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March 7-14, 2007

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Minorsan Self-Defense Training Services

No minor-league might Minorsan's co-owners, Clara Minor and Dio Santiago, constructively work out personal differences and any minor workplace tensions.

Giving Back

In response to the recent wave of attacks on women in Santa Cruz, local martial arts studio Minorsan starts up free monthly self-defense classes for women

By Laura Mattingly

Dio Santiago clasps his hand around Clara Minor's thin wrist as the co-owners of Minorsan martial arts and health studio demonstrate an important concept in women's self-defense.

Minor explains how it's a common misconception that, if you're grabbed in this way, you should immediately try to pull your wrist out of the attacker's grip.

"The concept we teach is, why struggle with someone who has that much power, when he's got all these vulnerable areas that are open? I've got this [she gestures toward his eyes], I've got this [his throat] and I've got this [his genitals]. Why even bother with this [his firm grip]?"

"His nervous system is going to react to pain. So if I go, 'Noaaaahhhhhh' [Minor swipes her hand inches in front of Santiago's face], this releases me automatically. I have now temporarily blinded him, so now I can run and it will be hard for him to come after me. Simple concept."

According to Minor and Santiago, self-defense classes are often not the first on people's list of priorities, and some actively avoid considering the thought of their own vulnerability.

"It's a very difficult subject to come to terms with," says Minor. "It's dealing with your life, with your very survival. And most people are afraid of dying. So they're afraid of even thinking about the possibility of dying. So why would I think of a serial rapist murderer coming after me when I want to think positively? I want to think good, I don't want to think that maybe this guy is gonna come after me, because that's negative thinking, why would I want to think that, so I'm just gonna ignore it completely, and think positively.

"And there's good in that," she adds. "Of course we want to think positively. We want to think good thoughts during the day. [But] that doesn't stop someone else from doing what they're gonna do."

Nor does everyone who attends Minor's workshops feel immediately comfortable entertaining the need to respond to an attacker with violence.

"One girl, I said something about the eyes, and she said, 'Oh, no, but I don't like violence.' So I had to stop the whole class and talk about, what does that really mean for you in your life? What does violence mean? Does it mean if I do this, and hit him, and temporarily water his eyes, that I have become a violent person? No," says Minor, a very slender woman with a low, strong voice. "The attacker is solely responsible for the violence. I am reacting to it and just giving it back to him, saying, 'Uh-huh, I'm not gonna keep it. You take back your own medicine.'"

The seven violent attacks on women that occurred last month in Santa Cruz prompted women students in Minorsan's kickboxing, body-pump and martial arts classes to express the need for some defense training specific to women. In response, the owners are now offering a free two-hour weekend workshop in addition to the workshops they've offered regularly since the mid-'80s, shortly after they bought their studio.

According to Minor, there has always been a need for women's self-defense in Santa Cruz, beginning in the early '70s with Edmund Emil Kemper, a serial murderer who specifically victimized women, including beheading hitchhikers, dismembering and distributing body parts of his victims, shooting UCSC and Cabrillo students and eventually murdering his mother. He, along with two other local serial murderers of the '70s, earned Santa Cruz the infamous title "murder capital of the world."

Minorsan's long spanning self-defense education also reaches into various demographics and age groups, offering workshops of varying duration, from one weekend to multiple weeks, to any group who expresses an interest.

Recently, Minorsan held a workshop for a group of Realtors wanting to know how to defend themselves while showing houses.

Area schools have taken advantage of the workshops as well. A local Waldorf school recently completed an eight-week session. Minorsan instructors currently teach in San Lorenzo Valley and have done workshops as far away as Santa Barbara. The workshops for children include information on how to handle situations with bullies.

Minor feels that through education, women can decrease fear and increase their sense of personal freedom.

"For myself, being a woman, being the gender that has been, traditionally for the past couple thousand years, seen as the weaker, and as submissive--you have a place and you better stick to your place--I have fought all my whole life, and for years I have felt very independent," says Minor. "And to me the most important part of being alive is my personal freedom, my freedom to do what I want with myself, with my body, with my life--without having somebody else tell me what I should do, or what I must do, or what I have to do. Therefore if I want to go out at night by myself, I have the right to do that, just like any other person, just like any other male.

"So my purpose for being in this business, in this way of life that I have, is to empower women in a way that nothing else can," explains Minor. "You can get empowerment in lots of different areas of activity in the world: You can get empowerment from group sports, you can get empowerment from being a great actor, you can get empowerment from lots of different things. But when it comes to one-on-one, taking care of yourself--cause someone might hurt you--all that empowerment can go out the door, if you haven't learned how to fight."

Minorsan Self-Defense Training Services offers free monthly workshops; for more information call 831.458.0900 or email [email protected] Information and scheduling available at Minorsan is located at 1320 Mission St., Santa Cruz.

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