Women Training Martial Arts Together

What happens when you get 130 women – all martial artists – together at a retreat center in Turner, Or.? Magic! “Breaking Down Walls”, the name of this year’s PAWMA camp, lived up to its name. Women 12 to 70 years old from schools all over California, Washington and Oregon participated. Other states and even Canada were also represented. There were instructors in Kajukenbo, Boxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Tang Soo Do Karate, Poekoelan, of course, and myriad beautiful, fierce and traditional styles.

Wait. HOW Many?!?!?

From Friday, August 23 through Monday, August 26 there were 40 classes to choose from, each with its own special focus and intention. Of the instructors, some of us have our own schools and many of us have trained for over 30 years. The caliber of training was outstanding and the enthusiasm of the campers, heartening.

Special Events

Aside from lots of martial arts training, special events were plentiful. Camp started with an opening ceremony and introduction of the instructors followed by an all-camp workout under the guidance of Grandmaster Graciela Caselas, a Black Belt Hall of Fame Inductee and one of the two 2019 PAWMA Lifetime Award Winners. What a great way to break the ice and begin to build connections. The final workout, on Monday morning, was under the watchful eye of Master Terri Giamartino, Head Instructor of Emmeryville Martial Arts in CA. Training martial arts since 1978, she also earned the 2019 PAWMA Lifetime Award.

The Saturday night demonstration was not only entertaining, but was beautiful and inspiring as well. Highlights included a tightly choreographed group piece by Hand to Hand from Oakland, and a Kalari performance by Dr. Guru Aparna Sindhoor who got a standing ovation with her heartfelt call for peace.

Sunday evening brought a bazaar and market followed by a lively (you can imagine!) dance party. Abundant meals became gatherings of friends old and new while pre-breakfast coffee was yet another chance to hang out. Sunday’s lunch was a formal opportunity for women of color to meet up for discussion and support. At the same time, white allies met in another section of the dining hall to talk about how our martial arts training can best prepare us to be allies.

Best Roommates Ever!

On a personal note, I got to share a room with some fabulous women martial artists: The incredibly talented Dr Guru Aparna Sindhoor taught Kalari and has a school called Navarasa in LA; Simo Mia Velez from San Francisco taught an amazing class called “Yoga for Martial Artists” and is a Wing Chung practitioner and deeply kind soul; Coach Mollii Khangsengsing of Tuff Love Fitness in the Bay Area shared her style, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, along with her joy and bubbly personality. What a delight it was to get to know these wonderful women!


I loved the opportunity to bring Poekoelan’s animal movements to PAWMA 2019! Being amongst strong and fearless women who are leaders, movers and shakers in the field warmed my heart to its core. I offer my deepest gratitude to the hardworking board, the passionate instructors and the spirited participants. I highly recommend this camp to all my female-identifying students young and old alike!

Next year’s camp will be from Thursday, September 10 through Sunday, September 13th at CYO Camp in Occidental, CA, about 75 miles north of San Francisco/Oakland. Who’s coming with me?

Teaching Monkey

The 2019 PAWMA board (minus Veronica) — with Aminta Steinbach, Gin Yang, Tyler LePard, Ellen Morrison and Leslie Lippard.

Photo Creds: Meena Kerry Kehoe

When You are Ready

Learn more about PAWMA, become a member or even go to camp in 2020! Find out about training at Naga.