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FOUNDING Instructors

Master Sylvester Meola

7th Degree Black Belt (1924-2005)

The late Master Sylvester Meola is the founder of Hillcrest. Hillcrest Academy started in a room above the boxing ring at the Alta House in Little Italy in 1976 and is now recognized as one of the largest schools for Jujitsu in the Cleveland area. All told, thousands of people (civilian, military, police) have been trained by Hillcrest Academy instructors through the years. Sylvester Meola, a part of “the Greatest Generation” and served in the United States Army during the World War II.  Master Meola was a recipient of the Bronze Star for meritorious service while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States in a combat zone while on the front lines in Germany. Master Meola was promoted to master-level of Goshin Jujitsu by Dr. Tetsuya Higuchi.  Doctor Meola held a Doctorate in Law and was also a practicing attorney.

Master James Meola

9th Degree Black Belt


Master James Meola is also the founder of a system of fighting called Combat Jujitsu. This system was created especially for one of the US Army Special Forces (Green Beret) training teams and taught personally by Jim and his select group of instructors.  Jim was the recipient of the Adjutant Generals award for designing as well as teaching this program to the Special Forces Unit.  The group of Hillcrest Academy instructors who taught this system for 20 years is called the M.A.L.E.T. team (Military and Law Enforcement Team).  Jim is a 9th-degree black belt and internationally recognized master who holds the distinction of AJJIF BUDO HEADMASTER (highest ranking master in Goshin JuJitsu) by the  All Japan Ju-Jitsu International Federation; the largest governing body of JuJitsu practitioners in the world spanning more than 100 countries with thousands of instructors and students as members.  Jim was promoted to master-level by Dr. Tetsuya Higuchi. Jim also holds a double Masters Degree in Homeland Security and Emergency Management from Eastern Kentucky University.


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Hillcrest Academy black belts

Master Instructors

Shihan James
7th Degree
Renshi Diane
5th Degree
Renshi David
5th Degree


Sensei Brian
2nd Degree
Sensei Jack
2nd Degree
Sensei Kevin
2nd Degree
Sensei Jake
1st Degree
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