About the Dojo


The Academy is staffed by black belt instructors, led by Shihan James True. A brief biography of each of the instructors can be read below.
Glossary of terms

Sensei James True

James A. True

Jim True was born in Boston, Ma. in 1958, and raised in Waltham, Ma. He attended Bentley College and received his BA in Education and Behavioral Sciences in 1980. Shihan True was promoted to Hachidan in Shorin-ryu Karate 2018. He is a Godan in Okinawan Kobudo, and has certification as an SKKAA Senior Instructor. He began his training in 1975 at the Waltham YMCA under the instruction of Thomas A. Wirtanen, a student of Paul Keller. Shihan True was promoted to Shodan in Small Circle Jujitsu with nationally known instructor, Dave Castoldi, 7th degree black belt in 2007. Shihan True has trained since the mid-1990s in Shorinji-ryu karate and weaponry with Sensei Brian Ricci, a senior student of Master Richard Kim. Mr. True has also trained with Hanshi Kim. Mr. True has also studied Iaido (the Japanese art of drawing and cutting with the sword) and T'ai Chi Ch'uan (Taijiquan).

Shihan True began teaching martial arts part-time for the Waltham YMCA in 1979. In the spring of 1980 he opened the Shorin-ryu Karate Academy in a small garage, teaching on a part-time basis with about twenty students. Today the Academy has grown to over three hundred active students, with off-site programs at numerous public and private schools. Among these are the Waltham YMCA, Bentley College and the New Jewish High School of Waltham.

Shihan True has helped to develop youth programs such as the "Bully Buster," "Stranger Danger," and "Women Aware" an adult women's self-defense program. In 2000, Shihan True formed Safety Skills Development Group, a company that teaches safety awareness and character development programs for youths, adults, schools, and businesses in the greater Boston area. Thirty years of training and teaching have built his commitment to providing educational martial arts and safety-awareness programs for the SKKAA and community to continue to grow in a positive direction.

Shihan True is Vice President and Vice Chairman of the Board of the SKKAA, a member of its Executive Committee, and the SKKAA's Assistant Chief Instructor.

Shihan True is a contributor to Sensei: A Handbook for SKKAA Instructors and Their Students (2001) and I Remember When (2004) and is co-author of Little Dragons and Tigers: A Handbook for SKKAA Youth Students, Their Instructors, and Parents (2002).

Dai Sempai Steven Tulimieri

Steven Tulimieri

Steven Tulimieri is a Head Instructor and Dai Sempai at the Academy teaching the Monday night adult advanced class.

Dai Sempai Steven Tulimieri was born and raised in Waltham, MA. He attended Bentley College and received a BS in Accountancy in 1991, and an MBA from Bentley Graduate School in 1998.

Sensei Steven began training in Matsubayashi Shorin-Ryu Karate in 1984 under Shihan James True. After receiving his Shodan in 1988, he taught karate for the Martial Arts Club at Bentley College. He was the Dai Ni Sempai of the association at that time and the Dai Sempai of the True Martial Arts Academy, where he teaches, under Shihan James True. In February 2005, he was named Dai Sempai of the SKKAA.

Sensei Steven has experience in wrestling, submission ground fighting, kendo, and Iaido. He was promoted to Shodan in Jujitsu and weapon defenses under Professor Dave Castoldi in 2007. In 2004 he was promoted to the rank of Godan in Shorin-Ryu Karate and Yodan in Kobudo. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the SKKAA and a contributor to I Remember II (2004).

Sensei Ken Stiles

Ken Stiles

Ken Stiles is an Instructor at the Academy teaching the Wednesday night adult intermediate/advanced class. He received his BS degree in business communication from Bentley College, and is currently a manager of contracts and sales administration for Zoll Medical Corporation in Chelmsford, MA.

Sensei Ken started his training in 1988 under Shihan James True, and currently holds a Yodan in Shorin-Ryu Karate-Do, Sandan in Okinawan Kobudo, and Instructor Rank. He has also trained in Tang-Soo-Do, Kempo, and boxing.

Sensei Ken has had extensive experience with teaching most of the classes in our curriculum, including children and adults, beginner to advanced levels; cardio kickboxing; tai chi; weapons. Sensei Ken holds certification in AED Heartsaver and CPR.

Sensei Don Wong

Don Wong

Donny Wong was born in Chelsea, MA., 1961. Received his Associates in Science. He has multiple certificates and accomplishments for computers and software over the years. He currently holds a Printed Circuit Board Designer position for a large company in MA.

Sensei Donny began training with Shihan James True about 1990, and achieved his Shodan in Matsubayashi Shorin-Ryu Karate in 1995.

Sensei Donny received the rank of Godan in Matsubayashi Shorin-Ryu Karate in 2009, and Sandan in Okinawan Kobudo in 2005. He also holds head instructor status at the True Martial Arts Academy of Waltham.

Along with all the Okinawan weapons, Sensei Donny studies Iaido (The art of drawing the sword) in the Omori-Ryu system (The old way from Papa Chris Clark thru Shihan James True). Along with the Katana, the Jo (short staff) is closest to his heart.

Sensei Donny teaches all levels of Karate and Kobudo for adults and childrens classes at the Shorin-Ryu Karate Acadamy of Waltham. Sensei Donny has continued to support teaching at the Northeast Shorin-Ryu Karate Academy of Andover over the years.

Sensei Donny has held Karate Camps in Oregon and Wyoming. Donny considers these camps great experience. A must for all instructors.

Sensei Donny is a firm believer in the push / pull system at the dojo. This process encourages the beginners to push the advanced, and the advanced to pull the beginners.

Sensei Donny is currently seeking Black belt in Small Circle Jujitsu and weapons defense thru Professor David Castoldi.

Donny is married with two children. He resides in Hudson, NH with his family.

Sensei Tony Kelley

Tony Kelley

Tony Kelley is an Assistant Instructor at the Academy. Sensei Tony fills for instructors as needed, and has taught children’s karate classes and beginner through advanced levels. He received his Masters in Education, and is currently an elementary school teacher.

Sensei Tony is a Yodan in Shorin-Ryu Karate-Do, a Sandan in Okinawan weaponry, and holds assistant instructor rank; he has been training in karate for 15 years. He also trains in Philippino martial arts. Among his other interests, he lists that he is a “Vietnam veteran and a bad golfer.” His favorite quote is: “If I hit you, that’s my responsibility. If you hit me, that’s my responsibility.”

Sensei Marisa

Marisa Cimino

Marisa Cimino is an Instructor at the Academy co-teaching the Thursday night adult intermediate classes, and is a co-instructor for the Woman Aware Self-defense Program. She received her BA, magna cum laude, from Boston College in 1978, and is currently an accountant/partner. Sensei Marisa started her training under Shihan James True in 1991, and was promoted to Yodan in Shorin-Ryu Karate-do in May 2005, Sandan in Okinawan weaponry in August 2006 and holds the teaching rank of Instructor. Sensei Marisa has extensive experience in teaching karate and self-defense, especially to women and children. Her experience includes:

Beginner & Intermediate Woman’s Class, True Martial Arts Academy 1994 - 2005
MacKenzie Center Children’s Karate Classes, Newton 1997- present
Baker Elementary School Karate Classes, Brookline 1996-present
Owls Head Montessori Preschool Karate Classes, West Roxbury 2001- present
Woman Aware Self- Defense Workshops 1994- present
Memorial Spaulding After School Karate Classes, Newton 1995- present
Boston Public Library, Boston, MA Stranger Danger & Intro Karate Class 2003-present
Cardio Kickboxing Instructor, Newton 1997-2004
Williams Ext Day After School Karate Classes, Newton 1997-2000
YMCA Karate Classes, Newton & Brighton 1997-2000
Oak Hill Middle School Karate Classes, Newton 1999-2001
Beaver Country Day School Summer Program, Brookline 2000

Sensei Marisa holds certification in Cardio Karate/Fitness Kickboxing by NAPMA (2003) and CPR (2005). She has contributed to several karate publications, including I Remember II, Stories of Training in the ASKA (2004) and Little Dragons and Tigers: A Handbook for ASKA Youth Students, Their Instructors, and Parents (2002). As part of our instructors’ commitment to continuing their education, Sensei Marisa is learning ASL to facilitate instruction of deaf adults & children.

Sensei Marisa is married and the mother of two sons, who attained Junior Black Belt and Brown Belt ranks.

Sensei Chris

Chris Jensen

Chris started his training with Shihan True at the age of 7 in 1982. At the age of 12 he was moved up to the adult class and in 1989 was the first student in the Waltham Dojo to receive the rank of Shodan Ho ( jr black belt) and only the 3rd to receive this rank throughout the whole association. In 1991 when he turned 16 Chris was promoted to the rank of Shodan. He continued to train and help teach the kids classes and beginner adult classes at the dojo. Chris also assisted Shihan True in teaching in the early years of the Woman Aware self defense program and at the G.W.A.R.C. (Greater Waltham Area Retarded Citizens) program.

In 1993 Chris graduated from Waltham High School and that summer he taught the karate program at the YMCA and continued to do so in the summer of 1994. During high school Chris was on the wrestling team and tennis team. While playing tennis for the high school Chris was honored as a Greater Boston League All Star having gone undefeated for 2 years as a Jr. and Sr. In the fall of 1993 Chris studied criminal justice at Mass Bay CC and in 1996 graduated from that course. In the summer of 1996 he also passed an EMT course at North Easter University. In 1994 Chris was promoted to Nidan, 2nd degree black belt in Shorin Ryu and Shodan, first degree black belt in Kobudo, the study of weapons. Chris continued to train at the Waltham dojo and in 1998 was promoted to the rank of Sandan in Shorin Ryu and Nidan in Kobudo.

Chris has been involved in the Waltham community for years coaching baseball and basketball and is currently the Vice President and a head coach in the Warrendale Little League and a coach for the Waltham Jr Hawks AAU baseball team. For the past 23 years Chris has volunteered with the Waltham Elks and held many official positions from Exalted Ruler to House Committee Chairman and spent many hours volunteering to feed the veterans and seniors of Waltham. Chris is married to his wife Lisa and has 2 kids Erik and Mark. Erik is also a student at the dojo, who holds the rank of Shodan-ho, jr. black belt.

After having to take time off for a few years, Chris has returned to the dojo full time and continues to help Shihan True with teaching classes when needed and train as much as possible.

Sensei Chris

Justin Sheehy

Justin Sheehy began training karate in 1983 in Maine under Sensei John Jenkins. For the next ten years he studied Kenkojuku, the Shotokan-related ryu founded by Tomosaburo Okano who was the direct instructor of Jenkins sensei. In 1993 Justin moved to Boston where he began training in Wado-ryu karate with Shinya Yamada sensei. Eventually, Yamada moved back to Japan and Justin found himself itinerant for the next several years. During that time he studied some koryu bujutsu, kendo, and also explored what other great karate teachers such as Kazumi Tabata sensei and Eiji Toryu sensei had to offer. Justin tries to always approach each encounter with a beginner's mind, seeking what can be learned from everyone.

In early 2016, Justin met Shihan True and began learning from him at the True Martial Arts Academy. Since that time he has trained in the SKKAA as much as possible and also teaches classes regularly at the dojo.

Sensei Lynda St. James

Lynda St. James

Lynda St. James was born in 1946, Wellesley, MA. She holds a BS in Theatre and Education, graduated Magna cum Laude from Emerson College, and is a member of the Gold Key Honor Society. She has taught theatre, mass media, speech, film and TV at local high schools and middle schools in Massachusetts.
An accomplished actor and singer, Lynda spent her early years in Los Angeles, many of which were touring the US and Canada with Andy Williams and the GoodTime Singers. She now owns and operates The Cameo Agency, Boston’s oldest model & talent agency specializing in kids and teens. In addition, she runs a professional on-camera workshop for kids desiring to break into the TV and film business. Her “kids” can be seen on TV, in major motion pictures, as well as in print and on the Internet. She is a member of Screen Actors Guild, New England Film Society, and Mass Media Alliance.

Lynda received her Shodan in 1996, just days after celebrating her 50th birthday. She now holds the rank of Sandan in empty hand, 2002; Nidan in Weapons, 2004; and Full Instructor, 2004. She has also studied Naginata - the art of the long sword, and is currently studying Omoriryu Iaido.

During Fall 2005, Sensei Lynda is offering classes at the YMCA in Franklin, MA, including Woman A.W.A.R.E., an adult beginner class and a Senior Self-defense class. She is also holding seminars in Senior Self-defense at the Senior Center in Franklin.

One of my major goals in karate has always been to bring self-defense to women and girls. Now, as an aging “baby boomer,” I have begun to specialize in training people my age and older in the principles of safety and self preservation. My Sensei, Jim True, has been a wonderful inspiration and mentor in karate. I hope to be able to pass on what I have learned and am still learning.

Sensei Kristen Pepe

Kristen Pepe

Kristen Pepe was born in Tewksbury Massachusetts in 1969. She graduated from Tewksbury High School and attended the University of Massachusetts graduating with a Bachelors Degree in Accounting.

She received her Shodan in Shorin-ryu karate in 1995 and attained her Nidan in 1997, and her Sandan in 2005. She is a Nidan in Kobudo. She also holds the rank of instructor with the SKKAA.

Under the instruction of Sensei Fran Vall, Sensei Kristen trains in Naginata, a halberd type weapon used almost exclusively by samurai women. She is a member of both the United States Naginata Federation, and the East Coast Naginata Federation. She currently holds the rank of Sankyu (3rd Rank).

Sensei Kristen is married to Sensei Michael Pepe of the SKKAA and together they have two children, Morgan and Nicholas. Sensei Kristen holds the title of Secretary/Treasurer and is a member of the Board of Directors of SKKAA.

Sensei Bob McLaren

Robert McLaren

Bob McLaren is an Assistant Instructor at the Academy. Sensei Bob teaches the Tuesday and Thursday night adult beginner classes. He attended New England Telephone Technology Schools and U.S. Navy Motion Picture Operators School. Sensei Bob currently is an operations manager for a telecommunications company, and has taught for the US Coast Guard and for New England Telephone. He is a veteran of the US Coast Guard, is trained and certified as a deep sea and scuba diver, and is OSHA certified.

Sensei Bob started his training in October 1991, and was promoted to Sandan in February 2007. In August 2006 he was promoted to Shodan in Okinawan Weaponry and Assistant Instructor. In addition to karate, Sensei Bob works out regularly at the gym and loves to travel, go scuba diving and snorkeling, and watch movies. Among his accomplishments, he notes his attainment of his black belt and that he is a good husband, father, and grandfather. Among his favorite martial arts books are “The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do,” and the Association Training Manuals.

Sensei Bob is married to Denise Campo, and has three daughters and eight grandchildren.

Sempai Lora Gross-Kotska

Lora Gross-Kostka

Lora Gross-Kostka is an Assistant Instructor at the Academy. Sempai Lora proudly co-teaches the Saturday morning Family/Youth Beginner/Youth Intermediate class with her sons, Philip (Shodan) and Sean Kostka (Shodan-Ho). She received her BS in nursing, and currently is a risk manager and patient safety coordinator at Cambridge Health Alliance. She is a registered nurse, certified case manager, and paralegal as well.

Sempai Lora started her training under Shihan James True in 1996, and was promoted to Nidan in Shorin–Ryu Karate-do in August 2005 and to Shodan in Okinawan Weaponry in August 2006. She currently holds assistant instructor rank in the S.K.K.A.A. Sempai Lora has also trained in Tai chi since 2000. Her other interests include reading, beading, fitness, and helping others. Her favorite quote is, “ One meaning, One chance,”

Sempei Dan Glass

Dan Glass

Dan Glass is a Teaching Assistant and all-around helper at the Academy. Sempai Dan co-teaches the Saturday morning Jr. Ninjas’ class with his wife, Sempai Tania. He received his BS in electrical engineering from Merrimack College, and is currently a principal electrical engineer for a defense contractor.

Sempai Dan was promoted to Nidan in Shorin Ryu Karate and Shodan in Kobudo in August 2005, and to teaching assistant in August 2004. He also briefly trained in Kempo, and has trained in the Tai Chi short form since January 2001. In the past, Sempai Dan was certified as a basic swimming instructor and first responder. Well known for his wide breadth of knowledge, his hobbies include piano, music in general, hiking/biking/canoeing/camping, and auto/home repair. His favorite quote is “First set your heart right.”

Sempei Tania

Tania Vera

Tania Vera is the part-time Program Director and a Teaching Assistant at the Academy. Sempai Tania provides general office support and student support services. She teaches both adult and children’s classes, including the Jr. Ninja (ages 6-9 beginners), Ninja (ages 8-14 intermediate), and Samurai (ages 8-14 beginner) classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. She has also taught several offsite afterschool programs in Waltham and Belmont, and co-teaches the Saturday morning Jr. Ninjas class with her husband, Sempai Dan.

Sempai Tania received her Masters in psychology in 1998 from Clark University, and worked for over eight years in the field of child abuse research and support services to families and children before making the transition to part-time work at the Academy in January 2004. She is certified in First Aid and Adult, Child, and Infant CPR.

Sempai Tania received her Nidan in Shorin Ryu Karate and Kobudo Shodan weapons rank in August 2005, and her Teaching Assistant rank in August 2004. She has trained in the Tai Chi short form since January 2001, and has attended offsite seminars on Tai Chi, Qigong, and Traditional Chinese Medicine. She has been assisting with classes at the Academy since May 2002.

Her other skills and interests include: learning to play the piano, hiking/biking/camping, healthy/simple living, and learning new skills. Sempai Tania is married and the proud parent of Ella Glass born May 28, 2006, two cats and Pupa, a goffin’s cockatoo.


Kobudo: the way of Weapons
SKKAA: Shorin-Ryu Karate-do and Kobudo Association of America

Shihan: Director

Dai Sempai: Senior Instructor
Dai Ni Sempai: Assistant Senior Instructor

Sensei: Teacher
Instructor & Assistant Instructor
Sandan & above

Sempai: Assistant Instructor & Teaching Assistant
Nidan & Shodan

Black Belt Rank
Judan: 10th degree
Kudan: 9th degree
Hachidan: 8th degree
Nanadan: 7th degree
Rokudan: 6th degree
Godan: 5th degree
Yodan: 4th degree
Sandan: 3rd degree
Nidan: 2nd degree
Shodan: 1st degree
Shodan- Ho: Jr. Black Belt (under 16 years old)



© 2012, 2013, 2014 True Martial Arts Academy, Waltham, MA