An Interview With Dori Pongas

written by C.P. Bergman

CPB:  Dori, what prompted you to begin studying martial arts?
DP:   Simo Paula Inosanto was the biggest influence, by being such a strong woman and so good in the martial arts.  When I first came out to California, I never thought I would be able to do anything, punching, kicking, or any of it.  I was never athletic.

CPB: You study Thai Boxing.  What made you decide on Thai Boxing?
DP:  At first, it looked like it was the easiest!  Seriously, it looked very powerful, with all the natural elements of elbows, knees and kicks.  The first day I was in class, I was so nervous.  Shadowboxing was the worst thing!  I thought everyone was watching me, but then I realized, they were all too busy worrying about how they were doing.   Another strong, powerful female who influenced me is Tonya Elliott, who was my workout partner.  My first Ajarn Chai Sirisute (President of the Thai Boxing Association, U.S.A.)  seminar, was my third or 4th training experience, and I got to work out with Guro Dan Inosanto.  I was so awed to be working out with him; it’s like working out with your father; I kneed him in the stomach, and Guro turned to me and said, “That’s okay, it was supposed to hurt.”  Now I attend all the California Ajarn Chai seminars, but first I was afraid of him.  I was afraid he would make me work so hard, I would throw up or something.

CPB:  How has your training helped you in general?
DP:  I have more self-confidence.  I’ve come out of my shell, made some great friends, and I look forward to my workouts.  It becomes a lifestyle.

CPB:  What other arts are you studying?
DP:  I study Kali with Mike Wise, and I do plan on expanding into other arts.  You constantly learn.  There is always something new to learn.

CPB:  Tell us about some experiences that stand out.
DP:  Once Guro told me to throw a jab, and instead, I threw a cross three times.  I also recall that I looked like a giant bumble bee during my Level II Thai Boxing test.

CPB:  What advice do you have for other women interested in beginning the martial arts?
DP:  Try it at least once.  You never know, you might really like it.  You can get over the idea that only men can do the arts.  Even if you don’t like the first lesson, you will still learn something.  If you try one art and don’t like it, try another.  Explore.

CPB:  Do you have any long term goals:
DP:  I would one day like to become an instructor.

CPB:  Any parting words?
DP:  I will be forever grateful to Simo Paula and Guro Dan Inosanto for all the encouragement, kindness, and support they have given me.  Without them I would never have had the courage to try the martial arts.