Photo by Frankie Keane
Teja VanWicklen is a 30-year veteran martial artist with a background in edged weapons, firearms and wilderness survival. She was a personal trainer for over 12 years and is a certified Emergency Medical Technician (EMT).
Teja has been involved in many areas of martial arts from instructing, to modeling and stunt performance, to high level training with elite military personnel. She has engaged in a number of training exercises she doesn’t necessarily recommend others try and has had experiences she might have been happier (though not necessarily smarter) without – dodging live darts, fighting through pepper spray, feeling the full-body jolt of a Taser.
Teja has been featured in multiple magazines including Madmoiselle and interviewed on Television for ESPN, Nancy Grace, Good Day New York and Veria Living TV.
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 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.
from 2000 to 2007 Teja managed GO!, a martial arts performance troupe out of New York City that created and performed over a hundred staged stunt performances for major events, pharmaceutical conferences, film festivals and movie premieres. She ran multiple performance and a Jedi Training Camp at the Star Wars Attack of the Clones Premiere and staged fights at The Matrix: Reloaded Premiere among others. During the same period she leaped on a melon in a grocery store for a South West Air Super Bowl commercial and assisted the choreographers of films like Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, directed by George Clooney, and The Hunted, starring Tommy Lee Jones.
Teja is a founding member and lead writer for Conflict Research Group International, a collective of well-known safety professionals who navigate the dark and labyrinthian territory of violence, conflict, predator and victim mindsets, social and asocial violence and the rest.. The group is made up of 11 high level martial artists and violence experts from around the world, including Rory Miller (author of Facing Violence, Conflict Communications and others) and Marc MacYoung, author and purveyor of one of the highest ranking and most informative self-defense sites on the internet, NoNonsenseSelfDefense.com.
Teja has created a DVD program for women and a Mommy & Me Self-defense CD program for busy moms. Last year she ran possibly the first ever, comprehensive online women’s self-defense program called The Secrets of Women’s Self Defense and is gearing up to run the program quarterly. She is currently creating a fitness class to bring her vision of self-defense movement and practice out of smelly, misogynistic martial arts schools and into mainstream gyms. The book, quarterly online workshop and series of fitness classes, are part of a multi-tiered plan – a women’s self-defense trifecta.
Following is what some clients have said about Teja’s online course and DVD:
“The concept of “ignorance is bliss” implies that by not knowing, you are relieved of the burden of having to be responsible for what you know. If we want to improve our health and well-being, we have to be willing to look at, discuss and find solutions for things that are not comfortable to acknowledge or face. Thank you for being here and helping to make change possible.” ~ Tera Warner, Creator of W.I.S.H radio (Women’s International Summit on Health)
“The Devi DVD is a college course in self-defense… so impressive in scope and depth and with such an acute understanding of women’s issues. [It] will be my gift to every woman I know.” ~ Belisa Vranich, Clinical Psychologist, Author and Founder of The Breathing Class
“Devi should be required for every young female college student or mother-to-be. If every woman watched this video even once, there would be a lot less for me to do.” ~ Colin Ryan, Special Investigations Unit for a suburban P.A. police dept.
“I for one am so glad I signed up. I find the whole psychological side of Protective Offense fascinating…. it can benefit everyone, regardless of how strong or weak you think you are, regardless of your health, weight or physical ability or disability… your cultural background, and perhaps even regardless of your gender…. Thanks Teja.” ~ Alannah Thorp, student of The Secrets of Women’s Self-defense online course
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 14 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.
The most significant art Teja studied is called Sayoc Kali, 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 Teja began exploring other aspects of martial arts and self defense, people like Rory Miller, Marc MacYoung, Erik Kondo and Kathy Jackson began to have a huge impact on her work and thought process. This was the beginning of the think tank that has come to be known as Conflict Research Group International,
Protective Offense is the culmination of Teja’s dreams and aspirations. She hopes the company and its programs will play a part in curtailing the world-wide culture of violence and oppression against women and children and also make them harder targets.