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Principles-Based Training

Soja Mind Body is a welcoming, non-competitive community of martial and movement artists.

We train together to get better together! Join us today!

The Soja Community

‘Soja’ means to greet each other with respect, and it perfectly expresses our community’s philosophy. At Soja we train a variety of mindful fitness and self defense programs in a fun, friendly, casual atmosphere in a gorgeous studio space in South Berkeley. Students at every level of experience and physical capacity are invited to participate at their own level. Our community unites around our need for continuous learning, getting fit, and increasing our (mindfulness?) self-discipline by deepening our awareness, and having fun.

Our Teaching Method

Soja teachers employ Principles-Based Training techniques throughout our curriculum. By principles based, we mean we focus on building fundamental blocks of movement and the strategies and principles which improve all of your movement. All of our training is informed by professional anatomy practitioners with a real world application in mind. We believe in cultivating a rigorous search for the truth that allows for cross-platform discussions of effective and healthy body movement.

Our Traditions

Our classes are rooted in western functional training, traditional Chinese and Indonesian martial arts styles, including PGB White Crane Silat  (Shaolin Kung Fu mixed with Pencak Silat), Chi Gung, T’ai Chi, and Visayan Style Corto Kadena / Larga Mano Eskrima. Our self-defense system comes from Rory Miller’s Chiron Training program.

About Our Classes

Primal Power

Our Primal Power workouts give you a sustainable framework to walk the streets with power and peace by building your strength and awareness through mindful fitness. These workouts lead you through diverse natural human body movements that cultivate ease and grace in all areas of your life. Overcome fear of change by being challenged to adapt to new movements each class and build onto previous movement patterns. The foundation for all of these exercises is founded on anatomically correct principles. Whether you are new to fitness or an experienced athlete, this class empowers you to be stronger, smarter and safer at your existing workouts. All skills levels and physical capacities are welcome!

Chi Gung Fundamentals

Chi Gung is a potent modality to enhance a broad spectrum of human physical abilities. The key to enjoying those benefits is mastering fundamental skills and understanding the principles that inform those skills. This class will focus intensely on embodying the most important body principles of Chi Gung practice so it can inform our everyday experience (walking, standing, lifting). From that place, this will serve as a platform for more sophisticated explorations. The methodology is based on developing direct awareness of the skeletal structure through gentle and contextual contact exercises. A precise means to embody core skeletal extension and integration will be part of each lesson. As time and capacity allow we will explore the following:

  • A systematic map and techniques to integrate the skeletal structure incrementally from the center to the periphery
  • Marry structural power with deep body listening, pliability and internal flow
  • Maintain an alive and dynamic relationship with gravity in all movements
  • Tracking the true range of one’s motions and workload capacity
  • Maximize the value of partner exercises through accurate feedback
  • Learning to create a personal practice that is always contextually relevant so practice time translates into tangible body skill

Click on this link to see a 1 minute video of Steve the teacher speaking about this class.

Yang Style Tai Chi

Originally a martial art, Tai Chi uses martial exercises with grace, balance, and power in a moving meditation that heals and strengthens the body, while focusing the mind. Our classes focus on learning the traditional Yang style long form and will include Qi Gong warm-up exercises, two-person exercises, and weapons for the advanced students. This fun and dynamic workout will leave you feeling energized, yet centered and relaxed.

White Crane Silat (Silat Bangau Putih)

White Crane Silat (WCS) is a martial arts system with roots in Chinese Northern Shaolin and Indonesian Pencak Silat. The White Crane Silat lineage is currently taught through Persatuan Gerak Badan (Unification of Body Movement), an Indonesian organization founded in 1952 by the late Grandmaster Subur Rahardja (Suhu).

White Crane Silat practice includes foundational movements emphasizing structural and movement principles, application, athleticism, and grace. The building blocks of this system are short movements which incorporate a variety of strikes, blocks, kicks, and sweeps. Short movements are then combined into choreographed long movements that train flow, balance, timing, and grace. Long movements are classified into different systems associated with animals, and other natural phenomena, and legendary figures.  Our free-form sparring system (tui cu) provides a platform to apply these movements in a practical and adaptable format. White Crane Silat is intended for real world application rather than competition.

Our Silat training at Soja focuses on traditional training styles emphasizing a clear understanding of fundamental movement principles, and the ability to adapt and apply these movements in practical sparring drills. Drills are approached in a systematic and cooperative way, with the level of challenge adjusted appropriately for each student.

Drill work includes:

  • Stance work for structural alignment and strategy
  • Working the angles of attack
  • Using rhythm, disruption, and leading to your advantage
  • Using body mechanics to move yourself and your opponent
  • Strikes and Kicks
  • Sweeps and full-body throws
  • Finishing moves and submissions
  • Weapons training

Specific movements and drills are given out based on each individual student’s capacity to embody and apply those movements within a real context.

Click here for more information on PGB Bangau Putih.

Self-Defense and Weapons Workshop Series with Steve Seto and Ken Ingram

This ongoing workshop series covers specific topics relating to the use of weapons and tools in self-defense and martial arts training. Some of the topics include: short blade, machete/long blade, boxing, baseball bat, and more.

Steve Seto and Ken Ingram have been long term students of the late maestro Sonny Umpad who created Visayan Corto Kadena Eskrima.  Sonny instilled in his students a sensitivity to position, angles, timing and movement as it relates to weapon based combat. The principles of edged weapon usage was core to how he established the key practices for his system of Eskrima.

This workshop series is based around the system created by maestro Sonny Umpad. The exercises presented in these workshops are principles-based and not focused on specific techniques. They are focused on developing the attributes necessary for effective self-defense and martial practice

Some of the topics covered in these workshops include:

  • Managing range, timing, entry and escape with the principle of the pendulum
  • Combining offense and defense through position, distance and timing
  • Clearly establishing the vertical line of the body as a platform for effectiveness
  • Igniting efficient, full power strikes with minimal range and setup
  • Creating seamless transitions between techniques
  • Proper weapon wielding and connection to the skeletal frame
  • Using the full surface area of a weapon to maximize range of techniques
  • Bridging the gap of tactics and strategy with practical applications
  • Understanding the ethics and legality of self-defense
  • Developing a flow-based cooperative practice regime that focuses on simple but scalable exercises to maximize learning potential

Applied Self-Defense

I don’t want to fight but I will defend myself and my family

At Soja, we believe that everyone has the right to defend themselves and others against violence. While martial arts can overlap with self-defense, we view them as very different studies with very different goals and parameters. We bring world-class instructors to teach what we believe is essential knowledge for everyone. We invite you to participate in these workshops regardless of age, gender or physical ability because we focus on every person’s unique abilities to defend themselves, not on special techniques that require special skills or physical abilities to perform. Participants need no special level of physical strength or mobility or martial arts training– our Applied Self-Defense program is for EVERYONE!

The core of our program is our Self Defense Workshop Series. We believe this to be the most complete introductory self-defense program available in the Bay Area. While many self-defense programs focus on specific physical techniques, our program is principles and experience-based, a training method that is much more practical should a physical confrontation occur. More importantly, we will focus on all of the elements of self-defense, starting with the most effective self-defense skill– avoiding a physical confrontation entirely!

Our program covers:

  • Violence Dynamics: What are the different types of violence? How, when, and why does violence occur?
  • Legal/Ethical: Self defense law and personal ethical decisions regarding self-defense.
  • Avoidance, Escape, and De-escalation: How to avoid a violent encounter
  • Counter Ambush: Reflex conditioning to act when a violent encounter occurs
  • Breaking the Freeze: What are the different types of freezes that are likely to occur in a violent encounter, and how can we break them?
  • The Fight Itself: Play-based partner drills to develop fighting ability
  • Aftermath: Medical, legal, and psychological issues to be addressed following a violent encounter

In addition to our core series, we also host world-class visiting instructors. Check out our upcoming Adult Workshops.

Please note the Applied Self-Defense is for adults over the age of 18. We offer a series of self-defense for kids 5yo-18yo that address these topics in an age-appropriate manner. Check out our upcoming kids workshops.


Corporate and Community Training

Corporate Self Defense Packages

These days, every workplace or community center must consider the safety of the people who gather in its space. Soja creates programs tailored to your corporate or community group and will teach these courses at our studio in South Berkeley or at your facility. Training can happen during business hours or outside the work day in the evening or on the weekends. Contact the studio today to discuss a unique workshop for your team.