Self defense classes teach empowerment

Self defense instructor Janet Gee, center left, demonstrates some moves with the help of a student at Mission campus on March 2, 2013. Photo by Sara Bloomberg/The Guardsman

By Lavinia Pisani

On most Saturday mornings Mission campus is silent, but on Feb. 23 approximately 50 men and women filled Room 109 and repeated after one woman, “you are worth defending for.”

They sat in a big circle around self-defense instructor Janet Gee as she moved around using martial arts movements.

She wants to empower people to be more confident with their body and surroundings.

“Focus on yourself and notice the surroundings,” Gee said.

With an eighth degree black belt and 42 years of martial arts experience, Gee offers a free eight-week Saturday class from noon to 1:50 p.m.

Some of her students have experienced past attacks and want to be more prepared.

“I came here because I have had past experiences, and I didn’t protect myself because of fear,” Psychology student Aaliyah Leveau, 21, said.  Leveau said she felt great after her first day.

Gee focuses on different styles such as Chinese kung fu, tai chi chuan, self-defense and the Alexander technique, a method of tension reduction.

“Janet always combines different styles in one class,” Gee’s student and assistant Chenoa Siegenthaler, 30, said. Siegenthaler also expressed her excitement in attending class and never knowing what to expect.

Gee’s chihuahua, Poquito, barks and wiggles around on her thighs as she speaks.

“I am an artist, very martial. I am a survivor, but I don’t want to talk about that,” Gee said. “Life is here, right now.”

Gee believes that regardless of gender or sexual orientation, everyone can benefit from the techniques she teaches.

Gee has been a part-time instructor in the Women’s Studies Department for 18 years and she is also a member of Project SURVIVE.

She works other jobs too, including teaching yoga, counseling women at San Francisco Women Against Rape and running her own business, Janet Gee’s Martial Arts Training.

“If I would have done only this, I wouldn’t be able to survive in San Francisco,” Gee said.

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