Via Potentia ~ Modern Self Defense Training

Our next free seminar on self defense and physical conditioning is Friday, July 29 from 6 - 9 PM. Call or email to confirm availability and save a space.

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Our Drills

You'll rarely be bored in Via Potentia. Our typical class consists of the following:

  1. Welcome and announcements
  2. Brief meditation and deep breathing
  3. Recitation of shared ethics
  4. Dynamic stretching and warm-up (10-15 minutes)
  5. Minor drill
  6. Major drill
  7. New techniques
  8. Calisthenics and Deep Stretching (20-30 minutes)
  9. Meditation and deep breathing
  10. Recitation of shared ethics
  11. Thanks and dismissal

General Emphasis

Each class has a general emphasis on speed, power, technical precision or endurance. Drills are chosen or adapted based on the emphasis for the day. For example, if the major drill for the day is forms and the emphasis is endurance, participants will go through all forms in succession and repeat with minimal breaks. Were it a "precision" day, the forms might be practiced very slowly with an emphasis on smooth and accurate movement. Were it a speed day, one would try to link the moves together as quickly as possible while maintaining effectiveness.

Meditation and Deep Breathing

While seated in a comfortable position, the participant slowly breathes in to full extension of the stomach and rib cage, holds for a few seconds, breathes out to complete compression, holds for a few seconds, and repeats. While doing so we encourage mental meditation upon a peaceful thought, person or event.

Recitation of Ethics

Though we do recognize ranks and experience, in Via Potentia we are all equals in human dignity, united by our human natures, our efforts to help each other train, and our shared ethical perspective.

The ethics we promote are:

Humanitas Uphold the dignity of innocent human life
Profundo Pour your life into a great good
Perfectum Strive for perfection in what you do, and seek to fulfill your unique potential
Prudentia Seek to exercise wisdom, good judgment
Temperantia Moderation and balance
Iustitia Give others their due
Fortitudo Be courageous and endure hardships

Dynamic Warmup

We work through every major joint and muscle group in the body, head to toe, preparing it for exercise and conditioning it for long-term health. We pay special attention to conditioning the spine and neck.

The activity also gradually increases the heart rate. A proper dynamic regimen greatly reduces the chance of torn muscles and damaged joints while increasing the range of motion over time.

We do not do deep stretching or muscle-fatiguing calisthenics before class. Doing deep stretching and fatiguing calisthenics before dynamic activity is a common error and predisposes adult bodies to injury, especially joint damage and muscle tears.

Minor Drills

Our minor drills emphasize learning to deliver power to various targets through spontaneous combinations. We might practice the techniques in the air, against targets held by partner, on the partner himself, or against a heavy bag.

Minor drills also include board breaking, Pop Goes the Weasel, 10-seconds of Thuggery, Breakout, and other unique drills to focus on specific aspects of dealing with a violent assault or skill development.

Major Drills

Major drills have a 3-day cycle; forms, upright sparring, ground sparring. Sometimes we do multiple ones in one day. Sometimes we mix in weapons and other drills.


Forms are the "art" part of "martial art." Our forms are highly complex and serve as a catalog of moves learned. A new form is taught each term. Our forms include upright as well as ground techniques. Most can be done with a stick or knife in hand as well as empty-handed.

Forms are not very useful for developing practical self defense skills, but form practice helps the body remember techniques, develop coordination and precision, balance and beauty of motion. Because our forms are long and difficult, it also requires a great amount of concentration and endurance.

Beginner forms are all basic, grounded moves. Intermediate and advanced forms introduce demonstration techniques (acrobatics and jumping, spinning kicks).

There are three forms at each stage; beginner, intermediate and advanced. The forms in a particular stage can be learned in any order. We recognize and encourage personal adaption of forms. Consequently, the same form done by different people may look considerably different. As long as the moves would still be effective, it is fine with us.

Upright Sparring

Sparring helps people learn to put moves together and defend against a resisting, attacking opponent. The more intense the sparring, the more contact and the less gear and rules, the more effective it is as a learning tool.

Beginners spar with little or no contact (for safety). As they develop skills and strength, the sparring gear goes on, and they start making contact. The level of contact is whatever you and your partner are comfortable with. We allow basically any strike or grab, except grabbing or striking of the genitals, the neck, gouging, or other contact that is likely to cause injury to each other. These strikes may be implemented, but may not make contact. There is some bruising, but we want people to leave with the same IQ and body functions they had when they arrived.

Once they have the abilities, take downs should be incorporated, along with striking, submitting and escaping from disadvantaged ground positions. The take down must be controlled, and take downs that are likely to cause injury through spiking the head or shoulder or breaking the knee are not permitted, nor are body slams.

Sparring gear can be gradually removed with experience, but we always recommend a mouthpiece, cup and hand and shin gear.


Grappling is a critical skill to learn for self defense. It is also a great sport and excellent for dealing with bullies who you don't want to seriously injure.

Beginners start grappling from knees, learning to acquire, maintain, defend and escape from "positions." A position is a relative orientation between the competitors that allows one to control the other and possibly apply a submission. An example is "front mount" or "full mount" in which one person is basically sitting on the stomach of the other.

Sleeper submissions are emphasized. Beginners start from knees because many grappling injuries occur during throws and throw attempts. During the first several months beginners are practicing safe falling and rolling instead.

At the intermediate level takedowns are added and they grapple from standing. We focus on about six basic take down techniques; hip and shoulder throws, leg and ankle reap, arm drags and body locks. Major joint submissions are emphasized.

Advanced participants continue the pattern, adding more complex (and dangerous) submissions.

Pankratius (all powers)

Once basic skills have been developed with each of the areas -- upright sparring, take downs and ground grappling -- participants should spar fluidly at all levels, flowing from one to the other as needed and desired.

Scoring and Divisions

Sparring is either for training or competition. Training sparring is usually timed and no score is kept. Competition sparring may be timed or untimed. If timed, judges determine the winner using their own criteria (positive actions include landing various strikes, performing take downs, achieving dominant positions, reversing or escaping from disadvantaged positions, attempted submissions, etc.) The winner may also be determined by whoever achieves the maximum number of submissions in the alotted time. For example, if the match is limited to five minutes, the competitor who has caused the most submissions when time runs out (or they cannot continue for some other reason) prevails, irrespective of the judges scoring.

If untimed, the winner is determined by one or more submissions. For example, first person to three submissions.

For training, everyone should spar with everyone (exercising some care when sparring with people of substantially different size or abilities). For competition, competitors should be within 10% of each other by weight. They may also be divided by experience/skill, gender or age.

New Technique

During the autumn, winter and spring terms a new technique is taught near the end of several classes. These techniqes are reviewed in later classes, and incorporated into combinations, sparring, grappling and forms.

During the summer term we teach the "bread and butter" basics to beginners, but spend most of the time on sparring and grappling. Returning participants can review forms on forms days.

Once a new technique is learned, it is only practiced in combination with other techniques from that point forward (unless we see a problem with the technique).

Calisthenics and Stretches

Strength building calisthenics and deep stretches are saved until the end of our classes. This minimizes the chances of injury, and allows you to go "all out" (if you wish) during these final exercises. Because your muscles are already warm and tired, and these final exercises are not jarring or highly dynamic, it is quite safe.

The stretches and calisthenics cover all major muscle groups; calf presses, jump rope, sprinting, jogging, squats, push ups, sit ups, pull ups, back arches, leg lifts, crunches, etc. We mix in others from time to time. Beginners start out just doing what they can. The target for most is about 10 repititions (reps) of each exercise during the first term -- 20 for squats and 1-2 for pull ups. Then add the same amount during each subsequent term.

We welcome comments, questions and suggestions for improvement.
Via Potentia, 805 NW Alder St., McMinnville OR 97128
Telephone: 503-437-3450

Copyright Via Potentia. All Rights Reserved. Consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program; consult a lawyer before making a legal decision. All information provided on this web site or otherwise by Via Potentia is provided for educational/informative purposes only, is subject to correction, and should not be considered legal, medical or other professional advice. Use at your own risk.

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