Shihan Mike Olish
Shihan Mike Olish got his start in karate in 1981 when he and a friend walked into Evergreen Park Karate. While his friend only stayed for three months, Mike, who’d always had an interest in martial arts since childhood, was hooked. After three private lessons, he signed up and hasn’t looked back. In 1982, he moved with Shihan Bob Wainwright to Downers Grove Karate and became one of the first student instructors there. Shihan Mike earned his first black belt in 1986, becoming the first black belt at Downers Grove Karate (which became Warrior Kenpo and gave rise to Warrior Way of Kenpo and Downers Grove Boxing & Martial Arts) and has gone on to earn his 6th-degree Black Belt in American Kenpo Karate. He has also dabbled in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Tae Kwon Do, Shorei Goju karate, and Isshin-ryu karate. Still, American Kenpo karate has occupied most of his time. He continues to train almost daily, cherishing the strength, energy, flexibility, and overall healthy life that American Kenpo karate has brought him.
While training under Shihan Bob Wainwright at Downers Grove Kenpo, Shihan Mike was asked to design a patch for the school. His Way of Kenpo logo and patch was adopted by the school and has been adopted by other kenpo schools as well. His contributions to American Kenpo Karate don’t end there, however. As part of earning his black belt, he wanted to give something back to the school. At the time, there was no kata for the orange belt. With Shihan Wainwright’s approval, Shihan Mike created the Setting Sun kata which combines basic and advanced techniques, a perfect kata for those working to earn their orange belt. The Setting Sun kata has hallmarks of Shihan Mike’s fighting style, emphasizing the speed of strikes instead of power. The name of the kata comes from the color of the setting sun: orange. While he has taught many people over the years and been recognized for his skills, Shihan Mike views the creation of the patch and the Setting Sun kata as two of his greatest accomplishments in karate.
In 2004, Shihan Mike began study of Wheeler’s Way of Kenpo with Shihan Harry Wheeler. In 2011, Shihan Mike was promoted to 5th Degree Black Belt by Shihan Harry. In 2012, Shihan Mike started training students at Dragonfire Karate. In 2012, Shihan Mike was inducted into the United States Martial Arts (USMA) Hall of Fame as Instructor of the Year and in 2014 he was recognized as a Master (5th Degree) by the USMA Hall of Fame and in 2016 was promoted to 6th Degree.
Shihan Mike believes he was born to teach. The enjoyment he gets trading and sharing knowledge is obvious to anyone who’s set foot in one of his classes.
“Teaching gives me a good thrill. Plus, it makes you a better student.”
He doesn’t believe in being an aloof instructor, preferring to engage with students during training. He attempts to make training sessions personal and fun.
“My teaching philosophy is to have ‘serious fun’. This is training to protect your life, your family. It’s training, not practice. This is something that will make your life better. It’ll keep you safe, happy, and healthy. It’s something that will be with you when you walk out the door.”
As an accomplished martial artist, Shihan Mike has advice to offer new students, telling them not to discount anything. To students who are just starting out, he says,
“Commit. Don’t go into it halfway. There’s a lot to offer in kenpo but it requires a unity of mind and body.”