About Me

Portrait of Kaja Sadowski, a tall, pale, non-binary person with pink hair, holding a large two-handed sword

Equal parts dumb jock and pedagogy nerd, I have spent a lifetime playing with movement.

I have been a physical instructor since 2004. I taught figure skating, climbing, and mountaineering before starting martial arts in 2010.

I love both historical and modern arts. My core martial art is historical swordplay. I’m equally comfortable with sword in one hand, sword in two hands, dagger, and two swords. I also practice unarmed striking, modern knife combat, and grappling.

My work covers recreational martial arts, practical self defense, and even professional use of force.

I am a co-owner and coach at Valkyrie Western Martial Arts Assembly, where I’ve taught since 2012. I have also taught martial arts and self defense workshops across Canada, the US, and the UK.

I worked with the Vancouver Police Department’s Force Options Training Unit from 2015-2020. There, I participated in hundreds of tactical training scenarios and taught for their Special Municipal Constable program.

I also hold an MA in English Literature, and did my graduate work on medieval chivalric romance. I taught at the undergraduate level in literature, history, and medieval studies. As an independent scholar, I leverage my academic training to do better martial arts research.

I am super interested in how people learn to move. Motor learning always came easily to me, and I’ve spent my teaching career working to understand and serve those who struggle. I believe that learning should be fun, and that good community is essential to good martial arts.

I want to to carve out space for all those who’ve traditionally existed at the fringes of martial arts — especially women and queer and trans people. My goal is to build lasting social infrastructure that lets us all get the most out of the arts that I love.

Movement is how I express myself, and fighting is how I grow. I want everyone to experience the joy that comes from understanding what your body can really do.


Testimonials

Kaja is an amazing instructor! They have an excellent understanding of body mechanics and the ability to convey their knowledge coherently and in a wide variety of ways, so students with all different communication styles can understand their training as they develop their physical and martial skills.

As a student of theirs who is also a registered massage therapist with over eight years of experience, I often pick up new exercises and demonstration techniques from Kaja’s classes to incorporate into my professional practice. 

For example, their “Sad Hand Puppets” and “Floop/Unfloop” exercises have real therapeutic value for the wrists and hips respectively, and are catchy and easy to remember. I’ve been told by multiple patients suffering from repetitive stress injuries to the wrist that Sad Hand Puppets allowed them to do their work pain-free, and been told that the Floop/Unfloop that I demonstrated was “the best stretching demo [the patient] has ever seen.”

If you’re looking for a martial arts class taught by someone who can make it truly accessible and work with your personal physical limitations while at the same time helping you push those limits just a little further, I cannot recommend anyone more highly than Kaja. Their classes are fantastic for bodies and brains.

Portrait of Masami Hoshino-Spafford.

Masami Hoshino-Spafford, RMT, Trikinetic Massage Therapy

After having taken a wide variety of movement classes over the course of my life, I continue to be impressed by Kaja’s ability to guide students through learning physical skills in a way that’s based on what works for their individual bodies and brains.

They make the process of learning to fight from a manual feel comfortable and intuitive for me—as someone who learns primarily through proprioception, this is something I’ve struggled with in the past. 

Being part of a class and school culture that centers the needs and comfort of people who are not what one might think of as the typical HEMA student (your neurotypical straight cis white dudes) was a revelation—I realized I had never been part of a martial learning space that was specifically for me before. The amount of mental load created by the social pressures associated with those spaces is hard to quantify, until it’s suddenly not there anymore and I can put that energy toward learning. 

A silver rapier-style sword on a blue background, in a silver circle

Kate Sokol, Taekwondo Black Belt, SCA Order of the Silver Rapier

The idea that you can and should make a space that’s welcoming and accepting and feels like home, while at the same time producing *better* results than many of the “hardcore” (which is usually a trapping, not a truth) schools, should not be revolutionary, but is.

The top predictor of longevity and quality of life is almost certainly having a strong and supportive community, which makes it shocking how often self defense folks take a hardline “lone wolf” mentality, and completely miss what actually leads to human thriving.

Kaja is a forerunner for creating systems and communities that show you can be happy and healthy and a bunch of badasses, and they are one of the best folks I know for showing that you can take your work and training seriously without taking yourself seriously.

The letters GMB in white, on a black background, surrounded by laurels and three stars

Dillon Beyer, Martial Artist and GMB fitness trainer

Kaja’s study and knowledge of human interaction, beyond just their excellent technical, martial know-how, is worth their weight in gold. Their ability to make otherwise awkward topics approachable and comfortable is an incredible gift.

They communicate concepts clearly, and without judgement, while also highlighting the need for logical, forceful response when it’s appropriate. Overall, they are a bulwark against ignorance in use-of-force, and a standard bearer for self-defense.

They’re also a hell of a dancer.

Portrait of John Crum

John Crum, Martial Artist/Retired Police/Streamer

Kaja’s excellent blog posts, videos, book, and random social media thoughts on martial arts have been a go-to for me for years now. They have a wonderful way of pushing my thinking past the overwhelming wall of ‘stuff’ when thinking through martial arts and instead breaking down my views on instruction and personal training into small, USEFUL, chunks.

Every teaching or school culture change of theirs that I have implemented has been a resounding success for both myself and my students.

Logo of East Texas Historical Fencing, featuring two red silhouettes fencing with two-handed swords against the background of a yellow rose

Michael Sims, Owner, East Texas Historical Fencing

Kaja is the quality of teacher that makes you want to move to a different country just so you can train more with them. Kaja teaches in a way that is accessible to anyone, on any day. If you aren’t feeling top notch, they will work with you to make sure you get the most out of their class you can.

The book Fear is the Mind Killer is a must have for any martial arts instructor. The chapters on understanding fear were especially useful to me as, due to several privileges, I haven’t had to confront those situations. Now I can recognize signs in my students and help create a space where they feel safe enough to participate and better themselves.

The logo of High Desert Armizare, featuring three trees against a triple-peaked mountain

Alex Spreier, Instructor, High Desert Armizare

Kaja Sadowski is a superlative teacher, researcher and fighter. They have built a world class training school, created hundreds of passionate martial arts students, and work tirelessly to make martial arts a better and more inclusive place. They are kind, compassionate and dedicated to making their students the best they can be. I am proud to call Kaja a colleague and mentor.

A purple and yellow line drawing of a dog wearing a crown

Jon Mills, Head Coach, Black Dog Strength and Nutrition