It’s around this time the warnings usually go out -“ walk in pairs, watch out for homophobic violence. Sadly, the biggest celebration in gay and lesbian Sydney is always accompanied by a rise in gay bashings.

Together with the Anti-Violence Project, Penny Gulliver from the Gay and Lesbian Martial Arts group (GLMA) has educated hundreds of people in avoiding violence -“ and how to defend themselves in an attack.

This year’s free workshops will be held next weekend to coincide with the Mardi Gras sports festival. A men’s class will run on Saturday 8 February and a women’s class on Sunday 9 February. Both classes will cover the following topics: recognising and avoiding potentially violent situations; basic strikes; using balance and bodyweight in self-defence; ground strategies; and anti-weapon tactics.

Penny is a high-profile martial arts instructor and is paid by corporations to teach at-risk staff how to defend themselves. The work she does with GLMA is a donation to the gay and lesbian community, she says.

I usually ask for lots of money, but I do GLMA as a community service. I’m not selling my body to the community -“ I’m giving it away, she says.

The Mardi Gras festival workshops are a good way for people who might be considering taking up martial arts as a sport to try out the club. Penny says there is usually a group at the end of the workshops who want to continue, and they benefit from having other people starting at the same time as them.

GLMA runs three evening classes and one on Saturday morning. One of the classes is women-only -“ mostly lesbians, although all women are welcome.

The group is also planning a small tournament on Saturday 15 February to coincide with the Mardi Gras festival. They are inviting all interested martial artists in the gay and lesbian community to compete.

Members of GLMA compete in mainstream martial arts tournaments, as well as hosting their own. They always do well -“ at the Gay Games the 12 GLMA team members won 13 medals -“ and they average about the same winnings at mainstream events.

We’ve got a strong profile in the mainstream martial arts community. We usually average one trophy per person. They’re the ugliest trophies -“ later in the year we’re going to have an ugly trophy competition, she says.

But when you win your first one it’s really thrilling.


The Mardi Gras sports festival free self-defence workshop for men will run from 1pm to 5:30pm on Saturday 8 February. The women’s workshop will run from 1pm to 5:30pm on Sunday 9 February. Both workshops will be held at the Pride Centre, Hutchinson St, Surry Hills. Mixed kung fu/kickboxing classes are held at the centre on Tuesdays 6:30pm-7:30pm, Thursdays 7pm-9pm and Saturdays 11am-1pm. A women-only class runs from 6pm to 7pm on Thursdays. To register for the workshops or get more information about GLMA, call 0411 808 451.

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