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.