Nancy was an investigative reporter in New York, and has been practicing martial arts since 1977. For two years, she studied Goju Karate and women's selfdefense under Sensei Susan Murdock at the Women's Martial Arts Center in New York. During this time, she began to develop a political analysis of violence, and to understand how martial arts could be a non-violence practice.
From 1979 to 1982, with two other women, she started and co-directed an organization called SAFE, which created empowering seminars on self-defense and brought them to schools, community groups, and corporations.
In 1979, Nancy began to study Seido Karate under Kaicho Tadashi Nakamura, and in 1999 she was awarded the rank of 5th degree black belt in this traditional Japanese art. In 1991, she also began training in Kajukenbo, a beautiful, hard/soft eclectic martial art, under her partner and lover, Sarah Ludden. She currently holds a 2nd degree black belt in this art.
In 1985, Nancy began teaching Seido Karate to women in Chicago at the Women's Gym. In 1990, children's classes began, and in 1995, a new dojo was built and the adult program was opened to men. With the assistance of their dedicated senior students, who include over 50 active black belts, they currently oversee the practice of approximately 300 men, women and children at Thousand Waves Martial Arts and Self-defense Center, NFP.
In addition to her work at Thousand Waves, since 1987 Nancy has been selected six times to serve as a trainer at Special Training, the annual camp of the National Women's Martial Arts Federation. The current business is an outgrowth of an earlier venture - The Women's Gym - which was founded by Lanoue and her first partner, Jeanette Pappas, and which almost ended when Pappas died of pancreatic cancer in 1989.
Lanoue and Pappas had created the Women's Gym as a place where women, primarily lesbians, could exercise and relax, work on the health of the body and spirit, without many of the judgmental attitudes found in traditional health clubs or spas. The atmosphere of the gym was also strongly influenced by Lanoue's own bout with cancer. At 35, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy and chemotherapy.
They chose a corner space on Belmont St. on the north side of Chicago, where Pappas' designer skills took three floors of a former retail store and used open spaces and feminine aesthetics to create a feeling of lightness and serenity. Among plants and paintings, women practiced martial arts and self defense, took aerobics classes and lifted weights.
In 2001, the New TraditionsWomen's Martial Arts Hall of Fame named her Instructor of the Year. In January 2003, she taught at the Association ofWomen Martial Arts Instructors national conference, "Teaching the Teacher."
From 1995 to 1997, she served as a member of the violence committee on the City of Chicago's Advisory Council on Women, supporting local, state, and national initiatives to reduce and prevent violence againstwomen and children. She is also a founding member of the Lesbian Community Cancer Project.