Jason Herrera found a way to marry salsa dancing and martial arts by not thinking about it.
Now he wants to teach Columbia County not to think about it, too.
By training his students autonomic responses through his new Evans schools -- Superior Salsa-Dance Academy and Superior Self-Defense Academy -- Herrera believes salsa dancing and martial arts can become as natural as walking.
"Both of them have to do with the unawareness of self," he said. "You don't want to be aware of your movements, or thinking about what's next. Bruce Lee said the awareness of self is the No. 1 inhibitor of properly executing an action.
"How often would you trip if you were constantly thinking about the next step?"
An Orlando, Fla., native and recent graduate of the University of Florida, Herrera moved to Columbia County six months ago to be near family. He still travels to Gainesville, Fla., once each month for classes he's taking to earn a masters of business administration.
While in college, the 23-year-old started schools teaching martial arts and salsa dancing. But it is his Evans schools that he hopes to turn into a franchise using a business model of no contracts, no sales gimmicks and "no nonsense".
The business philosophy also applies to his self-defense courses, which focus on reality-based martial arts.
"Reality-based martial arts systems focus on street reality; things you might encounter in your day-to-day life," he said. "Traditional martial arts systems are based on just that, tradition."
Fighting techniques such as karate are too rigid, Herrera said.
"If the rapture never comes and the human race survives another 10,000 years, karate will be the exact same."
A certified instructor in close-quarter defense tactics, Police Defense Tactics International and Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do, Herrera's techniques focus on an opponent's sight, breathing and mobility.
"If they can't see, they won't attack you," he said. "If they can't breathe, they won't attack you. If they can't move, they won't attack you."
Coincidentally, reality-based lessons also work for salsa dance classes.
"It's all body mechanics and it's all about flow," Herrera said. "I teach a non-ballroom style class, so it's not all stiff or formatted to be a certain way.
"I teach for reality, on what you'll really use on the dance floor."
Herrera's schools are located at 4158 Washington Road across from Club Car. Classes are available throughout the day and evening for children, teens and adults.
Patrons can pay for individual classes, or receive reduced rates when taking entire courses.
For information, call (706) 364-8127 or visit online at www.superioracademy.com.
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