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Sensei/Sifu Barbara Feldman

2013 Recipient: Coleen Gragen Award of Inspiration

Barbara Feldman always said that martial arts informed her life, centered her body and spirit, and opened her to a deeper understanding of herself, other people, and the world. Creativity, self-discipline, hard work, love of body movement, mind-body connection, health, and joy are the qualities she found and cherished in more than 30 years of training in martial arts. But she also acknowledged learning from frustration, laziness, anger, exhaustion, sadness, childishness, and grief as well.

This holistic view of the world enhanced Barbara’s generous spirit, and made her a passionate, compassionate, inspired, inspirational, and highly effective teacher as well as being a constant student.  Barbara knew there is always more to learn and to share, and believed that we should strive to exceed the arbitrary limits that anyone – whether someone else or ourselves – place on us.  This is the motivation she gave her students as well. The theme she and her co-host Wendy Lathrop chose for the 2000 Special Training camp reflected both challenge and growth: Pushing through our limits.  The theme of the second camp they planned to co-host in 2013 carried on the vision of the constant evolution in our lives: Opening to possibilities, Finding our paths.

But in the autumn of 2012, Barbara was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, which took her life just months later on January 10, 2013. At that time she held a fifth degree black belt in Ai Mute Shotokan karate and a first degree black belt in Tozan Ryu.  She combined and balanced those external arts with internal training, studying Yang style T’ai Chi Chuan, chi kung and Ba Gua as well.

Barbara was a lifetime member of the NWMAF, a former Board member and chair of its Awards committee until the year she became ill, and constant volunteer and cheerleader for our organization.  She owned and was head instructor at Blue Heron Martial and Healing Arts in West Virginia, where she taught family and adult karate classes, T’ai Chi Chuan, and chi kung.  She also taught chi kung at a cancer clinic.  Rounding out her life were her passions as a writer, gardener, parent, and grandmother.