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Learning Self-Defense, Cultivating Self-Worth:Z-Ultimate Long Beach

Photo and Story by John Grossi

Welcome to Z-Ultimate Self Defense Studios. A beautiful place where kids and adults alike come to train in the ancient study of Martial Arts. It’s both a family-friendly space and a sacred Kenpo Dojo, teaching one of the oldest Martial Arts in the world. You might colloquially call it a karate school for kids… which it is… awarding belts to boys and girls ages 5 and up that graduate through its ranks. It is also home to black belts, advanced teen students, and adult students who understand that Kenpo is more than a skill or fitness, it is a way of life.

Whatever it is that intrigues you about Z-Ultimate, know that it is definitely this: It is self-defense. It is not fighting, rather it is defending against, and if necessary, punishing one’s aggressor. And it is most certainly this: an art. It is a joy to watch children and adults of all ages implement the lessons they are learning from their instructors and incorporate the mind, body, and spirit of Kenpo philosophy into their new moves and combinations of kicks, blocks, and strikes. ChiefInstructor, Karla Bravo, is passionate and truly believes “Martial Arts can change the world.”

A Woman-Run Dojo?

When Karla took over the Long Beach dojo in 2008, she was the last person the studio was expecting.

Within her first 2-3 weeks as sensei of the dojo, 80% of the students left. To the 7-8 students who stayed with her, she promised one thing — that she wasn’t going anywhere. Two of those students ended up staying all the way through to earning second-degree black belts; and one, LaDarius Williams, became her Assistant Manager at the studio and second in command.

“Unfortunately, it’s just rare to see women in leadership roles in Kenpo,” acknowledges Karla. “It doesn’t mean it’s impossible, it’s just rare. My black belt training classes had maybe four women out of a group of 20.”

However, with adversity came opportunity for Karla, who dedicated herself to building the Long Beach dojo to great heights over the last decade. Z-Ultimate’s students on any given night reflect the diversity of Long Beach, a testament to the universal power of Kenpo Martial Arts. Karla has created a welcoming studio that families feel comfortable making a part of their routine. Almost 50% of her students are female! As recognition of this and her dedication to teaching self-defense to women in the community, Karla won a Long Beach Business Award from the mayor.

So Why Join Z-Ultimate?

Families and individuals add Kenpo Martial Arts to their lives for a plethora of reasons. Developing the basic skills of self-defense is great for girls and boys alike, and is certainly a big reason even many adults sign up. Beyond self-defense, Kenpo Martial Arts helps build self-confidence, self-respect, respect for others, and discipline above all else.

“We see kids coming in here because they’re getting bullied and we also see kids coming in here because they need to learn a disciplined way to channel their energy,” explains Karla. Many parents put their children in Z-Ultimate to help them learn to focus, learn to care for others, and learn to gain self-confidence in who they are.

“I think the self-worth Kenpo embeds in our students is such an asset to young girls, especially as they become teens,” says Karla. “You do not have to be part of a clique; not everyone has to be your friend; not everyone has to like you; you have to be okay with the person you’re becoming. Your self-worth is self-defense.”

As for her adult classes, many who sign up tell her either “it’s something they had always wanted to try,” or “it’s something they started as a child and never finished.” No matter what your age or level there is a thriving class at Z-Ultimate ready for you to join.

The Z-Ultimate Difference

Unlike most dojos that rely on group classes for everything, in the Z-Ultimate method, ALL students no matter their skill-level, receive one-on-one personalized instruction each week, in addition to being able to attend group classes. So much of what the students gain as far as the philosophy, skills, and self-confidence is harnessed during the individual lessons, where they are able to feel comfortable in learning at their own pace before joining a group class to implement what they have learned.

If you or your child is interested in trying a Kenpo Martial Arts class and seeing what mind, body, and spiritual benefits it offers, Z-Ultimate always offers a free class to the curious!


Contact Z-Ultimate by walking in, emailing or calling 562-425-9878.

6534 E Spring St, Long Beach, CA 90815



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