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.

Sifu Lynn Keslar
Photo courtesy of Lynn Keslar.

The World is Our Dojo

Lynn Keslar
2017 Board President

Dear members of the Pacific Association of Women Martial Artists:

The 2017-2018 PAWMA board was convened at the end of last year, after a generously managed transition from the prior board, led by President Sonya Richardson (Sigung) and Vice President Nikki Smith (Sensei). They have remained available to us since then to answer any question and run down any detail. I know that they are committed to our success and the ongoing success of our organization. The long hand-off, the generosity of the prior board, their deep knowledge and love of their arts and fellow practitioners, reminds us that as women we bring connection to the table. We are at our best when we are holding each other up, and out, so that our gifts can deepen and be shared and our desires for the world and ourselves in the world can be realized.

The new board has been fully engaged in bringing to life the many pieces of training camp, from the location and logo, to insurance and the schedule. So far, decisions have been met with inspiration. We are happy to be together and working on behalf of our sister warriors, women of all ages, races, genders, sexualities, abilities, religious beliefs, genetic sequences, and favorite movie references. We are bonded by the firm commitment to, above all, an organization devoted to the dignity and equality of everyone, all enjoying the thrill of a rigorous practice.

The new board is: Lynn Keslar as president, Aminta Steinbach as vice president, Leslie Lippard as treasurer, Restita de Jesus as secretary (continuing from the prior board), Ellen Morrison, Tyler LePard, Gin Yang, and Mary Lynn Morales as fearless, brilliant colleagues. We want our work together to offer opportunities for everyone to develop in leadership, so as much as possible we are sharing responsibilities and sharing knowledge. Our hope is that in the important ways we will speak with a single voice as a Board.

Our first meetings were dedicated to choosing a theme for the September 2017 training camp. As a body, we wanted the 2017 camp to celebrate not just the technical expression of our various arts, but also the ways in which training gives us entry into broader experiences in every sense. Our theme for 2017 will be: The World is Our Dojo. Camp will be held at Camp Sealth on Vashon Island, a beautiful location new to us, discovered by our board members from Seattle. (Some of us visited the site last fall - see the photo below for a glimpse of the ferry ride.)

Aminta Steinbach, Tyler LePard, Laneka Viney, and Ellen Morrison, on the ferry to Camp Sealth
Aminta Steinbach, Tyler LePard, Laneka Viney, and Ellen Morrison, on the ferry to Camp Sealth. Photo courtesy of Lynn Keslar.

By The World, we mean absolutely everywhere. We want to bring our training, our concentration, our meditation, our ability to fight and our knowledge of how not to fight, to bear, as Gloria Steinem said at the women’s march in January, “in offices, in kitchens, in factories, in prisons, all over the world.” For us, I would add, the streets, our homes, the outdoors. Anywhere women walk we are side by side with our training. We want to think of the entire world as a training space.

As martial artists, we learn that our training connects us deeply to the natural world, as well as to our communities, particularly through the values of honor, respect, and leadership. As women martial artists, we may also be especially aware of the ways in which our training affords us everyday opportunities to experience dignity and empowerment – we feel more comfortable walking in an unfamiliar place, talking with someone we don’t know, taking on a challenging conversation or intervening in harassment, bullying or abuse we experience or witness. We may also feel empowered to forego activity, and simply reflect in our own thoughts.

When we practice - fighting, defense, awareness, self-expression, meditation - we are often working to maintain clarity and wholeness while under pressure from outside forces. We expose ourselves to physical and mental conflict, or pressure, intentionally and learn to see things more clearly and act without wasted effort. We balance studying and action, the pen and the sword.

These special qualities, balancing intense effort with stillness and reflection, are the natural outcome of a well-focused practice. They are gifts nurtured by our commitment to mutual appreciation and benefit. They unite us as women martial artists.

The wider world acutely needs the benefit of these skills, our commitment to mutual support and self-reflection, our grace and our power. As we introduce ourselves as your new board, we want to recall these particular strengths. We want to shine a light on the ways in which a martial arts practice helps us reach into conflict and emerge with clear intention and well-timed engagement, or reach across difficulty to create friendship.

In keeping with our theme, there are two articles here from women martial artists who have travelled the world to share their knowledge and the beauty of their arts with others, and one article that reminds us of the power of our relationship to the natural world. Sifu Michelle Dwyer has written about teaching and training with women martial artists in Europe, and developing friendships over many years. Sigung Sonya Richardson has written about teaching self-defense to girls in India, about being transformed by reaching very far beyond the familiar. And Mary Lynn Morales, a Board member, certified acupuncturist, and T'ai Chi instructor, has agreed to write a continuing column on wellness related matters. Here, she reminds us how aligning ourselves with the season can help us stay healthy. Please enjoy their stories and allow them to inspire you in your practice.

We look forward to hearing from you about your practice, support you might need, and how you feel your training connects us to each other and to the training space that is the whole world.

Sifu Lynn has a 5th degree black belt in Kajukenbo and a 4th degree black belt in Doce Pares Eskrima. She is the chief instructor at Oakland Kajukenbo Kwoon in Oakland, California.

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