Sensei Rochelle Friedman

Sensei Rochelle Friedman is a 3rd 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 her heart good to share with others how to overcome obstacles. Rochelle is 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.  On November 20, 2010 she received her black belt in both Shuri‐ryu Okinawan Karate and Filipino Modern Arnis, and  is now a 2nd degree black belt in Arnis. 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 daughters and shih tzu dog.

Sensei Deb Friedman


Sensei 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. 

Sifu Dorian Gregory


Sifu/ Gura Dorian Gregory 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, including solo work and partner exercises, all designed to deepen comfort and improve skillful response. 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

Sensei/ Gura 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 3rd 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, Movement Science at Westfield State College, and received an M.Ed in Adventure Education. 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. 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
 Sensei Jillian Hanson, 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 21 years, her training continues to challenge her on a variety of different levels ‐ physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. As a teacher, she enjoys sharing insight and growing with her students. Jillian is a professional coach, consultant and writing group leader with Blue Sky Black Sheep (www.blueskyblacksheep.com). She also loves to run, hike, meditate, and hang out with her daughter who is also a martial artist

                                                                                                      Sensei Erinn Ervin

 Sensei Erinn Ervin has worked as carpenter and cook, and teaches high school students through a specialized program. She is a 2nd degree Black Belt in Shuri Ryu Karate, and got her 1st degree Black Belt in 2008 for her 50th birthday. 

Founder & director of Lotus Peace Arts, Janet has been a poet and movement artist for 40+ years. She enjoys sharing integrative arts and healing work locally, nationally, and internationally. In the spirit of collaborative cultural exchange and community peace-building, she practices, teaches and performs Shuri-ryu Okinawan Karate, Filipino Modern Arnis, Jian Mei Tai Chi & Qigong, Empowerment Self-Protection, Poetry, and Interpretive Dance. Poet laureate emeritus of Northampton, MA, Janet has performed and taught at many conferences and festivals, and her writing has been widely published in journals, anthologies, and online sites. Her 2 full-length books & several chapbooks of poems include Bird of a Thousand Eyes; Reach; Red; Full Open; Of Angels and Survivors; Against the Odds. She is the recipient of a BA in Women's Studies from UMass and an MFA in Poetry from Sarah Lawrence College. Janet is a founding member of VWMA and the National Women's Martial Arts Federation (NWMAF). Recognition for her work includes the NWMAF Founders Award, the Center for Women and Community Leadership and Advocacy Award, the IMAF Arnis Black Belt Hall of Fame Pioneer Award. For more information about LPA programs: #413-320-3248 or jeaalfs7@gmail.com.

                                                                                                                                       Sensei Pamela Westgate


Sensei Pamela Westgate has been a member of VWMA/LPA since 1992. She holds a 4th  degree Black Belt in Shuri Ryu Karate and loves partner work, kata, teaching, practicing with other women martial artists, and helping to guide and empower girls. 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. 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. She uses her Power Girls skills of confidence, integrity, and seeking abundance daily in her new job (2017) as a high school history teacher. Since flying the nest of western Massachusetts, she has lived in Ohio, Washington DC, Michigan, and now Baltimore, Maryland. She has taught empowerment-based self defense classes for women and girls in most of those places, and even a couple more! She is forever indebted to the everyday warriors and mentors she trained with at VWMA, and tries to live her life by passing on those gifts of radical vulnerability, building community, unapologetic demands for justice for all people, and commitment to loving kindness.

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

Cultivating joy and dynamism through movement, Sally has trained and taught continuously since 1987. She holds a 5th degree Black Belt in Shuri-Ryu Karate, a 4th degree Black Belt in Modern Arnis, and Empowerment Self Defense Instructor certification. She has practiced meditation since 1999, with a particular love for Metta (Theraveda tradition). Sally served four years as Chair of the National Women’s Martial Arts Federation, dedicated to the principle of training hard to build strength for collaboration and confronting oppression in all its forms. By day, Sally works to provide empowering programs to people returning to their home communities after incarceration and holds licenses in clinical social work and addictions counseling. Currently, she is pursuing her doctoral degree in Education and writing her dissertation on Teaching and Learning, with emphasis on justice-involved adults. Sally often gratefully sports a Survivor Pink Ribbon, encouraging all to live healthy, get regular cancer screenings, and treasure each day.

 

Sifu Judy Rzegocki


Judy has been a registered nurse since 1970. She began practicing Tai Chi and Qigong in 2009. She knew after her first class that her connection with this practice was very deep and that she would continue learning and sharing these arts for the rest of her life. 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.