Barbara White started her martial arts journey 21 years ago, in 1991. Through hard work and determination she has risen to a very high skill level. Mrs. White started in a Japanese style but came to kenpo 20 years ago. She has competed on every level and has 1st place victories in all levels including 1st Place at the International Karate Championships as a Light Weight Black Belt. She also competed and was on the first place Women’s Black Belt Team at the 2012 International Karate Championships held in Long Beach, Ca.

Barbara White is a Registered Nurse and graduated from Washington State with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She has been actively involved in promoting an event every year for Royal Family Kids, an organization that provides a weeklong camp for abused and neglected children. Not only is she involved in making this annual event happen, but she has been a camp nurse since 2006.

Barbara and her husband, Bob White, own and operate a karate school in Costa Mesa, Ca. Bob White Karate Studio has a great history of service to our community and Barbara is a driving force in maintaining the very highest of standards at the school. Barbara, who is currently a 4th Degree Black Belt, is an active instructor and mentor to many of the students at the school. Recently, three of her students achieved the rank of Black Belt. Her hard work ethic and passion for the art have made her a tremendous mentor and role model for many.

The team of Bob and Barbara White, have taught seminars all over the United States, South America, and Europe. The opportunity to share their knowledge, be in service to Kenpo, and to make new friends, has been something that they consider a true blessing. Barbara assists her husband, Bob, on various aspects of Kenpo, working with men, women, and children.

Barbara has created an extensive Children’s Character curriculum, which is implemented in the children’s group classes. As a result, children are exposed to important principles, such as Leadership, Integrity, Responsibility, and Service, just to name a few.

Barbara White is also a Certified Level 1 Instructor in CrossFit, which is an elite fitness program that uses modern and up to date training methods to facilitate peak performance. She utilizes the concepts and principles from CrossFit to enhance her own fitness classes on a regular basis.

Barbara has created a Women’s Self Defense program that has helped women around the world in becoming better educated and empowered through the realization that they can hit effectively and defend themselves. This PowerPoint presentation has been shared with many and has received tremendous response.

Barbara is a Christian and endeavors to personify the Christian walk through her personal life and in the atmosphere at the studio. She desires to be in service to others and is impactful to many.  She has earned the respect of men, women, and children with whom she has worked.


How long have you been in Kenpo? Why did you begin?

I have been a student of Ed Parker’s American Kenpo Karate since 1991. Prior to that, I studied in a Japanese system, earning a Yellow belt, before moving into Kenpo.

What is your driving force to continue to grow in Martial arts?

I have a desire to improve and educate myself in my art.  I also have the opportunity, because of Kenpo, to be in service to others, by way of teaching classes, private students, my self-defense seminars, and assisting my husband in classes that he teaches. For this, I feel grateful and therefore strive even harder to be the best that I can be. I cannot afford not to continually learn and explore the unlimited elements of Kenpo.

What types of double standards have you experienced or seen in the world of Kenpo in terms of gender?

I believe that on the whole, men are given more recognition in martial arts than women. Part of the reason could be because martial arts has been primarily male dominated.  While I am aware of the double standards, I choose not to dwell on them. I’d rather spend my time and efforts on being the best that I can be, rather than being consumed by the negative. I am serious about my work ethic and training, and would like to believe that I have gained the respect of both men and women in martial arts.

Andree, I would like to publicly acknowledge you for what you are doing for kenpo, and for women in kenpo. I know that this project that has become your thesis, truly gives back to the art. Because of you, women in kenpo around the world will have the opportunity to have a voice. Thank you for your tremendous gift to kenpo.

What is some advice you’d give to girls and women starting out in martial arts?

Believe in yourself and do not give up on your desires. Work on the bags with kicks and upper body strikes so that you can experience the power you are capable of creating.

If you are reading this and are having difficulty believing in yourself, I encourage you to write down the areas you feel you need to improve upon, whether it be physical, spiritual, or mental, and then find a woman, in whom you look up to, and ask her to mentor you. You will gain not only a role model, but a friend.

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?

Techniques with partners involve control, not pulling strikes nor losing control. I believe that this is the way to perform your karate, whether you are man or a woman, and whether your partner is a man or a woman.

How did you become involved in martial arts?

I have always been interested in martial arts, and remember as a child, watching Kung Fu with David Carradine in the 60’s, as well as various martial arts movies.

It was not until I became an adult, finished college, had children, and was set in my career, that I began my study in martial arts. God has perfect timing and I feel that He has directed me in the decisions I have made in life.

One day as I was dropping clothes off at the dry cleaners, I noticed that a Japanese martial arts school had just opened up next door.  I enrolled on the spot. The school closed about a year later, and through a few twists and turns in the road, I began studying Kenpo. Little did I know that my impulsive decision while running errands would lead to a lifelong passion.

Did you have any role models who you admire? male or female

I wish to have my heart, mind, and actions be pleasing to God. Although I am regularly failing at this, the desire is there. So, for my spiritual role model, I can honestly say, is the Lord, Jesus Christ. He is my savior and role model, and I gain insight and wisdom through reading His word, the Bible.

Now, for the earthly role model! I gladly and proudly state that my husband is my role model. I believe that together, we have a great team. We share the same priorities in life,  and we have a desire to help people. I look up to people of character, who walk with integrity, and appear to be congruent in their walk and in their talk. He is a man of character and I am grateful to have him in my life. He certainly impacts me in many ways and I hope he can say the same about me.

There are many people I know who selflessly give of themselves, and they have gained my utmost respect over the years.

What are some of the obstacles you had to overcome related to being a woman in a male dominated art?

I feel that my obstacles have been pretty much self-induced, have covered emotions ranging from doubt to fear, and have covered a vast array of subjects. I have a very active internal dialogue at times, and have had to overcome (and still do) negative self-talk.  I think that most of us find that at different times in our life journey, we experience a myriad of emotions, which can serve to either make us, or break us.

At our school, we have many women and girls who are dedicated to Kenpo, and I have not encountered a lack of respect, nor heard negativity about double standards from any of the women at our studio.  During regular curriculum and sparring classes, instructors give equal time and support to all students, regardless of gender. As a result, I hope that our school is “obstacle friendly”.

Did you feel you had to compensate for “less” physical strength?

I realize that men are physically stronger than women. Whatever less physical strength I may have than a man, who is bigger and weighs more, I have compensated for by training even harder and with passion. I believe that pound for pound I am very strong and do not, in any way, feel “less-than”.

Did you feel you had to compensate for being part of the “fairer” sex…men thinking you weren’t mentally strong enough.

I don’t believe in the notion of the “fairer” sex and lack of mental strength.  I have a great respect for women, not just because I am one, but because women have had to work twice as hard over the course of the centuries to receive close to equal what men receive. This includes respect, recognition, equal pay (which still isn’t equal), etc. As a result, women have had to be tougher and more resilient, in order to survive.  It’s doubtful that the notion of the “fairer sex” was a term a woman came up with.

What advantages do you think being a woman gives you as  it relates to martial arts?

This is a good question because some men may believe that women are defenseless and therefore easy prey for victimization, whether it be verbal bullying, robbing, raping, or physical abuse. Should these monsters make the mistake to prey upon a woman who has been involved in martial arts, self defense classes, etc, and who has made the decision that she will do whatever is necessary to defend herself, I pray that he would regret it. I believe that all women owe it to themselves and their daughters to invest in a self defense class or a martial arts program geared toward self defense.  As mothers, we owe it to our children to take the best care of ourselves as possible, and this includes staying in shape and developing the mind set of a martial artist.

Are there things you would have done differently?

I do not look back with regret, because my journey has led me to where I am now.  I am very happily married to a man whom I respect, who is my friend and partner in life. My journey brought him to me and me to him.

Have you experience sexual harassment in the martial arts?

I have been fortunate enough not to have experienced this on a personal basis.  To women out there who have experienced harassment, double standards, or are not taken seriously at your particular school, I urge you to look around for another one which will respect and support you and your endeavors.

How has karate changed to when you started? Have you seen attitudes change towards women? Or is it generally the same?

I have been involved for a little over 21 years at this point, and I am seeing more and more women involved in martial arts. This is a positive thing, as we need more women and leaders in our art. Also, with our studio’s involvement in Royal Family Kids, I am seeing more desire from schools all over, to want to be involved in charity work.

I truly believe in RFK because it helps the most defenseless population of our society. The Kenpo Creed states, that, “if I should be forced to defend myself, my principles, or my honor, should it be a matter of life or death, right or wrong, etc.”  Child abuse is wrong, and we, as martial artists, need to take a stand against things that are evil. If we are truly serious as martial artists, then we must be active on all levels of our art.