and Support


Volume IV

October 2020

In This Issue:


Instructor applications are still being accepted for Teaching the Teacher 2021! New Deadline: November 15.

from Executive Director

Shifu/Sensei Koré Grate

Connect, Activate, Engage!

Our sister organization, the Pacific Association of Women Martial Artists (PAWMA), held their annual training camp via ZOOM this year. It was quite the success, with 179 people registered.

The Opening Ceremony took place on Friday, September 11, and the seminar continued through the weekend, with the last classes on Sunday, September 13.  I was honored to be hired to teach Liangong - all three series. (The photo shows my Zoom teaching setup.) This gave me ample time to experience first hand how well-organized and efficient PAWMA's tech support was.  The PAWMA Board did an excellent job communicating, with instructors as well as participants, and chose classes that spanned from “Manipulating Qi” to “Pillow Uke Ground Fighting."

My favorite part of the weekend was the Panel Discussion on Race & Equity on Saturday, followed by a well led follow-up discussion on Sunday over lunchtime. In these upsetting times, it felt imperative for us to be able to talk about racism and the need to keep talking, discussing, and standing up for justice.

Even though we were not together in person, seeing all my Martial Family in those little boxes did my heart good. I am looking forward to our AWMAI 2021 Virtual Conference, and I am grateful that PAWMA and the NWMAF paved the path so expertly.

Autumn is Here - TIME TO VOTE!

I have already “early voted in person” in Minneapolis. I was pleasantly surprised at two things: 

1. The way the process was organized to protect everyone from COVID.

2. That they knew I had registered to get a ballot in the mail, and were able to cancel that so I could vote in person right then. (We know the system is supposed to catch fraudulent or duplicate ballots, but it was good to see it working first-hand.)

Everyone PLEASE VOTE!  No matter what you believe in, YOUR VOICE IS IMPORTANT!

from the Editor

Master Didi Goodman

Seven Months and Counting

I still laugh and shake my head sometimes remembering how, back in March, I said to my spouse and dojo co-head, "We'll just take a couple weeks off, adopt some new cleaning protocols, and everything will be fine by April!"

Live and learn, as they say.  And we've all learned a great deal since then, about virtual teaching and learning, fostering relationships at a distance, dealing with stress and anxiety, managing our expenses, and accepting change.

AWMAI News lets us share in the wisdom and experience of our colleagues, and this issue has some great content.

Our own AWMAI Financial Director, Professor Katie Murphy Stevens, thinks through the ethics of reopening under Covid-19 restrictions.

Sifu Kimberly Ivy recounts her journey into virtual instruction, sharing a lot of technical and logistical details. (There's one photo you won't want to miss!)

Master Terri Giamartino shares how she has managed to keep a school thriving and attracting new students.

Sensei Deb Cupples has a story that spans the pre- and post-Covid worlds, about how, if you consistently act with generosity and positive intent, good things will come your way.

To soothe and inspire us in these stressful times, we've made a point of including poetry and art. We have work from AWMAI founding mother Wasentha Young, who is an amazing mosaic artist; another fine poem from Janet Aalfs; and a gallery of Sheila Haddad's extraordinary photographs.

Under "School News," we have a story about earning Black Belt under Covid rules. We know many schools have struggled with this issue, and after you read how Sensei Cupples did it, I hope you'll send in your own stories - or your thoughts on the problem of changing your requirements or making compromises.

And don't forget to read the latest on our upcoming virtual conference. It's not too early to register!

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If you consistently act with generosity and positive intent,

good things will come your way.

from Financial Director

Professor Katie Murphy Stevens

Ethics and Reopening

Like most of California, the operation of gyms in my area has been strictly curtailed for many months. Likewise, my jujitsu school has been closed for in-person classes. All of our classes are being held online. In Yolo County, where I live, restrictions were eased slightly just last week. Under this phase, gyms are allowed to restart indoor operation at 10% capacity.

This put me at an ethical crossroads: open now, or wait until the next phase, which allows 25% capacity.

My school has a small workout space. Danzan Ryu Jujitsu has some big arts that take quite a bit of room. We can have 10 people working simultaneously, as long as everyone is aware of their surroundings. We can have 20 people working, if some groups pause occasionally for their classmates to complete a big art. I figure that 10% capacity would allow about 1.5 people per class. Including me. Ack!

I could rationalize that 'capacity' can mean many different things. I could check to see what the fire marshal has set for the capacity of the workout room. Maybe I could skirt the issue, have more than 1.5 people in class and call it '10% capacity.' Would my students go along?

I know they want to get back on the mat as much as I do. But what role would hierarchy play in their decision to go along? If I say it is okay, would they agree, in part, because I am the head instructor? I think it is safe to say that my voice would be a strong influence.

Would it be safe to compromise the capacity guidelines? In my personal opinion, the best way to avoid a communicable disease is to avoid the contagion. I want to model the behavior that I think will be best for myself, my students, my elders, my loved ones. Compromising the guidelines would go against those values.

I quickly came to the conclusion that before I reopen in-person classes (with lots of safety protocols), I will wait until the county guidelines allow gyms to operate indoors at 25% capacity. I'm so proud of the students who have stuck with their training - the majority of the school, actually. We continue to think of new ways to make meaningful progress in our martial arts study using online training.

Is zoom jujitsu as good as in-person, full contact training? No way! Is it better than giving up? Way better!

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In Memoriam: Arleen Polite

Martial artist, artist and printmaker, Arleen trained for many years at Sun Dragon Martial Arts in Austin, Texas, which is where I met her in the early 1990s. She designed the logo for Mona Lisa’s Sword, Sensei Peg Strain’s organization. She was a kind, powerful soul who will be deeply missed. Her artwork lives on.  Arleen was born on January 17, 1962 and died on July 24, 2020, fighting cancer.

Shifu/Sensei Koré Grate

from Events Director

Sijeh Sarah Sponzo

I love to travel, but…

I love planning travel and events. It’s what I do for a living. I love flying, hotels, seeing old friends, making new friends – and most of all, I love to make sure my travelers and attendees have the best experience possible. I can tell you that right now, I am pretty desperate to plan some travel and an event!

The health, safety and comfort of my travelers and event attendees is always the most important thing to me. So, although the decision was difficult at first, I’m glad we're planning a virtual event this year. In fact, I am excited to work on this conference!

We have all learned so much over the past seven months about how to run meaningful and productive events online. We have found we can still come together to learn, socialize, network and have fun remotely.

We will still read a batch of amazing teaching proposals; we will still work to put together the best agenda possible. We will still plan to visit with friends; we will still look forward to learning something new – and, learning new ways to have a good time.

I also hope this virtual event creates the opportunity for some new attendees. Without the expense and logistics of travel, I think this is a great chance to open our circle to teachers or aspiring teachers who may not have been able to join us live before.

So, reach out to your friends and colleagues. Pass on the information and invite them to be part of our beautiful circle of teachers.

We know a time will come when this uncertainty will be resolved, the fear will lift, and we will be able to return to our travels and meet each other in person. We are planning to be “live” again in 2022. Our Austin, Texas venue has graciously allowed us to push our reservation forward one year. Holiday Inn Austin Town Lake is looking forward to welcoming us then.  

Meanwhile, we'll be doing our part to keep ourselves and our communities healthy. We’ll plan for a new kind of experience in February, and we’ll look forward to being back together soon.

Registration is open (see link below). Why delay? We can't wait to see you.

Register for the conference! Click here.

Apply to teach! Click here to open our online application form.

Apply for the Hall of Fame! Click here to learn more, and begin the process - for yourself, your instructor, or a deserving colleague.

Apply for Rank Certification! Click to learn more.

Be a Sponsor. Increase your visibility while supporting AWMAI and the Conference. Read more about sponsorship here.

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Crystal Ball

by Wasentha Young

In front of illuminated crystals

Of brilliant colors and feelings

Radiantly—radiating the essence of my being


I can see in the dark

In this cave are the secrets