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A Letter from the President

by Emmy DeFigueiredo

It has been a swift few months since camp in September; the time has felt both long and short.

When the current Board convened in October of 2019, we had no idea what was in store for us in the upcoming year. There were a few things that we were certain of: first, we held immense gratitude for the outgoing board members who generously offered their time, advice, and wisdom as we transitioned into new roles and welcomed new board members.

Second, in keeping with the previous board’s mantra, we were determined to make the 2020 camp “the best camp ever.” And third, we were excited to leverage the unique skill sets of this Board, to continue moving the work of PAWMA forward. We embarked upon the planning of our 2020 camp with enthusiasm, site visits, workback plans, and a commitment to living into our values.

PAWMA President Emmy DeFigueiredo

This was the year that we had in mind, and the one that unfolded was completely different. 

By April it was obvious that 2020 would not be business as usual, in so many ways. Amidst many unknowns, we were presented with the challenging task of determining whether or not to host our camp in person. Questions we grappled with: How do we prioritize the health and safety of our members? What are our fiscal responsibilities? What risks are involved with any choice we make? How do we make the best decision amidst a global pandemic that is dynamic and complex? Ultimately we decided that an in-person camp was not responsible, neither from a health and safety standpoint nor a fiscal one. And while this was incredibly challenging, it was also surprisingly liberating. 

It reminded me of a refrain I often think of in my martial arts training: “commitment is liberating.”

Once the PAWMA Board determined we were not going to do an in-person camp, we had a blank slate in front of us. The Board quickly agreed that we wanted to offer the PAWMA community an opportunity to connect, train, and sweat together; it felt more important than ever. The idea for an online camp quickly expanded from a day of programming, to a day and a half with ample breaks… to a full weekend experience. 

In the summer of 2020, we were also in a national reckoning with our country’s historical and current climate of racial oppression and violence against our Black community members. Racial justice has long been a part of PAWMA’s values, and it was obvious that this had to be a theme of our camp. As we planned camp, we committed to making the conversation about racism front and center, building and expanding on the work done in previous years. For a deeper dive on this, read the article entitled, “Martial Arts & Anti-Racist Practice: Interwoven Transformative Journeys.”

There was a lot to be managed as we planned for the logistics, communication, and coordination of running camp in a whole new format. As a Board, we were also clear that we wanted to create an immersive and connected experience -- one that would leave attendees feeling joyful, cared for, seen, and of course, sweaty and sore from training. 

By all measures, our 2020 camp was a success. We welcomed over 180 attendees, 35% of which were attending camp for the first time; this marks our biggest camp ever and expanded outreach and exposure! We offered a sliding scale that allowed people to pay what they could, as well as a “school rate” that made attending camp available to anyone at that school, for free. Watching PAWMA members and camp attendees commit to camp, engage on the virtual training floor, and wrestle with challenging questions about oppression and anti-racism was nothing short of incredible. 

I feel immensely grateful to our membership for being willing to explore a new format with us, to our instructors who crafted meaningful experiences for students, to all the volunteers that helped behind the scenes, and to the PAWMA Board. 

As we look towards Camp 2021, many of you may be wondering what it will look like this year. The Board is staying abreast of the health and safety recommendations, evaluating what is most responsible for our members and the organization, and will be providing more information the coming months. In the meantime, I invite all of you to stay connected to the PAWMA community and each other by sharing highlights from your training, reaching out for support, and leaning into your practice. The last year has illuminated the resilience and adaptability that resides in our training community and in each of you. I feel hopeful as we move into the new year and look forward to training together in 2021!  




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