In 2001, the National Women’s Martial Arts Federation created a special award to honor long time member and pioneer in women’s martial arts, Sigung Coleen Gragen. Recognizing her unwavering spirit and strength in the face of her cancer diagnosis, we created the Inspirational Award to honor our remarkable sister. As a lasting tribute to the late Professor Gragen, the Board of Directors renamed the award, The Coleen Gragen Award of Inspiration.
Karen returned to her practice with new intention and focus, and continued to nurture the relationships she found at Mejishi and the larger martial arts community, including the NWMAF. In 1998, Karen was elected to the Board of Directors and served as our treasurer from 1999 to 2001. She came on board with goals and a mission, and showed us how to move forward with intention and purpose. Karen brought vision and insight to her role on the Board, and she demonstrated exceptional ability to establish an action plan. Her teamwork inspired us and made each of us stronger in our individual roles.
Upon release from the hospital, Karen continued to progress at home with close supervision and support. Though Karen saw small signs of progress, family and friends were immensely grateful for each new sign that “Karen was returning”. We did not know what the final outcome would be, but Karen was alive and breathing among us. It was hard to ask for more.
In an evaluation by a physical therapist, Karen was found to be strong as an ox and in excellent physical condition. Encouraged by the therapist to return to her martial arts practice as soon as possible, Karen began private lessons with Sensei Spiro almost immediately. Despite the fact that she could not mentally recall her kata patterns, Karen found her body memory quite encouraging. One move flowed into another, concentration and memory improved, and with intention and support, Karen once again began the long journey home. Today, she has returned to full health, her job, and her training.
What those of us close to Karen witnessed was nothing short of a miracle. Through unwavering support from her vast network, Karen rose up and pushed through to find herself in a new place, a new life, a blessed life to live.
To Karen, with admiration and love.
Written by Jenny Sinanan, July 11, 2003