Spectrum News Channel 1 — Survival Arts Academy Brings Local Women Together Through Self-Defense Classes

PUBLISHED 5:30 PM ET FEB. 15, 2019

If you happen to be at the local park near Flora y Tierra in Long Beach on Saturdays, you might come across a strange scene. Once a month, 20 or so women wielding sticks can be seen on the grass.

  • Woman teaches Filipino martial arts to women for self-defense

  • She is great niece of one of the martial art's few living masters

  • Style emphasizes the use of blades and body movements

The sounds echoing through the group might prove even stranger. 

"This is the blade of the knife, the cutting edge," said Jamie Yancovitz during the class. "Slice that neck."

But far from barbaric, the scene is part of a self-defense program sponsored by Yancovitz's Survival Arts Academy. She founded the organization several years ago in the Philippines, but brought her unique form of self-defense to Los Angeles a year ago.

"In any city, there’s going to be danger, there’s going to be violence, there’s going to be harassment," she said.

"Having to toughen myself up as a woman, having to be completely aware at all times, these become survival skills for all women. The more I became in tune with these skills, the more I realized that other people need this."

She realized she could combine elements of her Filipino culture with her desire to help other women. Yancovitz is the great niece of Grand Tuhon Leo T. Gaje Jr., the only living guardian of Pekiti Tirsia Kali - an ancient form of martial arts that is known for its emphasis on the blade. 

Although the class does not feature actual knives, participants learn aspects of body mechanics and movement that are fundamental in self defense. 

"Mostly it just reinforces your body movement," explained Marbella Calvillo, who has been training with Yancovtiz for almost a year.  "Because a lot of it isn’t about being stronger or more powerful. It’s about evading, getting out of the way into a safer space."

And because the classes are led by women and for women, they are able to come together and move forward as one. 

Survival Arts