7th Dan, Shichidan by USJI, United States Judo, Inc., on November 26, 2007, a level few Judoka achieve. During his long tenure KMAF, he regularly competed in Master’s Judo Championships at the national level and distinguished himself by winning twelve Master’s National Judo Championships, and placing second once. The latter came when he entered and competed with a torn rotator cuff!
In addition to his highly decorated career as a Judoka, Sensei Pardini has led a full life outside of Judo. Devoted to his family, he has been married for sixty-two years and is father to five children, grandfather to seven grandchildren and is soon to be a great grandfather. A grandson, Joseph Pardini, is also a Judoka, training under his grandfather at Spirit Forge Martial Arts (spiritforgema.com) in Bridgeville, Pennsylvania.
The trajectory of Sensei Pardini’s academic career and professional life mirror his achievements in the Judo world. His working life began in 1958 when he went to work at Colteryahn Dairy as a milkman, where he worked for nine years. In 1969, Sensei Pardini joined the Upper St Clair Police Department as a patrolman. During this time, he attended the Community College of Allegheny County, earning an Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice 1976 after nine years of study! He later transferred his hard-earned academic credits to Duquesne University where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology in 1981. Somehow during this time frame, he entered and completed the 117th Training Session at the FBI Academy, from which he graduated in 1979, followed by additional training in the US Secret Service Dignitary Protection School, graduating in 1982. Sensei Pardini, followed this extensive training with a course in security and evasive driving at the renowned Summit Point Training Facility. Sensei Pardini then entered a graduate program in Regional Planning at California University of Pennsylvania, from which he graduated with a Master’s Degree in 1990. Sensei Pardini rose through the ranks of the Upper St. Clair Police Department and in 2013, retired as Chief of Police after a distinguished forty-five year career. He continues to serve his community as a member of the Upper St. Clair Township Council. Over the course of his working life, he also found the time to build six houses!
Sensei Pardini’s life has not been without tragedy and heartache, in spite of which he continues to provide an example of strength and discipline in the face of adversity as he cares for his loved ones, contributes to his community and teaches the martial art he loves. Sensei Pardini attributes his ability to carry on through life’s difficulties to the strong spirit and internal strength forged during his years of Judo training.
I began my long association with Sensei Pardini on the mat at KMAF in the 1980’s. From the moment we first met, his encyclopedic command of Judo technique and fierce spirit were clearly in evidence! Today, Sensei Pardini, at eighty-four years old, regularly teaches a Judo Master Class on Saturday afternoons at Spirit Forge Martial Arts where he freely passes on his wealth of knowledge gleaned from a lifetime of Judo training.
–Master Christopher D. Moore, July 2022