Valley Women's Martial Arts

1977 - 2017

& Lotus Peace Arts

                                                                                                                     Sensei Rochelle Friedman


Rochelle Sensei is a second degree Black Belt who is passionate about martial arts training because it gives us an opportunity to move, have fun, connect with others, stay healthy, and honor tradition. An accomplished choral singer, weaver and storyteller, she loves stories of the ancient ones. She lights up when she talks about teaching, noting that it allows her to review, relive, and reinforce skills. “It does my heart good to share with others how to overcome obstacles.” Rochelle is a Nurse who loves being there for the kids in her work. Training is a Friedman family affair, as she is joined at VWMA & LPA by husband Harvey and daughter Tera.

                                                                                                                                Makani Freitas

Makani has been studying various styles of healing movement and martial arts for 25+ years. He has taught adult and youth martial arts, self-protection, and empowerment skills and holds a first degree black belt in Shuri-ryu Okinawan Karate. Makani received certification in Jian Mei Internal Arts from Shinshii Janet Aalfs. He offers classes in Tai Chi and Qigong as meditative movement at a variety of venues; he co-taught for several years with one of his teachers at Kripalu. Over a decade ago he added yoga to his practice. Makani also gives beginner salsa lessons.

Sensei/ Gura Meg Brown


Sensei / Gura Meg Brown started her martial arts career in 2001. She had brought her daughter to class at VWMA because she had difficulty speaking clearly and she didn't want her to be teased at school. The instructors invited her to join in and Meg had so much fun that she's here to stay. Women have a lot of different roles in their lives, Mom, wife, career work, volunteer, but at the dojo, Meg can be 100% Meg. She has disciplined herself to grow at a consistent rate through small bits of learning and dedicated practice. She received her black belt in Shuri-ryu Okinawan Karate and also Filipino Modern Arnis November 20, 2010. Meg's favorite thing about training is that she can keep on learning, and her favorite thing about teaching is her ability to simplify techniques and relay them to her students. Meg is a nationally certified dental assistant. She also volunteers her time teaching people how to get out of debt financially – believe it or not, in a fun and exciting way. She plays golf with her patient husband, and they make their home with their two martial arts children and shih tzu dog.

Sensei Deb Friedman

Deb Friedman is a 3rd degree black belt in Shuri-ryu karate. She earned her first black belt in 1993 and later earned black belts in both Modern Arnis and Tae kwon do. Her main passion is helping women and girls of all ages gain confidence and self-protection skills. Now in her 60s, she also enjoys assisting with Power Girls classes. She especially appreciates the wonderful caring, committed, and supportive community at VWMA & LPA. When not at the dojo, she is likely to be out enjoying the beautiful countryside with Women Outdoors, playing guitar, or practicing herbal medicine. (Deb also lives part time in Takoma Park, MD.)

Sifu Dorian Gregory


Dorian practices and teaches the Yang Style Full Traditional Curriculum with a strong focus on core principles, form and partner work and the thirteen powers/postures. A member of VWMA & LPA since 1989, Dorian has a master's degree in philosophy, her CPA, and advanced degree black belts in Shuri-ryu Karate and Modern Arnis. Dorian is also a certified self-defense instructor through the National Women's Martial Arts Federation. Whatever style of martial arts you practice, her goal is to share some of the principles and wonders of the martial arts. Dorian is also at her Tai Chi studio in Florence, where she offers ongoing Tai Chi classes, regular seminars and is available for private lessons.
For more information visit www.taichidorian.com.

                                                                                                                                                   Sensei/ Gura Janis Totty


Janis Totty began training in martial arts in 1983. She holds a 6th degree black belt in Shuri-ryu Okinawan karate from Sensei Beth Holt, and a 2nd degree black belt in Filipino Modern Arnis from the late Grandmaster Remy A. Presas. She studied Theatre at Smith College as an Ada Comstock Scholar, and Movement Science at Westfield State College. She has a background in the non-profit sector as a violence prevention educator and has taught self-protection skills to women, teens and children in settings throughout Western Massachusetts. She has taught at both national and international women’s martial arts conferences. She is currently the physical education teacher at Jackson Street Elementary School in Northampton, MA, and has an M.Ed in Adventure Education. She received the Grinspoon Excellence in Teaching Award in 2012. Her interests include adventure and play based curriculums; peace practice and integrative martial arts with children; poetry, memoir and essay; Irish culture; and silent practice as witness and discipline.

                                                                                                                                      Sensei Jillian Hanson

Jillian, who now lives in Maine, began training at VWMA in 1997 (with her one year old daughter in tow) and was promoted to Shodan (1st degree black belt) in May of 2007 and her Ni Dan (2nd degree) in June 2011. Jillian loves that, even after many years, her training continues to challenge her on a variety of different levels physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. As a teacher, she loves sharing insight and growing with her students. Jillian is a professional life coach specializing in creativity and wellness coaching for transformational
change. She also loves to run, hike, meditate, write and hang out with her family. You can read more about her coaching practice at www.jilliankhanson.com

                                                                                                      Sensei Erinn Ervin

 Erinn Ervin was a carpenter and cook for 25 years. She is now a high school math teacher for youth at risk in Western Massachusetts. She has been training in Shuri-ryu Karate and Jian Mei Internal Arts, and got her black belt for her 50th birthday. She is now a 2nd degree Black Belt.

                                                                                                                                       Sensei Pamela Westgate

Pamela Westgate has been a member of the VWMA since 1992. She holds a 3rd degree Black Belt in Shuri-ryu Karate and loves teaching, partner work and kata. A scientist with advanced degrees in Biology and Engineering, and a mountain biker, she is fascinated with the physics and mechanics of power and flow. Pam is busy with a career as an environmental engineer and raising two daughters, but makes the time to be involved with this vibrant and supportive community of women and girl martial artists. She is interested in helping other busy Mom’s discover sustaining, fun, manageable ways to make martial arts part of their lives.

                                                                                                                                            Sensei Lena Cohen Amick


Lena Cohen Amick received her Shuri-ryu Black Belt in 2009 at the age of 18, the youngest at that point in the history of the Dojo. She earned her bachelor’s degree at Oberlin College and resides in Washington, DC. Most recently she has worked as a Bilingual Parent Organizeroat Teaching for Change. She grew up in western Massachusetts as part of VWMA where she learned, “I Am Somebody!”
Through labor organizing, immigration advocacy, mental health support, and conflict mediation, Lena fights for that same quality of dignity and justice for people of every class,race, gender, and sexuality. She teaches self-protection classes for women and girls, and she believes no one is free until everyone is free. Lena loves writing, drawing, and building communities centered around pizza. She probably wants to join your book club. Lena will be heading to Michigan to attend graduate school in 2016.

Harvey Friedman

Harvey Friedman has been practicing various forms of Tai Chi for almost 40 years. He studied Yang style with Paul Gallagher, and currently does Wu style and Qigong with Shinshii Janet Aalfs. He is a certified Jian Mei Internal Arts Instructor. Harvey has worked for many years as a Special Education teacher at Cutchins Program, and uses the principles of Tai Chi in his teaching. He assisted in "Karate Peacemakers," a VWMA movement arts program for children and families that teaches healing, confidence building, and safety strategies. Harvey finds that using his movement mind continues to help him both physically and emotionally.

Sensei/ Gura Sally Johnson Van Wright

A 5th degree Black Belt in Shuri-ryu Karate, 3rd degree Black Belt in Modern Arnis, and Certified Self Defense Instructor, Sally has trained and taught consistently since 1987 with an enduring goal of cultivating joy and power in movement. She is also a former Chair and leader within the National Women’s Martial Arts Federation, and co-chair of the Anti-Racism Council. Sally loves strong, creative movement and pursuit of enlightenment. She has practiced and trained for more than two decades in Buddhist meditation and maintains a daily Yin Yoga practice. At her full time job, she is a social worker helping to provide empowering programs to people returning from incarceration to their home communities. Sally holds licenses in clinical social work and addictions counseling. She often gratefully sports a Pink Survivor ribbon, and encourages everyone to prioritize their health and get regular cancer screenings.

 

Judy Rzegocki


Judy has been a registered nurse for 44 years. She began practicing Tai Chi and Qigong 5 years ago. “I knew after my first class my connection with this practice was very deep and I would do this the rest of my life and want to share it.” Judy retired in 2013 from nursing and became a VWMA & LPA Jian Mei Internal Martial Arts certified instructor. She is focusing on the senior population and now teaches at a local senior center and assisted living facility. A Reiki Master and avid gardener, Judy has always had a deep connection to Mother Earth. She volunteers at the New England Peace Pagoda and enjoys making and donating, with help from friends and family, 1000 origami cranes yearly to be handed out in the name of Peace.