GM Steve Heremaia was New Zealands first Jiu Jitsu Grand Master and is the highest ranking Maori Martial Artist with a rank of 10th Degree and title of Grand Master and Professor.
Professor Steve received his 10th Degree promotion in 2002 from world-renowned Grand Master Prof Wally Jay of Small Circle Jiujitsu after his many years of dedication to the art.
Prof Steve has taught thousands of students Jiu Jitsu over the years in New Zealand and across the world, with Professor Dave Millar being one of these students. Professor Dave spent over 20yrs under GM Steves guiding hand.
GM Steve was inducted into the New Zealand Martial Arts Hall Of Fame (NZMAHOF), Australasian Martial Arts Hall Of Fame (AMAHOF) and World Karate Union Hall Of Fame in 1997, and has stood as the Sokeship President and NZMAHOF Vice President, and is inducted into various other Hall of Fame institutions across the world, and has been the inspiration for books that are in publication.
Prof Steve has a purpose built Dojo in Henderson, Auckland, New Zealand where he has run the New Zealand Black Dragon Academy as a professional Martial Artist for over 40yrs.
Shihan Shanon has had the privilage of GM Steve Heremaia's guidance and wisdom as a mentor throughout his venture into the Professional Martial arts world.
Professor Dave Millar started his Jiujitsu Career in 1979 under Professor Steve Heremaia at the Palmerston North Longburn freezing works Dojo. Training was hard and rigorous and all techniques were performed on the unforgiving concrete floor. Professor Dave served GM Steve as a Black Dragon Jiujitsu Academy instructor for 20yrs, receiving his Godan (5th Degree Blackbelt).
After 20+yrs serving under GM Steve Heremaia, Professor Dave was granted his wish to branch out on his own, creating his style of Jiu Jitsu known as New Zealand Jiu Jitsu Life Skills.
Professor Dave went on to produce 11 Blackbelts through Jiu Jitsu Life Skills NZ and taught hundreds of students in the Manawatu, Rangitikei, Taupo, and Whanganui areas. This included Shihan Shanon Casson who spent 15+ years training and instructing under Professor Dave Millar in NZ Jiu Jitsu Life Skills.
Professor Dave Millar became the NZMAHOF Co-Founder and President in 1997, was inducted into the New Zealand Martial Arts Hall Of Fame (NZMAHOF) in 2000, and inducted into the Australasian Martial Arts Hall Of Fame (AMAHOF) and World Karate Union Hall Of Fame in 2002. He was also technical advisor for many Martial Arts Organisations across Australia and New Zealand, including New Zealand Jiu Jitsu Academy.
Professor Dave Millar moved to Australia with his wife Angie, where we was living when he was graded to Hachidan (8th Degree) in November 2018 by Professor Steve Heremaia. Professor Dave was enjoying teaching Jiu Jitsu and making connections across Australia until his untimely passing in 2020.
Currently, JiuJitsu Life Skills New Zealand operates in Bulls under Organisation Executor Anthony Casey Sandan and Head Instructor Mark Marsden Nidan.
Shihan Shanon Casson remains as Technical Advisor for NZ Jiu Jitsu Life Skills.
Shihan Shanon Casson began his Jiu Jitsu journey in 1998 at the Whanganui and Marton Jiu Jitsu Life Skills NZ Dojos under Professor Dave Millar.
During his kyu grade years, Shanon competed and placed in many Black Belt tournaments, and become head instructor for the Whanganui Jiu Jitsu Life Skills Dojo in 2005.
Shanon graded to Shodan in 2008, Nidan in 2010, and Sandan in 2012, before branching out on his own.
Shihan Shanon began his own journey and the New Zealand Jiu Jitsu Academy was born in the new premises alongside the beautiful Whanganui river in October 2014, with the blessing of Professor Dave and mentoring of GM Professor Steve. The long time dream of Shihan Shanon to make his passion a career.
Following Shihan Shanon Casson into the Academy, Sensei Mat Hanna received his Shodan in November 2014, under the banner of both Jiu Jitsu Life Skills and as the first Black Belt in the New Zealand Jiu Jitsu Academy. Sensei Mat continues at the Academy as an Instructor.
Sensei Damian Takarangi and Sensei John Ratima, Black Belts and Instructors from Jiu Jitsu Life Skills NZ, also joined the Academy at this time and were instructors for both organisations.
In 2015 Shihan Shanon received his Yondan under Prof Dave Millar, and as a part of his examination was required to submit the New Zealand Jiu Jitsu Academy's curriculum from White Belt to Black Belt in both written form and practical application.
In 2017, Shihan Shanon was given the role of NZMAHOF Ambassador which led to a country-wide tour in 2019 to share information and gather nominations to re-launch the NZMAHOF Awards after a several year hiatus. This tour led to many valuable Martial Arts connections and a sense of a new beginning for the NZMAHOF.
In 2019 Shihan Shanon was awarded his Godan 5th degree blackbelt by Professor Dave Millar during one of his visits back to NZ from Australia.
Around this time, New Zealand Jiu Jitsu Academy also opened a class in Foxton while Shanon and his family lived in Himitangi. This class was closed due to Covid and the family moving back to Whanganui.
Unfortunately, due to Covid-19 the NZMAHOF Events planned for 2020 were also unable to go ahead, and then the untimely passing of Professor Dave Millar meant Shihan Shanon became Curator of the organisation, before being elected as President by the Board.
The NZMAHOF has since held several successful events, including induction awards and a large Martial Arts Summit.
Shihan Shanon Casson is currently the Director and Head Instructor of New Zealand Jiu Jitsu Academy, and is President of the New Zealand Martial Arts Hall of Fame.