Mary Stevens

A good martial artist is a good learner in all different environments.

Mary Stevens

A practical martial artist teaching self-protection, a club owner, a writer, and a charity worker, Mary Stevens wears many hats. She espouses a clear delineation between martial arts and self-protection as taught today.

Mary Stevens was born on 1 November 1971 in East Cowes, the Isle of Wight. She was the second of three girls. Her father was a doctor and her mother a practice nurse.

Growing up Stevens attended Ryde School. She was an avid reader who had started reading at an early age.

When Stevens was 7 years old she had wanted to practice Karate, but her mother believed Karate was an activity mainly for boys. As a young girl, she was enrolled in ballet classes.

A good student, by 1994 Stevens had graduated from Oxford University where she had studied Modern History. She eventually became a history teacher. She continued in this role until the birth of the first of her two children.

In 2002 Stevens began learning Wado-Ryu Karate at the age of 31. She had always wanted to learn martial arts. However, she has started taking classes because her four-year-old son who was slightly autistic was being bullied at school.

Stevens had been looking for a martial arts club with a holistic approach to training, and the Wado-Ryu school she found ticked all the boxes. Her daughter also started training and continues to this day.

While her children were still young Stevens had decided to return to her studies. She enrolled at Oxford Brookes University to study a part-time MA in English Literature.

In 2013 Stevens returned to teaching. She taught English at Larkmead School, a secondary school in Abingdon. She continued in this role for a number of years.

Stevens continued her love of Karate. She established the Athena School of Karate, where she taught a Wado-Ryu syllabus.

In 2017 Stevens began working for Fairfight, a Dutch nonprofit organisation. The organisation based in Rotterdam had been established in 2015. The aim of the organisation was to empower women and girls through the practice of martial arts and give them life skills to build confidence and avoid abusive situations. The organisation had originally started working with women in Zimbabwe.

Stevens travelled to Varanasi, India in 2017 on behalf of Firefight. Many of the women she met encountered were from challenging backgrounds and abusive situations. Many of them were the victims of misogyny, rape, and acid attacks. She had the opportunity to meet and train many women and girls.

On 6 June 2019, writing under the name M. C. Stevens, Stevens’ first book, “Warrior Monkeys and the Volcano Adventure” was published. It was a book for young adults, about the adventures of Suki and Bekko, who are training to be Warrior Monkeys. The aim of the book was to entertain and educate children about martial arts traditions.

Stevens’ second book, “Warrior Monkeys and the Deadly Trap” was published on 7 November 2019. Her third book in the series was published on 5 November 2020. It was titled “Warrior Monkeys – Rescue Quest“.

On 1 May 2022, Stevens was graded to 4th Dan by Iain Abernethy.

Stevens is an advocate for the correct teaching of self-protection. She espouses a clear delineation between martial arts and self-protection as taught today. She feels that some of the methods taught can lead to a false sense of security and in fact put people into more dangerous situations. She has trained with Jaime Clubb and Iain Abernethy who are both expert exponents of the practical martial arts movement.

Stevens also runs Team Personal Security Oxfordshire (TPSO) with Chris Webb. Together they go into schools where they teach children suitable safety habits to avoid violence and abuse, both as victims and perpetrators.

Although Mary Stevens has had several different jobs through the years, it is as a Karate instructor that she is most passionate about. She is one of the few female instructors who owns and operates her own dojo. She also continues to remain an advocate for the Indian women of Varanasi in their fight against misogyny and violence.

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