Teja Van Wicklen is a 30-year veteran martial artist with a broad background. She’s dabbled in a number of martial arts and skill sets, including edged weapons, wilderness survival and firearms. She was a personal trainer for 15 years, and briefly a volunteer Emergency Medical Technician (EMT).
In 2009 Teja found herself pregnant and on bed rest. After several surgeries and some extenuating circumstances, she felt weak and ill-equipt to care for her infant. Teja began to question her training and formulated the idea for a new paradigm of self defense that spoke directly to those who needed it most: women, moms, seniors, the disabled. The idea evolved as she grew into motherhood and continued to ask herself questions like how she would fend off an attacker with her infant in a sling or a stroller.
In the beginning, Teja focused on the physical techniques which had always seemed built for someone larger or taller or someone with longer arms. But since a woman with a baby needs something closer to a miracle to protect her from three attackers with weapons, Teja’s view of what she was calling Protective Offense grew into a 360 degree view of how we move through the world.
She now collaborates with an international group of martial arts and conflict resolution analysts, called Conflict Research Group, International, to navigate the dark and labyrinthian territory of conflict, predator and victim mindsets, social and asocial violence and the rest.
Teja’s vision of a new self defense is family oriented. She sees it as a series of life tools that can be learned, practiced and played along with children, by way of audio, games, video and live and online workshops. The focus is on helping families protect themselves and each other while raising strong, productive children who will never be victims or criminals.
The resulting martial art was named Devi Protective Offense – “Devi”, for the mythological Hindu goddess with eight arms who’s other names include Kali, the goddess of time and death (it’s also the name of a Filipino martial art), Durga, the demon slayer – the Buffy of the goddesses – and others.
The term Protective Offense was the result of a search for a more inclusive term. Teja felt the word “defense” was too passive to convey the mindset needed to survive an armed attack and that “offense” better described the chess-like mental state needed to spot potential danger and make decisions quickly. It also seemed the word “self” in self defense left out other people we are responsible for.
Teja grew up in New York City’s East Village before it was trendy. Drug dealers, Hell’s Angels and gay bashing were part of normal life. In grade school, as a small, odd child, she was routinely bullied. The principal of her junior high school had her graduate two weeks early without taking the Regents Exams, because he felt he couldn’t protect her from the gangs. When Teja was 20 a close family friend in her building was brutally murdered.
Teja began studying martial arts at 15 years old and it quickly became a staple in her life. The training gave her a focus, a social group, a sense of strength and accomplishment and confidence from working hard and prevailing in competition.
Teja has studied a wide range of styles including Taekwondo, Tai Chi and Kali. Sayoc Kali is a Filipino tribal art specializing in edged weapons, survival training and martial science. Teja credits the head of the system, Christopher C. Sayoc, with many life-changing lessons. She thanks him for pushing her to the reaches of exhaustion and fear and beyond, for showing her that martial arts is the study of just about everything and, most importantly, for providing the seed that became Protective Offense.
As she began exploring other aspects of martial arts and self defense, people like Rory Miller and Marc MacYoung began to have a huge impact on her work and thought process.
Throughout her life, Teja has been fortunate enough to combine her visual and martial arts skills. For over five years, she managed GO!, a martial arts production company that created and performed hundreds of staged stunt performances for major events like the Star Wars Attack of the Clones Premiere, The Matrix: Reloaded Premiere, the Tribeca Film Festival, and almost a hundred others.
Teja has been featured in major magazines, TV commercials and interviewed on Television for ESPN, Nancy Grace, Good Day New York, Mademoiselle magazine, Veria Living and others (see Press Page).
Teja has created a DVD program for women and a Mommy & Me Self Defense CD program for busy moms called Baby Steps. Her 12 week Secrets of Women’s Self Defense online course was the first one of its kind. Teja is currently working on several books and on Protective Offense University: a self defense program for colleges and universities.
Protective Offense is the culmination of Teja’s dreams and aspirations. She hopes the company and its programs will help curtail the world-wide culture of violence against women and children and also make them harder targets.