Volume V

November 2022



and Support

In This Issue:

from Executive Director

Shifu/Sensei Koré Grate


It is harvest time here in Minnesota, the color before the white out. As cool air replaces the summer humidity, the sun sets earlier calling for a new season of “going inside”. I reflect on the decade of my time in leadership with AWMAI and my first thought is “connection”, followed by “support”, then “life-long friendships”.  Powerful harvest of thoughts - even when we were not able to be together in person for the last two years.

I am beyond excited to be IN PERSON again in wonderful San Diego, California at one of my favorite venues, The Bay Club & Marina on Shelter Island.  This is OUR event of the year for women warriors, leaders, teachers, gathering to share skills and insights.  Where else can you find this?  We are unique in so many ways.  At this conference I will be receiving my 50 Year Hall of Fame Award.  I am deeply honored that Sensei Katie Murphy Stevens and the late Professor Jane Carr will also be receiving their esteemed awards.

It is amazing to me that my path in the martial arts started when I was just 16, and it feels like I am still in awe of the unfolding of even the most basic technique.  It also feels like I don’t really want to do aerial break-falls anymore, the wisdom of taking care of the body, as well as the mind and spirit.  Still seeing the “light-bulb effect” in students’ eyes will always inspire me to “Keep to Path”.

After having the honor of serving as your Executive Director since 2014, and Master Didi Goodman for serving as the Administrative Director since 2017, it is time for new growth, new enthusiasm and forward movement. The time I have spent with the current and past Board of Directors organizing and planning all these years have created a sisterhood that will remain forever.  We are totally thrilled to pass our torches to two women who have a great deal to offer.  They come ready for the challenge, have a lot of great ideas and are both dedicated to making AWMAI strong.

Please welcome:  (drum roll….)

Jennie Trower as your next Executive Director and Parnee Poet as your next Administrative Director! (see their intros in this newsletter). 

Both Jennie and Parnee have been included in board meetings throughout this year and are both amazing and insightful women.  Thank you to the Board Members who remain on the board with them.  I know they will continue to produce high quality conferences for our members.  I will continue to support what I believe in-and I believe in AWMAI!

If you haven’t already registered (early bird hopefully), here is the link:

from incoming Executive Director

Jennie Trower


I am thrilled, honored, and humbled to be stepping into the role of executive director of this esteemed organization, guided and supported by the incredible board and outgoing executive director Kore Grate.  I do not take this responsibility lightly, and I will do my best to continue to foster the exceptional networking, support, and promotion opportunities that AWMAI has offered its many talented and highly skilled members for decades.  I’m excited to get to know our members, to grow who may be feeling alone, lost, or blocked on their martial arts teaching journey, or who simply want to connect with other folks on the same path.

I bring 20 years of experience in martial arts and self-defense training and teaching, most of that in Krav Maga.  After teaching in that male-dominated world for several years, I stepped away and started my own business because I knew their way was missing the mark for so many women, in their approach to both training and teaching.  I remember what it’s like to be new to teaching, to be the only woman on the mat, and to feel like I didn’t belong. I also remember the joy and relief I felt when I’d find someone like me to connect with. Or when I was inspired by a talented and creative instructor. Or when I discovered AWMAI.

Sharing knowledge, motivation and inspiration are central to this organization and our flagship event, the Teaching the Teacher Conference. I have a vision for AWMAI that extends beyond the conference, providing opportunities to connect and collaborate not only at our fantastic annual event, but regularly throughout the year.

I appreciate your support during this transition. I’m here to learn, to listen, to guide and to lead. And I can’t wait to get started.

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from Certification Director

Melanie Fine


It is heart-warming and motivating when someone finds AWMAI and we are able to embrace her into our fellowship!  Each year is a new celebration of accomplishments of those who have participated, promoted, and sweated through our history.  It is important to pause for a moment and take in that we are creating and preserving this history with every year that passes.  The knowledge and accomplishments of women martial artists are not being overlooked!  AWMAI is recording it, recognizing it, and celebrating it!  Thank you to all of the women who participated and received awards in past years and to those in attendance who witnessed it.  The memory of these evenings will remain vibrant for us all.

Would you like to be a part of this celebration?  We already have an extremely promising candidate for Rank Promotion and three candidates for Hall of Fame! Woohoo!  The deadline for Rank Recognition and/or Hall
of Fame (for 2023) is fast approaching.  Please visit and begin the process today.  You’ll find all you need to know about the Hall of Fame here; and details about rank recognition and certification here.

If applying for yourself is not something that feels right to you, that is okay!  Let your students handle the application, so we can include you in next year's celebration. If you have a teacher or colleague whom you know is deserving, go ahead and encourage her — help get the application process started on her behalf. Feel free to contact me with any questions. 

Why do it?  Because we all want to know all about you- what inspired you- and we want to be inspired by you. 

Are you already a Hall of Famer (HOF)?  Have 10 years sped by and now it’s time to renew? You know how much joy you received the first time… double it this year!

And if you are not yet ready for your second (or third!) decade of Hall of Fame, then don’t forget to send any updates to your personal HOF page.  You get to link to your own school website, too!  It does not matter what year you entered the Hall of Fame; just send along your info... and please! Dig into your archives and send those oldie-but-goodie photos that you have probably already posted on Facebook, but now can have a more permanent residence on our site.

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"What I loved most about [the] conference was how giving everyone is... it felt like a genuine support to want others to succeed as well.... and everyone comes from different backgrounds.  That in itself, is so very special.  Thank you so much for this event, I have friends I would love to convince to come as I think they would enjoy it as much as I did."

- 2022 conference attendee

from Administrative Director

Master Didi Goodman

Moving Forward

As I approach the end of my second term on the board, I can’t help reflecting on how utterly and completely the world has changed over these six years – both my personal world, and the world at large.

I won’t go on about the world at large, as you have all lived it too – we’ve lived it together. As for my personal world, I remember exactly where I was when Koré called and asked me whether I’d consider serving on the board: in the kitchen of my dad’s house, where I was staying while he recovered from a broken leg. I told her I was too busy, had too much on my plate, with my dad and all…

Somehow she twisted my arm and got me to agree anyway. “This won’t last forever; it will pass,” she said. “And you’ve said in the past how important you thought AWMAI’s work is.” She was right, of course – except about the being too busy. That hasn’t passed! But sometimes we just have to take it all on and do our best, even when it seems impossible.

And when it does seem impossible, we help each other! The most rewarding aspect of serving on this board has been the sense of cooperation and mutual aid – how everyone has stepped up to help the others through whatever challenges this world has thrown our way. The board has been a microcosm of what AWMAI as a whole represents: Networking and support. Networking strong enough to be a safety net; support, whether professional or personal, that’s given freely, generously, and with respect.

And yes, that is important work. As long as there continue to be women martial artists encountering glass ceilings, abusive environments, patronizing instructors or classmates, or just the demeaning experience of being unseen, unheard or unacknowledged by the men standing next to them, we need AWMAI (and PAWMA and NWMAF). Whatever we may or may not have experienced in our own lives, we all need to stand up and support each other.

Beyond that, we can simply enjoy our shared passion (and sometimes, profession), sharing ideas and inspiring one another. Having this connection with so many other martial arts school owners during the stresses of the pandemic was a lifesaver.

I’m proud to have had a hand in putting on the Teaching the Teacher conference for a few years. No matter how busy or hectic things may have gotten at times, at the end of the day and the end of each conference, it was pure joy, and a privilege to have worked with this board, the instructors, the conference attendees – all of you!

Now I’m coming to the end of a term; my dad has passed away, his beautiful house emptied and sold during lockdown; two hard years of zoom dojos and a period of rebuilding; new challenges with new demands on my schedule. My experience on the board has been so positive and rewarding, it's hard to let go, but it’s time.  And I’m very pleased to be able to pass the torch to a fellow Cuong Nhu member, Parnee Poet – a deeply caring person, long involved in women’s safety and self-defense, and dedicated to social justice. She is going to do a great job!

Just one more thing before I go… Please! Write some good articles for Parnee to publish in the newsletter! You have so much to share; we all want to hear what you have to say.

Thank you all for your involvement in AWMAI, and I’ll see you at the 2023 conference, plus many more to come.

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from the Editor

Sensei Parnee Poet


I'm learning so much from attending the AWMAI Board Meetings for the past few months.  Listening and learning with this strong leadership affects me much more deeply than any observer may realize.  As with any martial arts student, I'm humbled and modeling strength because being asked by Didi to take on her role and to be valued is power. 

Putting together the last newsletter was a bit daunting and with this one, I felt joy with being trusted to weave all this wisdom with your contributions...

YOUR images and words can be so profound and inspiring...  By being present in the newsletter, much like years ago, the only other woman at my dojo, at one point, telling me that seeing me in class inspired her to keep attending classes. 

WOW!!!  You do this for me... inspire me and challenge me to grow... Isn't that some of why we keep coming back to our classes and AWMAI?

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Register Now for

Teaching the Teacher '23


Wednesday, November 30, 2022


has been extended to

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Apply Here!

February 24-26

San Diego, CA

from Events Director

Sijeh Sarah Sponzo


We’re in my favorite time of the year!  Fall, I love fall.  I love the leaves, sweater weather, the coming holidays.  I’ve lived in New England my whole life, so I’m a little snobby about foliage.  I just had the good fortune to see fall in Hokkaido, Japan – WOW – Mother Nature knows how to put on Autumn everywhere.

It’s also my favorite time of year because planning for the annual conference is in full swing!  I love seeing all the class offerings, the teachers who will be presenting, getting the word out to everyone and most of all working with the hotel on all the details that will make the conference great.

  • Your rooms are ready, so book yours today.
  • The menus are being set, so when you register make sure to indicate any dietary needs or requests.
  • Book your flights – prices and routes are tight right now, so the earlier you plan, the better.
  • Gather some other folks from your school – there is a benefit when a group of you attend.
  • Put some “me time” on your calendar.  The conference will inspire and rejuvenate you.  It’s been a long couple of years and you deserve this weekend.  
Check our website for more information and registration.

We look forward to seeing YOU in February for a GREAT conference!


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Teaching the Teacher 2023: Instructors and Classes

AWMAI is proud to announce our very highly qualified teaching staff, and the timely and useful topics that will be presented at Teaching the Teacher 2023. Read below, and register now to ensure you don't miss any of this event!

Sifu Restita DeJesus has been training in martial arts since 1978 and teaching since 1982. She owns and operates Seattle Wushu Center in Seattle Washington, specializing
in Kajukenbo, Tai Chi, Wushu, and Filipino martial arts. She holds black belt certifications in Butokukan Karate, Wun Hop Kuen Do-Chuan Fa Kajukenbo(Faircloth Method), Kyudo, FMAA Eskrima/Kali/Silat (Petrilli Method), Cacoy Canete's Doce Pares Eskrima, Pangamot , Eskrido, Chinese contemporary Wushu, Chen Taijiquan and Yang Taijiquan. Restita is Lifetime member of the Association of Women's Martial Arts Instructors (AWMAI) and an AWMAI Hall of fame Inductee (2013) and served on the board of directors for the Pacific Association of Women Martial Artists (PAWMA). She is an inductee in the Cacoy Doce Pares World
Federation Hall of Fame (2012), an inductee in the Martial Arts History Museum Hall of Honors (2014) and USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame (2015), and a member of the National Qigong Association. She was inducted into the Masters Hall of Fame in 2011, and now serves as an Executive Board Member to the Masters Hall of Fame.

  • Flow n' Grow: Partner flow drills based on Filipino Martial Arts (WO)

This workout will explore partner flow drills ("hubud-lubid") or "give and take" drills, based on Filipino martial arts. These drills foster fluidity of movement, limb control, trapping techniques, and angulation. Primarily an upper body/empty hand drill, these
drills can also be adapted to practice with kali sticks.

  • Chan Ssu Jin: Silk reeling energy flow (EMWO)

This class is low impact, focusing on Chen Tai Chi Silk Reeling Qigong exercises. The movements are practiced in static moving stance, and in walking stances. An early morning workout or suitable for practice at any time of day.

    Master Terri Giamartino school owner and 7th degree black belt has been training in the martial arts since 1978. Her community service activities stretch back to 1980, becoming one of the founding mothers of the Pacific Association of Women Martial Artist (PAWMA), a non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of women and girls in the martial arts. Starting as their first President, she continued to serve in various executive capacities from 1980 through 1989. She has served on the board of the Cuong Nhu Oriental Martial Arts Association (CNOMAA), is a member of the American Teachers Association of Martial Artists (ATAMA) and The Association of Women Martial Arts Instructors (AWMAI).  She has coordinated and taught at numerous regional and national martial arts camps.  Recognized as a leader in her field, she has worked for national corporations teaching
    self-defense and safety programs and has been influential in both the public and
    private school sector teaching martial arts and bully prevention to children.  In 1993, Master Terri began Skills for Safe Living, a company dedicated to teaching safety and self-defense skills and opened her school, Emeryville Martial Arts, located in Emeryville, California.  In 2019, Master Terri received the coveted Lifetime Achievement Award from the Pacific Association of Women Martial Artists.  She was promoted to Master Level, Sichidan (7th dan) at the Cuong Nhu International Association Training Camp, 2017.  In October of 2016, Master Terri was featured in the book: Modern Masters of the Martial Arts:  Actions and Insights of the World's Classical Fighting Styles.  In 2013, Master Terri was inducted into the AWMAI Hall of Fame.  In 1999, Master Terri was voted Martial Artist of the Year by the Pacific Association of Women Martial Artists.  She has been a guest on both radio and television including segments on KPFA, KISS FM and SF Live.  A mother and wife of over 40 years, she continues to train and volunteer her time for various martial arts organizations.

        • Creating a Financially Viable School: Operations and Marketing (LD)

          This class will provide a detailed list of must do’s to make your school financially viable. From critical functions to marketing and managing a martial arts school, we will discuss the steps necessary to make sure you can keep you school alive and profitable. Discussion will also include social media advertising and branding ideas.

            Zosia Gorbaty, Hanshi, 9th degree black belt, is designated inheritor of Zujitsu-Ryu Martial Arts, founded by GM Chaka Zulu. She trained in Nisei Goju and Kyokoshinkai Karate for five years, but didn’t find the right style for her until she joined Zulu’s dojo in 1981. They eventually married and together they operated a NYC dojo until 2013. Zosia has a Master’s Degree in Physical Education from NYU, was employed as a fitness professional for many years, and retired after 30 years as adjunct faculty from Adelphi University and Queensborough Community College.  A dynamic presenter, she has given countless seminars on safety/rape prevention, volunteered as a Certified ER Rape Crisis Advocate, and has appeared as a self-defense expert in the media. Zosia served as NWMAF Board Chair and AWMAI Executive Director. Together with Professor Janice Okamoto, they founded the AWMAI Hall of Fame in 2012. She has been a trainer at over fifty national and
            international events for AWMAI, PAWMA, NWMAF, Camp Danzan Ryu, Friendship Exchange Tour China, El Halev Israel, and many dojos.  She is a recipient of the Silver Life Achievement Award from the World Head of Family Sokeship Council, Masters Hall of Fame, and 40+ Years AWMAI Hall of Fame. Although retired from a regular teaching schedule, Hanshi still trains six days a week with her husband at their home in Southern California.

            • Walking Cane Beach Workout (EMWO)

            The Walking Cane can be used as a powerful weapon that is portable, light weight, easily accessible, and legal to carry in plain sight. This early morning beach workout will review basic hand position and transitions, strikes, pokes, swings, block and parries, the versatility of the hook, footwork, and more. Bring a walking cane or umbrella with a curved round hook if possible; a dozen plus will be available to

            Grandmaster Sunny Graff has trained self-defense and martial arts for over 50 years, and is a Grandmaster in Taekwondo and Lapunti Arnis and posture /alignment specialist. She has produced more than 300 feminist, anti-racist self-defense instructors, 140 Black Belts and authored self-defense books in English and German.  Grandmaster Graff co-founded NWMAF, served on the first steering committee, Self-Defense Certification Board and the AWMAI Rank Committee.  She is a Gold medalist in the World Games and Pan-American Games, 4x National Taekwondo Champion with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Taekwondo Hall of Fame.  In 1983 she founded the non-profit school "Women in Movement" in Frankfurt, which has won multiple awards for the protection of children. She teaches all levels, ages, abilities and ethnicities, in multiple arts and weapons in her school and at national and international conferences. Grandmaster Graff is eternally grateful for the training and guidance of many wonderful Grandmasters and Masters worldwide. Her home is in the women’s martial arts community which has been a constant source of support and inspiration.

            • Opening Session: Yes and..... we are back!!

            There is no better way to make new friends than to move and laugh together.  Laughter breaks down barriers and overcomes hesitation and fear. In this session, we explore new ways to get to know each other, learn each other’s names, be assertive, enhance reactions, train our minds as well as bodies, be successful coaches, work with
            a partner, build team spirit, develop group mind and have great fun while doing it all.  Grandmaster Graff borrows from the Improv Comedy community which has awesome games and exercises to build group cohesiveness.

            • Fit, Functional, Flexible (EMWO)

            Wake up, warm up, get the blood pumping, line up the joints, strengthen and stretch.  Training, or just living, in a dysfunctional body is like driving with the hand brake on.  To release the hand brake, Grandmaster Graff has blended the three methods of functional training which have allowed her to have a long joyful martial arts career (Basisgymnastik from Margaretha Schmidt, the Egoscue Method, Liebscher und Bracht), into a morning workout designed to prepare the body for the day’s trainings.  After warming up the joints and some light aerobics, we will strengthen the body in functional positions and stretch for flexibility.

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            Lauren Taylor, founder and director of Defend Yourself, has been teaching Empowerment Self-Defense since 1987. She’s taught more than 35,000 people of all genders, ages, and walks of life, specializing in classes for women, people with disabilities, LGBTQIA+ people, and survivors of abuse and assault. Under Lauren’s direction, Defend Yourself also offers training in bystander intervention techniques for standing up to hate speech and violence. Lauren is also founder and director of Safe Bars, which trains hospitality professionals in active bystander skills, Empowerment Self-Defense, and de-escalation to create safe, respectful, and welcoming spaces for patrons and staff alike. Lauren is a respected leader in Empowerment Self-Defense and bystander intervention and trains teachers in both fields. She has written extensively on interpersonal violence and prevention (selected publications include Ms. Magazine and The Washington Post). Lauren also has presented at national conferences including: Creating Change (National LGBTQ Task Force), National Sexual Assault Conference and the National Center for Victims of Crime annual training institute. Lauren’s book, co-authored with Nadia Telsey, Get Empowered: A Practical Guide to Thrive, Heal, and Embrace Your Confidence in a Sexist World will be published by Penguin Random House in 2023.  Lauren also has experience as a tae kwon do practitioner of 20 years at DC Self-Defense Karate Association, teaching for about 17 of those years; a founder of My Sister’s Place, DC’s first shelter for abused women and their children, and a member of the shelter staff and board of trustees (1978-82); as one of the organizers of the 1978 March to Stop Violence Against Women (DC’s first Take Back the Night March); and as a meditator and student of Buddhism.

            • Beyond Verbal and Physical Skills: Overcoming Internalized Barriers to Self-Defense (MC)

            We can teach our students all the verbal and physical self-defense in our toolboxes, but when the time comes to set a verbal boundary or hit someone, if they hear sentences like these in their heads: “I’d say something, but I don’t want to be rude or make a scene,” or “I don’t want to hurt their feelings” it will be challenging to use those skills. In this workshop, we’ll introduce methods that will help you help your

            • defy societal messages telling them to be small or passive
            • challenge shame and blame
            • understand their behavior
            • gain skills to value and advocate for themselves
            • live lives of more safety, confidence, and freedom.

            You’ll gain perspective and tools to make your teaching more wholistic and more effective.

            • Creating a Trauma-Competent Classroom (LD)

              All our students, whether survivors of gender-based violence or not, need a level of emotional safety to be able to learn. In this workshop, you’ll learn:

              • how trauma affects the mind and body
              • how trauma shows up in the classroom
              • how we as teachers can create a safer classroom that facilitates learning
              • a few specific practices and exercises you can integrate into your teaching that help all students stay present and grounded.

              Shifu/Sensei Koré Grate

              • Keeping The Teacher Teaching:  Preservation through Positivity  (LD)

              Shifu/Sensei Koré Grate will facilitate this group discussion

              For All Levels of teachers/assistant teachers:

              Especially lately, what happens when we are challenged, tired, bored, un-inspired and still have to get up, go to the dojo/school and teach or assist a class for dedicated, amazing students?  How do we “pull oversells up” and continue?  What goes on in our minds when we open the door, bow and begin?  What happens during class that manifests a change in mood?

              Together in this class we will explore and discuss various methods/tactics/ideas we use to keep “showing up”-growing, learning and being inspired as leaders so the legacy lives on in our students.  For us to “say out loud”- acknowledge and share that uplifting magic when we see someone actually learning, and enjoying their training.

                more instructors and classes continued in next column

                Professor Sheryl Hager, Hachidan, has been a student of Danzan Ryu for more than 50 years.  She began her training with her mother and father, Jane and Jim Dean, in May 1966 at the Redding Jujitsu Academy.  She was awarded her black belt at the age of 17.  Coming full circle, she is currently the head instructor of Redding Jujitsu Academy.  Professor Hager has studied a wide range of other martial arts including Parker’s Kenpo, Tai Chi, and Shotokan Karate.  She is a Certified Massage Therapist in the Japanese Healing Arts.  Professor Hager has also taught empowering seminars in women’s awareness and defense through Kaiser Permanente and WEAVE in the Sacramento area. She continues to provide seminars in the Redding, California area.
                Professor Hager is a member of the AWMAI Hall of Fame.

                • Inside, Outside, Upside, Downside, Forward and Reverse (MC)

                There is a "right" way to do a technique, but we can also look at a technique from alternate directions.  What if we turned it upside-down or inside-out?  A different point of view can help open a student's mind to deeper understanding. Join Professor Hager to explore ways to look at a technique with the freedom to stretch, remake and reshape the boundaries. Learn about the approach and apply it to your own martial arts style.

                • Kids Just Want to Have Fun (LD)

                Kids are smart, funny, creative, observant and full of energy! Professor Hager will share her top five strategies to keeping a class of children involved, engaged and moving in the right direction.

                Doctor, Sensei Amelia Jones is a scholar warrior healer. She has actively practiced the martial arts for 35+ years starting in 1983 as a student of Shorin Ryu. Under the instruction of Katsuo Watanabe Sensei, 8th dan, she has earned the rank of sandan in Tomiki Aikido. Sensei Jones has taught self-defense for schools and community groups. She is a graduate of the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine and certified in acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine. She continues to study and practice Chinese medicine, Tomiki Aikido, meditation and painting.

                • Acupressure Healing Circle (LD)

                A community style of acupressure where participants are seated, fully clothed, in a circle with others being treated. Five tiny metal “seeds” are taped to points in each ear. Each individual benefits from the positive energetic and emotional connections of all those treating and being treated.

                • Have Fun Teaching Mindfulness (MC)

                Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. A valuable and necessary practice, it can seem daunting to undertake, teach and maintain. Participants will engage in a number of games, activities and facilitated
                discussions to enhance their teaching.

                Jennie Trower is a skilled instructor, presenter and speaker with more than two decades of experience in martial arts, self-defense, and safety training and teaching.  After personal and professional losses during the COVID-19 pandemic, Jennie pivoted within the safety space, earning a third college degree in emergency management, multiple disaster management certificates through FEMA, and
                volunteering for ongoing disaster relief efforts with the American Red Cross. She brings the same balanced, accessible, effective and actionable approach to emergency planning, preparedness and response as she did previously with self-defense.

                • Marketing - Marketing for the Martial Arts Business: Hits & Misses    (LD)

                In addition to having owned and run three businesses, instructor Jennie Trower has also worked in marketing and advertising for more than 20 years. This blend of experience has provided valuable perspective and a wealth of lessons learned around marketing a martial arts/self-defense business.

                In this class, Jennie will share an overview of what worked -- and what didn't -- when marketing her businesses.  She will provide resources and activities to get participants thinking about new ways to reach the right clients, define their unique business offering, and craft compelling communication on multiple channels.  Participants will be invited to share their ideas and experience during a facilitated discussion around topics such as the use of social media and email, advertising in a post-COVID market, and targeted messaging.

                Diane Wallander, Shihan Diane's love for martial arts encompasses the training, discipline, striving towards perfection, and life-enriching connections with fellow martial artists. Shihan Diane currently heads the JuJutsu and Hapkido programs at College of DuPage in
                Glen Ellyn, IL, specializing in proactive self-defense for girls and women. She is ranked 8th Dan in Miyama Ryu juJutsu, 3rd Dan in Traditional Korean Hapkido and 2nd Dan in WTF TaeKwonDo; she also holds masters and doctoral degrees in Biological Anthropology from Northwestern University. Her extensive background and expertise in the study of animal behavior has led her to a deep understanding of the patterns of aggressive behaviors in humans, which is integrated into her teaching of self-defense.

                • Teaching Martial Arts To Special Needs Students (LD)

                Students with special needs deserve instructors and curricula that recognize, understand and integrate accommodations that are vital to these students' learning and success. Much of the focus of special education has been in the classroom, but not so much in the area of physical education. This session will focus on best practices for teaching martial arts to neurodivergent students, such as those diagnosed with ADHD, ADD & ASD.

                Master Kathy Long Sifu Kathy “Kat” Long is a Shodan in Aikido and holds a master rank in Kung Fu San Soo. She has also learned JKD, Wing Chun, and Kali under Guro Dan Inosanto, as well as learning Kickboxing, Boxing, BJJ and MMA. She starred in several martial arts movies including The Stranger, Knights, and Under The Gun, as well as a guest star on
                Walker Texas Ranger with Chuck Norris. She was the fight choreographer, fight coach and stunt double for Michelle Pfeiffer in the movie Batman Returns. Her kickboxing skills earned 5-time World kickboxing Champion titles in the late 1980’s through 1990’s, and she also competed in MMA before retiring from the ring in her early 50s.

                • Rapid Response Drills (WO)

                Participantswill learn drills that increase response skills, blocking and striking in an expedient and efficient manner. Whether your interest is self-defense, contact sports, point sparring or improve timing in general, these drills are great for teachers and students alike and can be modified as teachers see fit.

                Grandmaster Odette Russell
                Dr. Odette Russell, also known as SiDaGoo is the wife of Sijo Abdul Mutakabbir, the founder of Swam Martial Arts Academy. SWAM is a hybrid of various forms of traditional martial arts that were combined to form its unique system, now 45 years old. As SiDaGoo, one of SWAM’s Grandmasters, she has many accomplishments linked to her name. She received a PhD in Health Psychology in 2018, was promoted to 9th Degree Black Belt and earned ‘Designated Inheritor’ to the SWAM system in 2019. Although her martial arts journey officially started in 1971, where Russell trained for one year in the Ji Do Kwon Tae Kwon Do system, it wasn’t until she started training under her husband in 1980 that she considered herself a true martial artist. During Russell’s days as a newbie in the 1980s, she was the only female student within the SWAM system, so for that decade all of her training sessions which included sparring were with only her male counterparts. Her school’s atmosphere was strict and she received no special treatment. By 1998, she formed her own female division of SWAM, Sister Warriors Against Madness. Her division is a reality-based system focusing on effective martial science and self-defense tactics for females and strives to heighten control, accuracy, speed, fluid flow of multiple effective strikes, and an understanding of the vulnerable areas of the human anatomy. Along with thousands of hours of training time over the past 40 years, she has also participated in semi-contact karate tournaments (katas and kumite division; 75% of her wins were in 1st place). She operated successful dojos for two decades, and taught thousands of individuals (primarily females from 1998 where she produced dedicated female black belts). Dr. Russell conducts self-defense seminars, fitness and wellness workshops, training camps, and lectures to various businesses, religious facilities, martial arts dojos, and colleges. From 2017-2019, she hosted a health and wellness radio talk show directed to martial artists on the Doc Radio weekly podcast. Currently, she is a contributing writer to multiple martial arts magazines.

                • Clothing Used for Self Defense (WO)

                This class will provide practical concepts on how a person’s ordinary clothing can be used as improvised weapons. Dr. Russell will demonstrate multiple techniques from different attack angles using clothing and instruct how to use the attacker’s clothing for defensive counterattacks. Items will include scarves, hats, any style shirt, hoodie, high heels and belts.

                Sifu Gin Yang has been training in Kajukenbo for over 18 years, and was promoted to
                3rd degree black belt by Sigung Michelle McVadon in 2019. As a student of the martial arts for life, she is curious and enthusiastic about learning. Outside the Kwoon, Gin is passionate about Pilates and is a certified instructor in Stott Method Pilates.  She is also an avid skateboarder, and loves to spoil her adorable dog, Eggroll.

                • Getting to the core of it! (MC)

                In this class we will work thru exercises to strengthen your core and connectivity. We will work our way into how these exercises support alignment in our martial arts training. We will cover how to build exercises from easier to harder, and ways to incorporate modifications for students who need them. We’ll talk about different ways to find core support and structure in stances and basic techniques.

                Helen H. Yee, BA, LMT  Born in Hong Kong and raised in Columbus, Ohio, Helen became a licensed massage therapist and co-founded the American Institute of Alternative Medicine (AIAM) in 1990, where she is currently CFO.  She is a graduate of Ohio Dominican University and a third-degree black belt in Taekwondo. Helen competed nationally and internationally, is a two-time National gold medalist and was selected as an alternate for the 1988 US Olympic Team. She competed on the US Taekwondo team in 1990, earning a silver medal in the 1st Women’s World Cup Taekwondo in Madrid, Spain.  In 2012, Helen earned an award from the Association of Women Martial Arts Instructors for 30 Years of Training and Dedication and was inducted into the Bruce Lee Martial Arts Legends Hall of Honor in 2015.  She teaches Tai Chi and Qi Gong at martial arts camps, conferences, and seminars in the US and abroad. Energetic, friendly, and fun, Helen’s heart is to support, inspire, and represent business women, lesbians, and Asians.  Helen has a strong background in business and serves on the Accreditation Commission of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine site visit team for the evaluation of acupuncture and Oriental medicine schools across the country.  She has served as President for the Board for the Pacific Association of Women Martial Arts; Executive board member for Asian American Commerce Group; Vice President of the LGBTQ+ Stonewall Organization, original member of Ohio Progressive Asian Women’s Leadership and on numerous other boards and committees. She is also the recipient of the AACG Business Entrepreneurship Award.

                • Chigong (EMWO)

                In this early morning workout, Helen will teach warm up exercises, breathing techniques, and the first routine of Soaring Crane Chigong. This is a great way to start your day with energy and purpose.

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                Write something for us!

                Suggestion for February 2023 Newsletter:

                Read anything good lately?  A training manual, biography, or martial-arts-related novel?  Write us a review!

                Post-Conference Inspiration:  Write about something memorable you heard, learned, or shared during the upcoming conference.

                Send submissions to

                Going Deeper with Self-Defense

                by Lauren R. Taylor, Defend Yourself

                We teach verbal and physical self-defense skills to help our students be safer; live bigger, more authentic lives; and change the world.  Our students also tell us that what they learn is life-changing!

                But sometimes skills aren’t enough. Our empowering values and messages are up against the oppressive structures of patriarchy, White supremacy, and capitalism. Many forces (like gender socialization) sustain those systems, and they can make it difficult for students to fully put these skills into practice in their lives.

                You’ve probably heard students say things like:

                • “I could never do that,”
                • “I wasn’t sure if he meant anything by it,”
                • “I don’t want to hurt their feelings,” or
                • “What if I make them madder?”

                Internal messages like these often stop our students from advocating for themselves, speaking up, or taking steps to avoid danger.  These messages also can get in the way of healing from whatever harassment, abuse, or assault they’ve experienced.

                While research shows that students who take empowerment self-defense classes tend to blame
                themselves less, it’s also true that if they find it difficult to use those skills they can experience more self-blame as a result.

                We also can’t forget that when students set a boundary or ask for what they want, they’re often taking very real risks, like being fired when standing up to workplace harassment, or losing housing when coming out to parents.

                I encourage us as practitioners to create curricula and classroom environments in which we address and explore these realities. If we do so, we can move our practice forward, developing an ever-more effective and relevant field.

                The steps we can take include:

                • Sharing our understanding of oppressive systems (patriarchy, White supremacy, and capitalism) and how they affect us.  This can help us and our students understand that self-doubting thoughts like those above are not personal shortcomings – and they’re not our fault.
                • Acknowledging the complexities and the difficulty of putting empowerment self-defense into practice.  This can validate students’ experience.
                • Opening up about and attending to our own journeys with empowerment self-defense, becoming people who can speak up for ourselves (not just people who statically “know” how to deal with intrusions and violations).  This will also help us better serve our students, deepen and advance the practice, and fuel social change.

                If you find these topics intriguing, please join me for Beyond Verbal and Physical Skills:  Overcoming Internalized Barriers to Self-Defense at AWMAI’s Teaching the Teacher in February in San Diego.

                Check out my book, Get Empowered: A Practical Guide to Thrive, Heal, and Embrace Your Confidence in a Sexist World, co-authored with Nadia Telsey, forthcoming from Penguin Random House in September 2023.

                "Loved the interactive aspects.  Helped me to think about teaching in a new way.  Great Stuff!"

                - 2022 conference attendee

                A Break Threw

                by Diane Wallander, Shihan

                Recently, I was in Houston at an annual martial arts tournament, and I was excited to have been asked to coordinate the board breaking division.  While prepping for the tournament, I noticed a young boy alone in a corner with a despondent look on his face.  I went to talk with him—Anthony, 10 years old—and he began to open up to me, albeit slowly.  At one point, his grandmother explained to me that Anthony suffers from a rare brain disorder, and that he had brain surgery last year.  Due to his condition, Anthony experiences behavioral issues such as hyperactivity, social anxiety and extreme distractibility.
                The surgery has helped to lessen his symptoms.

                I convinced Anthony that I really needed his help setting up for the tournament, especially making sure that my ‘practice’ boards [foam pieces with targets, re-breakable boards] were working properly.  His eyes lit up and his demeanor changed as he realized that, if he helped me, he would get to break actual wooden boards for the first time.  I’m happy to report that, not only did Anthony break his two boards at tournament, he took first place in his division AND broke a teen board with his front kick.

                It turns out, both Anthony and I had ’break-threws’ that day [pun intended].  Mine was the realization that my success in teaching him happened because of the entirety of all that I have been taught in almost 40 years of martial arts training.  For me, the synergy was palpable that day as I taught Anthony, and I was later overcome with intense feelings of gratitude for all my teachers.

                At the 2023 AWMAI Teaching The Teacher Conference, February 24-26 th , in San Diego, CA, I’ll be leading a seminar entitled, Teaching Martial Arts To Special Needs Students.  I will, of course, have information and stories to share about teaching.  It is my great hope, however, that the gathering of extraordinary teachers will lead to a beautiful synergy of knowledge that will make the magic of martial arts more accessible, rewarding and life enriching for all our students.  I hope that you will join us in February 2023!

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                Rank Promotion Meeting

                L-R Nicoletta Camerin (Rank Promotion Candidate), Terri Giamartino, Katie Murphy Stevens, Melanie Fine, Didi Goodman


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