Open Hand School of Self-Defense
Do Jump! Movement Theater School
Julie Lawrence Yoga Studio


The world seems to be getting scarier by the minute, but Staci Cotler provides women with the tools they need to feel safe. As director of Open Hand (2926 NE Alberta St., 493-1000), Cotler shares 13 years of self-defense teaching experience in her innovative and valuable programs.

What kind of women take your self-defense class?

The classes are open to all women and teen girls, so every session has students of different ages, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, physical ability, body type and life experience.

What will women learn in this class?

I teach a range of physical, verbal and psychological strategies, as well as a knowledge of community resources, so each person can decide for themself how to prevent, survive and heal from violence. Women will learn to get in touch with the choices they have.

How is your class different from other self-defense courses?

I help women develop their own personal safety strategies and teach them to create safety within their communities. This isn't a class on how to be defensive but on how to be open and develop trusting relationships.

What surprises your students about the class?

Students often have the common expectation that they will only learn how to punch. They learn the physical skills, but they're often surprised when the class builds and supports self-confidence. They also have lots of fun and meet very cool women.

How is Open Hand changing the world?

I also offer self-defense and leadership programs for young people ages 4 to 13. I use a peer teaching model that allows youngsters not only to learn peaceful solutions to violence but to teach their peers those same skills. It's a fun place for young people to learn age-appropriate self-defense and get inspired to participate in family, school and community.


Seven years ago, Gary Oxman responded to a flier he received in the mail inviting him to "learn to fly." The Multnomah County Health Officer began trapeze and acrobatic classes at the Do Jump! Movement Theater School (Echo Theatre, 1515 SE 37th Ave., 231-1232) and still experiences thrills and chills while learning and performing.

Willamette Week: What kind of people participate in Do Jump!'s classes?

Gary Oxman: There is a wide range of people, from teenagers to a woman who is well into her 60s and everybody in between. People come from all walks of life including a bike messenger, chef, waitress and computer programmer. There are individuals of all body types and fitness levels. It's a fun group and not intimidating at all.

What do you do there?

The instructors are great and very attentive to people's skill levels. The trapeze work is done on a low one that you can reach from the floor, not the high kind that you see at the circus. We also do a lot of tumbling and acrobatics, as well as some special stunts like juggling and walking with stilts.

What surprised you most about the class?

Being a doctor, I know anatomy and physiology. The first time the instructor said, "lengthen your spine," I knew in my head that you can't actually lengthen your spine. But when you're performing, it really is possible. The class opened up a new way of thinking about my body as well as thinking about arts and aesthetics.

What keeps you coming back after seven years?

It's one of those points of joy in life that you have to hang on to.


Yoga changes lives. Here's the documented proof: The students in the Wednesday-morning gentle yoga class at the Julie Lawrence Yoga Studio (1020 SW Taylor St., 227-5524) rave about how much better they feel since easing into the therapeutic wonders of this ancient healing science. Teacher Cathleen Dehen leads a class attended by many kinds of people who come looking for physical and emotional healing. "Through the practice of yoga," she explains, "you can gain physical strength and flexibility, which often leads to emotional strength and personal growth."

Willamette Week: How has the yoga class enriched your life?

Barbara Peterson (writer and former history professor): Yoga has made my mind very focused and sharp, which helps me to finish my work in a much shorter time than predicted. When you take care of your mind and body, the work becomes smaller.

How has the yoga class helped you physically?

Mary Sampson (diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a condition that causes widespread pain in the muscles and joints): I was extremely active before I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Through yoga, I've regained flexibility, muscle tone and the energizing effect of exercise without the regression that can happen with other types of exercise.

What do you like best about the gentle yoga class?

Nancy Ward (has multiple sclerosis): Cathleen is a wonderful teacher who adapts the poses to suit each participant's needs or disabilities. We're all getting great workouts and having a wonderful time because we can relax, have fun and do the yoga. Our disabilities aren't a problem here.

Is it ever too late to start yoga?

Mary Bothwell (breast-cancer survivor): At 74, I'm the oldest member of the class. Yoga changed my life when I started practicing at age 50. I've been doing it for 24 years, and I plan to do it every day for at least another 24.

Why do you keep coming back?

Jane Lebens (recovering from a 1995 brain aneurysm): I feel successful at it. The poses make me feel good.


















feedback site map search site personals classified webxtra culture news search site self service shop feature Q & A