About Teja Van Wicklen
Founder of Devi Protective Offense
& Mommy & Me Self Defense
"I see martial arts as life's tool box, a way to care for my family, set and achieve goals, and live at the highest personal level possible. "
Teja Van Wicklen is a 27-year veteran martial artist, a personal trainer, edged weapons instructor, Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and mother, whose specialties are solving problems, facing fears, acquiring knowledge and skills and turning mistakes into positive outcomes.
In 2009 Teja set out to dispel common myths about women's self defense and bring it into the 21st Century. She formulated the idea for her company, Devi Protective Offense and it’s main program, Mommy & Me Self Defense, while pregnant and on bed rest. The idea evolved as Teja grew into motherhood and began asking herself questions like, “how would you fend off an attacker with the baby in a sling and only about four hours of broken sleep?”
The company’s mission is to reinvent women's self defense as a series of life tools that can be learned and practiced in collaboration with children, by way of audio, video, games, and live and online workshops. The methods help women protect themselves against considerable odds and offer assistance in raising strong, productive children who will never be victims or criminals. The system advocates and implements a lifestyle that encourages women with children and busy lives to prepare, plan and be ready for anything.
"I created the Devi Protective Group out of frustration with the status quo," Teja says. "Safety begins with your individual outlook and how you position yourself in the world, not with a kick or punch," she continues, "all my life I was physically strong and very athletic, it wasn't until a difficult pregnancy and a series of illnesses and surgeries in my late 30s that I began to look at martial arts in a new way. I like to say my infant son came up with the idea for the company. Holding him and feeling how fragile he was really scared me out of complacency. It caused me to rethink all my training."
Teja grew up in New York City's East Village with a passion for the arts. She began studying martial arts at 15 years old and it quickly became a staple in her life. The training gave her a focus, a social group and a sense of strength and accomplishment. Training also led to competition which resulted in a number of trophies and championships.
Now Teja has trained for over 27 years and is skilled in a wide range of styles including Sayoc Kali, Taekwondo and Tai Chi. Sayoc Kali is a Filipino tribal art specializing in edged weapons, survival training and martial science. Teja credits the head of the system, Christopher C. Sayoc, with many life-changing lessons. She thanks him for teaching her to ask questions all the time, for pushing her to the reaches of exhaustion and fear and even farther, for showing her that martial arts is the study of just about everything and, most importantly, for providing the seed that became Devi Protective Offense.
Prior to creating Devi, Teja was hired as an instructor at Tactical Awareness to co-run their Woman Warrior camp alongside 24-year veteran Navy SEAL, Michael Jaco. The camp was created to empower women to learn self protection and wilderness survival, but was prematurely curtailed by the Iraq War when Jaco returned to active duty.
Teja was certified as an instructor at Sayoc Tactical Group, a company which instructs military and law enforcement personnel in the use of edged weapons.
Teja is a certified personal trainer with over 20 years of experience at New York City gyms and health clubs like the New York Health & Racquet Club and New York Sports. She also worked along side physical therapists to increase her understanding of injuries and safe training techniques.
Teja is proud to have become an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) in 2011 alongside an outstanding group of trainees who struggled through the highest number of training hours and the largest amount of material in EMT history at the time.
Throughout her life, Teja has been fortunate enough to be able to combine her visual and martial arts skills. She managed GO!, a martial arts production company that created and implemented staged stunt performances for major events and meetings worldwide. Over the course of seven years, GO! performed at the Star Wars: Attack of the Clones Premiere, The Matrix: Reloaded Premiere, the Tribeca Film Festival, Madison Square Garden for the New York Knicks and the Japan Pavilion at Disney's Epcot Center.
Teja has been featured in major magazines and TV commercials and was interviewed for ESPN, Good Day New York and Mademoiselle magazine among others.
Teja has created a Devi DVD program for women and a Mommy & Me Self Defense CD program for busy moms called Baby Steps. She is currently working on a book.
Devi Protective Offense is the culmination of Teja’s dreams and aspirations. She hopes the company and its programs will help curtail the world-wide culture of violence against women and children and also make them harder targets.