Editor's Note: AWMAI's annual conference is held in Safety Harbor, Florida, this year. The list of talented and amazing instructors include Sheila Haddad, Deb Lee, and many others. Learn more about AWMAI and the 2020 conference.
My recent trip to Las Vegas for the 2013 annual AWMAI conference was a joy. I was fortunate to be able to take classes from old friends and meet new friends, all of whom have decades of experience which they shared in their classes. I was also honored to be chosen to teach a few classes which were well received and appreciated. My system of Cuong Nhu models a principle we call the 3-O’s: Open Mind, Open Heart, Open Arms, and this pretty much describes the AWMAI 2013 participants.
As I reflect back on my AWMAI 2013 experience, I am reminded of the need to network more, with women in particular. I go to many annual training events within my own style and professional development seminars for people in our industry. Most of the presenters at these events are men. Rarely do I get to surround myself with so many women who have pioneered the martial arts arena successfully and as a result inspired so many other women to experience all the martial arts can offer.
Times have changed since I began my training back in 1978 and women now have more access to the martial arts. It is a mainstream activity that is dominated by children who now make up 2/3 of most martial arts schools. Whenever children are involved, the door opens wider for women to get involved. But even with all the changes in the past 20 years or so, the industry is still dominated by men, their business models and their approach to fighting, training and conflict resolution. This makes AWMAI a relevant organization and a leader in talking women a step further in their martial arts careers.
As women, we need to share our business models, our teaching styles, our visions for the future. We need to meld theory and philosophy with the practical aspects of doing business in today’s world. We have a growing senior population, a world dominated by social media and smart phones. To stay alive and thrive in today’s world we need to make sure we are using smart technology and customizing our curriculum to be age appropriate. We need to train our instructors to manage different age groups and we must be constantly in a learning mode blending our ancient traditions with contemporary expectations. Gone are the days of unabashed loyalty to the master. Dedication and loyalty need to be fostered while understanding that we have a very mobile student base. Our youngest students can be fickle, our teens self-absorbed and our young adults without the disposable income to support on-going training in professional environments. Our greatest assets perhaps lie in training and retaining 40-50 year-olds who are either done child rearing or at least have the means to support student tuition bills. They are also the most likely students to stay and give back to the schools they train in.
I look to AWMAI as a leadership organization that will help us all thrive in the next decade. If we keep training, our mind will stay sharp and our bodies will remain agile. If we can continue to bring the martial arts to our communities, we keep the legacy of our styles alive. We are change agents in this world, helping to develop confidence and strength in our students. And as we age, we bring sage wisdom to help our younger counterparts continue on the path we hold dear.
So thank you AWMAI for giving woman a home in which they can be honored for their contributions and recognized for the ranks they have achieved.