The Arena Gym “Since 1949”

Following the launch of our new Arena Boxing shirts last week, many were left curious about the origin of the shirt’s epigraph “Since 1949”. While we are always excited about where our gym is headed in the future, we want to take an opportunity to pay homage to our past. This is the story of how The Arena Gym came to be.


Our story begins in Iowa in 1937 with Aloysius “Al” Holtmann. Holtmann enlisted in the Marine Corps at age 21 and later that year, graduated from the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, California. Al was stationed in Hawaii from 1938-1940, where he met Legendary Okazaki Seishiro. Under Okazaki Seishiro, Al began to learn Danzan-Ryu Jujutsu, a Japanese martial art containing elements of Jujutsu, Karate, Boxing, Wrestling, and Judo. Two years later, Holtmann received his Mokuroku from Seishiro, which enabled him to begin teaching Danzan-Ryu.


The outbreak of the Second World War in the early 1940s led to Holtmann’s deployment to the Pacific theater. There, he saw combat in some of the bloodiest battles of World War II, including Guam and Okinawa. Upon the war’s end, Holtmann retired from the Marine Corps and attended San Diego State University, all while continuing to teach Judo at the San Diego YMCA. After graduating college in 1949, Al founded his own club under the name “San Diego Judo Club”. Growing intrigue in Japanese culture and martial arts during the 1950s resulted in a surge in membership at Holtmann’s club. San Diego Judo Club was frequently featured in local newspapers and magazines, including the first edition of Black Belt magazine (America’s oldest martial arts magazine) in 1961.


Over the course of the next 5 decades, Holtmann taught over 100,000 students at his academy. Following his death in 2001, he was posthumously awarded his 6th degree black belt from Kodokan Judo headquarters in Tokyo. Holtmann’s student, Sensei Gene Mauro, took over the school after Al’s death. A 7th degree blackbelt and former Judo National Heavyweight Champion, Mauro led the school from 2002 until 2005. In 2006, San Diego Judo Club moved from its original location on 30th Street, to its current location at 3350 Sports Arena Blvd, and changed its name to The Arena. Today, The Arena is the second oldest martial arts school in the country and the largest school in North America.

Since 1949

The All New Arena App 2.0

The Arena Gym is excited to announce our All New Arena App fresh for 2022. If you’re reading this, then you’ve already taken the most important step and downloaded the app. The App will allow Arena members to earn Rewards points that have cash value and will be redeemable for Arena Gear, Apparel, and even Membership Dues. The referral feature includes easy access to your contacts using a variety of communication platforms including SMS text, Email, Facebook, IG, and others.
Arena App Coming Soon

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from The Arena

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the staff of The Arena! The gym will be closed on Christmas Day and New Years Day. Have safe holidays and we’ll see you on the mat.


Mike Liera Sr.:
Hi, I’m Mike Liera, Senior, general manager of The Arena. On behalf of our staff, we’d like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Take care. Stay safe.


Coach Joe Vargas:
What’s up Arena family. This is Coach Joe Vargas to wish everybody a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays. And like they say in my country, Feliz Navidad. I hope you guys have a good time and enjoy your family and friends.


Coach Jason Salazar:
Hi guys. Coach Jason here from The Arena. Just wanted to wish you a happy holidays and I’ll be waiting for you guys when you get back from your Christmas break.


Coach Charles Martinez:
Hey, what’s up everybody. It’s Coach Chuck. Just want to take a second to say Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanza or Solstice, whatever weird thing you celebrate. And just say that around this time of year, it’s easy to remember and be thankful for the little, weird family that we’ve built here.


Ken Dutkiewicz:
Hey, how’s it going guys? Ken here from The Arena, sales supervisor at the front desk. Just want to wish everybody a happy holiday, happy new year and stay safe and healthy, please.

Happy Veterans Day from The Arena

Happy Veterans Day to all who served! Our members and staff are heavily made up of active duty military and veterans, today we celebrate the oath you took with willingness to sacrifice all to protect this great nation. Thank you!


Coach Basheer Abdullah:
Hello, everyone. My name is Basheer Abdullah, I’m one of the boxing coaches at The Arena. I can proudly say I served 20 years in the United States Army as a boxer and elite coach. I can proudly say that I served the United States Army at four Olympics. I like to take this opportunity to wish all my veterans a very happy Veterans Day. You guys be safe and be blessed.

Ken Dutkiewicz:
Retired Corporal Dutkiewicz right here. You know me as your friendly front desk representative here at The Arena. I served four years in the Marine Corps, from 2010 to 2014. Happy Veterans Day to everybody out there, past, present and future. And happy birthday, Marines.

Coach Charles Martinez:
Hey, what’s up? It’s Coach Chuck. I’m a United States Navy veteran. I was in for almost 10 years, 1997 to ’07. I was an E6, made first class, missile technician, which is submarine rate. And just wanted to say happy Veterans Day to everybody who served honorably.

Coach Brian:
How’s it going, guys? I’m Brian, Jiu Jitsu fundamentals coach right here at The Arena. I also served eight years in the Marine Corps and I just want to give a quick shout-out to all the military service members and veterans out there, especially a part of our gym. Thank you for your service and the sacrifices you’ve made for our country. We wouldn’t be here without you.

Coach James Ewton:
Hey, what’s going on, guys? It’s Coach James and I teach the 7:00 AM fundamentals Muay Thai class. I did four years in the Marine Corps and I just want to say happy Veterans Day to all of my fellow veterans out there, and enjoy your free IHOP.

Understanding WHY You Are Learning Specific Fighting Techniques

Having a deeper understanding of the “WHY” you are learning certain techniques will greatly increase retention. It’s easy to go practice a bunch of moves and get a workout, but fighting involves strategy and understanding of possible outcomes. Here Coach Chuck discusses with his Kickboxing class some of the finer points that affect students’ learning/application of techniques.


Coach Charles Martinez:
Not every single one is for every single person or every single scenario. You may take away from that, “Oh, this one and this one,” and then maybe a long time down the line, you’re like, “Oh, I get it now. I see now this person doesn’t give me that step, or this person, I just show it and they take a step away.” Well, now these options are gone because those are short options. So the right weapon for the job. Sure, you could kick off of that. If you go, “Hey, can I kick off this?” I’ll probably go, “Sure. Depends. What did they do?”

You don’t always get to choose. If they crowd you, then there’s weapons that are short. If they pull, there’s weapons that are long. You don’t always get to decide in your head ahead of time, “I’m going to do this and this.” It just doesn’t work that way. You show something, they give you space, and that’s just your feelers out there finding, “What’s the right tool for this person?” The beginning part of the round, beginning part of the fight, you’re just analyzing their reactions. You should be setting the traps then. “Oh, every time I do this, you go that way?” That should start to register. Sometimes it’s a list, sometimes they’re all applicable. Depends on your skill level. Sometimes all you got was jab, left kick. “Oh, okay. I got it. That’s where you were. It’s fine.” It’s just planting a seed for later. Thank you. Thank you.

The Arena Combat Sports Gym Programs

With more than 100 classes a week, The Arena offers programs to train you no matter what fighting style you prefer. We have daily classes in Boxing, Kickboxing, Muay Thai, Jiu Jitsu, Submission Grappling, Wrestling, Judo, MMA and Strength and Conditioning. Come check it out for yourself.

About The Arena

The Arena is the largest gym in North America for Combat Sports and Martial Arts instruction.

Our Address

3350 Sports Arena Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92110 USA