• Shihan Kendall

Mighty Voices, Indeed

“Listen to your own voice, your own soul.

Too many people listen to the noise of the world,

Instead of themselves.” -Leon Brown

One of the greatest sources of pride at our Dojo at this moment is something I can honestly claim to have had absolutely nothing to do with.

It was just over a year ago that Sensei Jenna Poulin approached me to pitch an idea that had her very excited. It was a workshop for Dojo girls to get together to, in her words, “develop self-confidence in these girls as well as teach them how to be natural leaders in both the dojo and in their outside communities.” I was impressed by both her well thought-out plan and her obvious passion for the subject. And I knew Jenna was capable of accomplishing anything she aimed for, no matter how ambitious. This is a woman who had been training at the Dojo since her pre-teen years, and months from getting her Bachelor’s in education. In the intervening decade, she had soared through four (FOUR!) Black Belt tests and proven herself to be a talented teacher and powerful role model for our Dojo’s young people. She didn’t even blink at my one condition: that this endeavor require no involvement from me. In fact—although she didn’t say as much—I’m sure she preferred it that way.

The “Find Your Voice” seminars, and subsequent events these girls put on for other young women in the community, were a huge success—a source of fun, pride and empowerment for all involved. So at the end of the year, when Jenna suggested a yet more ambitious plan, I didn’t even have to think.

The idea: a literary magazine in which senior-ranking girls in our Dojo could express themselves through writing, art and photography. Tuesday evening s this group would convene in a buzzing hive of activity that I only glimpsed occasionally, and from a distance. Given the excitement emanating from said hive, and the people involved, I should have known something amazing would be emerging from it. And yet, I was rendered speechless and damn near close to tears when I finally saw it.

The first issue of “Mighty Voices Speak” came out this month, and it is as wonderful and unique as the group of young women behind it.

Now, I don’t think you’ll find a single boy in this Dojo that needs a lesson in equality of the sexes. The girls they share the mat with are a daily reminder that there’s no gender gap when it comes to strength and toughness and ferocity of spirit. And that makes me proud, too. And hopeful. And grateful. As the father of a young woman just starting to make her own way in the world, I’m very happy to see the norms that my generation grew up with – income inequality and sexual harassment -- die off right down to their roots. And who knows? Maybe someday a group of young women getting together to share their talents, and through that gain a new sense of empowerment and confidence, might not seem quite as breathtakingly special. But what Sensei Jenna and these young women have done here is indeed something special, and my breath is indeed taken away.


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