Smiling, the owner of Santa Barbara Women’s Self-Defense resumed talking about the business she started six years ago to share her passion with women who also seek their “inner power” and respect.
Strangers often size up McDuffie as far from intimidating, considering the 53-year-old stands 5-foot-1 and hands out pink business cards with a picture of her performing a high kick in a dress and pink heels.
“That’s why it’s so perfect,” McDuffie told Noozhawk. “They can click into action no matter what size they are.”
In reality, the self-described tomboy is as highly respected in the martial arts community — she’s a sixth-degree black belt — as the local business community.
Master Coffee, as she is known around Jang’s Karate Center, 517 De la Vina St., has had nearly 30 years experience turning a kind, wide smile into a fear-emitting look of dominance.
Networking, and sharing that unbelievably intimidating look, is a large part of how McDuffie has grown the business she runs out of the downtown studio into jobs in the Santa Ynez Valley, Ventura and Los Angeles.
That natural skill has helped the Goleta Valley chamber, which selected McDuffie for the annual honor because she leads by example and makes a difference, according to Shelby Sim, the chamber’s director of business development. She also serves on the board of the National Association of Women Business Owners’ Santa Barbara chapter.
“She’s always the first to arrive,” he said. “She’s always the one cleaning up after the fact. She often donates her services to schools and women in need. She does it all without any kind of expectation of recognition. She does it because that’s the kind of person she is.”
Kind and open, McDuffie becomes more serious when talking about growing up in San Francisco, where she attended inner-city schools and lived with a physically abusive father.
She found her powerful voice, and subsequently her black belt-wearing husband, Ian McDuffie, when she began studying Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan at age 24 in the same studio where she teaches today.
“I knew at 12 or 13 I will never experience this helplessness again,” said McDuffie, adding that women often share their own painful stories during self-defense workshops. “As babies, we have self-defense. As women, we learn to socialize and quiet our voice. It’s kind of lost over the years. It’s always within (us) to defend.
“Almost every woman has experienced something uncomfortable,” she continued. “Now we can work into our power, using that fear.”
McDuffie said her workshops, which are often open to children and men, teach practical survival, including an effective defensive stance, targets and a way to get out of grabs.
McDuffie beams while recalling she told students this is her dream job, but she stops short of claiming any fame in the business world.
“I was surprised and happy,” she said of receiving the Goleta Valley chamber’s award. “I love what I do.”