USA Judo


Marion PAL Judo Club logo


Name of Club: Marion PAL Judo

Location of Club: Marion, Indiana

The Mission of Marion PAL Club Judo is to promote and execute a
program for children that will instill discipline, physical education,
self-respect, self-defense, mental focus and a competitive spirit.

Motto: Do Your Best and Have Fun!


Senior Instructor: Bruce Bender, Rokudan

Bruce Bender

Bruce is a retired Police Officer with over 24 years of service with the City of Marion, IN. and the US Army Military Police. Since retirement from law enforcement he became the Director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security for Grant County, IN for 12 years retiring in 2017 with 37 years of Public Service. One month after retirement Bruce was asked to come back as a consultant for Grant County EMA/DHS and was hired as the Deputy Director. March of 2019 Bruce took over the Director's job again until November. He remains as a consultant for the position. With 40 years of public service he came out of retirement to take the position Public Health Preparedness Coordinator to assist his central Indiana county for the COVID 19 pandemic.

During his career in law enforcement, he developed and oversaw the Defensive Tactics Program at the Police Dept. He was Law Enforcement Academy certified in control techniques as an instructor prior to his retirement and taught Indiana Law Enforcement Academy certified classes around the Midwest. This includes instruction of Defensive Counterstrikes, Pressure and Motor Points, Handcuffing techniques, Handgun Retention and the use of Impact Weapons. Bruce is an ILEA firearms expert and past "Top Gun" winner for the Marion Police Dept.

Bruce Bender has been involved in Judo since 1969 is a 2x Indiana State Champion, 2x Masters National Champion. He is also a past recipient of “Indiana Coach of the Year” for Indiana Judo Inc. Marion PAL Judo was named “School of the Year” for Indiana in 2004, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. Bruce and his coaches hold a USJA sanctioned Regional Tournament each November in Indiana called the Red, White, and Blue, Classic.

He has coached several juniors and seniors to National and International Championships and placing.

He has taught several hundred self-defense and awareness seminars.

The Grant County Domestic Violence Awareness Division has sponsored several of the seminars at Indiana Wesleyan University.

Bruce was a Board Member of the Grant County Humane Society for 7 years and Vice President for 2 years.


Instructor: Gary Amick, Sandan

Gary Amick

Gary started his Judo tenure in 1988 with his sons Chris and John and currently holds the rank of Sandan (3rd degree Black Belt). He is a life member of the USA Judo and was named as Indiana’s Outstanding State Competitor in Judo in 1998. Gary has twice received the President Sports Award in Judo. He is a National Referee and travels throughout the US to referee at local, regional, and national events. He serves as a member of the Indiana Judo, Inc. Referee Committee. Gary does not actively compete anymore but stays engaged in Judo at Marion Pal Judo Club and by volunteering his time as a referee at tournaments locally and across the country.

Outside of Judo, Gary works as a Fleet Services Coordinator for Indiana Michigan Power Company. He has a Bachelor of Science degree from Purdue University’s School of Business and Management Sciences. He also has an Associates of Science degree in Automotive Technology Sciences from Indiana Vocational Technical College. Gary enjoys traveling and helping others in the sport of Judo. Gary’s son Chris and daughter-in-law Stephanie both attend judo classes San Antonio, Texas.


Instructor: Robyn Duffy, Nidan

Robyn Duffy

Robyn has been involved in Judo since August of 2005. She holds the rank of Nidan (2nd Degree Black Belt). Robyn is a certified National Coach and Regional referee. She started after her son Michael began the year before. Robyn is a member of the USA Judo has taken in interest in Kata competition and refereeing.

Robyn has been employed with the Early Childhood Department at Carey Services since 1998 as the Child Development and Disabilities Coordinator with Early Head Start.

Robyn has a master’s degree in Early Childhood Education through Ball State University. She holds a current State of Indiana Teacher's License.


Instructor: Gabriel Brown, Nidan

Gabriel Brown

Gabriel has been practicing Judo since March of 1998. He holds the rank of Nidan (2nd Degree Black Belt). Gabriel is a member of USA Judo.

Gabriel is a 3X Indiana State Champion, a 3X Gold Medalist in the Arnold World Games and a past Nationally ranked player. Gabriel is a 3X National Kata Champion and 2002 and 2003 USJA Kata "Player of the Year" for Indiana. Gabriel won "Player of the Year" awards for competition in 2003 and 2006.


Instructor: Carlos Esparza, Shodan

Carlos Esparza

Carlos has been practicing Judo since August 2010. He holds the rank of Shodan (1st Degree Black Belt). Carlos is a member of the USJA and USA Judo.

Carlos is a 4X Indiana State Champion a past Nationally ranked player. He is a 4X Senior "Player of the Year" for Indiana.
2015 Indiana Judo Inc. "Senior Player of the Year"
2016 Indiana Judo Inc. "Senior Player of the Year"
2017 Indiana Judo Inc. "Senior Player of the Year"
2018 Indiana Judo Inc. "Senior Player of the Year"



History / Background of Club:

Marion PAL Judo, since its inception in March of 1998, has brought judo to the homes of many Marion citizens. Through Bruce’s teaching, tournaments, and club work outs he guides Marion’s youth on the path to discipline and self-confidence. With the success at tournaments around the country and in-house tournaments, Marion PAL Judo has brought judo to the headlines of Marion newspapers. Although the club has only been around for 22 years, it has given players, young and old, respect, discipline, and valuable life lessons. In the future Marion PAL Judo instructor, Bruce Bender, hopes to reach more kids and better educate the community about judo. Marion PAL Judo has been an organization that guides children on the path to discipline through the way of life that is judo, and helps people learn about judo.

Bruce started learning judo in 1969 as a junior in high school who was not into sports. The Marion football coach, Dick Lootens, told him about a class that the YMCA was hosting. He went to his first class of judo, got hooked, and has been doing it ever since. Twenty-nine years later in 1998, Bruce’s seven-year-old grandson, Gabriel, begged and begged to learn judo. Bruce could not resist and in March of 1998, he started Marion PAL Judo. He started the club for his grandson and opened it to all Marion residents. During his teaching of judo and through that, he hoped to guide children on the path of discipline. Soon his nephew and other students began to come to the newly founded club. Within the year, Bruce began sending students to local tournaments and workouts.

As the club grew in numbers as well as success at tournaments, Bruce decided to host a tournament in Marion. November 2001, the first annual Red, White, and Blue Classic was held in the McKeown Gym at St. Paul Baptist School.

Over the first seven years of the club’s existence, the club had grown immensely. Marion residents of all ages were beginning to find the sport of judo through Bruce and the Marion PAL Judo club. The members of the club had grown to be a family through the many tournaments they had taken part of. He taught competitors to have sportsmanship whatever the outcome of the match. Bruce taught that judo was a way of life, not just a sport.

Bruce has big hopes and plans for the future of Marion PAL Judo. He hopes to reach more kids through judo and instill in them lessons and skills that he has taught to the past and current students of his club.

Over the past 22 years, the Marion PAL Judo has called many places home but has found a welcoming hand at the local YMCA. Through all of the changes the club has witnessed, it has remained a valued organization in Marion. Bruce is proud that his club has brought judo into the public eye and that the public is starting to have a better understanding of judo as a sport. Marion PAL Judo’s participation and success in various tournaments and judo camps has helped Bruce tries to instill valuable life lessons in his students as well as confidence in each student to conquer the world.