Unparalleled Martial Arts is excited to announce our first featured Unparalleled Martial Artist, Andrea Harkins, The Martial Arts Woman!
Andrea, the quintessential Martial Arts Woman, has done much to advance the practice of martial arts and pave the way for women martial arts practitioners.
Andrea writes for many prominent publications worldwide including; MASUCCESS, Martial Arts Illustrated UK, The Martial Arts Guardian UK, Martial Arts Business Australia, and The World Martial Arts Magazine. She also maintains a solid martial arts mindset of positivity and spreads her outlook through Think Positive Magazine and her blog, The Martial Arts Woman.
Andrea’s highly sought after book, The Martial Arts Woman, is a collection of inspirational stories from 25+ women in the martial arts. Her recently released book, Martial Arts Inspirations for Everyone, encourages readers to overcome, persevere, and find success.
(More information on her books can be found at the bottom of this interview.)
And now, without further ado, we present Andrea Harkins…
THE MARTIAL ARTS WOMAN!!
What style did you begin your Martial Arts Journey with? Describe your first martial arts lesson. What was running through your mind at the time?
I began with a Tang Soo Do system. I say “system” because it incorporated Tang Soo Do with Japanese and Chinese martial art techniques and skills. My first lesson was frightening. I remember sitting on the floor watching and thinking, “This is NOT for me!” People were breaking boards, practicing forms, yelling and falling all around me. It was a huge class with a lot going on. I almost quit that very first day because it was intimidating.
Who was most inspirational to you in the beginning stages of your journey? What was it about their teaching that deeply influenced your development as a martial artist and human being?
My first instructor, Soke Michael Kinney, was a fairly young man at the time and taught in community centers. He was amazing and welcoming. I trained at his school for many years and eventually taught for him. I moved and we lost touch for awhile but I saw him again a few years ago. We met for a seminar to get reacquainted. Unfortunately, he passed away not long after that, but I keep in touch with his instructors. He believed in me more than I believed in myself and always pushed me to do better than before.
What are some unique challenges that female martial artists face? How did you overcome these in your experiences?
Female martial artists face many challenges, from not being “believed” by men to be capable martial artists, to being commercialized as women with hard rock abs, to being sexualized in martial arts, and more. Through my online presence I have had to deal with sexual innuendos, advancements, and foot fetishes, to name a few of the bizarre behaviors. We are smaller than men, typically, and must use good technique in order to do well. What we lack in physical power must be made up in skill, wisdom, and good decisions.
Was there ever a period during your practice that you thought about quitting? What motivated you to continue?
I did quit for short periods of time, although just physically. Usually, it was a physical barrier or obstacle in life that made me push it aside. I always knew I would return and maintained a strong martial art mindset.
You now run a successful martial arts program with your husband. What is your training philosophy? If you had to pick three, which core values does your teaching focus on? Does your school have some type of student creed?
We teach a program at a YMCA. We use a few concepts. One, our students are part of our family and we are a part of theirs. Two, always build others/students up. Three, Motivate and inspire others to be their very best. Only the 4-6 year olds have a creed that they recite.
How are your days structured? How do you find the zen to write within the busy schedule of running a gym and blog?
The program we teach is only five classes a week. Many people do not know but I also work a full-time job, write a blog and for the local newspaper, write for several martial art magazines, and have finished my second book recently. I use my free time to pursue my writing interests. I’ve also been published in two greeting cards. I use each moment productively and have an innate desire to make a positive change in the world using the gifts and talents that I have.
Your first book, The Martial Arts Woman, delves into the stories of 25 female martial artists. Is there a particular story in this series that stands out to you?
The first chapter in the book, which is one written about my own personal experience, always stands out the most. My family and I built a “steel kit” home and in the midst were basically stranded trying to finish it ourselves. For five years we lived without electricity. I had to use a strong martial art mindset to push through. I have many favorites, and I guess it is difficult to pick one because they are all varied and important.
Every journey is unique to the individual, how would you describe yours as “Unparalleled”?
Trust me, no one has lived the martial art journey I have. For seven years my husband and I taught underprivileged kids. When their caretaker passed away, we almost adopted 2 of them, until the family came forward. Woman-wise, I am one of a few women prominent on social media who are not famous or an action star. I am one of the few women who write for martial art magazines consistently. I am one of few women who have practiced almost 30 years. There are many of these interesting milestones in my martial arts life.
Unparalleled Martial Arts recommends Andrea’s books to anyone just beginning or continuing their Martial Arts Journey.
“The Martial Arts Woman book shares the stories and insights of more than twenty-five women in the martial arts, and how they apply martial arts to their lives. Unlike most other martial art books, the reader will catch a glimpse into the brave and empowered woman who dares to be all that she can be. Many of these women had to overcome great societal or personal challenges to break into the men’s world of martial arts. This book will motivate and inspire you to go after your goals in life and to fight through every challenge and defeat every obstacle. The Martial Arts Woman book will open your eyes to the power of the human spirit and the martial art mindset that dwells in each of us.”
“Martial Art Inspirations for Everyone contains martial art reflections, anecdotes, and inspirations that relate to everyday life. It covers topics such as effort, focus, purpose, positivity, betterment, ambition, and more. You can overcome, persevere, and find success in your own life. Read Martial Art Inspirations for Everyone, and be encouraged.”
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