"I see martial arts as a tool box for life. A way to care for my family, set and achieve goals, and live at the highest personal level possible. " ~ Teja Van Wicklen
The Devi Protective Group was created by 25 year veteran martial artist, personal trainer, edged weapons instructor and EMT, Teja Van Wicklen to dispel common myths about women's self defense and bring it into the 21st Century.
Teja came up with the idea for Devi Protective Offense and Mommy & Me Self Defense as an answer to empowerment and self defense while pregnant and sick. The idea evolved as Teja grew in to motherhood and found herself distracted, exhausted and with limited time to continue her martial arts training. In analyzing modern self defense, she discovered it was demonstrably lacking in real answers for women and moms.
"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."
The system is a lifestyle that encourages women with busy lives to prepare, plan and be ready for anything.
"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. Really, 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 attended PS41 and then IS70 where she learned to duck and run from various thrown objects. At IS70 Teja graduated two weeks early due to gang activity.
Teja hit her stride at the High School of Art and Design in Mid-Town where she studied theater arts and graphic design. She credits A&D for the best four years of her life up til then and for lifelong friends. After Art and Design Teja attended the School of Visual Arts for filmmaking and received a BFA.
Teja 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.
Teja has trained in the martial arts for over 25 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 and Mommy & Me Self Defense.
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. Teja was also the only woman certified as an instructor at Sayoc Tactical Group, a company which instructs military and law enforcement personnel in the correct use of edged weapons.
Teja is a certified personal trainer with over 15 years of experience at New York City gyms and health clubs like the New York Health & Racquet Club and New York Sports. She also assisted at an office for physical therapy to stretch her understanding of injury 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 also trained actors for independent films and assisted in choreographing fight sequences for films like The Hunted (starring Benicio Del Toro and Tommy Lee Jones) and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (starring Sam Rockwell, Julia Roberts and George Clooney).
Early on Teja was a sports model for major magazines and TV commercials and was interviewed for ESPN, Good Day New York and Mademoiselle magazine among others, which is where all the photos below come from.
Devi Protective Group is the culmination of Teja's dreams and aspirations. She hopes the company and its programs will help curtail the world culture of violence against women.