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Z-Ultimate Self Defense Studios Breaks Down Gender Barrier in Bellevue

January 18, 2022 - by Sandy Vo

Z-Ultimate Self Defense Studios Breaks Down Gender Barrier in Bellevue

Z-Ultimate Self Defense Studios Bellevue is breaking barriers, focusing on bringing more women and girls into the realm of karate, kung fu and jiu jitsu.

For as long as dojos existed, the primary audience has always been young fit men. Instructor and co-owner Lorraine Vance is changing that perspective and making Z-Ultimate a welcoming place for all. Putting in hundreds of hours of hard work and advocating, Z-Ultimate Bellevue now has the highest percentage of women and girls enrolled in classes.

"The big window in our studio has a purpose. They can look in, see women training and feel like they can walk in here and do the same thing. We’re women-owned and we’re proud to do so,” Vance said.

Vance first immersed herself into a self-defense career after enrolling her daughter into karate when she was five years old.

“I decided to try it out because it looked like so much fun,” Vance said. “Now, my daughter is in college, and she has a black belt. I basically followed her into the world of self-defense.”

The original company has been around since 1988, making a home all over the United States. Z-Ultimate Bellevue opened its doors in 2011 when Vance made the dojo her own. She created a space for people to use it any way they see fit. While the main goal is to introduce the art of self-defense, Vance mentions that isn’t always the case. Some people are looking for a place to meet new people while others need martial arts to focus in their everyday life.

“There are so many different flavors of martial arts, we focus primarily on Kenpo. This style teaches you how to keep your body safe, boost your confidence and lets you learn how your body moves and works,” she said.

'Ultimate' Kenpo is a blended style that takes parts from karate, kung fu and jiu jitsu, combining it into one system that allows anyone to adapt to the style easily. This combination forms a system that can anyone can learn to defend themselves on feet, empty-handed, or against a weapon.

“We love to teach Kenpo because it helps us teach an even wider range of ages and people,” Vance said. “The youngest I’ve ever taught is 2, the oldest is 84. Everyone can do this.”

During the pandemic, Vance found creative ways to teach even more people virtually through Zoom. She’s changing things up, teaching classes and one-on-one sessions online, doing everything she can through her toughest times. When the pandemic started, the dojo closed for three months and lost half of her students.

“Martial arts is a close contact sport. We thought, how are we going to do this?” Vance said. “Surprisingly, the internet was our answer.”

The internet gave them a way to stay connected with students in Bellevue and expand to different parts of the world. A teenage girl whose family returned to India during the pandemic has been able to continue her lessons on Zoom for the past six months. 

“It’s a 13-hour time difference but I love doing what I do, even when I have to teach at unusual hours,” Vance said. “ Martial arts is about bonding. We create long-lasting relationships with people here. It’s my favorite part of my job.”

Want to learn more about Z-Ultimate? Schedule a free trial and experience what the dojo has to offer.

This blog is part of the Heart of Bellevue: our campaign to showcase local businesses while connecting you with stories of activity, creativity and recovery. Find out about our campaign and explore more of what’s happening around Downtown.