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Pacific Association of Women Martial Artists

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

Bringing Home the Bronze

My Experience at the Gay Games, August 2018 in Paris, France

By Broch Bender
Student at Seattle Sil Lum

Heather Coyle, left, and Michele Miller at Gay Games X in Paris

Heather Coyle, left, and Michele Miller, take gold for their two-person form. Photo courtesy of unknown Gay Games participant.

You could say I was a late bloomer in the sports department. Studying Kung Fu at Seattle Sil Lum was the first time I had ever held a regular physical exercise practice, or been a part of any kind of organized sports group, in my life. I remember my teacher, Michele Miller, told me early on that anyone can learn Kung Fu, and if I stuck with it, I could too. However, between you and me, if Michele told me I would win a bronze medal at the Gay Games six years later, I never would have believed her.

My win at Gay Games X was sweet, but the journey was even sweeter.

It all began in 2017 at PAWMA camp on Vashon Island. That was the first time I felt I was a part of a larger martial arts community. Seeing people from different disciplines and abilities sharing the same spirit lit a fire inside and filled me with hope and pride that I, too, could elevate to my best level. The boost I received from PAWMA, constant encouragement from my teachers and friends I train with, and my personal drive to meet the high standards set by my school, fueled my desire to put in the hard work, dedication, and many hours of training necessary to do my very best at Gay Games X. My goal was to go into the competition at the top of my form, the best I could do, with no regrets whatsoever.

A year of focused training all boiled down to less than two minutes of performance, halfway around the world in Paris, France. Competing in front of a row of internationally acclaimed judges was one of the scariest things I’d ever done. At the same time, it also was one of the most special because it felt like I was opening a gift.

I honestly cannot remember how I did, or what my scores were. I didn't know if I'd won a medal or not, but I knew I was the only one from my school in the senior intermediate category, so when the judge began announcing the 3rd place winner was from Seattle Sil Lum, I knew he meant me! I jumped up and flew over to the #3 spot on the winner’s platform! I was filled with immense pride for myself and my school.

Winning the bronze medal confirmed for me that believing in myself, my teachers, and our global martial arts community - along with never (ever, ever) giving up, pays off.

Seattle Silum and Hand to Hand at Gay Games 2018 in Paris, France

Seattle Silum and Hand to Hand at Gay Games 2018 in Paris, France. Photo courtesy of unknown Gay Games participant.

Seattle Silum shows off the Seattle Pride flag on the streets of Paris, France

Seattle Silum shows off the Seattle Pride flag on the streets of Paris, France. Photo courtesy of unknown Gay Games participant.

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