Shifu/Sensei Koré Grate
Why be normal?
Many years ago, I wore a button on my hippie jeans jacket that read, “WHY BE NORMAL?” It was a statement about being different, standing out, being creative and non-conforming.
I loved that button. I never wanted to be called “normal”—and I know some of you are nodding right now.
Lately, many folks are talking about going “back to normal.” But I'm thinking, “Why start now?” Not to mention, “Why go backwards?”
There is no “normal” right now. We have all been through, and are still dealing with, a catastrophic pandemic; we are in the midst of a civil rights movement; we've barely survived the loss of income in our schools/dojos/lives; our weather patterns are off the charts; our political divisions are epic. There is no more “normal."
May we stop seeking “normal,” and instead find what we CAN do to feel centered and strong in our lives and our communities, by being safe and respectful.
The students are so happy to be back in class!
At our dojo (Five Element Martial Arts & Healing Center in Minneapolis, MN) we have re-opened our classes, with the requirement that EVERYONE continues to wear a mask. They are masked from the time they enter the school until they exit the school. We have done this since the beginning of the pandemic, and will continue until it’s globally safe. We do this to stay vigilant, knowing that the younger students and a few adults have yet to be vaccinated. My mom used to always say “Better to be safe than sorry,” words to live by in these times. We feel comfortable doing more physical contact again, and we continue to sanitize and wash our hands before and after class—a good practice to adopt in general!
KUDOS—for keeping it together!
I believe our martial arts practices have helped us through this super challenging time in our lives. KUDOS—a DEEP BOW—to every one of our AWMAI Members: for keeping it together, for staying the course, for being creative, for learning and running ZOOM classes, for figuring out ways to keep students engaged and HEALTHY, for being amazing examples of perseverance, integrity and commitment. May we all meet again in February 2022 online, and in 2023 in person.
Till then, let's keep inspiring and supporting one another. We are not “normal”—we're OUTSTANDING!
Shihan Melanie Fine
Virtual Hall of Fame is the Way to Go!
Last year when we had to go virtual, we wondered whether all our Hall of Fame candidates would postpone in favor of an in-person ceremony at a future conference.
As it turned out, the online ceremony was beautiful. It placed full attention on the inductees' slideshow presentations, allowed them to invite friends and family who wouldn't otherwise have been able to attend, and drew a bigger audience than ever - a worldwide audience, in fact!
That could be you up there, receiving Hall of Fame honors in front of a record crowd. Are you now at 30+ active years as a martial artist - or 40, or 50+? The AWMAI Hall of Fame was created to recognize you: your proficiency, dedication, and commitment to your personal development and your art.
We encourage you to step up for this recognition, be thanked for your contributions to your art, and feel energized by the support of the AWMAI community. If you have students or colleagues who meet the requirements and deserve recognition, we'd like to hear from them, too. Encourage them to join you in applying for the 2022 Hall of Fame. Visit the Hall of Fame page to learn more, and begin your application. If you were inducted previously and are up for a new decade, you'll have a simplified application process.
The deadline to apply for recognition in 2022 is November 30, 2021. Applicants must register for and attend the AWMAI Conference to be honored. Presentations take place at our annual Hall of Fame ceremony. And yes, we will send you a real plaque and certificate, not just a virtual one!
In addition, as you may know, our Hall of Fame inductees receive a discount on all future AWMAI events, as well as most Pacific Association of Women Martial artists (PAWMA) and National Women's Martial Arts Federation (NWMAF) conferences, camps, and special trainings.
I very much hope you'll join the elite women of our Hall of Fame, help sustain AWMAI and its work, and broaden our network by spreading the word and inspiring others. If you have any questions, please contact me. I look forward to hearing from you!
Sensei Katie Murphy Stevens
We are here to help
One of the ways this community shows support for each other is through our scholarship fund. Thanks to an established trend of generous donations, the fund balance is very strong, which means if you need financial help to make it to our next in-person conference, we’ll be there for you!
As you know, we were hoping to be there for you in 2022, but we realized the wise decision was to offer a virtual conference once again. The good news is that our sliding-scale fee structure puts the 2022 conference within reach for everyone. We really do want you to attend!
Many of us are resuming, rebuilding, restarting, reinvigorating, reevaluating and resetting. Now, more than ever, we can lean on and learn from our peers and elders. That’s what AWMAI lives for: to build the community of Women Martial Arts Instructors.
At the 2022 AWMAI Conference, we'll present classes that bridge the topics of teaching, business and martial arts. The classes will be taught by experienced, accomplished, expert martial artists and school owners. Beyond the classes, the connections we make with others and the simple conversations between classes and at social hours can be profound.
You only need to attend the conference once to get that feeling, and to benefit from the kindness and knowledge of others. Another great thing is that your contributions will be valued too - whether you are a newbie, a stalwart or an elder. Our conference is not “one way”—it’s truly a networking and sharing event, as AWMAI is a networking and sharing organization.
So, really, we want to see you there! If finances have been holding you back, please don’t miss the chance to attend our virtual event that's so affordable. And next year, when you’re planning for the 2023 conference, you’ll be able to reach out and apply for scholarship funds, knowing we'll do our best to help.
Sijeh Sarah Sponzo
Take Two. We’re doing it again!
Last year, we entered into the unknown. This year, we are good to go!
Although we’re disappointed that we won’t see you all in person, we are excited for another great virtual event that brings all the things you love about Teaching the Teacher right to your home or dojo!
You and your teaching team can attend with no travel expense! No flight, no hotel, no meal costs, plus complete safety and comfort. It’s sure to be a fun and productive weekend.
We’re bringing back some of the most popular features from 2021 including:
Check out the links below, and start planning your virtual trip. And, as you plan, why not consider a Whole School Registration? Sign up at the $500.00 level, and your registration includes all your instructors and assistants. Make it a weekend retreat, potluck or drop-in to get the most from the conference with your whole team. Read my article below to hear how it went for us at Tat Wong Kung Fu Academy last February.
Register now. We can't wait to see you!
Master Didi Goodman
Better Late than 'Late'—
—as in, "the late newsletter editor..."
The Summer edition of the newsletter was full of excitement as it was shaping up: a call for in-person teaching applications; info about booking flights and planning a fun trip to Austin; the joyful prospect of seeing each other in person again, finally!
Then the delta surge began hitting the news, and in some cases, tragically, hitting people we knew and loved. The state of Texas made headlines for its anti-masking and other anti-civil rights policies. For us, there was a growing feeling in the air of "safety first" and "change of plans," so we held off publishing, and ultimately the board made the decision to cancel our in-person conference and go virtual again.
I probably dragged my feet the hardest about this decision. I REALLY wanted to meet in person! Still, we all remembered what a success the 2021 virtual conference turned out to be, and with another year of Zoom experience behind us, I know 2022 will be even better and more creative.
With that in mind, it's time to mark your calendars and get registered. There's still time to apply to teach. You can find all the relevant links in this newsletter and on the website. I look forward to hanging out with you by the virtual poolside between classes next February!
Suggestion of the month:
What policies are in place at your school in connection with masking and vaccinations? Have you had disagreements with students or parents over your policies? How have you handled communication on these sometimes sensitive issues?
Send us a poem!
Are you a visual artist? We can feature a gallery of your work!
Send submissions to email@example.com.
The 2021 virtual Hall of Fame ceremony drew a larger audience than ever, to honor the martial arts careers of three outstanding women: Sifu Kimberly Ivy, Professor Nerissa Freeman, and Master Mary Davis Cates (in memoriam). Learn more about these honorees on our Hall of Fame pages. Here is a selection of photos from their presentation slideshows.
by Sijeh Anne Dysinger
In March of 2020, our Academy was shut down, and like most everyone, we initially thought it would be for a few weeks. Within a week, we were up and running with Zoom, holding classes online. At the time, we had the free version of Zoom, which limited the classes to 40 minutes or less. We found the adults, teens and students that were intermediate or advanced in their studies did well over Zoom. Some of our students even got promoted over Zoom and it was so exciting to see.
In June 2020, we were able to reopen to in-person classes and our students were more than ready to come back in person to train. We had sent out a Google Form to poll our students as to their availability. We had a limit of 9-10 students per class and we only wanted to have 2, maybe 3 instructors. Everyone had to be masked. When we returned to classes, we split them even more by belt level and did not worry about the age of the student. When we reopened, there were several students that still required Zoom, so we were running both in-person and Zoom classes that lined up at the same time for the same belt level.
About a year later, with many students already vaccinated, we sent out another Google Form for our students or their parents to fill out. In the form, we asked students if they were comfortable with vaccinated instructors approaching them, if we could touch their limbs, hold pads, and use appropriate martial arts training in class. Also in that survey, we asked if students were comfortable with eliminating social distancing between instructor/student, between students and to allow more freedom for movement in our classes. We also asked if the student was vaccinated, planning to be or ineligible for vaccination.
89 out of 94 students filled out that survey. Most everyone was OK with instructor contact, eliminating some of the distance between students, and allowing vaccinated individuals to be mask-free during class. We are trying to accommodate students’ needs if they are not OK with any of the above policies. We had one family decide to not have their child continue their Kung Fu studies. It's unfortunate, and we believe the child is the one being penalized for their parents’ actions. While we did not want to lose any students, we knew it was a possibility when we sent out the Google form.
As of this writing, according to NPR, 58.2% of the population of Connecticut is fully vaccinated and 65.6% of the population has had one vaccination. 46 of our current students are 12+ with the remaining students of ages between 4 and 11. Most of our students over the age of 12 are in the process of being vaccinated or are fully vaccinated already. Over half of our students are ineligible for the vaccine and in those classes, all students will have to wear masks. With their parent’s permission, we can perform self-defense practice with attacks, joint-locks and takedowns.
As of July 1, any fully vaccinated student does not have to wear a mask during class; we have separated our students again by age; 4-6 “Tiger Team”, 6-11 “Juniors” and 12+ “Adult/Teen.” We have started to hold pads for students to punch and kick. We have started to learn or relearn our joint locks and takedowns, which we have not been able to do since March 2020. We have started to allow a bit more freedom of movement, to allow students to be able to do kicking sequences, blocking sequences and forms at their own speed and not worrying if they are standing in their “box.”
We are hoping that soon our Brown and Black belts will also be able to return to sparring. We will observe and see how things go with them, and soon, add in any Intermediate Teens and Adults who are vaccinated to spar. This is something else that we have not done since March 2020.
So, yes, in some ways we are heading back to “normal” - although it may look a bit different than it used to.
Sijeh Anne Dysinger, a past AWMAI Events Director, is Program Manager
at Tat Wong Kung Fu Academy in Middletown, Connecticut.
by Sijeh Sarah Sponzo
The senior women instructors at Tat Wong Kung Fu Academy love attending the AWMAI Conference! It’s a fun getaway and a great opportunity to connect with our martial sisters from near and far. We always encourage other instructors to attend, but many can’t get away. Some are younger and can’t afford the time or costs. This may be the case at your school too.
So, here’s to a hidden benefit of the virtual platform – eight of our female instructors and assistants were able to attend in 2021!
Our school was already a bubble, so we decided that it was safe to make the weekend an in-person event for ourselves. The school was decorated for Lunar New Year, which made the weekend feel a bit festive. We ordered food in on Friday night and did a potluck on Saturday. We had plenty of food, drinks and snacks to get us through the weekend.
We all settled in with comfy chairs, blankets and slippers. With multiple devices, it was easy for everyone to choose the classes and sessions they wanted to attend.
The Whole School registration cost was offset by a donation from our Sifu, and we split the rest between us, making the weekend a really good deal for all the knowledge, friendship and fun we experienced.
If you are looking for a great way to expose your assistant instructors and your new or younger instructors to AWMAI, the upcoming virtual Conference is the perfect opportunity.
Apply to Teach at our 2022 Virtual Conference! Applications are open until November 30th. We're seeking a diverse group of accomplished and highly qualified instructors, to present on topics ranging from physical training, to instructor skill-building, teaching methods, opening and running a school, healing arts, and much more. Be a part of our dynamic and inspiring slate of presenters. Visit our Conference page to read more about it and find the links to apply.