Profile for Thomas Mayerchak

Thomas Joseph Mayerchak was born April 10, 1932 in Passaic, NJ. He began his study of Judo in 1952 while serving in the Air Force. His sensei of record was James Takemori. In the mid to late 1950s, after his term of service in the Air Force, he settled in Winston-Salem, NC where he started a judo club named the Nito Judo Club located at the central Y.M.C.A. He was ranked as a brown belt at the time.

From 1959 through 1965 he served as Judo chairman of the Carolinas Association of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) (both North and South Carolina). The AAU oversaw amateur athletics in the U.S. at the time and recognized USJF (formerly the Judo Black Belt Federation) as the governing body of Judo in the U.S. For much of the remainder of the AAU’s involvement in Judo in the U.S., Sensei Mayerchak served as Vice-Chairman or a committee member of the NC AAU Judo committee while Thomas (Jack) Lynch, a member of the Nito Judo Club, served as its chairman.

In October of 1964, he was awarded the rank of Shodan by the Shufu Yudanshakai of the United States Judo Federation (USJF). From the late 1950s until the early 1980s, Sensei Mayerchak organized and held the NC Junior Olympics, the NC State Championships (combined with South Carolina during the early portion of this period), and the Nito Invitational tournaments in Winston-Salem. This was in addition to often holding the Fall and Spring Promotional Shiais in Winston-Salem for regional promotions through the USJF.

In the Fall of 1967, Sensei Mayerchak quit his current job to devote all of his time to teaching and spreading Judo. At the time, he was one of only 4 Judo black belt holders in NC (the others having come mainly from outside the U.S.). During this period, he taught regularly scheduled Judo classes in Salisbury, Elkin, Burlington, High Point, and Winston-Salem. Having been a Military Policeman in the Air Force coupled with his Judo knowledge,, he also began instructing the Winston-Salem Police Department during this time in police tactics. The police tactics he taught were heavily laced with Judo instruction that continued until the late 1970s.

By quitting his job and devoting himself full-time to teaching Judo, Sensei Mayerchak hoped to bring Judo to schools, YMCAs, city recreation departments, and other organizations throughout NC. He was a true missionary for Judo in NC; so much so that a trophy given to him by his peers was inscribed “Mr. Judo of North Carolina”. In 1967, he organized the Nihon University Judo Camp at Camp Hanes located at the base of Sauratown Mountain just 25 miles from Winston-Salem. The instructors mainly came from Nihon University, a Japanese institution noted for the excellence of its Judo teams. This camp drew people from all across the U.S. The instruction was so well-renowned that three U.S. Olympic team members were granted scholarships by the JBBF to attend the camp as students in 1968. This camp continued for 6 years.

Besides holding regular classes in the cities listed previously, Mayerchak was responsible for starting other Judo clubs in Burlington, Statesville, Thomasville, and Dobson NC (at Surry Community College). Additionally, he taught at the Methodist Children’s Home in Winston-Salem. He was the sensei of J.C. Corbett, one of the first, if not the first, African-American black belt holders in the Southeast. Sensei Mayerchak was a regional coordinator for USJF for many years. When USJI came into existence with NCJI as its state organization, he chose to support them as he felt it was in the best interest of Judo in the U.S. and might help mend the divisiveness that had come about with the formation of USJA (which grew out of the Armed Forces Judo Association that was part of USJF) and the USJF. This was not a decision he made lightly as his sensei, James Takemori, was heavily involved with USJF. However, Sensei Mayerchak always sought a path that was best for Judo and not necessarily for himself.

Sensei Mayerchak served many years in different roles with NCJI both as NCJI Chairman and as NCJI Promotion Chairman. Throughout all of his efforts, he continued to instruct at the Nito Judo Club in Winston-Salem. In the mid-to-late 1980s, he decided to retire from Judo. He had given a tremendous amount to Judo over the years at a great expense to his family and felt it was time to retire.

His retirement was short lived however. In the spring of 1990, he once again started teaching Judo. He had been teaching mechanical drafting at Forsyth Technical College in Winston-Salem for the previous 25 years and was able to start a Judo class there. Later that year he had plans to re-start classes at the central Y.M.C.A. where he had taught the majority of his Judo career. Unfortunately, while teaching an evening Judo class at Forsyth Tech on November 13, 1990, he passed away unexpectedly. He remarked to a senior student during the class that he needed to lie down. He went over to the edge of the mat, lay down, and silently passed away. He died doing what he loved and what he had devoted his life to - Judo! He wouldn’t have scripted any other ending. His final rank in Judo was Yodan, and his contributions to Judo in NC were truly significant.