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.

Hand to Hand Kajukenbo at Gay Games 2018

By Sifu Nynke Koopmans
First degree black belt under Sigung Sonya Richardson

Hand to Hand team
Hand to Hand with Seattle Silum

Gay Games Ten, Paris 2018. Our contingent of thirteen martial artists from Hand to Hand Kajukenbo were warmly welcomed. We immediately (and naturally) bonded with ‘competing’ martial artists from all around the world. Even before tournaments began, we were awed and inspired by the beautiful movements of the Seattle Si Lum martial artists. There was instant mutual respect and connection.

Team Hand to Hand’s spirit was strong as we jumped in to support other martial artists (and each other), in times of struggle, and in the spirit of good sportspersonship Hand to Hand was honored to uke for ‘competing’ teams. For many of us it was a celebration in itself, just to have made it to the Gay Games, despite personal, physical and cultural obstacles.

Hand to Hand competed in empty hand forms, weapons forms, black belt musical forms, team forms, self-defense, sparring, and two person fighting set. We left with not only plentiful medals (28), but also many new lifelong friendships. 

There were many highlights, but I believe one of Hand to Hand’s proudest moments was Sigung Sonya Richardson and Chief Instructor Sifu Aarin Burch’s Two Person Set. The audience fell silent as the duo fluidly moved together as one. They placed first amongst a group of accomplished male martial artists. Sigung Sonya Richardson was the only woman of color to act as a Center Judge. She represented gracefully.

My experience of Hand to Hand at the Gay Games, leads me to share a statement that we use to close all of our classes: “We are building a spirit of unity, an atmosphere of hard work and mutual support among us. Keep in our hearts all the world’s people and work for a day that we can live together in peace.” Hand to Hand embodied this mantra, with humility and grace.

Sifu Sonya Richardson and Sifu Aarin Burch lined up before their form event
Sifu Sonya Richardson and Sifu Aarin Burch performing their two-person set
Sifu Sonya Richardson and Sifu Aarin Burch performing their two-person set
Hand to Hand team Hand to Hand team huddle
Medal winners
Serenity Krieger, Rui Bing, and Sifu Zo Zotigh performing their form together
Hand to Hand team Hand to Hand team

Photo and video credits: Emma Hreljanovic, and (Team Hand to Hand); Hannah Yiu, Yalith Fonfa, Sarah Aguilar, Serenity Krieger, Nzinga Hatch, Rui Bing, Terezia Orosz, Charlene Lagac, Rory Jelinski, Sifu Jen Hechtor, Sifu Zo Zotigh, Sifu Nynke Koopmans, Chief Instructor Sifu Aarin Burch and Sigung Sonya Richardson.

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