Community Self Defense Teaching Lab: A Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity

13 06 2010

I was trained as a self defense instructor by Annie Ellman of the Center for Anti-Violence Education/Brooklyn Women’s Martial Arts in 1991.  The curriculum for teacher training included hours of classroom lecture and discussion and practice teaching on our sister karatekas.  But before we went out into the world as fully fledged self defense instructors there was another step in our training: we shadowed experienced instructors as they delivered feminist, anti-racist, holistic self defense training to communities throughout New York City.

I learned a tremendous about teaching self defense sitting at a desk and taking notes.  I also learned from practice teaching on my peers.   But my understanding deepened indescribably when I witnessed seasoned teachers delivering self defense training in the community.

A limited number of participants at SDIC ’10 will have the opportunity for this kind of hands-on learning, collaboration and close-ratio instruction from master self defense instructors.  For the first time, SDIC will include a Community Self Defense Teaching Lab

Sign up now if you want to be part of the small team who will shadow two master self defense instructors, Janet Aalfs and Sonya Richardson, as they deliver a self defense program in the Feminist Empowerment Model to the clients and staff of the Youth Health Empowerment Program (Y-HEP) of Philadelphia FIGHT.

Participants in the Community Self Defense Teaching Lab will:

  • Witness the Feminist Empowerment Model of self defense embodied in a community class.
  • Observe effective cross-cultural teaching skills.
  • Shadow master teachers from both coasts of the U.S. and receive coaching in a small group setting.
  • Explore best practices for collaboration with community-based partner organizations.
  • Support the NWMAF in being of service to our host community.

Janet Aalfs, a 7th degree black belt in Karate, and a 5th degree black belt in Modern Arnis, has been director since 1982 of Valley Women’s Martial Arts: Institute for Healing and Violence Prevention Strategies, founded in 1977, and located in Easthampton, Massachusetts. Janet is an active member of the NWMAF Self-Defense Instructors leadership group and certification board, and is a former Secretary, Chair, and a Founding Member of NWMAF. The arts she practices and teaches include Shuri-ryu Karate, Modern Arnis, Tai chi, Qigong, Poetry, and Peace. Her writing has been published widely, and she was the Poet Laureate of Northampton, Massachusetts from 2003 to 2005.

Sonya Richardson, 5th Degree Kajukenbo and Sandan Kenpo Karate, began training in the martial arts in 1990 and has been a practicing physical therapist since 1988. She has taught at three national martial arts camps: PAWMA, NWMAF, and AWMAI. She currently co-chairs the Anti-Racism Council for NWMAF. Sonya serves as the Head Instructor of Kajukenbo Programs and Executive Director of Hand to Hand Kajukenbo Self Defense Center in Oakland, CA, established by the late Professor Coleen Gragen in 1980. She notes that “My passion for training and teaching is fueled by my deep respect and love for our wonderful student body at Hand to Hand and abroad. I believe that as each of us, students and instructors alike, is given space and support enough to root and reach, we will, no doubt, positively affect an even greater portion of our community, of our world.” Sonya is deeply grateful to the ongoing efforts of NWMAF organizers and volunteers and is honored to teach at the conference this year.

Y-HEP is the Youth Empowerment Program of Philadelphia FIGHT!, a comprehensive AIDS service organization.  In 1994, Y-HEP began as a citywide pilot project to reduce the spread of HIV and STDs among adolescents and young adults in the Philadelphia area. Today Y-HEP is a vibrant, multi-faceted, community-based health and leadership development program for Philadelphia youth. Annually, Y-HEP serves over 8,000 high risk, hard to reach teens and young adults through a range of activities.

To sign up for the Community Self Defense Teaching Lab please email Lynne Marie Wanamaker as soon as possible at: trainer at




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