The more than 50 nominations for Shihan
Darlene DeFour to receive the NWMAF Award of Excellence reflected several themes: leadership, excellence, and caring in martial arts skills and teaching, empowering women, social justice, integrity, scholarship, loyalty, insight, genius, dedication, contributions to her communities, inspiration, welcoming, and so many more. Both her martial arts as well as her academic achievements were noted over and over, especially how she deploys her scholarship to the betterment of our martial arts world. In her over three decades of training, she has achieved an amazingly high skill level, and in turn shares with and inspires those around her.
Shihan DeFour, a native of Harlem, New York, graduated from Fisk University
and received her doctorate from University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign. She is an
associate professor of psychology at Hunter College of the City University of
New York, where her research has explored the various ways that violence in the
forms of racism and sexism, as well as physical violence, impacts health and
everyday life experiences.
DeFour has been training in the martial arts for over 30 years and has been
inducted into the AWMAI Hall of Fame.
She is the first and only woman in the San Yama Bushi Ryu Ju–jutsu system
to hold the rank of 9th degree black belt. She also holds a 6th degree black belt in
Kushinda Ryu Shotokan karate. She is the chief
ju-jutsu instructor at the Harlem School of Ju-jutsu and Self Defense.
DeFour co-founded (with Lauren Wheeler) the NWMAF Anti-Racism Council in 2008. In 2010 and 2011, she introduced the
topic of Applied Microaggressions Defense at the Self Defense Instructors’
Conference, designed to address subtle forms of racism that permeate all aspect
of society. She instructed this
topic again in 2012 and 2015, and has helpd to establish anti-oppression
training as a core competency for self-defense teachers and other professionals
committed to social justice. Her dedication and strengths have propelled NWMAF towards a more open, honest, and inclusive organization.