Clara Porter: “It’s about the energy we put out”

Clara Porter: “It’s about the energy we put out”

Clara Porter

Lives in: Portland

Sport: Martial arts

Age: 45

Clara Porter is highly trained in both martial arts and self-defense – but she doesn’t want to have to use either of them.

In her teachings of both disciplines to women, men and children, she helps students tap into their power, both physical and mental. Because ultimately, she says, martial arts and self-defense are practices of the whole self, using both the power of the body and the mind.

Q:

How did you get involved with, and how long have you been involved with, martial arts and self-defense training?

A:

I got involved in martial arts by chance, actually. I learned of this women’s dojo when I was living in Brooklyn in 1992 and took one of their intro classes. After a year in training in martial arts, you can train to become a self-defense instructor, so I did an apprenticeship program. It fit in to what I was already doing. I’m a licensed MSW (master of social work), and I had been working with women and families who were homeless, and women who were survivors of domestic abuse. (Martial arts and self-defense are) such empowering tools for healing and growth, they really resonated with me, and I saw them as a new way to advance the work I was already doing. I kept studying martial arts for six more years before I moved to Maine, and continued self-defense teaching along the way. When I moved here, I launched my own self-defense instruction program: Prevention. Action. Change.

Q:

What fuels your passion?

A:

Martial arts is both a physical and a spiritual practice. I have found it to be very grounding in my life, and also a really wonderful challenge, both mentally and physically. The kind of karate I do is Goju karate – it’s using all aspects of your physical body, and also your mental and emotional self. It’s a whole practice. On the self-defense side, what really drives me is the combination of building awareness and verbal and physical skills. My definition of self-defense is anything you to do keep yourself safe, or to keep anybody else safe. It’s about the energy we put out into the world, how we deal with conflicts, how we set boundaries and limits with other people, the expectations we have with people we’re in relationships with. You’re connecting with our own power, whether that’s mental or physical.

Q:

What female athletes have inspired you?

A:

The women that I trained with at the Center for Anti-Violence Education in Brooklyn really got me going on this path. I also am part of the National Women’s Martial Arts Federation. There’s a self-defense community within that (comprising) women across the country and in many other countries. They support one another, share ideas, train together, and are incredibly generous and creative and really dedicated to helping reduce violence. They inspire me all the time.

Q:

What are your goals?

A:

I’d like to see prevention education more integrated into public schools for both boys and girls, so that they really know how to prevent and deal with everything from harassment to assault. It’s important that it be for both men and women, because sexual assault is not just a women’s problem. We can’t solve it alone. I would like to get more involved in international work. I’ve been working with No Means No Worldwide. I would like to help see that highlighted in different countries.

Q:

What advice do you have for a woman taking up martial arts or self-defense?

A:

For martial arts, find a school where you feel comfortable, and where the experience that you bring is respected. For self-defense, make sure that it’s a balanced program, not just physical, and that doesn’t just focus on stranger attacks – because more than 80 percent of the time, women are attacked by people they know.

Clara Porter

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