Leonard J. Pellman was born in the San Diego suburb of National City, California on 09 October 1951. He was persistently bullied in elementary school for befriending unpopular classmates, like children of immigrants and those with neuro-muscular disorders. In 1966, following a particularly severe beating by a gang of teens, his parents enrolled him in the San Diego School of Judo and Jiujitsu under Al Holtman Sensei. So began Pellman’s training and lifelong love affair with Japanese and Okinawan budō.
In 1968, Pellman was one of six students selected from more than 350 applicants study in Japan as exchange students. While living in Toyokawa, Japan, he not only continued his jūdō training, but was also introduced to the sport of kendō and got his first opportunity to train in karate-dō. In January, 1970, he enrolled in the karate class at San Diego State University. After graduating SDSU with a BS in Marketing, Pellman returned to Japan for nine months of intensive budō training as an uchideshi (live-in student) in kendō, aikidō, karate-dō, and Okinawa kobujutsu. While attending a formal Japanese wedding, he witnessed a demonstration of iaijutsu for the first time and was spellbound by its elegant simplicity and lethal beauty.
Upon his return from Japan, Pellman embarked on a business career in which, after a three-year apprenticeship, he served twelve years as CEO of a global transportation company with facilities in more than thirty countries and another nine years as a defense contractor providing logistics services to the US armed forces on six continents. His primary stress relief was his training in karate-dō.
In 1989, Shimabukuro Masayuki began teaching iaijutsu and jōjutsu (self defense using a fifty-inch staff) at the karate dōjō where Pellman was training. Eager to learn the budō of the samurai, Pellman quickly rose to become Shima’s highest ranking student. In 1992, Pellman opened a dōjō in El Cajon, California, which served as the USA hombu (headquarters) of Musō Jikiden Eishin-Ryū Iaijutsu for two years until Shima opened his own dōjō in San Diego. In 1994, Shimabukuro and Pellman collaborated to write Flashing Steel: Mastering Eishin-Ryū Swordsmanship, which was published by North Atlantic Books the following year.
After selling his business Pellman returned to school, earning an MBA in 2000, and began teaching business and economics at a major midwestern university. He earned a PhD in Organization and Management in 2007 and still teaches online courses. The second edition of Flashing Steel was published in 2008. He and Shimabukuro began co-writing a second book on karate-dō in 2010, but it was only about two-thirds complete when Shimabukuro died two years later.
Today, Pellman is considered one of the leading authorities on a variety of Japanese and Okinawan budō, including karate-dō, Okinawa kobujutsu (bō, sai, tonfa, kama, eku, kuwa, nunchaku, etc.), iaijutsu, jōjutsu, and aiki-jūjutsu. His dōjō is located in San Antonio, Texas.