Via Potentia, McMinnville, Oregon, USA
Via Potentia is a modern self defense training program primarily intended for adults who wish to learn practical self defense as opposed to a traditional martial art or combat sport.
VP has a three year curriculum. The first year focuses on self defense, developing good physical conditioning habits and improvised weapons skills. Adults can also take First Aid, CPR and handgun training as part of the program for no additional cost. Our goal is that the participant will develop effective self defense skills within his first year. By "effective self defense skills" we mean that he is able to rapidly deliver spontaneous combinations of powerful blows to human vulnerabilities, is able to defend and escape both upright and from the ground, and is able to use improvised weapons. Years two and three focus more on demonstration, sport and advanced techniques.
The self defense curriculum emphasizes awareness and avoidance. If we fight, we do so with the purpose of causing one or more serious injuries to the attacker as quickly as possible so that we can escape without being followed. Primary targets are eyes, ears/jaw/side-of-head, neck, collarbone, liver, lower abdomen, groin, knees, fibula/ankle, etc. We avoid fisted punches and focus on palm strikes, clawing/gouging to face, knife hand to neck; knees and elbows to almost anything. Kicks are all "below the belt."
Training includes substantial grappling, recognizing that one often ends up on the ground when attacked. The focus is on remembering to strike vulnerabilities even when on the ground while fighting to improve position and get up as quickly as possible. A lot of time is spent sparring and grappling against larger, stronger, more aggressive opponents to simulate a real attack.
Training with throws, take-downs and submissions is available, but depends on the skill of the student, and is not emphasized during the self defense portion of the training.
Beginners start with non-contact sparring as they learn to flow moves together and proceed to contact sparring with limited gear (participants purchase their own sparring gear). We allow strikes to ANY target, but don't allow CONTACT to the eyes, neck or groin. Take downs are allowed in sparring and it often flows into grappling, escaping, and back to upright spontaneously. The intensity/power level depends on the participants. Striking is usually about half-power. Grappling is often up to full power, though we try to emphasize using good technique over power (since power alone rarely works against a larger, stronger opponent).
We encourage the use and carrying of weapons, especially for smaller people. We introduce conventional self defense weapons like pepper spray, tasers, stun guns. We train with sticks of various lengths to simulate improvised weapons, including knives. Beginner training is primarily just learning striking flow and power delivery against a heavy bag or dummy. Those who choose to purchase stick sparring gear may engage in stick sparring (we require at least gloves and a helmet). We do not teach weapons disarms until the person has demonstrated offensive proficiency with the weapon in question. In depth handgun training is available for both competitive target shooting and defensive point-shooting.
Classes run an hour and a half, twice per week (Monday and Wednesday), with an optional three hour open gym session on Fridays. Roughly half of standard class time is spent specifically on conditioning. The first 10-15 minutes on joint prep and dynamic stretching. Then 45 minutes of drilling and matching. The last 30 minutes are calisthenics and heavy stretching. A couple minutes is spent in deep breathing and mental/physical relaxation.
We do have an ethical, philosophical component, centered on respect for human life and attempting to live a life of virtue. Participants are encouraged to reflect upon the ethics and how they can be integrated into their daily lives and relationships.
The total gym is 3600 square feet. We have 1500 square feet of top-quality 2" Zebra mats which we use for most training. The mats are disinfected several times a week. Three heavy bags (one 6' Muay Thai-style), several pull-up/rings stations, two Suplex throwing/wrestling dummies, and dozens of other quality training aids. A full First Aid kit and AED are on-site, and the instructor is certified with both.
We have a secondary training area (concrete) of approximately 800 square feet. There are changing rooms for men and women, a viewing area, and a nursery for parents with young children.
Our curriculum is designed for older teens and adults, but we do have a separate children's class in which the curriculum is adapted (toned down) to their level, and more child-appropriate activities are added.
We try to keep class sizes to 15 or fewer, and the atmosphere is informal.
Our standard cost is $180 for one three-month term. We charge $80 per month for month-to-month. Discounts are available for families and referrals. Need-based scholarships/discounts are also available. VP is a non-profit organization and has established a separate 501c3 foundation specifically to provide need-based tuition assistance.
A monthly 3-hour free public seminar is offered that covers basic self defense and physical conditioning principles; it is held from 6-9 PM on the last Friday of every month. Our ~280 page beginning student manual is available for free on the web site, or for about $20 in print.
Classes are adapted to the abilities and experience of the participants. Supplemental training is available for those who want to participate in tournaments (to help them adapt to point sparring, forms, board breaking, etc.), but tournament training is not our strong point.
We conduct tests about every three months. We don't charge fees for tests, nor do we grant belts or certificates. Tests include sparring, grappling, breaking, self defense scenarios. We measure strength (calisthenics), flexibility (stretching), and endurance (jump rope and sparring). We specifically identify areas of strength and weakness, and work with the student to improve weak areas over the next term of classes. Students must meet physical condition and technical benchmarks to progress to the intermediate, second year techniques.
The program developer and head instructor, Seth Murray, has been involved in martial arts since about 1980, and has been an adult instructor/trainer in the martial arts and in professional fields since the mid-90s. He is also a certified trainer for First Aid and CPR (Red Cross), Home Gun Safety, Basic Pistol and Reloading (NRA).
We aren't trying to make professional fighters out of people, or win point sparring tournaments. No metaphysics. No chi. No BS. We are simply trying to equip people to improve and protect their own lives.
Inquires and visitors are welcome.