Brian Ulsh: Black belt and leader of his own WOLF pack

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Brian Ulsh
Brian Ulsh (Jennifer Holden/WYDaily)

Brian Ulsh said goodbye to his lucrative lawn care business after writing a life mission statement that made him realize he wasn’t living the life he was destined to live.

He had an urge to inspire others to do great things and found his niche by utilizing his martial arts skills and opening WOLF Martial Arts Academy in Grafton.

A black belt, Ulsh works as the chief Kwan Nyom Hapkido instructor at WOLF Martial Arts Academy. The academy has been in business for three years and currently has 150 active students.

“We believe that martial arts is a way of life. Everything we do and how we train manifests in what we do out in the real world,” said Ulsh. WOLF is an acronym for Way of Life Foundation.

“If you look at it in a holistic approach, self-defense in and of itself is the preservation and protection of life,” said Ulsh. His goal is to help his students be effective in their communities by promoting change and inspiring others to do the same.

Gloria Serafini’s 9-year-old daughter has been taking classes for the past two years under Ulsh’s tutelage and agrees that the program offers more than meets the eye.

“I went in with totally different expectations, ” she said. “He goes over so much more than just movements. He exposes them to being compassionate toward others, honorable and cooperative. He teaches that there’s more to life than just taking care of yourself, but that you need to take care of others as well.”

As students progress through the curriculum’s requirements, they obtain different colored belts that denote their achievements and status within the program. There’s a sense of pride and confidence that comes with each accomplishment.

“It’s all encompassing,” said Ulsh. “Before we hand over a new belt, we often have parents and teachers sign off on a checklist to make sure the students have conducted themselves in a manner at school and at home that would be befitting of a martial artist.”

Ulsh is known for his close contact with students’ parents. Embracing technology, he sends out weekly emails and Facebook posts that range from parenting tips to scheduling numerous ‘WOLF-pack’ gatherings.

“My goal is to reinforce the values that parents are trying to enforce. Sometimes kids naturally don’t listen to their parents because they are their parents. They’ll listen to me, I’m a black belt,” Ulsh joked.

He has a handful of students who are working toward obtaining their black belts during the year ahead. One of Ulsh’s mentors, Tom Callos, developed the curriculum Ulsh’s students will be following, the Ultimate Black Belt Test. He, along with many others in the martial arts industry, were frustrated that there weren’t substantial guidelines or accountability for schools regarding black belt requirements.

The black belt hopefuls have 25 requirements that need to be met before October 2017, when they head to Australia for testing under Grandmaster Geoff Booth. Part of their training is physical — doing 50,000 push-ups and sit-ups within the next year, for example.

The students will also be stretching their creative limits by performing 1,000 acts of kindness and profiling 10 living heroes within their community.

“They’ll also have at least one major community project where they’ll be required to fulfill a need they see in the community that involves the participation of at least five businesses and 50 people to help with their passion,” said Ulsh.

The students will keep track of their progress online by logging their accomplishments on websites they’ve personally created so that anyone can follow their status throughout the year ahead.

Because it’s a new program, Ulsh will be with them every step of the way. One of his personalized goals is diet.

“For the longest time, I didn’t pay attention to my diet and have a sweet tooth,” said Ulsh. “I started a pretty intense diet regiment and have lost 32 pounds in 30 days. I want them to realize that yes, I’m their teacher, but I’m also a student and I have much more to learn.”

He accredits the current age of technology with having multiple masters available as resources. He studied under Ji, Han Jae, Grandmaster MacKenzie and travels to New Jersey at least three times a year to meet with the grandmasters to keep his skills sharp.

“I seek knowledge from the best teachers in the international martial arts community and I bring that work back and teach it to people in our community,” said Ulsh. “It’s not about what you can get, but what you can give. You’re improving yourself while helping to make the world a better place. That’s the vision I have for WOLF Martial Arts Academy.”

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