Volume VII

Summer 2023



and Support

In This Issue:

NWMAF 2023

Photo (L to R):  Shihan Darlene DeFour, Sensei Dr. Amelia E. Jones (incoming AWMAI Certification Director), Sensei Katie Murphy Stevens (AWMAI Financial Director), Sensei Parnee Poet (AWMAI Administrative Director)


Teachers' Lounge

Sunday, August 13

12-1 pm Pacific

1 pm Mountain

2 pm Central

3 pm Eastern

There is no need to register!

All members will receive the link on

Friday, August 11 and

the morning of Sunday, August 13

Member Spotlights

Sensei/Dr. Cheryl Rock

Long Beach, California

Sensei Dr. Cheryl Rock joined AWMAI this year.  In addition to teaching, she integrates martial arts with health and wellness.  Learn more at Healthy Hues.

We've enjoyed getting to know her better at the conference in February and in our Teachers' Lounge sessions, and we're thrilled she chose to join AWMAI.

Sensei Dr. Rock says her favorite parts about teaching are "reliving my passions every time and witnessing the growth in my students and creating new content/techniques."

When asked what she finds most valuable about AWMAI membership, she said, "supportive community, connection with empowering women and professional and shared philosophy."

Nicole Welsh

Barrie, Ontario

Nicole specializes in teaching Kempo Karate to children and older adults.  She's been in the field of early childhood education for 35 years, and is dedicated to the children in her community.

When asked her favorite part about teaching, Nicole said, "The 'aha' moments, whether the student is three or 65. Sharing my art, skills and the knowledge to help others become better versions of themselves is the greatest reward of teaching for me."

Nicole has found value in her AWMAI membership.  She says, "I am new to AWMAI, but the connection and the genuine support is what brought me here.  It’s tough being a martial arts school owner, especially as a woman.  Every entrepreneur needs a support network to help them work towards being the best they can be in what they do, acting as a mentor, a friend, and as a cheering squad for the wins and losses.  This was what I was looking for to support 'me' as a businesswoman, as well as a martial artist.  One of the greatest sentiments that my first Sensei instilled in me was 'surround yourself with great people and you are destined to do great things!' This is what I felt being part of both the online conference of 2022 and the in-person conference of 2023."

Seeking members for our NEW 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 Executive Director

Jennie Trower

Summer greetings from the very hot state of Texas!  I hope wherever you are and however you are spending it, you’re taking time to recharge, relax and reconnect with the people, places and things that bring you joy. 

Speaking of connecting, we are thrilled to announce the 2024 Teaching the Teacher conference will be in Columbus, Ohio, April 12-14.  We are really changing things up this year in terms of timing and location.  I think it presents an exciting opportunity to potentially reach more folks in a different part of the country.  I appreciate your support (and enthusiasm!) as we try something new. I am looking forward to being together again to learn, share and support each other.  Please keep an eye out for more announcements and information about applying to teach – we’d love to learn from you.

In the meantime…  I invite you to check out the bi-monthly Teachers’ Lounge.  These are members-only events that include a general discussion and themed breakout rooms. They are a great place to ask questions, get advice and share helpful ideas.  We’ve had two sessions so far with fantastic participation and conversation.  I come away from each one learning something and being reminded of how knowledgeable, accomplished, supportive and welcoming our membership truly is.  I find these sessions particularly helpful to get to know folks a little bit better and to stay connected during the months between conferences.

Our next Teachers’ Lounge is scheduled for Saturday, August 13, at 2 p.m. CDT.  No need to register – just hop on the Zoom link sent to members the Friday before the event.  Not yet a member? We’d love to have you join us!

If you are on Facebook, you may have noticed that we have decided to sunset the AWMAI public group – not to be confused with our AWMAI business page.  The public group had over 700 members, which was more than five times the actual membership of our organization.  While we wholeheartedly support women in martial arts, this public group required monitoring and approval of every request to join and every post.  We think that time and energy is better spent investing in our members. If you were in that group and are not yet a member of AWMAI, we welcome you to check us out and see if it’s a good fit for you.

Be safe, be well and hope to see you soon.


Coleen Gragen Award of Inspiration

by Parnee Poet

Photo (L to R):  Shihan Darlene DeFour and Sensei Dr. Amelia E. Jones at the National Women's Martial Arts Federation (NWMAF) Special Training in Naperville, Illinois  Sensei Dr. Amelia E. Jones received the NWMAF Coleen Gragen Award of Inspiration with Shihan DeFour nominating and presenting the award.  

Being with Shihan DeFour and Sensei Dr. Amelia at NWMAF 2023 was inspiring.  They led with a steady and honest presence.  I am in awe of their wisdom, their courage and generosity.  To be with them, yet not really knowing what they have gone through, I wonder... How many people have they have influenced and continue to shape? 

I look back at NWMAF 2023 and think, "Did I listen enough?" 

Now I ask my self, "Am I listening?" and "Am I pausing?"

What struck me when Shihan DeFour introduced Sensei Dr. Amelia for this award, was their years of friendship and Shihan's relaxed and humorous perspective.  Also noted, when Sensei Dr. Amelia spoke, they spoke not of themselves but of Coleen Gragen, whom I have never met and at the time, had never heard of them...Gragen started Hand to Hand in Oakland, California.  They died of cancer.

I hope to hear more from Sensei Dr. Amelia and anyone that remembers Coleen Gragen, please share... so we may learn from our ancestors how to forge into the present and into our future.  This is our legacy.

from Certification Director

Melanie Fine

Wow!  As I glide through the final year of my term as Certification Director, I am grateful to be handing the reins over to Sensei Dr. Amelia E. Jones but in a bittersweet sorta way.  Personally, I am completely out of “spoons” to carry on with these tasks.  Life has thrown me so many curve balls since 2020 I am exhausted and barely keeping up.... and yet, this group of people (Koré, Didi, Murph, Sarah) I served with has been the best working Board ever- working together to make things happen, supporting each other as needed (and without asking!), having a great deal of fun throughout.

Koré, your boundless enthusiasm and good cheer kept us going through zoom after zoom.

Didi, you are one of the most capable word-smiths I have ever met; not only finding the right words and phrases, but with perfect grammar every time!

Sarah, I think you were born with an event magic wand in your fist- finding us perfect spaces and flawlessly run events.

Murph, spreadsheet and money master- without your financial wisdom and general event savvy we’d not be nearly the stable organization that we are...  and the “newbies”…

Jennie, I wish you the best moving forward and know that your energy and enthusiasm will carry AWMAI to bigger accomplishments.

Parnee, a quiet but ever so strong and inspiring voice for AWMAI, carrying the torch forward.

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In the meantime… I look forward to seeing everyone in Columbus, Ohio next April.  Of course, I have to remind you all… its time to submit your application for Hall of Fame, either new or re-new.  Celebrate in person!  Network!  Make new friends and renew your contact list.

Photo:  AWMAI Co-Founder, Wasentha Young, and Melanie Fine at 2005 AWMAI conference during Wasentha's Demo


and make plans to join us at

Teaching the Teacher 

April 12-14, 2024,

in Columbus, Ohio,

at Renaissance Columbus Downtown!

by Events Director, Sijeh Sarah Sponzo

It’s a new date and a new location!

Save the date and make plans to join us April 12-14, 2024 in Columbus, Ohio at the Renaissance Columbus Downtown.

Allow us to introduce you to Columbus:
Columbus is the 14th largest city in the United States with a smart, collaborative and open community located within a one-day drive or one-hour flight from more than half of the U.S. population.

Marriott named Columbus the Top Destination for Solo Female Travelers in 2018 and Expedia called Columbus one of America’s most tourist-friendly cities.

Expedia named Columbus one of the most exciting LGBTQ-friendly travel destinations in the world, and Columbus has continually scored 100s on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Municipal Equality Index.

We are excited to bring AWMAI to Columbus and look forward to sharing more about the city over the coming months.

The Teaching the Teacher 2024 Conference venue, the Renaissance Columbus Downtown:

The hotel is conveniently located in the heart of downtown Columbus allowing you to easily explore nearby attractions.

The smoke-free hotel features local artwork, eclectic décor and upscale amenities. Savor a delicious bite at Latitude 41 or plan your next adventure over cocktails at Bar 41. The
comfortable hotel rooms are complete with fashionable furnishings, deluxe toiletries and inspiring views of the city skyline.

Look for registration and booking information coming soon!

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from Administrative Director

Sensei Parnee Poet

A week ago, I attended NWMAF Special Training in Naperville, Illinois at North Central College, for my first time.  I met, trained with and learned from many amazing martial artists, self defense instructors and students.  Why am I talking about NWMAF?  When I attended Wendy Rouse's class about the Trans/ Femmes/Women's Self Defense origin story, I realized how I am/WE ARE a part of this story of pushing forward to have our voices heard.  We may not all agree, and what I've been learning from the AWMAI Board Directors, past and present, is that we want the best for AWMAI... 

One of many words of wisdom at NWMAF is that challenges are opportunities to recommit to our organization.   We must do our work to continue.  So with this shorter newsletter, we can focus on our training and work on ourselves...  Thank you, Tasha Church, NWMAF Inclusion and Diversity Coordinator, I heard you. 

Sensei Dr. Amelia E. Jones and Sensei Katie Murphy Stevens both taught classes at NWMAF too!  I learned a lot from their classes.  It was great to be with them in-person and not just on Zoom!  Thank you to Carmel Drews, NWMAF Co-Chair, for making me feel welcome!

I'm excited that besides NWMAF's 2023 Special Training, AWMAI Teaching The Teacher 2024 will be in the Midwest.  I can drive to it and have a little more freedom... C'mon, the Midwest has a lot going for it besides our "Midwest Nice" stereotype.  I hope you come find out for yourself.

...and... yes, the pink is for another, femme, Barbie (despite some of my own critiques of the movie), with all their complexities, stereotypes and pushing boundaries of the system that doesn't always see us. 

from Events Director

Sijeh Sarah Sponzo

I’m sitting down to write my newsletter contributions after a full and amazing weekend at the 25th Anniversary International Chinese Martial Arts Championship in Orlando, Florida.  It’s always a great time when we have the opportunity to reconnect with our Kung Fu cousins from around the country and around the world.  We speak a common martial arts language and the feeling of camaraderie and fondness makes the competition even better.  Our team had a very strong showing and I’m particularly proud of how bright the young women on our team shined.  They are strong, fierce competitors who excel at hand and weapons forms but are also great fighters.

They do it all and with spirit, strength, grace and a true sense of fun and humor.  I’m thrilled that these young women will be leading us into tomorrow – they will be amazing.

Bragging aside, I’m also happy that I also get to write about our Teaching the Teacher Conference 2024!

It’s always an interesting project to research destinations and venues and to think about what our group will “look like” in different scenarios. The board gets such great comments and suggestions after our conferences and we always carefully discuss how to incorporate this feedback, the pros and cons of each destination, various amenities and how we can accommodate our members with the best of it all.

I’m happy that we’ll be visiting a city location in 2024... Columbus, Ohio.  We’ve had excellent conferences at resort destinations, but I do love the energy and buzz of a city conference.  Dining options, museums, art, music and other cultural offerings are plentiful.  It’s easy access to drive or fly, the airport is about 10-minutes from downtown. I’m particularly happy about the hospitality at the Renaissance Columbus Downtown.  This team knows how it’s done and I am confident that our group will be very happy under their care.

Over the coming months, we’ll be sending more information on the city, the hotel and all the things you can look forward to in 2024.  It’s going to be a great event – mostly because we will be together.  Sharing and learning from each other, socializing, catching up and just having some laughs is what it’s all about.

Can’t wait to see you all!

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excerpt of

Martial Arts Teach Non-Violence

by Shizumi Crimi

Martial arts training, when it is taught properly, as in, it involves an emphasis on character building, leads to improved self-esteem, confidence, respect, and self-discipline, as well the ability to defend oneself and/or others unable to defend for themselves against potential physical harm. How does that relate to non-violence?  By developing the qualities listed above through dedicated training in the martial arts, the practitioner gradually eliminates behaviors motivated by fear or anger.  If an individual is not acting out of fear or anger, they are more likely to be concerned with the welfare of all beings considered, and thus more compassionate towards others.  Once confidently skilled, the martial arts practitioner has nothing to prove to anyone but themselves, and has a set of moral checks and balances that has been instilled in them of decent and kind human behavior, and has the desire and discipline to abide by it.

In the beginning of the training, the student learns the importance of respect and discipline.  Some students deal very well with authority while others have to work at it, but all that want to learn must abide by the rules set forth in the Dojo (training hall.)   Let’s not forget that the word “martial” relates to military, thereby revealing that martial arts is a hierarchy and is thus ruled by a head master – A benevolent leader and teacher.  The students that are higher in command also follow the example of proper conduct modeled by the head master, and so it goes down the chain of command.  The higher the rank, the greater the responsibility.

As the student continues training, they realize the power that their headmaster and seniors hold, but even more importantly the control of power that is exercised. Coupled with the nurturing that the individual student receives causes them to truly respect their teacher. Respect out of admiration, not intimidation. Respect has been earned by the headmaster by giving respect to the student first. When this relationship of respect develops, it changes the student. They begin to learn respect for all beings because they have learned to respect themselves through their teacher’s guidance and behave well.

The primary purpose for studying martial arts is completion of character, not the ability to beat someone up.  An accomplished martial artist is on a quest to perfect all aspects of themselves, mind, body and spirit.  Commitment to this path means that they will have to face the truth at all times.  Inevitably weaknesses will be uncovered, and the student will have to make a decision to confront them honestly and move forward in their training to overcome it, or push it back in the shadows and hide.  Those who hide will not grow.

Through a disciplined, truthful and courageous process a martial artist becomes a master of themselves, no longer manipulated by unconscious lower, animal drives, like violence. Martial arts teach non-violence because it is about bettering oneself, not besting others.

read the whole article


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