How did you get started in Kenpo? and in what year?
Originally I started training in 1972. I was dating Paul Dye, who was teaching at the Glendora school run by Dave Hebler and Jim Thompson. Paul encouraged me to come visit the school, and soon I was having my first private lesson with Ken Barratta. Unfortunately, my journey took me in another direction, and I eventually stopped training. Although I was no longer practicing, I was married to Paul in 1974, and became the “Kenpo Mom” to the students, including our own children, and supporting them in any way I could. There was rarely a Kenpo event that I didn’t attend, even if it meant taking my college books with me. With the completion of my Master’s Degree in 1993, I soon found free time to fill, and with the tireless persuasion of the students in “The Garage,” I conceded, walked onto the mat, and thus began a new chapter in my life.
What has been your driving force in your training and teaching Kenpo?
My driving force in training has always been to learn whatever I can. To me, the goal has never been to get that Black Belt or those tips but to learn as much as I could and to be able to apply my knowledge. As I trained, I realized that I enjoy helping others.
What advice can you offer to women and girls starting out in Kenpo?
The best advice I can give to women and girls beginning a martial arts career is to correctly learn the appropriate technique and physics. Generally, women are not as strong as men, but if we learn to apply the moves properly, the results of our actions can be devastating.
What is your thought that because men in general are stronger, that they have a tendency to want to hold back in partner work, training or sparring out of fear that they might hurt you. Has this happened to you?
It is easy to understand that men tend to hold back when working with women on the mat, especially if it is someone with whom men do not train on a regular basis. I believe that it stems from the thought that women are not as strong, but also that men are taught to respect women. This happens to me all the time, but I don’t look at it in a negative way. Naturally, a man doesn’t want to hurt me, but I believe clear communication with my partners, male or female, will help them to understand my expectations. If they understand that they do me no favors when they pull their punches or fear hitting me, the training becomes more beneficial for all parties involved. I have worked with both men and women who don’t want to be hit themselves, so mutual respect dictates knowing how far you can take it with your partner.
There are only 2 women out of 24 high ranking Black Belts in the Journey and one in the International Journey, what are your thoughts on the lack of female presence?
Overall, I believe there are more men than women leaders in the Kenpo world. Women didn’t train when Mr. Parker first introduced Kenpo, and it was in the mid 1970’s when women finally reached the rank of Black Belt. Of the women attaining that rank, very few took the path of becoming leaders. Those female leaders have been involved for decades training, teaching, and giving back to the art. It is understandable, then, that only a few women are in the Journey books. Yes, there are numerous men deserving of being in the books as well, but the ratio of women to men leaders is currently very small. In time, however, perhaps more women will choose to become leaders.
Getting hit is the nature of the game in Karate, have you had odd reactions from family and friends when your arms were black and blue? reaction from strangers and possibly judged by strangers? do you have a story about it?
Bruising is a natural result of training, especially from repetitive actions, so my family was keenly aware that the marks were attained during my workouts. Casual acquaintances would joke that my husband was beating me. It was interesting that bruised women were teased about being beat by their spouses, but bruised men were ribbed about getting into a fight, not being abused by their wives. During my Brown Belt test I was hit in the eye during Leap of Death, and a nice black eye was the result. My husband and I are together most of the time when not working, so you can imagine the looks he received. No words had to be spoken, but he knew what strangers where thinking. . Trying to explain what actually happened wasn’t always convincing. Once, when Paul stepped a few feet away, a woman tried to find out if I was really alright.
Have you ever felt you’ve had to compensate for “less” physical strength during training?
My training partners are always much stronger than I am, so I have to compensate by using physics and applying the motions correctly. Using torque, lift, marriage of gravity, pivoting, push-pull concepts, contouring, etc. without sacrificing my base or my posture, is what allows me to manipulate a stronger opponent.
Did you feel you had to compensate for being part of the “fairer” sex…men thinking you weren’t mentally strong enough, women by nature are more susceptible to emotional issues then men are, so how did you overcome that?
In my Kenpo experiences, I have only had an issue with someone treating me as the “fairer” sex once. At the time, I was a Purple Belt, and one of the instructors at a camp I attended decided to single me out during the seminar. He knew my husband, and decided it would be funny to use me during the demonstration and put me in a precarious situation while laughing and making inappropriate comments. It was my decision to stay physically strong and mentally composed rather than let this instructor control my emotions. When he was finished, I closed the gap between us, looked him in the eye, and never dropped my gaze until he backed away.
What advantages do you think being a woman gives you in relation to martial arts?
Being a woman in the world of martial arts may have its advantages. Because I am not as physically strong as my opponent, I must work to maintain my skills and environmental awareness. As a woman, I cannot count on sheer strength alone, so it forces me to improve my technique. I believe women have smaller “martial” egos, which allows us to be more open to new ideas, suggestions, and possibly to learn things quickly or easily. For a woman the focus is often more about being better than your former self rather than being better than your opponent. Training in martial arts makes a woman stronger; mentally, physically, and spiritually.
What are some of the contributions the Kenpo community and art that you are most proud of?
It is a blessing to be able to share the art of Kenpo and support its community alongside my husband for the past 40 years. I’m proud to be a part of an evolving group of martial artists willing to set aside differences to help others in need. Being the “Kenpo Mom” and “Kenpo Grandma” to generations of Kenpoists in the U.S. and abroad, nurturing and supporting them in all aspects of their lives, not just martial arts, has been a privilege. When asked by students to help them “detail” their art, I am deeply honored. Whether I’m teaching, participating in or presenting a seminar, or sitting as a board member for a belt test, I always aim to inspire females to continue training and become leaders.
Are there things you would have done differently in your Kenpo career?
If I could do it all over again, I would not have stopped my training when I first began in 1972.
Have you experience sexual harassment in the martial arts
Fortunately, I have not experienced sexual harassment in the martial arts.
How has karate and attitudes changed towards women since when you started karate?
When I first started training, there were no female Black Belts in Mr. Parker’s Kenpo. By 1974 few women attained that rank. In the following years, more women began learning martial arts while being held to the same standard as men; eventually attitudes changed for the better. Along the way some strong, talented women became outstanding, respected leaders in the Kenpo community, and I believe they helped pave the way for other women.
Not necessarily in Martial arts, who are some of your role models?
My parents have been role models for me my entire life. My mother had a strong faith and believed that faith and family were the most important things in life. She found the goodness in others, was loving, caring, nurturing, giving, and supportive. Both my mother and father loved their children unconditionally and lived by The Golden Rule. They fought for the underdog, and believed in standing up for your convictions. In a time when racism was prevalent, they taught me that we are all one race, the human race. Both of my parents had a strong work ethic and a need to be involved in some way to help others. Although both of my parents are no longer living, they still influence me to this day.
My husband, Paul Dye, is also a role model. He gives of himself without hesitation, not for material reasons, but because someone wants to learn or needs his help. He is grateful for the training he received from Mr. Parker, Dave Hebler, and Jim Thompson, and he believes he should give back to the martial arts community. If he can lend a hand to someone, he will gladly assist in any way. For 40 years he has stood by my side, and not once has he ever failed me when I needed him. He is talented, loving, loyal, faithful, understanding, supportive, and giving. He is the best husband and a wonderful father and grandfather. He is a remarkable man.