Instructors

Master Ron Jones

Master Ron Jones - 6th Dan - Owner

Master Ron Jones is Chief Instructor and owner of Mercer Academy of Martial Arts. Master Jones began his training in the Korean Art of Tang Soo Do in 1980 in Trenton, NJ. Grandmaster J.C. Shin, President of the World Tang Soo Do Association, was Master Jones' first instructor, and from whom he received his first Dan black belt. He also trained with Master Charles Irwin and Master Denis James for many years while at Shin karate then went on to train under the late Master Denis James and the American Korean Karate Association. Master Jones was the first student of Master James to receive a 4th Dan black belt. While teaching for and training under Master James, Master Jones started the Jones Karate Club at the YWCA Princeton, as well as Center Stage Karate in Florence, NJ.

Master Jones, now a 6th Dan black belt, is a dedicated and inspiring teacher of karate. He brings the teachings of his various instructors into the dojo, continuing in the tradition of a true martial artist. Along with his energy and enthusiasm in the classroom, he is a Master at recognizing a student's strengths and encouraging each student to reach his/her full potential. His commitment and dedication to his students and to the martial arts world have helped hundreds of students lead a more disciplined and focused lifestyle, and have in turn inspired Master Jones to continue his pursuit of success in the martial arts field.

Master Jones also trained Gracie jiu-jitsu with Phil & Rick Migliarese at Balance Studios in Philadelphia. Master Jones received his blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu from Phil Migliarese in 2005. Phil Migliarese is the only certified teacher in Philadelphia to teach the full Gracie Jiu-jitsu curriculum, having been authorized to do so by Relson Gracie and Helio Gracie on March 1, 2002

Master Laurie DeUmberto

Master Laurie DeUmberto - 5th Dan

Master DeUmberto began her martial arts training in January 1989, under the late Master Denis James, Master Ron Jones and Master Charles Irwin. In October 2003, she became the second woman at the Mercer Academy to reach the Master rank, 4th dan. She was the first student Master Irwin trained in over 35 years of teaching to win a black belt Grand Championship trophy in forms competition. She has since won a total of 3 grand championships: at the 2000 Garden State Championships, at the 2001 Tri State Open, and at the 2003 Keystone State Martial Arts Championship.

Master DeUmberto is an experienced instructor at the school since 1993 teaching children’s classes at all levels. Master DeUmberto has also been passing her knowledge to her tournament students since she began running a tournament program at the school. The program has been highly successful and still is, winning numerous trophies at all levels and ages in forms, weapons, and breaking. Master DeUmberto feels her greatest achievement is the accomplishments of the students. She is extremely proud of their success!

Master Valerie Layne

Master Valerie Layne - 5th Dan

Master Layne began her martial arts training in 1988 under the guidance of Master Denis James, Master Ron Jones, and Master Charles Irwin. She is the first woman at the school to achieve the rank of 4th Dan, and the first student to be promoted to 5th Dan.  She holds a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and has trained at the Gracie Academy in Torrance, California, and with Phil and Rick Migliarese at their Relson Gracie school in Philadelphia.

Master Layne is experienced in teaching children and adults, and currently teaches classes for the adult program. She is also certified as a health/fitness specialist by the American College of Sports Medicine, which is recognized as the gold standard.

Greg Giordano - 3rd Dan

Greg Giordano - 4th Dan

Mr. Gregory J. Giordano began his martial arts training in 1997 under Master Denis James and Master Charles Irwin. Mr. Giordano was awarded the rank of 2nd Dan by Master Ron Jones, in December, 2004.

He began his teaching in 2000 by assisting Master James with children's classes and presently teaches the adult class on Wednesday nights (alternating with Mr. Murray). His classes focus on self-defense, kickboxing and conditioning.

Mr. Giordano has trained in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, under Master James and has attended seminars with Phil Migliarese of Balance Studios and Japanese Jiu-jitsu with Sensei Tom McDermott. He has weapons training in the use of sword and staff with Master Charles Irwin and sword with Sensei Rob Rivers. He has also attended boxing class with Boxer Jim "Rocky" McCray and has practiced self-defense in the other styles. Mr. Giordano continues to train under the direction of Masters Jones and Irwin. He has special interest in weapons training and heavy breaking.

Mr. Giordano is a practicing trial attorney in central New Jersey, and the father of four.

Steve Sagnip - 3rd Dan

Steve Sagnip - 3rd Dan

Mr. Sagnip started training in 1997 under Master Denis James achieving his 2nd Dan rank in October 2005.  Mr. Sagnip has taught a beginner adults class more than three years, and continues as an assistant instructor under Master Jones and other advance black belts in order to advance his own teaching skills. 

He has competed in numerous tournaments earning 1st place trophies in Weapons, Forms, and Board Breaking.  Mr. Sagnip believes in explaining the purpose of technique is critical to mastering the technique.  A typical class may include drills in traditional marching techniques, katas, standup self-defense, ground/mat grappling, trips and throws, falling techniques, and “basic” free sparing and grappling. 

Mr. Sagnip believes in advancing his own skills. He has trained in Yoshitsune Jujitsu and currently also trains in Isshinryu.

John Biancamano - 2nd Dan

John Biancamano - 2nd Dan

Mr. Biancamano developed an interest in the martial arts after seeing Bruce Lee on TV and in the movies. He began studying Tae Kwon Do in college under Grandmaster S. Henry Cho. He was a member of NJIT’s karate club, but eventually left the club because of a change in the organization. After college, he continued his training in karate and Aikido, but did not resume full-time training until 2002 when he started at Mercer Academy of Martial Arts.

Mr. Biancamano began teaching full time in 2008 and most of his classes place a heavy emphasis on practical techniques for self defense. He strongly believes in cross training and often uses techniques from other disciplines to enhance his self defense training. Over the past 10 years, Mr. B has trained in Chen Tai Chi Chuan and Krav Maga, and currently trains in Jeet Kune Do, submission wrestling, and Filipino martial arts.

Mr. Biancamano is married with three children. His son and youngest daughter have both trained at Mercer Academy. His son, John, is a 1st degree black belt and his daughter, Christina, is a Cho Dan Bo. In addition to his martial arts training, Mr. Biancamano enjoys traveling, hiking, horseback riding, archery, target and trap shooting, and all activities with his family.

Mike Gorski - 2nd Dan

Mike Gorski - 2nd Dan

Mr. Gorski began his martial arts training in the Korean Art of Tang Soo Do in Trenton under Master Charles Irwin at Shin Karate.  Mr. Gorski continues his training at the Mercer Academy of Martial Arts under Master Ron Jones, Master Charles Irwin and Master Laurie DeUmberto. He began his teaching in 2006 by assisting Master DeUmberto with her tournament program. Mr. Gorski also assists Master DeUmberto with her Wednesday night beginner and advanced kids classes.  Along with assisting Master DeUmberto with her tournament program, he is an active member of the Mercer Academy of Martial Arts’ tournament team and has competed in numerous tournaments placing in Weapons, Forms and Board Breaking.

Mr. Gorski earned his 1st degree Black Belt in 2008   and presently teaches kids classes on Friday nights (alternating with Master DeUmberto).  Mr. Gorski enjoys teaching and is passionate about the Martial Arts. He continues to expand on his training in weapons and self-defense.  Mr. Gorski also trains in our Brazilian ju-jitsu program here at the Mercer Academy of Martial Arts. 

Mr. Gorski is married and has 2 children.  Both his children Jared and Kayla also train here at the Mercer Academy of Martial Arts and his wife Michelle is involved in the women’s self defense program.

Mr. Gorski is a Lieutenant with the Mercer County Department of Corrections. He has been with the County for 13 years and is one of the Team Commanders for their emergency response team.  He is one of the counties instructors for C.E.R.T, PR-24, straight baton/expandable baton and Firearms for his department and has taught at the Mercer County Police Academy and the Camden County Correctional Academy.

Kelly Wittkop - 1st Dan

Kelly Wittkop - 1st Dan

Kelly Wittkop started training in 1996 when she was 8 years old under the instruction of the late Master Denis James. She has trained under the instructions of Master Charles Irwin and Master Ron Jones since 2001 and participated in tournament training for 2 ½ years.

Kelly earned her rank of 1st Dan in 2003 after 8 years of training. When she reached the rank of purple belt she began assisting in the beginner kids classes with Master James.

When the Little Dragons program first began in 2004, Kelly was one of the first assistants and has now worked her way up to Head Instructor of the Little Dragons Program. Kelly also teaches the Wednesday evening Beginners class and occasionally the Beginners and Intermediate/Advanced classes on Saturdays.

Through working with the Little Dragons, Kelly realized her passion for working with children with and without disabilities.

She is currently attending The College of New Jersey and is pursuing degrees in Special Education and Psychology and a minor in Communication Disorders. Kelly has a great deal of experience working with people with autism and other developmental disorders as well as people with learning disabilities and Down Syndrome.

All instructors have passed a fingerprint criminal background check.