Meet The SOJA Team 2017-03-05T00:21:27+00:00

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Meet the SOJA 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.
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. Jacob currently directs Soja’s Youth Martial Arts Program. Outside of Soja, he enjoys being a parent, coaching soccer, and teaching exercise classes for seniors, amongst other activities.
Laura Mazzola
Laura MazzolaInstructor
Laura Mazzola has been practicing White Crane Silat since 1988, training at centers in France, Spain, Germany, and throughout the U.S. and San Francisco Bay Area. She received her black belt at the PGB training center in Indonesia in 2007. Laura has been teaching at Soja since its inception in 2008. Her current focus is the Yin System (also called the Women’s System) of training and sparring, emphasizing technical detail and application.
Brian Blalock
Brian BlalockInstructor
Brian Blalock has been teaching martial arts for over twenty years. He began training in 1981 and has studied American boxing, traditional Taekwondo, aikido, regional and angola capoeira, and American Kenpo. Brian has studied Vipassana and Samadhi meditation in Sri Lanka and the U.S. and capoeira in Brazil. He also holds graduate degrees in South Asian Cultural Studies from Columbia and East Asian Religious Studies from Harvard.
Gordon Jonas
Gordon JonasYoga Instructor
Gordon Jonas began practicing White Crane Silat in 2011 and began working with Soja’s Kids’ Kung Fu Program shortly thereafter. Prior to studying Silat, Gordon trained in Taekwondo, Boxing, Muay Thai, and Wrestling. He is a certified Flow Yoga Teacher, bodyweight calisthenics advocate, cyclist, outdoors enthusiast, and nurturing-but-stern older brother type. His teaching philosophy is centered around building personal engagement and developing individual challenges for each student within a framework of collective focus and mutual respect.
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.
Rory Miller
Rory MillerConsigliere
Rory Miller has been studying martial arts since 1981. He’s a bestselling writer and veteran corrections officer. He’s taught and designed courses on Use of Force Policy and Decision Making: Police Defensive Tactics; Confrontational Simulations; and as a sergeant, he led and trained his former agency’s Corrections Tactical Team. In 2008 and 2009, he taught methods to operate a secure prison for the Iraqi Corrections Systems.
Rory teaches various courses on violence and self defense at the Soja studio twice a year. Please see the Adult Workshops tab on Soja’s online registration system to learn more about his upcoming self defense weekend.
Jeanette Jin
Jeanette JinFinancial 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 PGB White Crane Silat at Soja over a year ago.
Cheryl Fralick
Cheryl FralickInstructor
Cheryl started training PGB White Crane Silat with Dr. Bryce Carter in 1986. She has taught children Silat at El Cerrito Community Center in the past and currently at Soja, for the past 7 years. Currently Cheryl leads the Tao Kung (Healthy Movement) classes at Soja. Cheryl owns and operates a landscaping business, and is the mother of a 25 year old son. She is used to the many challenges that adults and children face in this rapidly changing world.
Charles Strange
Charles StrangeInstructor
Charles has been involved since 1995 in movement therapies ranging from Chinese martial arts such as taijiquan, baguazhang and xingyiquan to qigong, circus style stretching and Russian kettlebells. From 1997 an onward he has trained in numerous modalities such as Thai, shiatsu, tui na, Swedish, lymphatic drainage, myofascial release and neuromuscular techniques.