Authentic 'Rocky' memorabilia at Mt. Airy karate studio 

by Len Lear
Posted 2/17/22

Shortly after we met, Rochelle “Shelley” Brenner said to me: “Have you noticed that I am small?”

Actually, I did notice. Brenner, the owner of Action Karate at 11 West Mt. …

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Authentic 'Rocky' memorabilia at Mt. Airy karate studio 


Shortly after we met, Rochelle “Shelley” Brenner said to me: “Have you noticed that I am small?”

Actually, I did notice. Brenner, the owner of Action Karate at 11 West Mt. Airy Ave. for the last five years, is actually quite small. She is 4 feet 11 inches and looks like a strong wind might blow her away. Which makes it all the more remarkable that Brenner, a second-degree black belt in Kenpo Karate, is an accomplished martial artist and full-time instructor. 

It almost defies nature that the 40ish Brenner began her martial arts career as a child, earned her black belt from Action Karate in 2000 and was the 2008 National Women’s Golden Gloves Boxing Champion. That same year, she was the first woman ever honored by the Boxing Writers Association of America for her first-person accounts of fighting in the ring. The former Temple University journalism major has won numerous sports writing awards.

But if there is one thing that excites Brenner in addition to karate and martial arts, it is her devotion to the fictional Rocky character portrayed by Sylvester Stallone in six “Rocky” movies, not to mention three “Creed” movies. “He is such a Philly guy,” she said. “Even though he was not a real person, he has inspired so many people to go for their dreams and never give up. That's why people come from all over the country to Philly and stop at the Art Museum to take pictures of the Rocky statue.”

Brenner follows Sylvester Stallone on Instagram and happened to notice late last year that he was holding an auction, both remote and in-person, of more than 500 of his “Rocky”- and “Rambo”-related memorabilia. Such celebrity auctions have been common for years in Hollywood, but what's different now is that purchases can be made in real time from anywhere in the world.

Some items went for huge sums of money, like the pair of boxing shorts that fetched $140,000 (“I bid on them just to be funny,” Brenner said), and the $100,000 price for a knife used in a “Rambo” movie. 

“I had never been to an auction before,” said Brenner, who added that she bid on the shorts and the knife “just to be funny.” 

“Obviously, I could not compete with those super-expensive items, so I stuck to the things that were actually affordable for me,” she said. 

Brenner wound up successfully bidding remotely on four items of memorabilia from Stallone's estate: two large foam boards announcing the opening of “Rocky Balboa,” the sixth movie of the series, on Dec. 20, 2006, 30 years after the first one ($350 for both boards); a “tall boy” director's chair that says “Creed” on it ($600); a framed photo of Stallone hitting a speed bag alongside his “Creed” co-star (and “Black Panther” actor) Michael B. Jordan ($800); and a Stallone-signed boxing glove ($2,200).

The auction brought Stallone about $1.5 million, according to the New York Post. The 75 year-old actor wants to get rid of the iconic items because he’s planning to move to a new home in Florida, said Martin Nolan, executive director at Julien’s Auctions. “He has such a large international fan base, so he knew there would be a lot of interest.”

The Action Karate studio is a huge, sprawling barn-like building with sky-high ceilings. Brenner has about 200 members, mostly children and teenagers. When I walked in on a class, I thought something terrible had happened because the kids were screaming  like a thunderstorm. “That's normal here,” Brenner said. “We teach them to do that for self-defense. It is very intimidating when someone yells at you like that. It can stop an attacker in his tracks.”

Brenner, whose nickname as a boxer for six years was “Little Rocky,” was never knocked out in her career, which ended when she became pregnant. (She was married for 14 years and has two children.) “To be a boxer, you have to be willing to be punched in the face. It is so satisfying to punch and take a punch. I feel most alive and strong and empowering when I am able to defend myself as a woman … Learning self-defense makes these kids feel more confident. Nobody gets up in the morning feeling like a world champion.”

De'Asia Benjamin, 17, of Germantown, a student at Action Karate for two years, said the “Rocky” memorabilia in the studio “inspires me to keep going, no matter what, until I achieve my goals as a martial artist.”

For more information, call 267-282-1170 or visit actionkarate,net, Len Lear can be reached at