MJ Cabigting-Steele builds confidence and community with free self-defense classes

By Stacy Nguyen, journalist, designer, and community member

Formerly a New Yorker, Filipinx visual artist and martial artist MJ Cabigting-Steele moved to Seattle a few years ago and found a sense of community here. 

MJ works at the Wing Luke Museum as well as at Seattle Kung Fu Club, where he also trains. What he loves about Seattle is the way martial arts is so embedded in the community’s complex history. It’s a practice that grew from necessity because of pervasive racial segregation in Seattle, a practice that not only provided self-protection for community associations in the International District (because who else were these folks able to depend on?), but also served to strengthen cultural ties.   

However, this sense of community was challenged during COVID. 

API community members faced increased violence during the pandemic. Anti-Asian hate crimes surged by 339 percent in 2021. Behind New York and California, Washington state experienced the third most number of incidents, mostly in the form of harassment, during this time period. 

MJ saw the news and what was happening across the country. He also saw what was happening in his own neighborhood and knew he had to do something. He knew he had to utilize one of his talents to help his neighbors stay safe. 

Having trained in many forms of martial arts just about his entire life and teaching for nearly as long, he decided to start hosting free self-defense classes to the public during the summer 2021.

In MJ’s classes, everyone is welcomed. It doesn’t matter their age, skill-level, or whether there are two or two dozen people in his class — MJ will be there to encourage, to guide, to help build confidence, and to teach folks to feel and be safer when out and about.

How to give MJ some love

Attend his classes! 

Currently, MJ’s classes are held indoors at Mother Yoga each Sunday at 6:15 p.m. (unless MJ is on vacation, but he’ll let you know if he’s away!). The schedule can shift around, so be sure to join his Facebook group to keep up to date. 

Learn more about MJ’s art and buy some of his work!

In addition to being an awesome martial artist and teacher, MJ is also a supremely talented writer, artist, and letterer. Check out his work on his website, Wasabi Punk, buy his books, or grab some merch

Join his Patreon and follow him on social media

To get sneak peeks on what MJ is currently working on, become one of his patrons on Patreon. You can also see what he’s up to via his Instagram or on his self-defense group’s Facebook


This blog is part of our Support Your Neighbors in the CID series, which spotlights amazing folks in the Chinatown International District, nominated by their neighbors for doing cool and impactful work around community safety.