and Support

In This Issue:

From AWMAI Board:

From Members:
  • Article:  AWMAI Members Featured in Magazine - see more
  • Article:  Self-Defense Instructor or Psychotherapist? -see more
  • Photos:  Empowering through Karate - see more
  • New Book:  Get Empowered - see more
  • Article:  Welcome to the SiDaGoo Experience - see more
  • Photo:  Founding Members at First AWMAI Conference - see more

We hope you join us at

Teaching the Teacher


April 12-14, 2024

Columbus, Ohio


Members Featured in Deadly Art of Survival

by Hanshi Zosia Gorbaty

Three of AWMAI’s members were featured in the August 22, 2023 edition of the #1 selling martial arts magazine, Deadly Art of Survival, 14th Edition.  

Grandmaster Odette Russell stars on the cover with a great article inside.  Sifu Kathy Long and Hanshi Zosia Gorbaty each have several pages of photos and articles.  Gorbaty mentioned the AWMAI Hall of Fame in hopes to help spread the word about AWMAI!

Order this issue from Deadly Art of Survival.

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Teachers Lounge

Sunday, January 14, 2024

5 am Australia Central

1 pm Pacific

2 pm Mountain

3 pm Central

4 pm Eastern

10 pm Central European

  • This is a Members Only gathering.
  • Members will receive the Zoom link two days before our meeting.
  • Please take note of our start time in your time zone.
  • Not a member or lapsed membership?  Join or Rejoin!

Self-Defense Instructor or Psychotherapist?

by Janet Nelson, MSW, LCSW, ACSW, 4th Degree Black Belt
Originator of Everyday Self Defense ®

In the first of the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths, he states that all life is suffering.  Given that, we remain in a state of suffering (dukkha) through attachment to it and find release by acceptance and attainment of compassion for self and all living things. 

More simply put, suffering exists; it has a cause; it has an end; and it has a cause to bring about its end.  The notion of suffering is not intended to convey a negative world view, but rather, a pragmatic perspective that deals with the world as it is and, attempts to rectify it.

Dukkha-dukkha means the suffering of suffering. This includes the physical and emotional discomfort or pain all humans experience in our lives.  If trauma is central to
your identity, you may be a “victim,” a “survivor,” or a person who suffers, but you are far from the only person who has this experience.  Many people do not understand this and put too much emphasis on the uniqueness of their own trauma.  This can be a factor in self-defense training where trauma-informed methods are an important element of the course.

I’ve taught community self-defense since 1979.  I have also worked as a state licensed and nationally certified social worker and psychotherapist with women and girls for thirty years. I’ve conducted group and individual therapy with women in domestic violence shelters, and sexual assault treatment programs, women who prostitute themselves, or who have endured sex trafficking. I’ve worked with teen girls who have endured abuse and neglect, witnessed murders, suffered grief and loss by being displaced from their homes and placed in foster care, watched their parents get addicted, incarcerated and a variety of other tragic experiences.  I have treated many girls and women who suffered some of the toughest, most heinous events that life can throw at us.  What have I learned?  We cannot assume that everyone who endures these events should be clumped in a framework of “traumatized survivor” with wounds so deep that they are not able to advocate, assert, and move past their trauma. Traumatic experiences do not necessarily debilitate us.

Teaching self-defense with the assumption that participants are all traumatized survivors has the potential to weaken us.  It puts us in a position of victimhood with a victim mentality that keeps us down, depressed and diminished.  We must be very careful with this approach. Though we must be sensitive to a person’s past trauma, we cannot cross into therapeutic treatment that we are not qualified to conduct.  We are not practitioners of Trauma Informed Care (TIC).  We are not trained in the treatment of the aftermath or pathologies of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).  By being “appropriately sensitive” as self-defense instructors to what might offend, trigger, re-traumatize or hurt people’s feelings, we are assuming a great responsibility for the emotional well-being of the student.  Do we really have that much power to control how someone might perceive our well-intentioned words?  I offer this: If you are going to open that door, you better know how to close it!   As martial artists and instructors of self-defense, it is certainly our goal to show compassion to the suffering that any of our students have endured.  Our teaching is done with the intention of helping people recognize their strength, their power and their capability to build resilience (a topic for another article!).  My concern is that if we over-focus on a culture of victimhood -- where traumatic experiences are what identify us -- we will make it hard on ourselves to cultivate personal growth and inner strength in our students.  Model confidence, build fortitude, show good boundaries and be willing to listen, but don’t confuse self-defense instruction with psychotherapy.

Editor's Note:  Having a list of trauma informed professionals to give to students and to give to students that may be challenged emotionally by the class content can help support our students.  Calling 211 for community information & referral is available nationwide.

from Executive Director

Jennie Trower

A very warm hello to each and every one of you.  As I sit down to write this article, there is ongoing conflict in the Middle East that is resulting in thousands of civilian casualties and displaced communities.  I know there are AWMAI members in that area who are doing incredible work to prevent violence and promote peace, even and especially during this horrific time. I appreciate you and all you do, and I’m thinking of you, your families and your communities.

One way that we can build community and support each other is through the 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. If you’ve been attending, thank you. Your presence and your valuable input have helped make this initiative so successful. If you haven’t yet participated in one, I invite you to join us. The next one will be in January 14, 2024 – stay tuned for more information.

With so many holidays rapidly approaching, things are getting busy. Be sure to keep these important dates in mind:

  • November 30:  This is the deadline to apply to teach at the 2024 Teaching the Teacher conference in Columbus, Ohio.  We’d love to learn from you.  What unique skill, experience or perspective do you bring to teaching? Running a business?  Building a community? If you need some ideas to get you started, here’s a list of past courses.  We can’t wait to read your proposals; selected instructors will be notified by December 15. 

Apply today

  • January 15, 2024: This is the deadline to register for the conference and save with the early bird rate! 

  • April 12-14, 2024: These are the dates of the Teaching the Teacher Conference.  Planning is in high gear, and I for one just can’t wait!  If you haven’t attended before, I invite you to learn more about this informative, supportive and fun event.  If you’re a veteran attendee, we’d love for you to spread the word in your teaching circles.  Know anyone who could benefit from our community? We’d love to meet them! 

If you are reading this newsletter but not yet a member of AWMAI, we welcome you to check us out and see if our organization is a good fit for you.

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

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from Financial Director

Katie Murphy Stevens

photo by Sheila Haddad

Scholarships Are Available!  We want you to join us in Columbus, Ohio for AWMAI 2024 Training the Teacher!  Really! Maybe you really want to go but you aren't sure you can swing the finances.  We are here to help.  In fact, virtually the entire AWMAI membership is behind you. We have scholarship funds ready and able to support your attendance.  Scholarship funds can be applied to offset the cost of the conference and the cost of lodging.  If you can get to Columbus, AWMAI can help you with the conference fees and the hotel room costs.  One of the keystones of the AWMAI mission is to provide networking opportunities for you as a martial arts instructor.  Our members believe in supporting each other.  We want to see you at the conference.  Apply today!  Then come to the conference and meet with your peers and potential mentors.  Be both inspired and a source of inspiration!

Apply for a scholarship today!

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Strength, Courage and Resilience:  Empowering Women through Karate

at International Kyokushinkai Union (IKU)

Photos submitted by Soke Nahid Farzinzad

New Book!

Get Empowered: A Practical Guide to Thrive, Heal, and Embrace Your Confidence in a Sexist World

by Lauren Taylor

A practical guide for women, nonbinary, and LGBTQIA+ people to claim our right to be safe, to take up space, and to speak up for ourselves.

    Don’t walk alone at night. Don’t leave your drink unattended. Don’t hurt anyone’s feelings.

    Most women and nonbinary people are taught these rules, intended to keep us safe from harassment, abuse, and assault, from a young age. While the #MeToo movement has shined a light on the pervasiveness of gender-based violence that led to these “rules,” the fears persist—and for good reason.

    While men—who commit almost all gender-based violence—are the ones who should be responsible for ending it, those of us who are targeted shouldn’t have to wait for the world to change in order to live safer, fuller, more-authentic lives.

    Through real-life stories, meaningful questions, and interactive exercises, Get Empowered will teach readers how to:

  • understand why gendered violence exists and how it shows up
  • take up space
  • say what they want
  • let go of self-blame
  • heal from past traumas.

    Whether you’re looking for ways to stand up for yourself, you’re a survivor focused on healing, or you’re committed to being an ally, this book will give you the tools you need to thrive.

Buy Get Empowered

Welcome to the SiDaGooExperience:  Willpower, Its role towards Martial Artists

by Grandmaster Odette Russell, PhD

odette russell

The one thing most people believe in is if they practice willpower against unhealthy temptations, their lives will improve. A common example is trying to lose unwanted pounds but are unsuccessful due to the lack of willpower to stick to a heathy diet.  As martial artists, we believe we understand the practice of willpower better than most individuals as we showcase it through dedication of endless hours in our training and teaching.  But interestingly enough, for some of us, when it comes to other aspects of our lives outside of the martial arts — for example parenting, maintaining a monogamous relationship, eating right, exercising for fitness, avoiding drugs and alcohol, and saving for retirement — our willpower is thrown out the window.  This makes no sense.  How can a person practice willpower when it comes to staying in a dojo for five hours to train instead of hanging with friends, but show lack of willpower in regards to choosing a healthy salad over a greasy burger?

There are actually good reasons why some individuals can show excellent self-control in one aspect of their lives and none in another.  Let’s first define willpower:  it’s the ability to resist short-term urges to reach long-term goals, basically delay gratification. The benefit of practicing willpower, also known as self-control and self-discipline, is to avoid activities that could develop into future consequences.  There are studies that have found that those who practice willpower as children had better grades and grow into successful adults.  Do these results also apply to martial artists who started training as children and continued to commit to a martial arts’ lifestyle as they grew into adults?  Each of us knows gifted and dedicated martial artists who demonstrates willpower towards their martial arts training, however, they do not apply this same dedication to other important aspects in their lives.  The consequences that they deal with as adults can range from strained family relationships, substance abuse issues, criminal records, self-inflicted illnesses, and/or poverty.  Let’s understand how willpower works to try to fathom why a person can demonstrate self-discipline in one area and not in another.  One of the most important aspects of willpower is that it can become depleted, yes it has limitations.  This is why someone can show self-control to avoid eating certain foods all day but by nightfall their willpower is exhausted and they end up overeating anything they can find access to.  Could it be possible that by the time a martial artist finished dedicating hours of
vigorous training that they don’t have the willpower to resist other temptations, like eating that greasy burger?

Also, willpower can only be tested when temptation is present. Many people believe they practice self-control, however, their reaching their goals was not due to demonstrating willpower, but in not experiencing temptations that may have derailed them from their goals.  For example, a husband who never cheated on his wife may believe he has willpower to be faithful.  But if he was never seduced by someone from outside his marriage, his willpower was never challenged with temptation.  He may cheat once he encounters a sexual enticement.  Another fact about willpower, or the lack of willpower, is that it can be driven by ego and selfishness.  This person’s desire to practice willpower is only motivated by improving their own personal needs, so, for example, taking their children to the movies won’t prioritize training.  The lack of balance in how they practice willpower will not only hurt their loved ones but also lead to future unrepairable consequences as previously mentioned.
The balance we work on building as martial artists relating to spiritual, mental and physical has to also apply to our personal lives.  We are martial arts’ leaders that also need to lead as fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, community activists, dependable employees, wives and husbands.  Let’s set the example not only as skillful martial artists but also as caring
individuals that want what’s best for mankind.  In conclusion, let’s strengthen our willpower so it won’t become depleted against overpowering unhealthy temptations.  Here are some tips on ways to strengthen your willpower:

    • Remove yourself from temptation
    • Break down the temptations into manageable pieces
    • Don’t react to urges.  Urges only last a couple of minutes so if you do not react to them right away, the urge will pass.  If urges are intense alter your thoughts by engaging in another activity.
    • Anticipate roadblocks with plans to manage them build positive social network
    • Meditate to help to improve focus
    • Get enough sleep
    • Exercise/Eat healthy, willpower requires energy

From Administrative Director

Parnee Poet

I don't have a lot of words for this issue except that I hope we continually look for ways to help the living beings on this planet, especially the defenseless.  I continue to be inspired by the martial artists and self defense teachers that are digging deep with the hardwork and listening that it takes to be a protector, as I think of every being, including the land and animals suffering, especially in Myanmar, Congo, Sudan, Lahaina, Ireland, Palestine and Israel.

I hope we can do more as we gather in Columbus, Ohio; and get ready to combine forces to see how we can improve together, April 12-14, 2024.

AWMAI Founding Martial Artists at First AWMAI Conference

Front:  Wasentha Young

Left to Right:  Dara Masi, Jamie Zimron, Suzanne Pinette, Barbara Dickens

Photo by:  Melanie Fine


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