Liz Durning

Liz Durning - Athleta Sponsored Athlete

LIZ DURNING got a big idea. It was 2003 and she had seen enough. As a 4th Degree Black Belt in American Kenpo Karate and Rape Counselor in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, she knew that girls needed better self-defense skills. Girls needed to be empowered. Girls needed martial arts training. But with so many Karate schools geared towards boys, Liz thought up something to attract girls, something pink. Meet PINKarate, a bold Karate/Self Defense instruction program just for girls.

The PINKarate mission is straightforward: “Girls don’t need to be great at sports. They don’t even need to love competition. But they do need to know self-defense,” Liz explains. After a childhood marked by bullying and self-doubt, she brings first-hand experience to the job. “I wasn’t an athlete growing up,” she continues. “I was a painfully shy, bullied girl, from a rough suburb of Philly. To avoid my attackers I played sick so much that I fell behind in class. And then one day I saw the movie “Men of the Dragon” about a beautiful, sweet girl who kicked bullies’ butts. It was the epitome of femininity. And I remember thinking ‘That’s what I want to be! I want to be — a Black Belt!’”

Mission accomplished. After 25 years of Karate training and teaching adults and children, Liz shares the “Smart Defense” tools that changed her life. Under her enthusiastic direction, PINKarate students of any size, shape, and race simulate safety scenarios from child abduction to rape prevention. Little girls learn to break away from a stranger’s hold. Older girls learn to deflect unwanted advances. And all girls learn to use their voices to command respect and their bodies to protect themselves. Liz trains hundreds of girls each year in her bustling suburban Philadelphia studio. Clad in brilliant pink Karate Gis, uniforms Liz makes herself, PINKarate students learn so much more than traditional Karate. Girls as young as three years old pack her studio to master martial arts and sharpen their safety smarts. And in 2012, her idea went global. By training her older students to teach PINKarate to displaced girls in third world nations, together they created PINKarate Cares. Through this important non-profit endeavor, the power of PINKarate reached girls in an orphanage in Peru.

Voted by Main Line Today as “24 Women on The Move” and won “100 Most Loved Things on the Main Line” by Main Line Magazine, Liz Durning lives up to the promise on every student uniform — “Pretty Powerful” indeed.



  • Founder of PINKarate and PINKarate Cares
  • B.S Degree in Communications from Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA
  • Certified Volunteer Rape Counselor, Delaware County Women Against Rape
  • 4th Degree Black Belt in American Kenpo Karate
  • Certified FASTDefense Instructor
  • Owned and Operated two commercial karate studios with her husband, John, a 6th Degree Black Belt
  • Freelance Voice-Over Talent
  • Appeared regularly with Billy Blanks as a back-up kickboxer on QVC
  • Finalist in Avon’s “Hello Tomorrow” Fund
  • Featured in The Philadelphia Inquirer and on NBC10 Philadelphia, Fox 29 Philadelphia, 6ABC Philadelphia, and Moms on the Move show; recognized by Main Line Today in their “24 Women on The Move” edition; voted “100 most loved things on the main line” by Main Line Magazine


  • Expand the scope of PINKarate Cares by gaining corporate sponsors
  • Create a PINKarate Focus group, with parents from diverse professional fields, to help bring PINKarate to more deserving girls
  • Complete an instructor training manual, and begin certifying and licensing passionate female martial arts instructors
  • Complete children’s book The Power is in Me!