MOORHEAD—Students at the community's newest martial arts school won't learn to break boards or bricks, and there's a good reason for that.
"We don't break bricks because bricks don't fight back," Head Instructor Alexis Potter said with a chuckle. "We can do a lot of other breaking."
Moore's Shou Shu Martial Arts, 900 1st Ave. N., teaches students Shou Shu, which she said is a Chinese style of self-defense that roughly translates to "fighting way of the beast."
That includes strengths and weaknesses inherent in the animals that the style's movements are inspired by, such as the tiger, a fierce and strong fighter with a "very vulnerable" back and shoulders.
When students learn to combine tiger movements with the more elegant crane, enabling them to counter the tiger's weak spots, she said they can successfully use their own body's strong spots to defend against larger and stronger attackers.
Unlike more popular martial arts styles such as taekwondo, Potter, who serves as the Shifu or black belt head instructor, said students here won't learn how to fight for sport.
"Somebody has to attack us because we're not going to go out there and start fights, but I believe that all people, especially women and children, should have the right to defend themselves," she said.
Moore's Shou Shu Martial Arts took on its first students about a month ago, but the work to convert a former Hardee's restaurant into a martial arts studio began about six months ago.
Potter, a native of Park Rapids, Minn., is now a first-degree black belt certified in Shou Shu's bear style. She didn't grow up doing this, instead finding her love for martial arts as an adult when she took a women's self-defense class.
"I just immediately got hooked on it, feeling the empowerment," she said.
It's that "empowerment" and self-confidence that Potter hopes to share with others. She said she always had an interest in teaching, doing things like coaching softball while she was growing up before she earned a master's degree in business administration from an Australian university.
She moved back to the area to settle down and start a business, something she was able to do with the help of a silent investor who oversees the financial and administrative aspects of the school that Potter now leads.
The school will hold its grand opening 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 20, and 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Oct. 21, with free self-defense lessons for adults and kids. Reservations are recommended by calling (218) 512-0142.
While Shou Shu is all about mimicking animal movements, she said there are more modern "natural" movements that she uses to explain techniques these days. Everybody knows how to answer a phone, but they might not realize that same motion—raising the hand up to the side of the head—also happens to be an effective way to break the grip of an attacker who has hold of a person's wrist.
"Opening a cupboard," meanwhile, is roughly the same movement as a back knuckle across somebody's jaw, she said. That's why she said students don't need to be ripped or even consider themselves to be athletic.
"Those are simple things that even the weakest person can accomplish," she said.
Classes and lessons also cater to younger students, including tips and strategies to get away from a kidnapper by doing things like pressing thumbs into an attacker's eyeballs or kicking below the belt.
Potter said she hopes to grow the new school into a place where people of all genders and ages can learn new skills and gain confidence.
Students might not see the change themselves, especially because it can take six months or longer before they start to master the style, she said. But her own customers while she worked as a server saw it in her newfound confidence and body language.
"You just kind of walk a little taller," she said.
What: Moore's Shou Shu Martial Arts
Where: 900 1st Ave. N., Moorhead
Hours: Various classes are held throughout the week, and private lessons are available.
Phone: (218) 512-0142