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Our Team

Peter Ajemian
Peter AjemianFounder & Chief Instructor
In opening Soja in North Oakland in 2007, my goal was to create a healthy, vibrant, happy community centered around martial arts and mindful fitness for people of all ages and abilities. As a child, I grew up within a family of community developers, social scientists and educators, and had followed that career track up until I opened Soja. I had worked in over 20 different not-for-profit and for profit orgs in urban planning, arts & cultural organization management, public and private schools, and special education teaching environments. I used my experience in schools, community development and urban planning to help choose the right location, North Oakland, CA. As a child, I trained traditional Karate, soccer and partner dance. In my late teens I started my long term study of PGB White Crane Silat. It wasn’t until my 30s that I started studying gymnastics, Brazilian Jijitsu, Wing Tsun, Systema, and multiple styles of yoga. Finally in my 40’s I started my study of self defense with Rory Miller which continues today. By opening Soja I matched my love of these types of physical disciplines with my understanding of the value of building local community networks.
Ralston Gracie
Ralston GracieInstructor
Ralston Gracie is the grandson of Carlos Gracie the creator of Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Ralston’s father Carley Gracie holds a 9th Degree Red Belt and passed down his knowledge to both of his sons Clark Gracie and Ralston Gracie. Carley is known to be undefeated in competition and street defense. Ralston has trained under his father since he was 5 years old, and under his older brother Clark, during his early adulthood. By taking moves specializing from his father’s legendary techniques, and staying updated under his brother’s world renowned competitive style, Ralston blends both the competition and self defense aspects of jiu-jitsu for any goal his students pursue. Ralston has taught for over 15 years under his father in San Francisco and brother in San Diego, and he currently teaches across the Bay Area. He has been a successful competitor as well as an effective and patient instructor for all ages and skill levels. Ralston focuses on showing the basic, highly usable techniques which have been time tested by himself and his family. He has specialized in women’s self defense on the ground, stand up aggression, and transitioning with your opponent. He believes in using combative tactics with non-violence in mind, showing how to de-escalate fights without the need for unnecessary violence.
Steve Seto
Steve SetoInstructor
Steve Seto has been a practitioner of Chinese internal martial arts since 1994. He is also a graduate of the Alive&Well: Institute of Conscious Bodywork and was a co-teacher of movement and body mechanics there. His martial studies and bodywork practice over the years have married into a perspective and training regime in movement that uniquely based on contextual contact and specific language that helps those who train with him have a clear understanding and methodology of what makes whatever movement discipline they are in functional and expressive of the body’s potential.
Jerry Williams!
Jerry Williams!Instructor
Jerry trained in American Boxing in Oakland for years before he started his study of White Crane Silat over 6 years ago. He teaches kids and adult classes at Soja, while continuing his study and teaching of the Applied Self Defense curriculum established by Rory Miller.
Jim Juachon
Jim JuachonInstructor
Jim Juachon has been practicing martial arts for 40+ years. He is an enthusiastic and technical teacher of kids in the Soja kids program. He represented the United States Olympic TaeKwonDo team from 1986 – 88, and is a Guru of Escrima, Philipino martial arts, having studied under Dan Inosanto and many other martial arts masters. He has a 5 year old daughter who participates in his classes at Soja.
Jeanette Jin
Jeanette JinAssistant Instructor / Soja's Financial Advisor
Jeanette Jin has been working in financial industry for twenty years and had extensive entrepreneurial experience. In the past 10 years, she has coached various small businesses in business strategies and financial analysis during their start up and expansion stages. Jeanette started her practice of Tai Chi & White Crane Silat over 6 years ago.
Starfire
StarfireInstructor
Shereel Washington
Shereel WashingtonInstructor
Shereel Herese Butler Washington is a nationally recognized and acclaimed Dancer, Choreographer, Instructor, Producer, and Specialist in Rhythm and Movement. She studied dance at U.C., Santa Barbara, and earned a BA in Choreography and Performance at San Francisco State University. Her professional training, performance, and choreography experience include: Ballet, Modern, Jazz, Tap, Central and West African, Caribbean, and Afro Haitian, and Hula.
Jacob Lindsay
Jacob LindsayInstructor
Jacob Lindsay has been practicing White Crane Silat since 2008. In addition to studying Silat, Jacob has also trained in Wing Tsun, Systema, T’ai Chi, Hsing-I, Ba Gua and Cheng Hsin Tui Shou and Boxing. Jacob’s teaching focuses on students’ awareness of body and mind, creating functional and free movement across the spectrum of solo and partner work. Outside of Soja, he enjoys being a parent, coaching soccer, and teaching exercise classes for seniors, amongst other activities.
Neil Bednar
Neil BednarInstructor
A Mechanical Engineer with an M.S. degree, Neil began his dedicated martial arts practice in 1990, training both in Aikido and Uechi-Ryu Okinawan Karate. He holds a black belt in Karate and a 4th degree Blackbelt in Aikido. Neil also has a Blue belt in no-gi submission grappling in the 10th Planet Jiujitsu organization. Soon afterwards he began learning, training, and teaching Combat Systema under Kevin Secours and continues to lead a group north of San Francisco.