Serio serious about self-defense

The story of every small business is different and unique, but some follow an economic development narrative being heard more and more in Western North Carolina — an entrepreneur with professional skills decided to open a business in Haywood County because they wanted to be here.

Jillian Serio is one such businesswoman; her Serio Self Defense opened in downtown Waynesville earlier this summer.

“I wanted to live in the mountains,” Serio said.

From the Baton Rouge area, this former LSU Tiger earned her degree in anthropology but is the daughter of two martial arts instructors; she practices a form of Korean martial arts called Han Mu Do.

Created by Dr. He-Young Kimm, Han Mu Do is a fighting system based on balance — it stresses a balance between high positions and low positions, a balance between self and surroundings, a balance between intellectual and physical development, and a generally optimistic attitude.

In addition to the mental and physical conditioning inherent in all martial arts, Han Mu Do places special emphasis on technique whilst utilizing chokes, grappling, hand strikes, joint locks, kicks, throws and even weapons.

“It’s very traditional,” she said. “We meditate, we practice breathing, we do stuff that goes along with martial arts that’s not just how to fight — it’s about how to practice self-control and self-discipline. The best fight is the one that’s avoided.”

This is Serio’s first venture of this kind into the business world; she still works part time at Maggie Mountain Fitness in Maggie Valley, but decided to move her instruction to Waynesville because of the larger population.

Her space, a former salon, is in a highly visible location close to popular restaurants, just off South Main Street on Church Street — perfect, she says, for parents who want to slip off for a snack during a child’s class, or, for the classes themselves to socialize afterwards.

“Right now I have classes for 4, 5 and 6 year-olds, and juniors — which is about 7 through age 14 depending on maturity — and then I have classes for adults,” she said.

What students of all ages learn is much more than the fantastical fighting seen in popular movies of today.

“It’s more than just being able to defend oneself. It’s learning the confidence to avoid confrontation in the first place, or the ability of self-control,” Serio said.

Part of that includes plans to one day offer, among other things, a women’s self-defense class.

“Sort of a ladies night out thing,” she said. “And then a class that’s more like tai chi, where it’s more meditative and flowing, and that might be for an earlier morning crowd.”

Kids, especially, can benefit from Serio’s experience as they take the discipline they learn on the mat and turn it into a way of life.

“One of the things we really focus on especially with the kids is goal setting,” said Serio. “Both short-term and long-term. The belt system and the rank system kind of illustrate what we mean, but I also have students who have set goals for flexibility, or goals for improving their grades in school — different goals that extend beyond our school here, into life.”

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