For the last Friday of Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating our very own history maker, Shihan Kellyn Laurinksi: the first female Shihan of Chamberlain Studios of Self-Defense.

Kellyn was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1973. Early on she was involved in ballet in California, but spent most of her youth and well into college focused on music, never thinking that one day she might be involved in the martial arts.

After graduating college, Kellyn moved to New York City in 1999 seeking excitement, but left in 2005 for a job opportunity, and to put her halfway closer to home on the West Coast. About a year after moving to Dallas, she found Chamberlain Studios, looking for a fun outlet. Her first class was with Shihan Rollend Neery, and she was instantly hooked.

Her career in the martial arts started when she gave birth to her first son and was looking to escape the corporate world; Professor Chamberlain needed someone to run the front office, but he also made it clear that teaching was a necessary part of the role, something she was not happy about. “But,” she says, “As he told me I would, I grew to love teaching over time and watching my students be successful has been the most rewarding part of my time in the martial arts.”

In February of 2010, Kellyn earned her first black belt in Gasan Ryu Kenpo. On October 4, 2021, on the 40th anniversary of Chamberlain Studios, she was promoted to be the first female Shihan (5th dan) of CSSD. “I wouldn’t have come this far without the continued support, guidance, and confidence of Professor Chamberlain, ” Shihan says. “He always made sure I had opportunities to learn from other talented instructors and he purposefully brought women instructors in for us to work with. Having Aunty Patrice Lim as another mentor has been such a gift. Aunty Patrice, Kumu Michele Manu, and Sifu Lily Lau have been amazing influences in my martial arts career. Professor Chamberlain pushed me through times I wanted to quit from frustration and disappointment. I am truly honored to be his first female Shihan and hope to continue to make him proud.”

And one last thing: “To address a question I get often: I started my martial arts career in my mid-30’s having never done it before. You are never too old to find that thing in your life that inspires and enriches you. And you’re never too old to learn and grow!”

Kellyn has fostered a close relationship with Aunty Patrice Lim of Lim Family Martial Arts; I reached out to her as one of our ohana and luminaries and she said:

“Kellyn Laurinski is the first female to be promoted to the rank and title of Shihan in the Chamberlain Studios of Self Defense ‘Ohana. She is an experienced martial artist – a strong symbol of growing female empowerment.

 

I am thrilled to celebrate the accomplishment of this incredible female leader, and I know that one more barrier is forever broken, opening the way for the women who will come after. I am proud to watch a woman so in tune with our own martial arts values take the stage and actively inspire and set the example of how women in our day can be proud to be intelligent, beautiful, and strong.

The Chamberlain Studios of Self Defense ‘Ohana is leading the way in showcasing that women’s engagement and leadership are crucial to the future of martial arts.

 

While Shihan Kellyn may be the first woman in the Chamberlain Studios of Self Defense Ohana to hold this rank, she will not be the last because every little girl in class watching Shihan Kellyn, every female martial artist that has the courage to step out onto the mat, every female student looking up to her and being inspired by her will see that the martial arts holds a world of possibilities.

 

I will forever be watching over Shihan Kellyn Laurinski with a great sense of pride.”

In addition to her Gasan Ryu rank, Shihan Kellyn Laurinski holds a second degree black belt in Karazenpo Goshin-Jutsu and first degree in Shaolin Kempo. She currently instructs adult Saturday noon classes at CSSD and has turned towards a career in elementary after school programs.