Sensei Amelia Jones
NWMAF Wonder Women: Our Origin Stories in Our Own Words
This month, we’re spotlighting Sensei Amelia Jones of Watanabe Dojo in White Plains, New York. Sensei Jones received the Hall of Fame Award (30+ years) from AWMAI in 2016.
It was a warm evening in Durham, North Carolina, in 1983. I was a young mother, recently transplanted from New York, making the adjustments to living as a Black woman in the South. I attended a film showing at the YWCA of “Kiai!” The images of Brooklyn Women’s Martial Arts—in their black gis, ready and able to defend themselves—changed my life forever. Shortly thereafter I took my first step on the path that has become a lifelong journey.
After joining the NWMAF [in 1982], I attended my first Special Training at Edinboro University. More than a little apprehensive at my first foray into the wider martial arts world, I found myself in the company of the most awesome women. Meeting Annie Ellman, Nadia Telsey, and their students from BWMA was a peak experience.
Each subsequent camp felt like a trip to the battery charger, a transfusion of energy to nourish me throughout the year. In a class led by Maureen Brown I was introduced to the healing aspect of the martial arts, which subsequently changed my career path. While traveling in Africa, I had the good fortune to train in Tae Kwon Do with Master Cho Bong Nam, a trainer of Muammar Qaddafi’s female bodyguards. Wherever I found myself in the world, the martial arts sustained me.
Fast forward to the present day. More than thirty-five years have passed. I’ve spent more than half of my life practicing the martial arts. This practice guided me to contributions beyond imagination. Serving as a role model for my family and the community, I taught self-defense in camps and in schools. Aspiring to a leadership role in the NWMAF, I have served as a health care provider, instructor, and board member. In pursuit of the healing aspects of the martial arts, I earned a degree in Oriental medicine and am able to offer its benefits to underserved populations. As the highest ranking female student of Sensei Katsuo Watanabe, 8th dan Judo and 7th dan Aikido, I fulfill a leadership role in my home dojo. In the time of the pandemic, I and my partner have facilitated moving our aikido class into the virtual realm. I continue to develop the spiritual attributes of my martial arts practice in counseling my patients, friends, and loved ones.
In retrospect, the benefits of a life spent in the martial arts have been myriad. Perhaps the most valuable has been the knowledge of self-worth. The ability to persevere, roll with the punches, get up, and keep going after falling down. To know that with hard work over time you can transform yourself, again and again. And all along the way you will encounter the most amazing human beings, bringing you the most extraordinary lessons.