Survival Arts in Voyage LA Magazine

Meet Jamie Yancovitz of Survival Arts Academy in Downtown LA, Griffith Park & Long Beach


JAMIE LA Survival Arts Academy

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jamie Yancovitz.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Jamie. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 1 in 5 women will be raped at some point in their lives. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) reports that every 92 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. Women of color and members of the LGBTQ community experience the highest rates of violence everywhere. Survival Arts Academy was created as a response to violence against women and children around the world.

Survival Arts started as a vision to create space where womxn and girls could train against violence, without the fear or judgment of men. In a world of increasing violent attack and where most self-defense classes are taught by men, and indigenous martial arts are dominated by white men, the question became: where can queer, trans, women of color and femme-identified bodies go to train against attacks? Where do we even feel safe?

I started Survival Arts Academy in Bacolod City, Philippines to create a space where women and their children can learn how to respond to and survive various forms of violence. By using the ancestral teachings of my family, the indigenous fighting arts of Kali, students learn how to respond to grabs, chokes, and knife attacks.

After moving to Los Angeles in 2017, I started introducing the Survival Arts training program in January 2018 to indigenous communities throughout Southern California, creating a powerful healing space where Pinay/Pilipinx, indigenous, queer and trans womxn of color can come together for training and healing. Weaving the wisdom of our ancestors with a revolutionary matriarchal praxis, Survival Arts is rooted in the belief that all women should have the knowledge to protect themselves and their families. Our trainings are offered once a month in Los Angeles and Long Beach, while we travel to communities in New York, the Bay Area, and throughout the Philippines. We hope to expand to more places, as this kind of knowledge should be available to girls everywhere.

As we train women of color around the world, we work to counter the violence that is being inflicted upon indigenous, queer and trans, black and brown bodies, teaching self-preservation and self-determination. This is also a contribution to the growing movement of decolonizing body, mind, and spirit, centering the wellness of our communities. As we train families in survival skills, we work to protect our bodies against violence. Our praxis is rooted in a vision where mothers are honored as creators, children are empowered to be leaders of the future, and all members of the family are trained to be warriors.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It’s never a smooth road healing from trauma or fighting against oppression and social violences like rape, patriarchy, and misogyny. Our work was created specifically for women of color and their families, especially queer and trans families of color, who are facing the highest rates of violence in the United States. The challenge is in decolonizing our minds, bodies, and spirits to embrace and honor our indigenous knowledge. As women step into their power, an energy shift takes place that can be seen and felt. It may make some men uncomfortable, and that’s exactly what we are here for. We are working to create a new image of the Warrior Womxn, redefining both “Warrior” and “Womxn.” Warrior Womxn as a Leader of the Clan, both Healer and Fighter, a Lightworker, Culture-Bearer, Creator and Protector of Life.

We want to create the new image of the Womxn as “not to be messed with,” literally and figuratively. Womxn are out here knife fighting and responding to attackers. Don’t even think about attacking our bodies or our children! A new generation of warriors is coming out of Survival Arts Academy.

Please tell us about Survival Arts Academy.
Survival Arts is a community-based training program for families of color to protect against violence based out of Los Angeles, California. It is a space where womxn and children learn how to respond to grabs, chokes, and other forms of attack, creating sisterhood while connecting to ancestral roots and indigenous knowledge. Survival Arts leads the first all-womxn’s Kali training group in the world, creating a movement supporting Pinays/Filipinas reclaiming our power and culture through our fighting arts culture, and encouraging training spaces and healing circles in our own communities. We work with and within healing spaces including Flora Y Tierra, Hood Herbalism, La Conxa, and Women’s True Healing.

Our training is rooted in the Filipino fighting arts of Pekiti Tirsia Kali, our family fighting system that originates from Negros Occidental in the Western Visayas of the Philippines, and has been protecting the family against oppressors since 1897. Pekiti Tirsia Kali (PTK) is a complete Close-Quarters Combat system that specializes in Edged & Impact Weapon Control Dynamics and has become highly popular in militaries around the world through our grandmaster, Grand Tuhon Leo T. Gaje Jr.

To document our work as Warrior Womxn and to reclaim the narrative that has become dominated by men, we started a YouTube Channel( that is growing everyday. Now, Survival Arts Academy offers trainings around the world, currently running programs once a month in Los Angeles, Long Beach, California, and New York City. We are also expanding to the Bay Area on July 18th, offering our first training/healing work with multidisciplinary artist and educator Jana Lynne Umipig, who facilitates our NYC training group.

Our Survival Arts trainings include a healing circle, meditation, muscle memory and coordination development, and learning the movements of Pekiti Tirsia Kali. Our first lessons are about consent, respect, and boundaries, creating the mindset of survival for all ages. As a family style training for mothers and families, our students work to fight violence at its very core. Our long-term vision is to facilitate spaces all over the world, creating centers of sacred knowledge and practice. We believe that all children should learn about consent and respect — it’s never too early to teach and understand this!

As we train womxn of color, we work to dismantle patriarchal violence, decolonize our indigenous fighting arts, and reclaim our warrior power.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
The greatest lesson of this work has been to never give up, especially for all survivors of violence and sexual assault. There are always moments of doubt, overwhelming emotions, and failures that feel like the end. The important thing is how we respond, heal, and learn from it all. If you can transform your pain into power, that is reclaiming the spirit of the Warrior.

Honor your ancestors. Follow your heart. Acknowledge the land and the original stewards of that land, and give back to the community that you’re in. There is a power in working to heal yourself, and that power reverberates into everyday life.

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Image Credit:
Darcey de los Reyes