Professor Coleen Gragen
8th Degree Kajuknebo
Founder, Hand to Hand Kajukenbo Self Defense Center
Martial arts inspiration
On April 30, 2002, Professor Coleen Gragen died after a two-year battle with ovarian cancer. Her passing is mourned by the students of Hand to Hand Kajukenbo Self Defense Center, members of PAWMA and her many sisters in the martial arts.
Just one month prior, on March 30, Professor Gragen had been promoted to 8th degree black belt and awarded the title of Professor by Professor Charles Gaylord. She is the first woman and one of only five martial artists to hold the title in the Gaylord Method of Kajukenbo. At the same time she received Pacific Association of Women Martial Artists' (PAWMA) Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her outstanding efforts in promoting and teaching martial arts for women. Mills College honored Professor Gragen with the creation of The Coleen Gragen Award, to be awarded to a Mills faculty, staff or student who exemplifies Professor Gragen's lifelong advocacy of women.
Professor Gragen trained in martial arts for over 30 years. She received her black belt in 1978 from Sigung Barbara Bones. In 1980 she moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and opened Hand to Hand Kajukenbo Self Defense Center in Oakland, California. She dedicated her life to teaching women self-defense and martial skills; she taught classes at National Women's Martial Arts Federation (NWMAF) and PAWMA annual training camps, and at Mills College. She was also a past chair of the NWMAF.
Professor Gragen is remembered as a powerful woman for whom the practice of martial arts was a path to physical and mental development, personal liberation and spiritual growth.