This past weekend, I had the privilege of participating in the PAWMA (Pacific Association of Women Martial Artists) annual training camp, both as a teacher and as a student. I have had a lot of experience teaching Can-ryu Jiu-jitsu at martial arts training camps over the years, but all of them were for Jiu-jitsu organizations and open to everyone, men and women, from a variety of dojos. I had absolutely no idea what to expect from this event with nearly 100 women martial artists of all different styles, from all over North America in attendance. What I experienced completely blew me away.
As I was one of the teachers in the very first time slot of the camp, I had no idea what I was in for. I didn’t know any of the students, other than my own two students, Lee and Melissa, and had about 25 students to teach on a relatively small mat space, all with varying levels of experience with ground defense (my topic) from those who had none at all to a Nidan with competitive Judo experience. They could easily have been sceptical or dismissive not having anyone to vouch for me except Sifu Restita DeJesus from the Seattle Wushu Center who had recommended me, but hadn’t actually seen my teaching first hand. Happily, the complete opposite was the case. The students were enthusiastic and engaged, asking intelligent questions and training hard throughout the 1.5 hour class without even taking breaks. A number of women took notes on the drills, eager to continue training them, even instructors with far more experience than I, with the desire to share them at their own schools. The same enthusiasm was repeated in my other two classes at the camp, Knife Defense on the Ground, as well as Balance Breaking for Locking & Throwing Bigger Attackers. Everyone was extremely supportive and appreciative and I couldn’t help but glow after all the positive feedback I received.
But it wasn’t the fact that they liked my teaching that made it such a great event in my eyes. It was the fact that all these women from such diverse backgrounds, styles, areas and levels of experience could come together in a ubiquitously welcoming and supportive environment. I had expected that they would be at least open to what I taught if they had signed up for my class, but I hadn’t expected instructors from completely unrelated styles to make a point of complimenting me as a teacher or buy my book just to support my efforts. And a number of the teachers from self-defense oriented styles asked if I be willing to come out to their home towns to give a seminar at their schools.
Being a student was equally inspiring. I got to learn from the other instructors during the time slots I wasn’t teaching. I got to work on a bo kata with Sensei Joanne Factor, double stick eskrima with Sifu Marieta Del Cruz, thoroughly enjoying both. I also got to be a demo uke for Sensei Nikki Smith in her Judo class on defending against takedowns, which was expertly tailored to the overall grappling experience level of the group. I even got to explore more internal martial arts training in Qigong with Sifu Angela Lee, who introduced us to exercises for expanding our chi flow, as well as Taichi with Sifu Debbie Leung who helped us apply its fundamentals to our own individual styles’ techniques. We even got to do an impromptu bullwhip session in the parking lot with Sifu Restita DeJesus during one of the lunch breaks. These are but a few examples of the courses that were offered this year. All the instructors were very high calibre and extremely passionate teachers. I got a lot out of my training and am looking forward to applying and building on what I learned.
While PAWMA is based on the west coast, their annual camp is open to all women martial artists in the United States and all over the world. If you’re a woman martial artist, I highly recommend this organization and their annual camp. It is a unique opportunity to connect with and share experiences with women martial artists, and to learn from a wide variety of highly skilled instructors who have worked through the challenges a woman faces in the traditionally male dominated field of the martial arts.
I would like to thank all the instructors and students at the camp who made it such a wonderful experience, the board members and organizers who worked hard to make the event such a success, as well as Lee and Melissa, my two students who accompanied me and trained up ahead of time to be the best possible demo ukes they could be for me for my classes.