Volume IV

Fall 2022



and Support

In This Issue: 

      from Executive Director

      Shifu/Sensei Koré Grate

      We Now Resume Our Gathering!

      FOR THE LAST FEW YEARS, we have been dealing with serious struggles, personally and globally. We have learned much about how to run our lives over ZOOM.  Thank you to everyone who participated by teaching or registering on Zoom. We became good at it, we even surpassed what we thought we could do in a six-foot radius as our dojo. Having the last two AWMAI conferences online was great, but nothing compares to being together in person. Now let us resume our regular programming.

      SO…we will MEET AGAIN!

      I am truly excited to return to the BAY CLUB & MARINA in San Diego, CA for our 2023 AWMAI Teaching the Teacher Conference.

      The hotel staff was the best we have worked with, the rooms are clean and bright, the location is perfect (close to the airport, great places to eat, great beach across the street).

      Even though we are all eager to re-unite, I think there may be a bit of trepidation to travel and/or be with people indoors.  I know each one of you who will attend our conference knows how to maintain a safe and respectful environment, as you have been doing this for over two years.

      I am a firm believer that MASKS work to keep yourself and others protected, especially with the new strains of COVID.  I wear a mask when at the airport AND on the plane.  At my dojo/school, we have steadily continued wearing masks during classes.  In some Asian countries, masks are worn to protect self AND others, it is a common health practice, not a political nor rights-based movement.

      Remember: Protective barriers lessen spread. It’s a bit like wearing a mouth guard when sparring - even though you do your best to block a head shot, sometimes they get through.

      I know we will all do our best to be safe when we gather
      , whatever local health guidelines are (or aren’t) in place in San Diego next February.

      I can’t wait to BE WITH my martial arts siblings again. 

      I have deeply missed you!


      Sign up NOW!

      Book Excerpt

      I Belong Here

      by Helen Yee, B.A., LMT

      Finally, I find my voice.

      Cars line both sides of my street.  I pull into my driveway. A car drives past. I check that I have my phone on me.  I pull my keys from the ignition.  To retrieve the guitar from the back seat, I press the button on my keys to unlock the back doors.  Suddenly the front passenger door flies open.  A man in a hoodie invades the seat next to me, a bandanna over his face and mouth.  He’s very physically fit, bigger, and stronger than me.  At four foot eleven, I’m no match for him.

      “I need you to drive me somewhere,” he says, calm as can be.  Then I see the gun pointing at me.  Oh my god!  My whole being sinks to the ground. There’s no time to panic.

      I’m a third-degree black belt—what’s my strategy?

      “Okay,” I say.  I am not going anywhere with him, my strategy says.  The butterflies calm.  Suddenly I know my plan.  Instantly I feel centered, at peace.  Whatever happens is going to happen right here, in my neighborhood.  Then, I look at him. “Hey, I know you.”  It totally startles him.  He’s trying to disguise his identity.  “No, you don’t!”

      “Yeah, you’re Darrin’s friend,” I say.  I don’t even know a Darrin.

      This comment totally flips him out.  Meanwhile, my knee presses against the car door.

      “Just drive!” he says, more sternly.


      My strategy is to play along. I put the keys near the ignition.

      Abruptly, I launch myself out of the car and run.  I’m small and fast.

      "Use your voice!" my head says.  I’m not used to screaming.  I’ve never had to do this.  Even if there’s nobody around, your screaming may startle the assailant enough to leave.  In self-defense class, these are my words to students.  My instructor’s words to me.  Finally, I find my voice.

      “HELP! HELP!” I scream.

      I dash to my neighbor’s house across the street.  I keep my eyes forward.  I don’t know where the masked man is...  If he shoots me, it will be in my back, on my street.  I bang on the door.  I don’t wait for an answer.  I then run to hide because I don’t know where he is...  The yard of my next-door neighbor offers no cover...  But I see his car.  Quickly, I flatten myself out and slide underneath.  At least if the gunman is still chasing me, I’ll be able to see his feet.  Remembering my phone, I pull it out, and dial another neighbor.  No answer.

      “Dammit!” I hang up and shut off the screen, afraid it’s illuminating my face, giving away my location.  A moment later, I speed dial my business partner, Michelle.


      “Uh, yeah.  Call the police!  I’ve just been held up at gunpoint!” I hang up. I don’t want the gunman to overhear me.

      This is a story of how bullying impacted my life, the ironic choice that changed my trajectory, and how the lessons learned paved the way for a fulfilling, successful future.  My story is about living in the present moment and being in the now.  It is the only moment that truly matters.

      Purchase Helen's book

      Photo: Helen Yee

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      from Certification Director

      Shihan Melanie Fine

      Join the AWMAI Hall of Fame

      There is still time to get recognized as a 30, 40, 50, or even 60-year Hall of Famer! Get your paperwork started and be rewarded. We have already lined up  30-year, 50-year, and 60-year awardees. Can you fill in the slot for 40-years? Or increase the numbers elsewhere? 

      2012, the first year Hall of Fame Awards were presented, we gave out twenty-two 30 Year Awards. Were you there? Are you ready for 40? or 50? Check your dates! Know someone deserving? Nominate her today!

      Click here to nominate her/them today

       Back to Top

      from Events Director

      Sijeh Sarah Sponzo

      Excited to see you in February!

      Are you joining us?

      I’m very excited to ask “Have you registered for Teaching the Teacher 2023?” and, “Have you booked your room?” because we are back LIVE! FACE TO FACE! IN PERSON!

      I always love the conference, but I think that this next one is going to be extra-special. How could it not be? We have not been in the same room for three long years and we all know how important human connections are. We’ve been happy to stay connected by Zoom, but nothing beats “being there.”

      It's also special that we are going back to the lovely Bay Club Hotel & Marina in San Diego. This is a sweet little property located on Shelter Island. The island is sort of a magical spot with beautiful marinas, beaches and views of the city skyline. It’s SUPER close to the airport, has good restaurants within walking distance of the hotel and is just a hop, skip and jump to the city if you want to check out The Gaslamp Quarter, Little Italy or Old Town one night.

      Note that our conference rates at the Bay Club are available for three days before and after the conference. If you are overdue for a little relaxation and fun, Balboa Park, The San Diego Zoo, Coronado, Ocean Beach, Mission Beach and La Jolla are all nearby and make for a great couple of days to explore.

      It’s been a long three years navigating the unknown and plenty of stressful situations. You might think of the Conference weekend as a little reward for yourself for coming though all of this. Maybe use it to re-energize yourself for the new year. Or, just enjoy some time connecting with old friends, meeting some new folks, learning and sharing. However you think of it, it will
      be great.

      So, don’t delay, register and book your room…soon!

      Check our website for more information and registration.

      To make online reservations:
      2. You will see Association of Women Martial Arts Instructors listed at the top of the
      3. Select the dates for reservation
      4. Search and book!

      You can also call the reservations department at 800-672-0800 and reference Association of Women Martial Arts Instructors

      We are really looking forward to seeing everyone in February for a GREAT conference!

      from the Editor

      Sensei Parnee Poet

      Thank you for welcoming me!

                                                 Photo:  Parnee Poet, March 2020, Appleton, Wisconsin

      Hello Everyone!

      I didn't receive any articles about how to increase enrollment...  I'll give you more than a week's notice for the next newsletter (see dates below)...  So I improvised with two great articles from Helen Yee, Linda Eskin and Camilla Dietrich's insightful poem, Progress.

      A little about me...

      I am a writer, artist, massage therapist and breathing awareness teacher.  Here are some examples of some of my art and a more in depth bio.

      I started studying Cuong Nhu Martial Arts January 2003 in Ishpeming, Michigan at Northern Lights Dojo with Sensei Richard "Bud" Place, Sensei Shane Robertson, Sensei Tim DeMarte, Sensei Jeffrey Scott and Sensei Michael Holman.  After passing my Cuong Nhu Black Belt test in May 2010, I opened the first Cuong Nhu Wisconsin school, Tara Dojo, in Oceti Sakowin, Myaami and Menominee Territories (Appleton, Wisconsin) in January 2011. 

      I teach self defense and Cuong Nhu Martial Arts classes online and in person.  I'm currently preparing my highest ranking student for his Cuong Nhu Black Belt test, who is hopefully testing May 2023 in Raleigh, North Carolina.

      I am blown away by the support I received.  Thank you so much to those that reached out, made me feel welcome, helped me create this newsletter, gave me ideas for future newsletters and showed me the support that so many of us need during this challenging and uncertain time.

      I've got big shoes to fill as Master Didi Goodman made room for me to take over this newsletter.

      As a Tagalog/Kapampangan American, I wanted to mention that as many of you know Asian Hate has risen dramatically, in the last few years...

      Do you know that during the pandemic in the last two years, that more than 5 million Americans became first time gun owners and 43% of those sales are from the diverse spectrum of the Asian community?

      Read more

      What does this mean for martial artists?  How can we support all the communities affected by the rise in violence?

      How can we rebuild our local communities and our whole earth community?

      Photo:  Sensei Parnee Poet with Master Elizabeth Roman and Master Robert First in October 2019, at Northern Lights Dojo in Marquette, Michigan.

       Back to Top

      Write something for us!

      Suggestion of the month:

      What brings new students to your dojo? What makes them stay?

      Alternate topics:

      Share your best advice for putting on a successful event or seminar.

      What, if anything, will you miss about Zoom, when you're 100% back in person?


      Send us a poem!

      Send submissions to


      a poem

      by Camilla Dietrich

      The swirl of emotions & tangle of bones

      Pebbles & rocks, boulders & stones 

      Good for building or stuck in my path

      Blood drying in the aftermath             

      Can learning how to block & evade  

      Heal bruises i forgot were made?

      Spirit broken but seeming healed  

      Why rub at wounds already sealed  

      Learning's so slow by trial and error  

      At least no more on the edge of terror        

      The weight of the past becoming lighter

      Working to become a fighter      


      Seasons & weeks and pools of sweat

      I need responses i can't forget          

      Fights were lost but I didn't submit  

      My body remembers all done to it   

      The weight of the past becoming lighter  

      Moving much more like a fighter  

      Training new patterns over old tracks 

       For smoothness inexperience lacks         

      How to avoid, when to face,  

       Trust in reflexes ground into place   

       Tests passed and matches lost or won  

       My body remembers all it's done 

      Experienced enough to be less tense 

      Seeing the gaps in another's offense 

       No longer do i stand alone,  

       A new community now my own  

      The weight of the past becoming lighter       

      Proud of the new title: fighter 

      Camilla Dietrich started Martial Arts by accident in their 40s, bidding on lessons to raise money for a colleague.  After trying Kung Fu, Taekwondo and Aikido, I found Karate and stuck there.  I received Shodan in two different styles (Shotokan and Shitoryu) before the pandemic, learned and taught online for awhile, and now I'm back in the dojo in my 60s.  I hope to stay awhile.  I wrote this poem around the time I received my second shodan.

      Camilla trains at Nikkei Karate in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada.

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      From Financial Director

      Sensei Katie Murphy Stevens

      Photo of Katie Murphy Stevens:  Sheila Haddad                    

      Scholarships Are Available!

      Are you on the fence about attending the 2023 AWMAI Conference?  Are finances holding you back?  If so, read on because this article is for you.

      AWMAI is dedicated to supporting women martial arts instructors.

      That includes assistant instructors and aspiring instructors.  Let that soak in a bit. If you think of yourself as a beginner instructor, this conference is for you!  You'll get a chance to see, work with and meet with martial arts instructors who have broad experience and who want to see you succeed.

      This is a group that shares and supports one another.

      The support extends to well-established instructors too.  Maybe you are a seasoned school owner and the last couple of crazy years haven't been easy. Maybe there are other financial pressures in your life.

      AWMAI has an established scholarship fund to support you.  Scholarship funds can be used to cover conference registration fees and lodging.  Fill out the scholarship form and let us know how we can help - a little or a lot.

      We want you to join in the learning, fun and camaraderie.

      Scholarship Form

      Save these dates!

      2023 AWMAI Early Bird Registration Deadline:

      November 30, 2022

      Register now!

      Teacher Application Deadline:

      September 30, 2022

      Apply to teach!

      Newsletter Deadlines:

      November 1, 2022

      March 5, 2023

      We'd like to see your photos and poems in our newsletter!

      Get your creativity and knowledge featured!

      Photo:  Helen Yee, Author of I Belong Here

      Photo:  Linda Eskin, Author of No, Your Other Left

      "No, Your Other Left."

      Minimizing Right-Left Confusion When Teaching Martial Arts

      by Linda Eskin

      Lots of folks, children and adults alike, experience confusion between left and right.  Mistakes on something so seemingly "basic" can be frustrating and embarrassing.  So how can we help our students learn with less struggle and feel more confident? 

      Use Meaningful Alternatives When Possible

      First, we can often minimize left-right confusion, and improve the clarity of our teaching at the same time, by avoiding the use of "left" or "right" whenever possible. 

      Worse than being confusing, left/right cues are often meaningless, and even misleading.  Kids, especially, will often adopt a left/right instruction as a literal "rule" and will insist on stepping with their right foot even when doing the technique on the other side because "that's what the teacher said."

      I have found that descriptive terms like front/back, near/far, or inside/outside work well, because they apply in all orientations, and are more meaningful. 

      "Do this kind of kick with your front foot, or "Step in with your inside foot."  These instructions remain valid regardless of which foot happens to be forward at the moment. Unless the distinction between left or right is truly important in a movement, use an alternative. 

      Teach Principles, Not Rules

      Ideally, we can also explain the principle behind the movement, so students will understand the reasons for it rather than trying to remember an arbitrary "rule" they were told:  "Step in with your back foot to get close behind your partner as they punch."  Now it's a logical instruction they can visualize in any orientation.

      Demonstrating In a Way That Supports Everyone

      Some students also have difficultly mirroring, or translating what they see in one orientation into what their body needs to do in another.  If I demonstrate a weapons kata, facing sideways, so students can see it clearly, it becomes a hard puzzle for some to rotate those movements 90 degrees in their mind.

      To help these students, in addition to substituting descriptive words for left or right, when we demonstrate a technique in front of the class, at least some of the time we can show it facing away from the class, so they see it in their own orientation. Similarly, when assisting a student one-on-one, try standing in front of them and facing away, then have them follow along with your movements, rather than facing them and having them mirror you.

      Reduce Reliance on Landmarks

      It's tempting to reference the room and objects in it, but be careful.  If students are in the habit of always "turning toward the dressing rooms" during a kata, they will be disoriented when doing it in a different orientation, or in a different place (tournament, seminar, or exam!). 

      Help Your Students Feel Smart

      "Feeling dumb," "always messing up," or feeling like "I'll never get this" is a common reason for new students to quit. Nobody likes to feel stupid.  We can help our students feel smart, learn well, and stick with it by subtly giving them the information they need in ways that make it easier to understand and remember.  We want students to leave class feeling like "Yeah! I was totally able to do that!"


      Photo:  Linda Eskin

      Linda Eskin (she/her) is a Personal Trainer & Behavior Change Coach at Go You Fitness. She is on a mission to encourage people, especially new students. She writes about Aikido and fitness, and is putting the finishing touches on her next book Aikido to Zanshin — 26 Essays on the Martial Art of Peace. You can find her blog and articles at


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      Mail: AWMAI, PO Box 4309, Davis CA 95617
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