Hard and Soft, Working Together, Become Complete

For much of its history in the United States (I don't pretend to speak for how martial arts is practiced in other parts of the world), martial arts has been inhospitable to women. Women who tried to practice martial arts were made to feel like interlopers in a man's domain. Often they were alone, isolated and without support.

In 1978 a small group of women gathered in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada for a weekend of training, sharing of skills and mutual support. Together they founded the Pacific Association of Women Martial Artists, an organization:

dedicated to promoting women and girls' participation in the martial arts by providing public education, role models, recognition of excellence, and opportunities to train and share ideas with an extended network of outstanding martial artists.
PAWMA was incorporated as a California non-profit public benefit corporation in 1987. Since its founding, PAWMA membership has grown to over 200 women of all ages, skill and experience levels, backgrounds and representing all martial arts. The bulk of the membership is concentrated in the Western United States and Canada, although some women come from as far away as Minnesota. Annual dues are on a sliding scale and entitles members to:
  • discounts on PAWMA sponsored events, clothing and equipment
  • eligibilty for fellowship funds
  • notice of upcoming events
  • a regional network of fellow women martial artists
  • quarterly newsletter

The highlight of the PAWMA year is the annual training camp, held over a four-day weekend toward the end of summer/beginning of fall, in varying locations up and down the West Coast of the United States. Camp features classes in a broad range of arts by experienced teachers, some with as many as 30 years experience in their art. It's an excellent opportunity for martial artists of all levels to network with old and new friends, share their arts and try out unfamiliar arts. In addition to the old-standbys of karate, kung fu, tae kwon do and tai chi, PAWMA camps have featured teachers in fencing, naginata and in 2001, Maori traditional weapons.

Additionally, throughout the year PAWMA sponsors a variety of local and regional training seminars and referee training seminars, and gives demonstrations to showcase martial skills and educate the public. PAWMA is a co-sponsor of the first-ever all women's karate & kung fu championships. Each year PAWMA honors an outstanding woman martial artist as its Martial Artist of the Year.

Source: Pacific Association of Women Martial Artists,
I have been a member since 1998.