Volume VII

Spring 2024



and Support


Teaching The Teacher 2024

Welcome Reception and Early Registration

If you arrive early, join us!

Thursday, April 11, 5-6:30 pm

Renaissance Columbus Hotel Lobby

We'd love to see YOU showcase your art, talent, skill or favorite technique at the conference demo on Saturday!

Spaces are limited; if you're interested in participating, please email Executive Director, Jennie Trower.

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AWMAI 2023 Demo:  Mac Tíre Bán Martial Arts, Barrie, Ontario, Canada

Bring Your Awesome Raffle Prizes!

Sarah Sponzo, Events Director

One of the highlights of the conference is the raffle!  Each year, attendees generously donate items that entice us all to buy raffle tickets.  The more great items donated, the more tickets we sell and the more proceeds will help AWMAI continue its mission of Teaching the Teacher!  So, bring your raffle items – School t-shirts, jewelry, craft items, books, cosmetics/personal care products… anything you can think of that people would like to win in a raffle or bid on at an auction!

You may contact Events Director, Sarah Sponzo, with questions or to let her know what you will be bringing.

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from Executive Director

Jennie Trower

Greetings, AWMAI community!

We are one week away from our annual Teaching the Teacher Conference in Columbus, and I could not be more excited. This year we shook things up a bit by hosting the conference in a new-to-us city at a different time of year – both decisions made after considering feedback from last year’s attendees.

Those changes, plus the support of our amazing community (i.e., YOU), mean exciting things for the conference:

  • We have already surpassed registration numbers for the past two in-person conferences.

  • We were able to award five scholarships to help folks with conference costs.

  • We have an amazing lineup of instructors and sessions, including more people of color (seven!) teaching this year than at any past AWMAI conference. 

  • We have double the number of Hall of Fame inductees (eight!) as last year. 

With your help and participation, this is going to be one of the best events ever! If you haven’t yet registered, it’s not too late. Please head over to for more information.

If you are interested in showcasing your art, talent and/or skill at the Saturday afternoon demo, please email me to get on the list.  We have a handful of 4-minute slots available.  If you haven’t attended the conference before, the demo is one of the highlights of the whole event.  It’s a chance for us to celebrate the diversity of arts that our members represent and to cheer each other on – the audience is seriously supportive!

I can’t wait to see you all in Columbus for another weekend of learning, sharing, networking, inspiration and fun. Safe travels!

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Are You Packed?

Sarah Sponzo, Events Director

The AWMAI Conference is fast approaching! Are you ready?

Here’s a quick list to help with packing:

Come ready for fun and learning!

  • Passport and/or driver’s license
  • Travel insurance documents
  • Travel itinerary and boarding passes/tickets
  • Cash, credit cards and copies of credit cards
  • Prescription medications and copies of prescriptions
  • Prescription eyeglasses or contacts
  • Hearing aids and batteries
  • Cell phone and charger
  • Laptop or tablet and charger
  • Your Travel Wardrobe 
  • Comfortable clothes
  • Workout clothes
  • School uniform and belt
  • Martial arts shoes (indoor)
  • Dress clothes for Banquet
  • Lightweight jacket or sweater

Conference items
  • Travel/hotel confirmations and information
  • Business cards
  • Notebook and pens
  • Folder for handouts/class materials
  • Raffle items
  • Envelope for receipts

Carry on Essentials
  • Water bottle
  • Snacks
  • Hand sanitizer/wipes
  • Camera/charger/accessories
  • Book/e-reader/charger
  • Neck pillow and/or blanket
  • Ear plugs/eye mask
  • Headphones/earbuds
  • Non-prescription medications
  • Toothbrush or other items to freshen up when you arrive
  • Gum, candy and/or snacks
  • Credit/bank cards and cash
  • Cell phone charger and cord
  • Extra power strip for electronics in hotel room
  • Reading material for travel/down time

Toiletries and Extras
  • Sun block
  • Lip balm
  • Face and body lotion
  • Deodorant
  • Comb and brush
  • Soap
  • Shampoo
  • Hair products
  • Hair accessories
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Floss/Mouthwash
  • Contact lenses and solution
  • Makeup
  • Sanitary items
  • Razor
  • Nail file and clippers/Tweezers
  • Vitamins
  • Small First Aid Kit - Bandaids, antibiotic ointment, cold and allergy medicine, anti-nausea and anti- diarrhea medicine, water-purification tablets, small flashlight, duct tape
  • Hand sanitizer/wipes
  • Kleenex
  • Ear plugs and/or sleep mask – if you are a light sleeper

* Clothing choices will vary depending on which classes you are taking. Here some suggestions based on
class type:

EMWO – Early Morning Workout wear comfortable workout clothes
LD – Lecture/Discussion bring pen/paper for notes
MC – Moving Classroom combining lecture and movement wear uniform/workout clothes & bring pen/paper for notes

WO – Master Level Workout wear uniform/workout clothes

Teaching The Teacher 2024 Feature:

Sensory Journey

Dr. Cheryl Rock

Martial Arts is more than learning techniques to defend yourself.  It's about fostering the mindset to perform at your best.  These best practices may be accomplished through the art of meditation which plays an integral role in Martial Arts.  It is more than sitting in a lotus position, closing eyes and chanting.  It can also pertain to harnessing the power of the mind to master the art of focus and trusting the process to free yourself from mental blocks that affect overall health and well being.  For example:  Meditation can help with anxiety before a belt advancement test or training to enhance learning or during combat.

Dr. Rock will be teaching participants several forms of meditation through the Science of Chocolate such as:

(1) Mindful Meditation - where participants will be able to observe the total body experience which may involve thoughts and sensations in the body as they occur.

(2) Visualization Meditation  - where participants will be using all 5 senses to create a scene in their mind as they are lead through a decadent journey of chocolate tastings while going inward. In brief,  meditation has long term benefits such as a sense of calm and awareness while eliminating patterns of self limiting beliefs resulting in an overall healthier lifestyle.

You do not want to miss out!  Come and learn from Sensei Dr. Cheryl Rock's session on "A Sensory Journey To Health And Wellness As A Martial Art".  She will teach you how to use a decadent treat, such as chocolate, into a meditation.

*Dr. Cheryl's class is Sunday, April 14, 9:15-10:45 am in Room 31.

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Smooth Travels

Sarah Sponzo, Events Director

Whether you are a frequent flyer or just take an occasional journey, there are travel tips we all can use. Here are a few to make your trip as smooth as possible:

Navigating the airport:
Leave yourself plenty of time. Rushing while traveling increases stress. You can’t anticipate traffic, crowds and other delays. Start your conference weekend off relaxed and ready to go.

TSA PreCheck is a huge time-saver – shoes stay on, laptop and toiletries stay in your carry-on, and the line really moves. If you’re not a “known traveler,” you can still make it through TSA in a timely manner – wear shoes that are easy off and on, make sure your liquids are 3oz or less and in a 1-quart Ziploc bag, review the rules that are posted as you go through screening, follow any instructions being given, and you’ll be on your way.

Remember Essentials:
Make a list! Even after many, many trips, a list is valuable. This is especially important when you have to remember to bring items you don't normally travel with – like your martial arts uniform!

Stay hydrated:
Plane cabins are DRY, staying hydrated will make sure you feel better and help combat the symptoms of jetlag. Consider bringing a water bottle to fill AFTER security. Most airports have fountains. You can save money and the planet.

Put your hotel address in your phone. When you are out and about you’ll always know where you need to get back to.
Alert your bank that you will be traveling so you don't encounter any issues with credit or debit

Download your airline's app. You can get real-time information on your, flight, timing, and your

Relax and stay happy. Delays and weather happen and there is nothing we can do to change it.  Remember that you are on a break and heading someplace fun. You will get there and have a good story to tell when you do!

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Teaching The Teacher 2024 Feature: 

When YOU are having Fun, THEY are having Fun!

Nicole Welsh

In this discussion she will share tips and tricks for the youngest martial artists in your school and stimulate conversation that brings out the playfulness in all of us. One  of the keys for working with young martial artists is allowing yourself the freedom to play as you teach the foundational skills  and physical literacy as building blocks to martial arts learning in later years. 

*Nicole Welsh's class is Saturday, April 13, 7:45-9:15 am in the Room 31.

AWMAI 2023:  Grandmaster Odette Russell and Hanshi Zosia Gorbaty

from Events Director

Sijeh Sarah Sponzo

We’re getting so close!  Less than a week to go until we get to celebrate together.  The agenda has been finalized, we are putting the finishing touches on the meals, activities and the Hall of Fame Banquet.  The Renaissance Columbus is ready to welcome AWMAI with comfortable guest rooms, spacious meeting rooms with natural light and a great restaurant and bar.

If you still need to book your room, please contact me. Our group rates were guaranteed until March 20, and you don't want to miss out.  Book your room HERE.
The Renaissance Columbus does not provide shuttle service from the John Glenn Columbus International Airport.  Lyft, Uber and taxi service are available, and there is also COTA Transit available.  Please see our list of things to bring and our travel tips in this newsletter. Hopefully, this will help make your preparation and travel as smooth as possible.  We have everyone’s meal selection for the banquet, but if you have any questions or any special dietary needs, please contact me.

You’ll definitely want to check out a few things in Columbus:

Short North, known as the art and soul of the city, is a unique neighborhood a quick ride away.  With its
historic lighted arches lining High Street, it’s home to 300+ businesses, many of which are locally owned or headquartered, like restaurants, boutiques, coffee shops, DIY food and fun experiences, rooftop bars and entertainment options.  Stop in at one of the area’s women-owned, LGBTQ+-owned, and Black-owned shops, businesses and culinary spaces.  Whatever your taste, the Short North is diverse, vibrant and ready to welcome you.

German Village, just south of downtown, is one of the most idyllic neighborhoods in the country.  Built by German settlers hundreds of years ago, the area is defined by its brick homes and shops, as well as brick-lined streets. Historic charm and modern tweaks exist side by side here.  Peruse local businesses that include delicious pastry and coffee shops and the truly unique 32-room Book Loft. 

Close by is the Brewery District full of lively entertainment and dining options.

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Teaching The Teacher 2024 Feature:  Communication Is The Key To Clear Messaging

Laura Armstrong

Whether we are speaking with someone, writing an email or communicating in some other form, clarity of our message is what we are trying to accomplish.  How many times have you gotten in a conversation, written an email or post and it’s been misunderstood or came across the wrong way.  We do our best in our everyday lives to interact with others in a way that is mutually beneficial.  However, that doesn’t always work out.  Understanding what is important to others, what values they resonate and live by and what is it that will get them to respond in the manner that allows the best response and interaction is what we are looking for. If I am very factual and informational to someone who is very nurturing and wants to connect with me, my message will not come across in the right way.  So first is the understanding of ourselves and what values are important to us. Once we understand that, we then move into the understanding of others. And work on the ability to get out of our own way to really hear
their message and what values are important to them to have the best interaction possible.

This can be challenging as we live in our heads and our behaviors have been steadfast for decades.  It’s a skill, like learning a new language and it takes time and effort, but the rewards are so great on so many levels.  I have always been fascinated by people and their personalities but also how they interact in the world.  That is the third level we look at, how you are perceived in the world.  Are you flexible, are you
closing business, are you having the relationships with friends, family and others including those you train and teach that you want?  Are you speaking to their values and how does one figure that out?

First, understand who you are whats really important to you and then you will be able to widen the scope of your vision and your communication. Seeing the joy in people’s faces when they feel understood is something I never get tired of. So lets work on communicating more effectively in all areas of our lives and see the change that we want to bring to the world.

*Laura Armstrong's class is Friday, April 12, 11am-12:30 pm in Room 31.

Finding Empowerment within the Upsetting Context of Mass Shootings

an Interview with SAC Kieran Ramsey, FBI Portland

Sylvia Smart

Listen to the Podcast

There’s a clear uptick in mass shootings across the country leading to lots of fear, confusion and anguish. Join Sylvia Smart and Special Agent in Charge of the Portland FBI, Kieran Ramsey, as they discuss this important topic.

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Teaching The Teacher 2024 Feature:  Capoeira

Schelsea Jones

Origins of Capoeira
Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian martial art that combines music and movement into a unique and visually expressive fighting style. Its origins lie in ancient African martial arts practiced by
people from the West and Central African (Bantu-Congo) regions of the continent.  During the transatlantic slave trade, these people were stolen and brought to Brazil where Capoeira evolved.  Although capoeira is not a dance, many assume it to be a “dance-fight” because the practitioners appear to be dancing when they are moving around each other.  Enslaved people, however, were not allowed to outwardly practice martial arts or any other aspects of their
culture.  Practicing capoeira in secret was a form of resistance and defiance to slave masters.

Capoeira Is Music
For African people, there is no separation of music and movement within their cultures.  Music and dance are used to express feelings and commune with the ancestors during celebrations, times of mourning and religious ceremonies. Capoeira songs are sung about spiritual connections, struggles of daily life, relationships with family as well as to convey warnings about impending danger.  The capoeira music cannot be separated from the movement as it is
an integral part of the practice.

Introduction To Capoeira Class
Our class will focus on the fundamental movements and music of capoeira. Students will learn the basic mechanics of the footwork, how to interact with each other using kicks and escapes, and learn capoeira songs.  Instruments will be provided so that students can learn the basic
rhythms with live music.

*Schelsea Jones' class is Saturday, April 13, 7:45-9:15 am in the Executive Room.

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Teaching The Teacher 2024 Feature:

When The Student Is Ready, The Teacher Will Appear

Helen H. Yee

Growing up in Midwestern Ohio and being the only Asian person in my school, I had experienced racism and bullying most of my childhood.

So, seeing Bruce Lee in the movies, as my hero, (I hadn’t heard of Michelle Yeoh yet),only solidified my interest in the Martial Arts.

I wanted to learn how to defend myself, and also do all the fancy, kicking, punching, and fast action hero moves in the films.

When I did start taking Martial Arts, it was like something switched within me… Because learning Martial Arts was more than just knowing all the fighting and fancy kicks, but it allowed me to build my confidence and many other virtues that come with learning a Martial Arts discipline.

Not only did I compete and train to a high level of competing, but I became physically and mentally strong.

My physical abilities gave me the advantage to compete at a high caliber. 

However, it wasn’t until I met my first Chigong master, Master Wen Mei Yu, who I met during a NWMAF special training camp, and she explained to me, that my energy was very imbalanced and that I needed to do Chigong. 

So that was my first time ever hearing what Chigong was. it wasn’t until I realize how much my internal strength was depleted, (for example, getting strep throat at every competition), and I learned it was because my Chi was weakened by excessive training and losing weight to stay in my weight division.

On my journey back to balance and wellness, I would fly Master Yu to Columbus to do Chigong workshops at my massage and acupuncture school to teach others how to strengthen their internal energy. (And in Mstr Yu fashion, she drew over a hundred geese in my parking lot during her workshop one day!)

I had also learned from other Chigong masters in China, while taking my acupuncture students for their externship at the teaching hospitals in Beijing and Chengdu, that I immersed myself in learning, the different types of Chigong, mainly Medical Chigong to teach in my school’s program of Traditional Chinese medicine.

My grandfather was actually the first to want me to do these funny, slow exercises and Tai Chi with him but at that time I was not interested and I said that is for old people so  now that I am an old person, well… older, I am wanting to pass on the knowledge that I have learned that have benefited me greatly in my wellness journey of life. As they say: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

My deep, deep gratitude to Master Wen Mei Yu for being that teacher to opening the door to the internal strength I powerfully gained from Chigong.

If you come to the AWMAI conference, I will be teaching Chigong warm-ups and exercises, as well as a medical Chigong routine called Soaring Crane:  Integration of the six directions.

If you want to see a demonstration of it, check out my website where I demonstrate it at the National Women’s Martial Arts Federation camp last year.

Chi you later!

*Helen Yee's class is Sunday, April 14, 8-9:15 am in Room 31.

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Jamie Zimron Sensei, AWMAI Co-Founder

Dear AWMAI Sisters, this is a letter from my heart to yours. We have all been dedicating ourselves and martial arts careers for decades to cultivating respect, equity, and peace, and combating every -ism.  Yet our spirits are heavy as horrifying wars rage in Ukraine, Israel and Palestine, and people are being harmed across the planet by terrifying socio-political and environmental threats.  I want to underscore the vital work we do and important roles we play as women martial arts instructors in this deeply wayward world.  I was a twentysomething brown belt in the late 1970s when I bumped into an awesome group of women training in the Bay Area. They were doing different martial arts, and hanging out in the Sierras for thrilling weekends sharing their styles.  I was thrilled to jump in and add Aikido to the mix. I learned to kick and punch from them, they learned to blend and take falls from me, and we co-created martial arts performances and opened women-led dojos. These were the early days that led to PAWMA, and the fertile origins of our women’s martial arts movement and organizations.

What was so beautiful then was the eagerness we all had to learn from and with each other, regardless of style or rank; and our mission to make the world a safer and better place.  Coming together in commonality, we relished our variety and diversity.  In 1979, as I was preparing for my Shodan test, my girlfriend said:  “You’re looking good on the mat.  But remember, this is really about becoming a black belt person!”  Her message, and those experiences of purely sharing our knowledge across arts, are what I love about AWMAI - and urge us to keep emphasizing as we go forward today and for tomorrow.

Soon after Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, I travelled to Poland with a sensei friend to offer Aikido-based Somatic Trauma Relief sessions in ad hoc refugee centers.  The invasion violently ripped up families and communities, with thousands upon thousands of mothers and kids suddenly displaced as they fled from and the men went to war.  In the overwhelming trauma, these initial sessions proved welcome, joyful, and a source of body-based resilience.

Amid row after row of makeshift cots in school gyms, and at hotels and camp retreats opened to refugees, each somatic session provided a literal breather and happy timeout.  We taught Centering, grounding, and calming skills to help people manage intense stress and emotions.  All ages played Aiki empowerment games, and enjoyed fun fitness and
connection exercises.  Everyone loved stretching, breathing, moving, and pairing up for massages.  Even the exhausted Polish aid workers asked to join in, not only as translators but grateful participants.

It is so clearly vital for people to feel as safe and “normal” as possible; and to learn to directly relax and regulate raw nerves and feelings under stress.  This is a huge part of what we learn and teach in facing attacks in the dojo.  I’ll never forget Vlod, age 11, disappearing to don his karate gi.  He proudly demonstrated a favorite kata for us, then scrolled through his phone for photos of his dojo in Ukraine. I thought wow, this boy made sure to grab his martial arts uniform while running for dear life!

In early April, I will be making a return Aikido trip to teach in Uzhgorod in western Ukraine, with stops for classes in Budapest and Kosice and Presov in Slovakia.  Uzhgorod is just kilometers from NATO borders so is a relatively safe haven for Ukrainians fleeing artillery and bombs.  I’m excited to be hosted by Sensei Timea Bodi and her husband Sergey, and all their students at Ikigai Dojo.  I’ll be spending time with Olga Stegura Sensei, to observe the somatic psychotherapeutic trauma recovery work she has been doing with an endless stream of clients since the war started.  Below are links to short videos from my earlier trips, including a weekend Youth Seminar with 200 Ukrainian Aiki kids bursting with energy!

Neither leaders nor peacekeeping agencies, as yet, seem able to stop out-of-control killing and suffering.  It is often said that war would stop overnight if mothers and The Grandmothers were in charge.  That would be us – and the powerful, connected, loving girls and daughters we raise!  Through the years, Centering and Peaceful Power have become ever more central in my Aikido and work. I’d like to thank Aiki Extensions for always supporting peace-making initiatives, and to close with a few excerpts from my book that is close to being in hand:

“A bumper sticker says: Sh.t happens, Shift needs to happen! The play on words is so true, and Centering is the starting place for shifting from reactive to peacefully powerful ways of being and living.  Centering is a simple turning and co-creative
returning to the phenomenal wellspring of life-energy within.  This connection seats you in unity and identity with all things, so you can relate and achieve in states of dynamic harmony and extraordinary flow.

Settling into your body-Center taps you into an inner fountain of empathy, dignity, intuition, spontaneity and grace as you move through your days.  It costs no money, is do-able all day long, and yields a palpably coherent sense of self.  You cultivate inherent powers of presence, authenticity, equilibrium, and resilience.  Natural laws are more potent than egoic human desires and actions.  Connected in your core you bring more value, love, and joy into your personal life, and harmony into the world.

Looking out on our troubled world, the backdrop of life’s unity and nature’s balance is sadly obscured.  Disregard, division, and battling power blocs are shredding the landscape.  Truth is denied daily by disingenuous leaders, and democracy is in danger of unraveling.  Humanity cannot yet claim enough evolution in ending discrimination and oppression, or ensuring life and liberty for all.  Building Centered capacity is the core practice for strengthening commonality, managing life’s conflicts and complexities and developing successful leadership of self and others.

Taking stock of today’s dangerous skews, imbalances, and toxicities can be either depressing … or the exciting clarion call to restore the balance, sanity and humanity needed to repair life on this glorious planet now and for generations to come.
Essential shifts and solutions are at hand, with the power to transform both our own struggles and today’s formidable realities.  Inhabiting our body-mind Center within universal order, you and I can work with and not against nature and our true nature.  We become the Centered harmonizing agent in our lives, positively influencing people, situations and the world along our daily Centered Way.”

The question is not really what is the way to peace.  Even during the Hamas-Israel war, brave peaceful warriors are together proclaiming and adhering to this answer:  Peace IS the way.


Aikido for Ukraine Youth Seminar in Uzhgorod, April, 2023

Training at Ikigai Dojo in Uzhgorod, March 2023

Refugees, Ukrainian Twins: Aikido and Trauma Healing

Ukrainian Judo Instructor who fled with her son from Mariupol area

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Seeking Members For Our Spotlight Feature! 

  • We'd love to showcase YOU, our members and YOUR schools/businesses in our new ongoing "Member Spotlight"
  • Be highlighted on our social media pages (Instagram and Facebook)
  • Get featured in our quarterly newsletter
  • If you're interested in being in the limelight, please send the following to
    1. Your name, title, rank [we will only use first name and last initial]
    2. Your location [if you choose to share]
    3. Your style and years of teaching/training experience
    4. Your favorite part about teaching
    5. What you find most valuable about AWMAI membership
    6. A photo that we can share publicly [headshot or action shot]
    7. Contact information in case we have questions and need to reach you [will NOT be published]

from Administrative Director

Sensei Parnee Poet

I hope you enjoyed the great contributions in this newsletter!  Wow!  I continue to be in awe of our collective wisdom.  We can use our imagination to create solutions together for collective liberation.

I can't believe we'll be seeing you less than a week to increase our wisdom with action in gathering!  I'm getting the overhead projector ready to go for this big Hall of Fame induction and any teachers during their presentation.  It's my first year in charge of the clicker!  I'm also excited to be able to drive to Teaching The Teacher 2024, experience Columbus a bit and to see you all!

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