Meet Our Pushing for Peace Ambassadors

 

Mitch Hall
Mitch Hall

Dr. Mitch Hall has been a wellness counselor for disadvantaged, traumatized, inner-city youth and for adult patients with complex medical and psychological needs; a Peace Corps volunteer teacher in Togo, West Africa; a peace and environmental movement organizer in Europe with the Fellowship of Reconciliation; a professor, adviser to international students, academic program director, and academic dean in higher education; a French-English interpreter for African refugees; a writer, translator, and storyteller; and more. Hall is fluent in French and proficient in Spanish. Mitch studied religion at Columbia University to discover what the spiritual traditions could contribute toward reducing violence and building peace on earth. His graduate studies were in sociology at the University of Chicago (M.A.) and psychology at Saybrook University. In 2013, the Indian Board of Alternative Medicines awarded Mitch a Ph.D. (h.c.) in Alternative Medicines in recognition of his lifetime achievements in this field, including his scholarly work, publications, yoga teaching, practice of holistic healing modalities, clinical counseling work, and teaching in higher education. Mitch currently practices and teaches yoga, the Peace Games, Qigong and meditation. Mitch has been a speaker at “National Leaders in Nonviolence and the Child,” and in peace psychology symposia at annual meetings of the American Psychological Association, the 12th International Conference on Violence, Abuse, and Trauma, the San Francisco State University Season of Nonviolence Series. Mitch served with the Fellowship of Reconciliation and the Peace Corps in Europe and Africa. Mitch was academic director of a service learning program at a university, combining local community service projects with courses to prepare students for collaborative service projects in culturally diverse contexts.

Alex Bechtold
Alex Bechtold

Alex Bechtold first started training at the age of 6 under his father, Bill Bechtold, while he was under Grand Master Marilyn Cooper at Little River Kung Fu School. Fifteen years later, training under her directly, Alex became the first Peace Games Ambassador under Grandmaster Marilyn.  Alex has taught the Peace Games to students of all ages. Since graduating from college, Alex has both assisted and held his own Peace Games presentations in universities, local martial arts facilities and in rural Kenya, where he taught the Peace Games to 3,000 students. Alex regularly practices and teaches Wudang Kung Fu at Little Creek Kung Fu in Petersburg, Virginia, which he runs with his father Bill and brother Adam. Through their school they have raised thousands for charitable giving in their community in Petersburg. 

Sosha Young
Sosha Young

Sosha Lee Young grew up playing the Peace Games. She learned them in the elementary school where Grandmaster Cooper (her mother) taught for three years. She also grew up going to Little River Kung Fu School, within the School of Visual and Performing Arts. At Little River, Sosha learned the Kung Fu source material that gave rise to the Peace Games, as well as learned modern dance, drama, music, drawing and painting. Sosha graduated from SF State with a degree in history in 2013, Sosha went to Maui, HI. and taught the Peace Games and painting to children in a week-long summer camp. In 2014, Sosha created the first Harvest Benefit to raise money for the Pushing for Peace project. She created the menu online AND recruited and directed the kitchen staff. In 2016, Sosha created the digital illustrations and the text for the Peace Games training manual. Sosha created a Kung Fu-based strengthen & stretch video for YouTube. Sosha works in San Francisco as a professional copy-writer, creating concepts, writing, editing, and designing print and digital assets for clients. Sosha writes and plays her own songs.

Zochi Young
Zochi Young

Zochi Young has black belts in both Aikido and Kenpo, and practices, studies and teaches Yang style Taijiquan. Zochi has studied, practiced and taught the martial arts for over 35 years throughout Asia and the United States. He uses his arts as a transformative practice for social change. Zochi has an ongoing focus on the welfare and well-being of young people who have been cast aside by our current social paradigm. As a Pushing for Peace Ambassador, he has brought the Peace Games to two countries in Africa and taught them in after-school programs to youth in Oakland, California via Destiny Arts. Alonzo (his given name) Young began his somatic training early as a youth in dance (later becoming a professional dancer with the Clifford Fears Dance Company, and as a martial artist in Kenpo and White Crane Styles. Alonzo became a member of the Golden Fist (an international martial arts association). Zochi began Yang Taiji with T.Y. Pang in Honolulu, HI in 1978 and continues to study under him to this day. Zochi has Black Belts and instructor certifications in Aikido, Tai Chi, Kenpo and White Lotus Gung Fu. In addition to his martial arts training, he is a certified IMPACT Bay Area (personal self defense) instructor, leadership/management development trainer, as well as, a Non-Violent Communication (NVC) and Conscious Embodiment Leadership coach. Zochi lives in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he teaches his art as well as the Peace Games, specializing in self-defense for women. Zochi is working on the creation of a wellness center complex called Tenesu in both Ghana and Ethiopia.

David Wei
David Wei

David Wei became the 2nd Pushing for Peace Ambassador. David Wei (魏 资 容, Wei Zi Rong, “Wayfarer of Vast Capacity”), is a 16th generation lineage holder of Wudang Zhang San Feng Pai, and a global instructor of Wudang Daoist wellness arts and traditional Chinese acupressure massage. Under the direct guidance of Daoist priest, Master Yuan Xiu Gang, David completed over 11,000 hours of formal training at the Wudang Mountain Traditional Taoist Martial Arts Academy, China, in 2007, at which time he was accepted as a senior disciple. During those five years, David practiced internal martial arts, medical Qi Gong and meditation. While in Wudang, he also trained under Master Du Yi Jun, a highly-esteemed blind master of Tui Na medical massage. David then became a certified Wat Po therapist from Wat Po Temple in Bangkok, Thailand, building on his previous training in Tui Na, Zen Shiatsu, Acu-oil, and Lomi Lomi at the Acupressure Institute. Prior to Wudang, he trained in traditional Shaolin Gong Fu and classical Chinese brush painting with renowned Master Y.C. Chiang at Wen Wu School. David has since travelled globally, conducting workshop intensives in China, Thailand, Bali, Czech Republic, Sweden, England, Germany, Canada, Mexico, Hawaii, and across the U.S. In 2012, David founded the Wudang West Cultural Heritage Center, a 501(c)3 non-profit wellness ministry, based in Oakland, California, committed to the practice and preservation of classical Chinese healing arts. Wudang West’s classes are currently on Zoom.

Sheldon Callahan

Sheldon’s study of the Shaolin martial arts began over 20 years ago. Sheldon was trained directly from Shaolin Monks and Martial Masters in both northern and southern styles of Kung Fu, Qi Gong, Tai Chi as well as gymnastics. Sheldon was Named Exec. Dir. of the Shaolin Lohan Institute for his forward looking vision, understanding of the art and culture and many years of hard work and dedication. Sheldon now runs the Deep Root Spiritual Center, a non-profit dedicated to promoting the internal arts of meditation, Qigong and kung fu, of which The Shaolin Lohan Institute and Shaolin Life is a part. Sheldon has been a Pushing for Peace Ambassador since 2013 and is Sifu Marilyn’s Kung Fu student.

Jonath Padilla
Jonath Padilla

Jonath Padilla has a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Brain & Cognitive Sciences from MIT. Jonath has been a martial arts teacher since 1994, and a professional bodyworker since 1995. He’s the founder of “BodyFlow” or “Moving Bodywork” (http://movingbodywork.org) style of bodywork based in martial arts. Jonath has been the bodywork teacher at Spa Luna Massage School on Maui since 2004. He has functioned as the Executive Director of Pushing for Peace and was the energy behind the Maui Qi Fest for 2014 and 2015. Jonath runs the Maui Push Hands group at the Wisdom Center.

Shannon Tetteh
Shannon Tetteh

Shannon Tetteh is certified by the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in Tui  Na, Swedish massage, Deep Tissue, Thai Massage, Shiatsu, Trigger  Point  Therapy, Reflexology, and Cranial Sacral.  David  Wei has deemed Tetteh an Ordained Taoist Priest through Wudang West after  3  years  of devoted training. He has also  received training from Marilyn  Cooper  in  5  element  Hsing  I  boxing  along  with the  Peace  Games. Tetteh currently resides in Chicago where he practices acupuncture.  Tetteh is engaged in creating a local community based in wellness via the healing  arts of Wudang QiGong.

John Ford
John Ford

John Ford studied law at the University of Cape Town before moving to Namibia, where he practiced from 1988 to 1995. Initially, he focused on representing survivors of human-rights abuses. After Namibian independence in 1990, his focus shifted to labor and employment law. John moved to California in 1996 and trained as a mediator. He has since successfully mediated hundreds of workplace disputes, and has worked with numerous teams to help them deal successfully with conflict. John has provided training to thousands of employees at all levels in the workplace, across a wide range of industries. His workshops focus on the development of soft skills, such as communication, negotiation, facilitation, conflict resolution, emotional intelligence, customer service and mediation. John teaches negotiation at UC Berkeley School of Law, mediation to graduate Business and Psychology students at Golden Gate University, and organizational collaboration online through Creighton University. He is a past president of the Association for Dispute Resolution of Northern California (ADRNC), and was the managing editor of www.mediate.com from 2000 to 2011. Currently, he is a member of the Association for Conflict Resolution and the ADRNC. John is the current trainer of a two-day Mastering Workplace Mediation seminar for members of the Northern California Human Resources Association (NCHRA). He also teaches a longer version of this class through UC Berkeley Extension. It is this training and his passion to make the world a more peaceful place that inspired him to write Peace at Work: The HR Manager’s Guide to Workplace Mediation, and to found the HR Mediation Academy. John has taught the Peace Games at a conference for mediators. John is also the creator of the Empathy Set for resolving inner conflict. He mediates workplace conflicts locally and nationally, and trains others to mediate at their workplaces.

Javier Rodriguez

Javier Rodriguez was born and raised in San Antonio Texas within a no-nonsense, hardworking household. He pursued a passion for the arts from an early age and now resides in Northern California. He was a live-in disciple under Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming at YMAA Retreat Center. Javier enjoys helping others discover the innermost applications of martial arts for the holistic betterment of self. Javi (and his partner, Nona) taught the Peace Games to kindergarten and first graders with Marilyn Cooper at Winters Elementary in 2019.  Javi encourages us all to put down our dukes, look past our differences and resolve the conflict within.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8QnqCIagSSI His current radio show, Qi Talks explores today’s issues with wisdom from the past. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iymO0waQzCg

SpringHeart represented Pushing for Peace in Nepal, teaching the Peace Games to those at risk of abuse, exploitation, Human Trafficking and enslavement. SpringHeart directly teaches Self-Defense courses, free of charge, in Kathmandu, Nepal. Six days a week SpringHeart conducted four, one-hour classes; two at a government (public) school, one at the RUWON Star Children’s Home and one at the RUWON after school program. An average total of 60 students attended each day.

SpringHeart

SpringHeart’s Mission: Work together with communities of martial artists to teach self-defense to those at risk of being exploited, abused, trafficked or enslaved. Empower with mental, emotional, social, verbal and physical strategies to prevent abuse of any type.

  1. Mentally, by raising awareness of dangerous situations and people, and identifying mental manipulation.
  2. Emotionally, by inspiring confidence and positive attitudes, and identifying emotional manipulation.
  3. Physically, by teaching martial arts.
  4. Verbally, by emphasizing how words can protect.
  5. Socially, by strengthening ties in the community to help prevent physical or emotional isolation.

The head instructor for SpringHeart in Nepal wishes to remain unnamed. He has been formally involved in the Martial arts for over 30 years, beginning with wrestling. He has a 6th degree black belt in Kenpo and lived in Korea for one year studying Hapkido. He has also studied other Chinese Martial arts, including a two-year stretch where he studied full-time with Great Chinese Martial Arts Teachers in both China and the U.S. He is deeply grateful and indebted to all his Teachers and Training Partners.  They have enriched his life beyond measure. His Kenpo Teacher, whom he has been studying with for 30 years now, continues to be a profound influence.  His life is dedicated to the Mission of SpringHeart.

GM Marilyn Cooper

Marilyn Cooper has been training and teaching the art of traditional Chinese Kung Fu for over 50 years. She opened her first professional Kung Fu school in NYC in 1980. She has won several titles in national and international competitions – Grand-champion in Northern Shaolin and an international Gold medal in Tai Chi Ch’uan. She has published numerous article on the subject of Kung Fu and lectured at colleges and universities. In 1999, after the gun violence at Columbine High School, Cooper decided to find a way to bring the peacefulness of T’ai Chi training to youth to help prevent bullying and acts of violence and encourage empathy. The 3 years spent teaching K though 5th graders resulted in the early versions of what became the 9 Tai Chi Peace Games, which are also based on Northern Shaolin, Qigong and Bagua.

Danni Verona is a fourth degree black belt in Shorin Ryu Karate. She is the director of the Children’s Program at the Family Martial Arts Academy in Beaverton Oregon. Danni incorporates her Guang Ping Tai Chi knowledge from her instructors Henry Look and Marilyn Cooper into her Women and Children’s Self Defense programs. Danni has over

Danni Verona

thirty years experience as a Pediatric Occupational Therapist who specializes in sensory and body regulation, and she enjoys implementing the Peace Games into all aspects of her work with children and adults.

Webb Phillips

Webb Phillips grew up in Little River Kung Fu School, learning Northern Shaolin from his mom since the age of four. By the time he left for Stanford University, he’d learned advanced Shaolin forms, Xing Yi and Tai Chi push hands. During college, Webb practiced Wushu, Seven Star Praying Mantis under Brendan Lai and competed in Judo. Webb specializes in computational approaches to psychological research and has a background in software engineering, psycholinguistics, and cognitive developmental psychology. He graduated with honors from Stanford University with a bachelor’s degree in Symbolic Systems, worked as a research assistant in MIT’s department of Brain & Cognitive Sciences, earned two master’s degrees and a Ph.D. in Cognitive Developmental Psychology from Yale University, and served as a visiting research fellow at Princeton’s department of Neuroscience and a postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. At the Max Planck Institute, Webb studied the effects of different languages on people’s perception and memory. Webb currently lives and works in Nijmegen, The Netherlands.

Ian Godfrey has studied and practiced martial arts for over 50 years, receiving his First Dan Black Belt in Shotokan Karate from renowned traditional Karate Master Hirokazu Kanazawa in 1983. “Kanazawa Sensei believed that everyone who studied Karate should also learn and practice T’ai Chi Ch’uan to achieve balance between hard and soft action.” Ian taught Yang style T’ai Chi in Hertfordshire through the 90’s and in North Devon since 2000 where he later met Andrew Coles, Founder/Teacher at Earth and Ocean Martial Arts who introduced him to Cheng Bagua Zhang. Ian now supports one of EOMA’s Kick-boxing and Mixed Martial Arts clubs for Juniors and Seniors as a Black Belt Examiner. Ian has taught weekly T’ai Chi and Chi Kung classes for health and wellbeing to seniors (some into their 90’s) in North Devon, as a volunteer through a local Aging Well project. He has run classes within a local hospital for physiotherapy staff. In 2018 Ian learned the Peace Games in Paris and assisted GM Marilyn in teaching them to 150 primary aged school children. “The Peace Games are the perfect way to combine our care for each other with teaching the power of co-operation, not competition, as the way to creating a more peaceful world for all our children.”

Rosie Godfrey Mother-Grandmother; experienced Special Needs teacher; writer/author, poet and songwriter; Reiki Master Teacher, Laughter Yoga Teacher, Certified Hypnotherapist with Diploma in NLP; student of T’ai Chi Ch’uan and Chi Kung; speaker/workshop facilitator, life-long peace campaigner. Rosie lives on a smallholding in North Devon, UK with her partner Ian and a family of two and four-legged friends. Her mission in life, is to co-create a world fit for children. “I was honored to receive my Peace Games training direct from Grand Master Marilyn Cooper, in Paris, 2018 – sharing them with around 150 children! Peace in the world is the responsibility of everyone. It begins with ourselves right here, right now!  As Arundhati Roy reminds us… ‘Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing…’

Guillermo Ortiz
Guillermo Ortiz

Guillermo Ortiz has over 40 years experience in the moving arts, to which he brings his healing work the importance of body awareness & creative expression. Guillermo is also a founding member of Xochipilli, a latino men’s ritual group, which has taught classes, performed dances & conducted ceremonies throughout the Bay Area since it’s inception in 1992. Guillermo is an initiated curandero who completed his apprenticeship under the tutelage of Elena Avila, RN, MSW curandera and international practitioner of integrative medicine. He began his work as a psychiatric corpsman in the Navy then continued in the field as a mental health worker for ten years at UCLA Neuro-Psychiatric Institute and Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. During that time he cultivated a strong interest in martial arts and eventually was certified as a t’ai chi ch’uan instructor. Guillermo was essential to Pushing for Peace’s first trip to Mexico.

Nona Ikeda

Nona Ikeda

Born to Japanese-immigrant parents, and the granddaughter of a Buddhist monk, Nona grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area as a meditator, dancer, and yoga practitioner. From a young age, she was acutely aware and sensitive to cultural and individual divides and gaps in understanding and continues to develop her understanding of our human similarities and differences – our seemingly conflicting desires to be both uniquely special individuals, as well as be included, safe, and connected through our similarities, as a source of much of our human drama.  She sees our inner knowing, centeredness, and mind-body-spirit connection as a path to peace. Nona met her partner Javi while studying Taijiquan and Qigong at YMAA Retreat Center, where they assisted Dr Yang.  She has fallen in love with the practice as a way to self-heal/nurture, create self-discipline, and promote personal growth.  Nona sees Taijiquan as a modality for addressing conflict that, in contrast to punishment, dominance and violence, gives peaceful resolution a chance.  Both the philosophy and embodiment of Taijiquan is a way of addressing conflict, both within the individual’s mind and body, and externally between two individuals or groups of people, and is a worthwhile tool for humanity as we grapple with violence in our communities globally. Nona is teaching fifth and sixth graders at Briceland Learning Center, using her personal Taijiquan practice, the Peace Games and the Empathy Set to transform herself and her students.  

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