Billy Ulmer

I took karate for ten years earlier in my life, and always wanted to return to some kind of martial art, but not until I was in a position to commit to an art, and not until I found a school I wanted to commit to. I’ve now been at Portland Shaolin for a year, and it’s the perfect commitment for me now and into the future.

It fits everything I was looking for in a school for martial arts, which was pretty hard to find. I wanted to:

  • Find a school that’s designed for adult students, not kids and after school programs, and has a sense of humor, not a lot of posturing and formality.
  • Be challenged, but not yelled at. No “Cobra Kai”, Sweep-the-Leg-Johnny-vibes.
  • Engage in the fun parts of sparring and combat in an educational, non-aggressive atmosphere, not get beaten to a pulp in an MMA studio.
  • Have a blend of practical instruction in self-defense with some woo-woo eastern philosophy thrown in for balance.

The atmosphere at Portland Shaolin is welcoming to new students, but is also increasingly friendly and communal as you get to know the various instructors and other students. There’s tons to learn, and you will not get bored.  The material seems practically never-ending (in a good way!) and different instructors all bring different perspectives to the table, so even the same piece of material can get more interesting over time.

It’s a very scholarly atmosphere, but at the same time, not just academic. On any given day I might get an impromptu lesson in anatomy, psychology, Chinese history, eastern philosophy, or how not to hit yourself with a chain whip. But these lessons occur in-between sets of push-ups and sparring practice. It’s an over-all serious workout for your body and brain.

They’re currently expanding the school to twice it’s size, which should be great in all kinds of ways. Just watch the trailer for the school on the home page of their website, it sums up the school perfectly: They’re serious about the content and the work it requires, but they’re also having a great time all the while.

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