Hard and Soft, Working Together, Become Complete
Pacific Association of Women Martial Artists

Uniting and empowering a diverse community
of women and girls in the martial arts.

Hello from Your Newsletter Editor!

Nina Thompson, sparring

PAWMA newsletter editor, Nina Thompson, right, at Women's Open Sparring, Portland OR. Photo: Tracy Reith.

Nadia Telsey introduced me to PAWMA by handing me a newsletter in 1999. Little did I know then how PAWMA would change my life. 

My martial-arts training has largely been in male-dominated spaces. I’m the highest-ranked woman at almost every event I’m at. This is a hard place to be. I read recently that you can find truly successful women because we have flat heads from all the patronizing patting on our heads. I have felt this most painfully lately. Yet PAWMA has kept me going.

Through PAWMA, I have found mentors, models, and inspiration -- all incredible gifts to me and my training. I train in a hard style, which my teachers have taken to mean that they need to be hard on us. Training at my school is very traditional, with the shanai or bo implemented heavily as a painful teaching tool.

My training at PAWMA was starkly different from these methods. From Sifu Debbie Leung I learned that encouragement and storytelling was not only gentler, but more effective. I saw students in her class striving for perfection of the art instead of to avoid the thwap of the shanai.

From Sifu Patty O'linger I have learned to have fun and be joyous in my teaching. Sifu Patty invites joy and levity into her training at every opportunity. I was stunned to find she plays music during training! In her sparring classes I have seen her draw out the most timid students and transform them into confident fighters. Her talent, teaching techniques, and sense of joy have inspired me to bring all of myself to the dojo and bring joy into our training.

Sigung Sonya Richardson taught me how to acknowledge the deep ancestry of martial arts and use it to inspire my students.

I’ve learned kindness and compassion from Shifu/Sensei Koré Grate. She gently leads those students who are struggling and builds them up. She is humble, and inspiring, and it seems to me that her martial arts comes from a place of joy and love. Something I never experienced in my dojo prior to meeting her.

I have become a completely different kind of teacher, student, and human thanks to the richness of these teachers and the many other wonderful, inspiring, and generous people I've met at PAWMA camps. I have sampled so many techniques, arts, and forms, and at the same time I have learned so much about how to be a better teacher and human being. 

My intention with this newsletter is to bring more students to camp and to support these amazing teachers by inspiring our PAWMA members.

If you want to support our amazing teachers and the board who works diligently to make these camps happen, please share your PAWMA stories and your training stories, and share this newsletter with your community so that they learn about PAWMA too. I am looking forward to talking about the newsletter with you and to enjoying our next camp together!

Hope to see you in August,

Nina Thompson
PAWMA Newsletter Editor

Nina Thompson trains in Portland Oregon, with the VA Dojo.

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