Glacier Combat Arts: New School at Centralia’s Fairway Center Focuses on Function and Self-Defense

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By Carrina Stanton / For the Chronicle

When Ken Dunbar was a child, he dreamed of becoming a ninja.

But while other kids watched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and dreamed of becoming Leonardo or Raphael, Dunbar wanted to be Master Splinter.

“There’s something I’ve always loved about being a coach, a teacher, a mentor,” Dunbar, owner of Glacier Combat Arts told Centralia. “There is something good for the soul in helping people grow and become a better person than before.”

Dunbar’s Glacier Combat Arts: Sila Voli West is one of many new additions to the Fairway Center in Centralia. Although it only opened its doors to the public on July 1, its roots in teaching martial arts to local students run much deeper.

Dunbar was born in the Vader area and graduated from WF West High School. When he was young, his family moved to Lacey for a time, where he was introduced to martial arts by the kids at his daycare. At the time, Dunbar’s parents were adamant that they did not want him to participate in martial arts, but he had other ideas.

“I always wanted to be in martial arts from my earliest memories,” Dunbar recalled.

When Dunbar was 11, his parents finally relented and he initially trained in taekwondo for four years. At the age of 14, Dunbar met someone who had trained with mixed martial artist Royce Gracie, which inspired him to take an interest in the still new world of Ultimate Fighting Championship and the mixed martial arts (MMA). Dunbar joined a school that taught kajukenbo, a hybrid martial art that combines karate, judo, jiu-jitsu, kenpo and boxing.

After high school, Dunbar studied at the Art Institute of Seattle, where he helped start a martial arts club. The members came from a variety of training backgrounds, which Dunbar says has been helpful for his own journey.

“It was really cool because it was still in the infancy of MMA so there was this budding, sharing of information that continued,” Dunbar said.

After serving in the Marine Corps in Radio Aviation, Dunbar was looking for something to do and decided since he knew martial arts he would become a freelance trainer. His first team trained with him in very informal circumstances.

“I used to put black mats in the front yard of my parents’ house and we would practice there,” Dunbar recalled.

Their first competition was the Northwest Fight Challenge, where they did not do well. But Dunbar has made an important connection with Brian Johnson, who owns a kickboxing and martial arts facility in Lacey. In an unprecedented move, Johnson invited Dunbar’s team to use their facilities for training. Dunbar said Johnson and Kano Melvin, a jiu-jitsu black belt at Johnson’s gym, became mentors to him. Among other lessons, they taught him that he still had a lot to learn before he could be an effective teacher himself.

“These two men taught me how to coach,” Dunbar said. “They did more for me than anyone outside of my family.”

In 2015 Dunbar moved to Rochester and decided to strike out on his own and teach away from home. At first, Glacier Combat Arts failed to gain traction because no one wanted to pay to train at someone’s home. So, Dunbar pivoted his plans and made Glacier Combat Arts a club. Slowly it started to gain momentum until the sessions were finally packed. In January, Dunbar decided he wanted to turn professional and announced to everyone at the club that he would be opening a local school.

“They all said, ‘Yeah, we’ll pay. You’ve done enough for us,” Dunbar recalled of club members’ reaction to the change.

Glacier Combat arts signed a contract with the Fairway Center in March and made changes to the space, including adding locker rooms, a weight room and safety mats. The school officially opened on July 1. The “Sila Voli” part of the company name refers to a training method based on continuous improvement and dynamic cross-training between different disciplines. Classes offered include Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Sambo, Kickboxing, Mixed Martial Arts, Judo, and Historical European Martial Arts. Glacier Combat Arts offers classes for kids ages 4-9, classes for tweens ages 9-12, and classes for adults ages 13+.

Dunbar said Glacier Combat Arts classes focus first on self-defense and then on competition. He said he wanted the school to emphasize real-world applications of martial arts instead of being what some jokingly call “McDojos” that focus more on moving people through the ranks quickly. , rather than teaching them useful skills. He noted that many martial arts schools no longer offer sparring, pressure testing, and functionality testing to students. These are the areas Dunbar insists on because he thinks they are what make students better.

“They learn that they are much stronger than they thought and can deal with chaos and danger much better than they thought,” Dunbar said.

Glacier Combat Arts also participates in Adopt A Cop BJJ, a non-profit organization that allows active duty patrolling police officers to train in Brazilian jiu-jitsu until they achieve blue belt status. Such training can significantly reduce the number of workplace injuries to officers and incidents of excessive force.

Glacier Fighting Arts: Sila Voli West

Location: 1724 S. Gold Street, Centralia

Call: 360-669-0047

On line: Glaciercombatarts.com or @GlacierCombatArts on Facebook

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