Via Potentia ~ Modern Self Defense Training

Our next free seminar on self defense and physical conditioning is Friday, June 30 from 6 - 9 PM. Call or email to confirm availability and save a space.

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Self Defense Training

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Via Potentia was developed to help you improve your physical condition -- to help you feel better "in" your body and live a healthier, more productive life -- while teaching effective self defense, basic combat sports and martial arts. For kids the emphasis is on building good exercise habits, sports techniques, dealing with bully situations, and martial arts drills like forms and board breaking. For youth and adults we have a greater emphasis on practical self defense, and conventional and improvised weapons, then add the sport and martial art dimensions once the basics are down.

Society and technology have changed, but the human being -- his body, strengths, weaknesses, needs and motivations -- has not changed much over the last several thousand years. The principles and exercises that brought health and the techniques that made for effective self defense are no different today than they were yesterday, ten years ago, or a few thousand years ago. This reality cuts both ways: Though the human body hasn't changed much, our understanding of it has. Unfortunately, despite the growth in knowledge, too many trainers and programs are making the same mistakes that were made yesterday, ten years ago, and even hundreds of years ago. Via Potentia carefully researched human conditioning, eliminating harmful drills, retaining those that promote health, and arranged them in an order that helps maximize improvement, whatever your present condition.

Our fighting style is not from any particular or combination of martial arts, but was derived from studying hundreds of actual assaults and determining the basic array of skills that would be effective for the average person. It is coincidentally-similar to what is historically known as pankration, pankrace, pankratius, etc. Modern examples are Mixed Martial Arts (MMA or "UFC"), Vale Tudo ("anything goes") and the like. Other ways of thinking of it might be to combine Krav Maga and Submission Wrestling, or Muay Thai and Brazilian Jujitsu basics. The key differences are:

We aren't trying to turn people into professional fighters (or street fighters), but the reality is that pankration-style training is far superior to and faster to learn than common "traditional" martial arts when it comes to practical application. All other things being equal, someone with only a year or two of pankration, boxing, submission wrestling or similar training can usually defeat a master of a traditional martial art (someone with 10-20 years experience) in a force-on-force (heavy contact), limited ruleset match. Anyone will have a hard time in a real assault, but the person with heavy contact, pankration-like experience usually has better chances.

We focus on presenting a handful of "high percentage" basics -- techniques that have a high probability of being effective against a larger, stronger opponent. These are not sportsmanlike, finesse moves that you'll find in a regulated competition match, nor or they fancy, demonstration moves that only work on TV or in choreographed movies (or with a compliant partner), but the kinds of techniques to employ when your life is at risk and you are dealing with a violent, aggressive opponent; standing up at kicking and striking range, close in (clinching), grappling on the ground, with (and against) conventional and improvised weapons. We drill on how to use these techniques not only in sport but specifically against common assaults.

Such fighting is not new, but as old as man. Records of it date back thousands of years, and it was among the first Olympic sports, along with boxing and wrestling: "Pankratiasts...must employ backward falls which are not safe for the wrestler and grips in which victory must be obtained by falling...They must have skill in various methods of strangling; they also wrestle with an opponent's ankle and twist his arm, besides hitting and jumping on him, for all these practices belong to the pankration, only biting and gouging prohibited. The Spartans allow even these practices, but the Eleans and the laws of the games exclude them." (Philostratus, c. 220 AD)

We practice and allow any and all strikes and techniques in training, but use protective equipment and limit contact to fragile areas like the eyes, neck, spine, joints and lower abdomen.

Via Potentia

Our time is spent roughly as follows:


  • ~25% of class time
  • Emphasized throughout Via Potentia for all participants
  • Dynamic stretching for joint, muscle and tendon health (active flexibility)
  • Calisthenics for building strength
  • Static stretching for gross range of motion
  • Jump rope, upright sparring and grappling for endurance
  • Injury Prevention and General Health
  • Many people experience significant weight loss

Self Defense

  • ~15% of class time
  • Emphasized for Youth and Adult Beginners
  • Behavioral Principles
  • Fighting to Escape
  • Awareness and Avoidance
  • Attacking Human Weaknesses
  • Using improvised and conventional weapons
  • Learning to defend from common assaults
  • Similar to Krav Maga

Combat Sports

  • ~40% of class time
  • Great for Fun and Competition
  • Developing Powerful Combinations
  • Upright contact sparring
  • Submission grappling (usually same gender)
  • Pankration (MMA)-style matches
  • Grappling is especially useful for bully situations between kids and youth
  • Very effective and easily adapted to self defense
  • Intensity is agreed on between you and your training partner

Martial Arts

  • ~20% of class time
  • Drills for Demonstration and Self Discipline
  • Developing Precision and Coordination
  • Forms (our forms are very challenging)
  • Board Breaking
  • Demonstration Techniques
  • Non- and Light-Contact Sparring
  • Testing for rank and to measure improvement
  • Uniforms, Ethics and Character

First Aid and CPR training is encouraged. Gun safety training is available for adults. Kids classes have a greater emphasis on sport, martial arts, and fun drills. Adults more on self defense. We do have some discussion of ethics, but it is primarily for children and intended to support the good ethics they are already learning from their families.

Our emphasis is on developing practical self defense skills and helping you improve your physical condition. For those who already have these skills, we move on to demonstration and sport martial arts techniques. We have classes specifically for kids, adults and families. Each term lasts approximately three months, and the total program lasts three years. The longer you stay, the more you'll learn and the better your condition will become. But no matter how long you stay, our goal is to impart information and skills that can improve or save your life.

Classes, Times and Locations

Audience Day & Time Location Cost Content
Kids and Youth
Ages 7 - 16
Monday and Wednesday
3:30 - 5:00 PM
Main Gym $180 / 3-month term Our complete self defense and personal safety program less the First Aid, CPR, deep stretching and conventional weapons training. Also, drills are adapted so as to be more enjoyable for younger participants.
Adults and Families
Ages 13 and up
Monday and Wednesday
6:30 - 8:00 PM
Main Gym $180 / 3-month term Our comprehensive self defense and personal safety program.
Open Gym Friday
6:00 - 9:00 PM
Main Gym No Cost Any current member may utilize the gym on Friday evenings for personal training time. This is "unstructured" time. Other classes and seminars are sometimes held simultaneously in the back area of the gym. Members may bring family members or a friend, too.

Typical Class Outline

Classes generally run approximately an hour, and generally follow this outline.

  1. Introductions or Announcements
  2. Topical discussion (once or twice per quarter)
  3. Brief relaxing meditation
  4. Joint warmup and dynamic stretching
  5. Review new technique from prior session
  6. Practice combinations individually or with a partner
  7. Forms, Sparring or Grappling
  8. Learn new technique
  9. Calisthenics
  10. Brief relaxing meditation

Mature students are welcome to stay after class to practice deep, static stretching, CPR, First Aid, and self defense weapons. The after class sessions usually run 30-45 minutes.

General Information

Via Potentia is a Latin phrase meaning "path of hidden strength." Carefully developed over several years, Via Potentia teaches personal fitness (physical and psychological) and effective self defense within the context of classical ethics. For those who continue beyond the self defense stage, Via Potentia adds competitive and demonstration martial techniques, but avoids the shortcomings, gimmicks and unfair practices common to many martial art schools.

Hierarchy of Development

Live Sparring
Power, Speed and Accuracy
Combinations & Drills
Learn Individual Techniques
Physical and Psychological Development

The higher levels depend on the development of the lower ones. For example, if your individual techniques are faulty, or if you lack sufficient physical or psychological capability, your combinations and drills will be weak. The more you can develop, the better your chances of preventing or prevailing in an assault.

As we work on physical strength, stamina and flexibility, we learn individual techniques. The techniques are practiced in combination with other known techniques, developing the ability to spontaneously create combinations while also creating effective combinations of your own. These are practiced so as to develop the ability to rapidly deliver power to the chosen targets. Then practiced in sparring against live opponents.

We welcome individual or family participation (we have separate classes specifically for children age 7 to about 12, or they may participate with an older family member in the adult class). There are no hidden, surprise, test, belt, promotion or membership fees; just a flat quarterly tuition with discounts for family members, returning participants and referrals. We try to have no more than 20 students per instructor, plus 10 per each assistant instructor (subject to space limitations). Grappling is incorporated and same-gender only. Adults do not contact spar or grapple with children (for safety reasons). Some training is for adults only, or only with parents' written permission.

We treat everyone with equal, deep respect, regardless of age, gender, experience or title. We do not require bowing, obedience or other foreign cultural (and anachronistic) customs. Students may greet each other and the instructor with whatever sign of friendship and respect is normative to the culture, or use our own Via Potentia salute.

Also unlike other martial arts, we do not require (and do not have) long term contracts or exclusive commitments. Some martial arts charge increasing amounts as you advance -- each test fee has a higher price -- but in Via Potentia we don't even have test fees, and your tuition actually decreases each term in recognition of your participation. However, all participants (and their parents/guardians, if they are minors) must sign a waiver of liability, and agree not to copy or teach the curriculum to others without authorization, or to use the techniques in any way except legitimate self defense.

We welcome participation by those who are experienced in (or even presently practicing) other martial arts. We do not require your exclusive attention or "loyalty."

We generally do not have belt tests or colored belts; rather, the uniform color represents the student's rank. White or no uniform is a beginner, blue is intermediate, red is advanced, black is Patronus or Magister. It usually takes a year or more to advance through each of the color ranks, but you can go at your own pace.

To advance to the next stage, the student must demonstrate the understanding, techniques, conditioning and character expected given his age, gender and experience. Tests are open to the public, and include verbal questioning, forms, sparring, breaking, power demonstration and conditioning demonstration. The requirements to advance to the next stage are strict, but special circumstances like age or disability can be taken into consideration.

We utilize some Latin terminology because it is fundamental to classical ethics and human anatomy, and Latin is an ancestor to most Western and romance languages.

Most martial arts have the majority of their techniques in common. Many of the techniques we teach are found in Korean, Japanese, Chinese and other martial arts, as well as Western boxing and grappling. The difference here is the context in which they are taught, and the emphasis on self defense application (which is oriented to self preservation, avoidance, evasion and escape, as opposed to points, demonstration or competition).

Curriculum Outline

We offer approximately 24 classes per term, three terms per year. To complete the program takes about three years, or 216 classes. Our curriculum specifies the topics to be covered in each of these classes, and discusses our fundamental principles in great depth.

All comments about fees are provisional, and subject to change.

Discipulus Inceptor: Beginning Stage ~ Year 1

Our first goal is not to teach you a specific style or tradition, but practical, effective self defense and physical conditioning. Because only a small percentage of participants stay longer than a year in most martial arts, we do all we can to make sure that these skills are taught at the beginning. Self defense means being aware of potential dangers, avoiding the avoidable ones, de-escalating the ones that couldn't be avoided, escaping from the ones that couldn't be de-escalated (fighting to escape if necessary), and then recovering. It is not about scoring points, having perfect form or technique, or defeating an opponent. In the process we build a foundation for good physical conditioning and teach about transcendent ethical principles.

In addition, beginners can learn CPR, First Aid and general sports safety principles.

The self defense techniques we teach are, effectively, what you'd find in a basic no-holds-barred system: claw strikes to the eyes; hits to the ears, side and back of head; palm, hammer, knife hand, spear and elbow strikes; knee hits and several basic (low) kicks. The goal is to equip the beginner with the ability to deflect incoming hits while rapidly striking vulnerable areas of the attacker's body with the purpose of causing an injury that allows our escape. For ground work we emphasize resisting take downs, ground positioning and escaping. For weapons we emphasize conventional self defense weapons like pepper spray, guns and knives, but also improvised ones (which we simulate with sticks of various lengths).

We practice with as much force as we can without causing damage to ourselves or training partners (though bruising and scratching are fairly common). The most improvement comes from sparring against people who are larger, stronger and more skilled. Beginners can start out with little or no contact sparring, and move into contact sparring as soon as possible. There is a lot of drilling against resisting/attacking partners, on heavy bags, and the like.

Shin pads and mouth-guards are recommended, as is groin protection for males. If a beginner wishes to wear a uniform, it should be a white one. The belt is optional and should also be white, if worn. The Via Potentia patch is worn on the right shoulder. The country's flag, if worn, should be on the left shoulder. If the school has a special insignia or logo, it may be on the back or front left breast of the uniform top (usually silkscreened or stitched). Get good, heavyweight, comfortable pants; they often feel stiff at first, but break in over time. Via Potentia will provide new tops as you advance to represent your new ranks.

People can proceed at their own pace and desired level of intensity. Dramatic changes in fitness and appearance are common within a few months for those who work hard.

Due to the complexity of our forms (40-50 moves) first year students typically do well in forms competition (for which they will need a uniform). Topics include:

As self defense techniques, instead of more difficult "martial arts" techniques, the beginning stage moves do not require special strength, coordination, stretching or other conditioning (though these don't hurt). They can be performed in most common clothing.

It usually takes about three months of dedicated effort to experience a meaningful increase in one's physical fitness and begin to develop basic, effective self defense techniques. We teach a different set of techniques each term (in a three-term rotation). The emphasis for your first term is always on learning the basic principles and drills for good conditioning and self defense; then applying them in the following terms. Once you've gone through all three terms, you'll have learned good conditioning habits and self defense, substantially improved your physical condition, and built a good foundation from which to grow into a martial art, if you choose to do so.

Discipulus Intermedior: Intermediate Stage ~ Year 2

The second year curriculum continues to reinforce and build upon the first, but with the addition of competitive and demonstration martial arts techniques, higher conditioning expectations, and more intense sparring. Admission to the intermediate stage requires demonstration of the skills, principles and conditioning taught in the beginning stage. Second year students are expected to assist with first year instruction when possible. A uniform and sparring gear are required.

Intermediate (and advanced) students continue to do well in competitive forms, but also develop skills for competitive contact sparring.

We save joint locks until this stage because they aren't actually practical for self defense from a dangerous attack. Joint techniques that work in class against a friendly, compliant opponent are almost impossible to acquire, let alone hold, on an violent attacker. They look cool in movies, and actually aid in the understanding of the human body, but they are very difficult to implement against an alert, aggressive, strong adversary. However, once an attacker has been subdued or significantly-weakened, applying a lock, thereby restraining him until help arrives, is an alternative to simply fleeing.

Intermediate-level students are provided with a blue top, and wear white pants. A belt is optional (and discouraged); if worn, it should be blue.

Discipulus Ultimum: Advanced Stage ~ Year 3

Building upon years one and two, the advanced stage adds complex kicks, submissions and weapons techniques. Like the previous stage, advanced stage students must demonstrate proficiency in all prior techniques and principles, and necessary physical conditioning. A uniform and sparring gear are required. A new, advanced stage (red) uniform top will be provided at no additional charge. Anyone engaging in weapons sparring will need specialized gear.

We reserve training for use and defense against edged and projectile weapons until the advanced stage because, in reality, the best response to someone wielding such a weapon is usually to comply or flee; anything else is almost certainly going to result in critical wounds or death, so there is simply no point in offering technical training until the student has a good foundation and strong skills. Also, we do not train minors in these skills -- only adults.

Advanced level students are provided with a red top, and wear white pants. A belt is optional (and discouraged); if worn, it should be red.

Patronus: Year 4 and beyond

Upon completion of the first three stages, the student has the option, but not the obligation, to be tested for the rank of patronus by headquarters. Successful completion of the test confirms completion of and, in a sense, graduation from, the student program.

If you complete a Master's degree at a university, there is rarely a formal, rigid curriculum for the next stage. Rather, if you wish to proceed beyond that level with your formation and certification, you are expected to take the learning you've, well, mastered, and make a unique contribution in the field. Via Potentia is similar in this regard.

Participants who complete all three stages and the final comprehensive examination are no longer considered "students," but "patronus" or "protector." This is similar in concept to the "black belt" in other styles. These tests are conducted and certificates granted only by headquarters. A patronus may continue to participate by assisting at classes and generally arrange a customized curriculum with the instructor for his own progression. There is generally little or no fee for patronus-stage participants.

Once you've reached this level, any additional certification comes as a result of your own long-term development and demonstration of mastery in the martial arts. For example, in consultation with headquarters, patroni develop their own areas of expertise, forms, teaching topics, etc., and present these to headquarters for review.

Patroni are provided with a black top, and wear white pants. A belt is optional (and discouraged); if worn, it should be black. A patroni may also wear a red, blue or white top, but should wear the black belt when doing so so that others are aware of his rank. The purpose in this is not to draw attention or seek praise, but to make it obvious to other students who can assist them if they need help or have a question.

With experience, patroni can go on to become instructors ("magister").

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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