national Women's
Martial Arts Federation

Member Spotlight

Robynn Murray


NWMAF Wonder Women: 

Our Origin Stories in Our Own Words

This month we feature Robynn Murray, a former army officer who trains Krav Maga, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and Arnis and teaches self-defense at SPAR Self-Defense in Buffalo. The following is a personal essay about the impact of martial arts in her life and her passion for self-defense.


“I am never proud to participate in violence, yet I know that each of us must care enough for ourselves that we can be ready and able to come to our own defense when and wherever needed.”

—Maya Angelou, Letter to My Daughter


I decided to continue my martial arts journey as an adult at the age of 33. I needed to find myself again and remember what it felt like to be empowered. 

I struggle with PTSD from trauma both in my personal life and my former military service. It had become so overwhelming at one point that I had to be hospitalized several times. I was overwhelmed by anxiety to the point of agoraphobia. It’s taken me a lot of time and energy to be well again. Training martial arts has been such an empowering and important part of my healing process. 

At first glance I look like the picture of girl power. I was a public speaker and subject of the documentary Poster Girl. I’m a former US Army sergeant and 240 gunner. In addition to Krav Maga, I train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Arnis. I’m a mother to a wonderful 7-year-old Jiu-Jiteira. For fun I taught myself how to throw hatchets and knives. I know, it sounds like I’m trying to be an assassin. Maybe I’m just overcompensating. A lot of people would see me on the surface now and think, “She’s a bada$$.” My motivation to be strong comes from not wanting to be weak again. I know what it feels like to be a victim. I am a survivor: MST (Military Sexual Trauma) and domestic abuse/assault. It still feels really weird to this day to say I survived someone trying to kill me. 

After my assault, my body was a wreck. During the meal for my thirtieth birthday, I had to explain my shoulder sling to my father. I will never forget what his girlfriend said to me after, “You don’t seem like the type of woman to let a man hit you.” As if that stupid statement has anything to do with reality. Even though I knew it wasn’t my fault, I still carried shame and regret for a long time. Nobody should ever be treated that way. 

Unfortunately, ignorant attitudes regarding violence toward women still persist. I tell my story because I want to help change that narrative. There is no one type of victim; it’s all races, classes, and personality types. Victims are not weak. 

I am so elated I found NWMAF and ESD Global. A lot of traditional Self Defense programs and fighting systems let women down. So often we’re taught to be leery of strangers when realistically we’re far more likely to face violence from people close to us. 

I’m working on finishing all the qualifications to be an ESD certified instructor and work it into my gym’s current self-defense program. I want to teach women and girls to be brave, assertive, and to take up space. To stop apologizing and putting their needs and feelings last, because just like Maya Angelou, I believe we have the right to come to our own defense. 



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