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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.