Posted On:12/25/2009 11:57pm
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.
Last edited by komodo; 12/26/2009 12:46am at .
Posted On:12/26/2009 1:50pm
Did this guy just review his own gym? And you guys discourage throwing punches? Seriously?
"We often joke -- and we really wish it were a joke -- that you will only encounter two basic problems with your 'self-defense' training.
1) That it doesn't work
2) That it does work"
Posted On:12/26/2009 6:20pm
Did this guy just review his own gym?
Yes, I described what we do and why do it. If you'd like to review the gym, you are invited to come down, spend some time here, and then do so. I would welcome any informed review. There is always room for improvement in any endeavor, including my own. Some of the best and most useful elements of our program have resulted from other people's comments and criticisms.
And you guys discourage throwing punches? Seriously?
It is a fair question, and I get that a lot from both sport and traditional MA types that emphasize punching. First, if you want to throw punches and have the strength, conditioning and training to do it, then I support you 100%. I've been doing punches and knuckle pushups for 20-30 years (and I've broken bones in my hands more times than I remember), so I don't have any problem with punching or people who want to do it.
Punching is great for full contact sports, point sparring and such, and in those MAs that emphasize and specifically train for it, but not for actual self defense. This is one of the few points where I differ with the typical Krav Maga approach.
We do offer training in punching and boxing basics. However, most people do not have the hand or wrist conditioning to throw punches, nor are they going to develop it. They have no desire to go through the extensive training, they aren't going to enter MMA, boxing, or take long term martial arts. They just want to learn self defense.
The small bones of the hand just aren't designed to handle the forces that can focus on them during a full punch. In addition, a lot of ladies simply don't have enough upper body strength for their hand attacks to be effective anywhere except the most vulnerable points of the body. Even with a lot of training and conditioning, fractures and sprains are commonplace (hence all of the wrapping and padding necessary for sport matches, even with the best of athletes).
We are training for self defense for the average person. In most assaults the attacker is substantially larger and stronger than the victim. For the average person, if he throws a punch at the head, all he is going to do is break his hand or sprain the wrist. Shots to the body are rarely effective against substantially larger people, as well. Rather than train people in techniques that are going to be ineffective and likely to just result in self-injury, we go a different route. It is much easier and more effective for the average person to go for the eyes, side of the head (hammer fist or elbow), neck or collarbone, or other genuine vulnerabilities than try to box his way out of the mess.... The exception to this is someone who has specifically trained with and has conditioned himself for punching -- your (kick)boxing, MMA and Kyokushin types. That is their approach, and I respect it.
In fact, our first goal is simply to run/get away. I'm 180, pushing 40, but in pretty good shape. Nonetheless, The last thing I want to do is stick around and trade punches with someone wants to harm me, who is bigger/stronger than me, probably armed, and probably has a friend or two nearby. I'm just going to try to injure him and then run as fast and as far as possible. Not very sportsmanlike, but there you have it.
In any event, yes, punches are not a key part of our self defense curriculum. We do get into them more in the second year, which focuses more on sport, heavier contact sparring and demonstration. That being said, everything we do is adapted to the strengths and weaknesses of the individual. For example, I've got one guy now who is huge (260) and loves to throw body hooks. He routinely shows up, wraps his hands and gives the heavy bags -- or my liver -- a good workout. In fact, the cartilage of my nose is now separated from my skull just from sparring with him.
Posted On:12/26/2009 6:22pm
Style: HEMA (out of practice)
Your website says that you don't draw techniques from other systems. Does that refer to your training methodologies as well as the methods used to prevent/defend against attack?
Posted On:12/26/2009 9:24pm
I like your explanation about punches, but I thought you weren't supposed to review your own gym. Anyone care to comment?
Posted On:12/27/2009 1:54am
Your website says that you don't draw techniques from other systems. Does that refer to your training methodologies as well as the methods used to prevent/defend against attack?
First, if you are referring to the spot on the site I'm thinking of, it is in response to a common inquiry I get. That is, when people ask me what I do, I usually respond, "I teach self defense and physical conditioning." They then ask, "you mean karate?" "No, self defense, as in how to respond to a violent assault."
"Okay, but what style is it?"
"It isn't a style."
"Okay, then what styles is it from?" Or a question along those lines.
I get to do this dance about once a month with someone, and I end up explaining that Via Potentia isn't a descendant from any particular style, nor was it created by combining my favorite styles, etc. I note, in contrast, systems that are explicitly hybrid styles, some done for effectiveness, and some done for marketing.
This isn't to say that its techniques are unique or that I can claim credit for them. They are not, and I didn't invent the upward palm strike any more than Al Gore invented the Internet. Our techniques are found in many styles that have a genuine self defense emphasis.
Now to your question. Regarding training methodology/pedagogy: I'm not aware of any other self defense or martial art program that has a similar order of exercises, understanding of physical conditioning or overall technical approach. If I was, I honestly wouldn't have gone through the years of work it has taken to create this -- I'd simply have joined that system and taught it. Note that I said "I"m not aware...." I'm sure that they exist somewhere; I just don't know of them. It isn't for lack of searching.
There is an extensive section in the student manual (free on the web site) just on our pedagogy. I recommend that you take a look at it if you are curious about our fundamental philosophy of instruction. If there is a style/program that promotes a similar approach, along with the balance of physical conditioning and self defense, I'd love to hear about it.
Regarding specific "methods used to prevent/defend against attack" and their sources: For us prevention and defense are two different things. Prevention is, for the most part, being aware of and avoiding dangerous situations altogether. If the situation could not be avoided, de-escalating it to the best of our abilities. If that fails, deciding to submit, flee, fight or posture. These are pretty basic steps, and any (decent) self defense program is going to present them.
When we get into actual defense, for us that is attacking. In assault situations one is usually faced by a larger, stronger person who is familiar with violence, expects your compliance or easy defeat, and likely has a weapon or accomplices. "Defending" in such a situation is just prolonging your demise. We aren't trying to beat him, and might not be able to do so. We just want to escape and live. Of course, nothing is certain, but in my experience it is usually easier to fight to escape than it is to fight to defeat someone.
Our basic method: If the victim decides that fighting out is necessary or simply the best option, then he attacks common human vulnerabilities -- eyes, neck, lower abdomen, etc. -- with rapid, powerful strikes in an attempt to cause an injury (or several) that will prevent the attacker from continuing the assault and allow for escape. If any kind of improvised weapon is available, we use it.
Our basic pedagogy: Most of my students have little or no fighting or martial arts experience. We are starting from square one. We teach them basic upright and ground movement drills, and one by one add offensive techniques. The particular techniques are those that actually work against people, (mostly) irrespective of their size, with the goal of causing not only pain, but disorientation or injury.
Once learned, these are only practiced in combination with other known techniques (in the air, on a heavy bag, against an opponent, etc.). A new combination is offered each day with the goal of getting the person to be able to come up with spontaneous combinations that hit whatever vulnerabilities are available... and there are always vulnerabilities open.
We don't require memorization of the daily combinations. Rather, we encourage students to create a few personal combinations that really flow for them, given their own strengths and abilities.
I thought you weren't supposed to review your own gym
If so, I missed the memo. The top of the Bullshido home page reads "Add and Review Your School" so I just went ahead, scrolled to the self defense categories, read the stickies, and started typing. I also looked at some other reviews and they appeared to either be reviews by Bullshido "undercover" visitors, genuine students, or the actual school operators.
I think you can tell from my write-up and web site that I'm just giving you what we actually do, without any hype about it, my past, etc. One of my goals for Via Potentia is that it be about the content of the curriculum, and not any individual's charisma, personality or credentials.
Like I said, if anyone else wants to come by or comment, I am open to constructive criticism.
Posted On:12/27/2009 3:54am
It sounds a lot like the Krav Maga I've been taught so far (I will have been studying KM for five years this June). I'll take a look at the material you mentioned, though.
Posted On:12/27/2009 5:50am
my first thought, honestly, is that i wouldn't train at a place like this because i don't believe i'd actually learn how to fight.
most of the advice on how to avoid potentially dangerous situations is decent, but also pretty common sense. it's wise to learn but doesn't take a year of training to learn it.
The reality is that proven systems of self defense have little if any grappling component in their curriculum... Our emphasis is on self defense, and in such situations grappling is not appropriate. It is, in fact, precisely the wrong thing to do.
i wholeheartedly disagree.
regardless, you go on to admit that grappling is an important skill to learn in self defense:
Nonetheless, we do teach grappling skills. Our primary reason for doing so is so that you have the ability to escape from disadvantaged ground positions as quickly as possible. For example, if you get knocked to the ground and the attacker has jumped on top of you, it is helpful to know grappling escapes. Like other competitive, sport skills, we don't teach throws and take downs until the second year of our curriculum, or submissions until the third. But we teach ground drills, positioning and escapes in the first year.
Via Potentia isn't a descendant from any particular style, nor was it created by combining my favorite styles
so you've completely made up your self defense system from scratch? by what process do you choose techniques to be included in the system?
i'd really like to see a video example of what you teach.
Valiant Monk of Booze & War
Posted On:12/27/2009 7:15am
Wait, you barely teach any grappling but you awarded yourself and 8 in grappling instruction?
I think you may want to familiarize yourself with the standards of rating and then revise your own ratings.
We're going to need video to back up your claims.
Posted On:12/27/2009 3:35pm
Rated low on principal.
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